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In my world there are merfolk who live in their own underwater civilization. They are sapient with unique and complex social customs, and one of them involves food.

Just like on land, merfolk royalty hold banquets/dinner parties. Cooking for merfolk is basically sushi, fish and crustaceans are sliced into pieces and arranged to look aesthetically pleasing.

One potential problem is that due to being underwater, the food might float away, and so merfolk might need to come up with a way to force the meat pieces to stay in place.

How would merfolk accomplish that?

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    $\begingroup$ Are you sure that merfolk will develop the same aesthetics as humans? Did they assimilate human culture? I am asking this because most cultural and aesthetical traditions are informed by living environments and available resources. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Aug 9 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ Sushi refers to a slightly soured rice; I believe that you may have meant sashimi? $\endgroup$ Aug 9 at 23:40
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    $\begingroup$ What I really want to know is, how do they serve the soup? $\endgroup$ Aug 10 at 5:16
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Shish Kebabs

The other answers were all good; however, I must point out that impaling is an option, used by swordfish and their ilk, a rather good option actually. Why?

  • When one has to chase one's food, one risks losing said food, not to mention exhaustion and injury. This risk is only increased with a feeding frenzy, as evidenced by sharks.
  • Tying food down may only delay the inevitable; unless edible substances like seaweed are used to tie the food down, you will have to untie the food to eat it, or else spit out the tie....it works, but it's not exactly convenient. (And even with the seaweed, what if you bite the 'chain link fence grid' the food is tied onto?)
  • Covering food is bad for the same reasons as above, and in fact may be worse because if the food is not totally covered, the current can snatch it away.

However, with skewering;

  • Food can be eaten right off, or else plucked off and popped into the mouth
  • Catching prey with one's mouth is relatively difficult; eating skewered prey not so much
  • Currents can't affect skewered food, unless they are of the same alignment (with the skewer held up, food can be pushed off by a current going straight up, and the same goes for a skewer held sideways)
  • Whatever tries to eat food off of your skewer may just poke/stab/impale themselves
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  • $\begingroup$ And that can evolve in increasingly complex food sculptures for added fanciness $\endgroup$ Aug 10 at 11:52
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All Part of the Fun!
One possibility to consider is that merfolk like a bit of social interaction with their food before they eat it. Rather than killing the fish, they might enjoy chasing it around their feasting hall before grabbing them and sinking their fangs into its sweet and wriggly flesh!

Presentation might be a ball of harvested fish and other critters in a nicely woven bag which is sliced open by the maitre des fetes. Upon this signal, the ravenous merfolk royals set to their feeding frenzy with reckless abandon!

Ralph Ezwilt Farmer

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  • $\begingroup$ One might posit that most prey learns to avoid its predator & will be on its heels [or fins] at first sight. $\endgroup$
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 10 at 12:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Tetsujin -- All the more fun if dinner is spunky! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 10 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe fish that are harder to catch could be "fancier", so poorer merfolk would just have sad little fish that hardly try to swim away, while the wealthy elite have a long and challenging hunt. $\endgroup$ Aug 10 at 17:35
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If the concern is just that the food might float away before it's eaten, a simple cover on the dish/tray will do.

Nothing much different than what is used in high end restaurants to prevent the food from getting cold and releasing its aroma all around

enter image description here

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Hang 'em High !

Basically you need to suspend food and tie it down to something to avoid movement by water currents. Just merfolk moving around will cause unpredictable currents so this is unavoidable.

I would suggest something similar to a chain link fence grid that food can be attached to and arranged in whatever your merfolk consider artistically pleasing (which will vary according to individual taste). Probably arranged vertically although the details would part of the artistic presentation.

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Hmm.. using local resources, I'd stuff the food into empty conch shells. The relatively narrow opening should prevent most food displacement (especially if covered or blocked by a broad leaf seaweed before eating). Then, when eating, the conch could be brought near to the mouth and the food scooped out and consumed.

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