The things I do in the name of research for writing a novel…
Fact: There is only one way to get complete, adequately bio-available protein from a non-animal source, and that’s to eat corn, beans, and squash cooked together. (You have to cook them in the same pot, not just eat them in the same meal.)
Fiction-related fact: If you happen to find yourself alone (for all practical purposes) on a starship that’s a long way from any planet, and you have to grow your own food because there wasn’t enough stored to last the five decades or more it’s gonna take you to get back to the planet you came from, you probably want to start growing corn, beans, and squash hydroponically/aeroponically (the latter is usually better) and eating them every day so you don’t die of severe protein deficiency.
Five decades with no coffee (not that he needs it in this situation), and having to eat corn, beans, and squash every day… Yeah. Maybe it’s not the isolation that drives him insane.
Anyway. I tried the “pseudo-coffee” (the stuff made mostly of roasted chicory root) as research, so why not this, too? It’s not as if Paul can do it himself anyway: he’s allergic to squash. (Also, the fictional person who had/has/will have to subsist on a vegan diet for decades is one of my imaginary friends, so it’s my responsibility to do background research for him. It’s his fault I have a psychological “addiction” to coffee, intermittent cynophobia, and a current, mild “obsesssion” with Craftsman-style houses. Okay, so the coffee habit and the cynophobia could both be blamed on my former friend Blue… *mutters something about making necessary changes to character backstory* Don’t you just hate it when someone mentally broadcasts their anxiety attack while you’re only a few miles away and trying to sleep? It’s an even worse habit than tangenting in a blog post…)
…And just a few minutes ago, I thought to look up some of the other important nutritional details about these vegetables. As it turns out, one serving of black beans has twenty percent of the iron a normal adult human needs for the day.
The one of the key words in the previous sentence is human. (Unless you follow my blog only for the grammar posts, you know that many of the characters in the stories I and my clone-sibling write aren’t the same species as us.)
The soup I made last week is good for me, but for the fictional person who’s the reason I did this bit of “research” in the first place… Not so much. If he’s lucky, one serving of this veggie combo will have only thirty percent of the iron someone like me would need, which may still be a bit too much for his health. The bio-availability of iron in plants isn’t high, compared to meat, but that doesn’t matter for our purposes; the fact that it’s there at all could be a real problem.