Chapter 2: Procuring Food
In my eyes, the next logical question after 'were do the House Elves go' is 'where does the food at Hogwarts come from'? I imagine that, depending on your upbringing, you have several different ideas about how this happens.
Those either born into, or raised by, non-magical families most likely wonder what grocer's shop can possibly carry enough food to feed the army of students, faculty, and staff at Hogwarts. But, obviously, this cannot be. Truly, can you imagine one of the professors waiting to pay for hundreds of baskets of food? Or, even more absurd, a House Elf walking up and down the aisles, choosing what will be cooked that evening? It is not going to work.
Those raised in magical families, depending on the wealth of the family, may or may not have any knowledge of where their food is procured. For many, it simply appears on the table, cooked to perfection, at meal times. For others, everything needed is grown on the property. These students would actually come closest to guessing the truth.
Students only have access to one-third of the grounds belonging to Hogwarts castle. Now, before any young troublemakers or adventurers get any ideas, these grounds are magically hidden and warded against student entry. So sorry to disappoint you all.
These grounds are mostly used for food production. There are massive gardens and pasture lands. Using a combination of House Elf magic and wizard magic, the areas have been enchanted to perpetually maintain perfect growing weather. Each type of plant is kept in optimum growing conditions, ensuring that there is never a shortage of food. Animals are kept in their preferred weather and land type, ensuring that they grow quickly and produce a large amount of young to ensure future generations.
Obviously, the next question on many minds is 'how is this possible'? Anyone who paid attention in Herbology knows that plants have a short production phase, after which they need to replenish their nutrients before another production phase. The short answer is the most aggravating: it's magic. However, there is more to it than that.
The plants are actually fed magic. The House Elves that care for the garden areas infuse the fertilizer and water with magic to ensure a quicker 'recovery' time for the plants. The various plants have also been planted in stages so that while one group is 'recovering' another is in production. It is a very efficient system.
NOTE: Those sensitive to the slaughter of animals for the purpose of consumption, please skip down to the next 'NOTE'.
As one very sensitive to animal cruelty and ill treatment, I decided to personally visit the slaughterhouse located within the pasture area despite reservations. What I found surprised me. It is nothing at all like non-magical slaughterhouses. The House Elves use a special type of magic, which they simply call 'food magic' to lead the unwitting animals into the slaughterhouse. There are no frightened calls, no horrid noises, and no mess. The House Elves simply put the animals to sleep and stop the animals' hearts. It is a quick and painless process, taking about half a minute.
When the animal is officially 'dead' the Elves banish the blood to large vats and banish the skin to the processing plant located in the farthest corner of the pasture lands to be processed and sold. The blood is either used for cooking or sold, depending on necessity. The carcass is then transported to the kitchens to be cooked.
NOTE: I feel it should be said that it would be worth breaching the international statute of secrecy just to make the Hogwarts method of slaughtering animals available to the non-magical population. Unfortunately, I doubt many magical people agree with me.
The animal population in the pasture lands is MASSIVE. It is impossible to truly understand without having seen it. I realize this is a rather annoying statement given I've mentioned that the pasture lands are inaccessible to most of the magical population, but it is true nonetheless. There are thousands of each type of animal. I was amazed when I first saw them all. However, considering how much Hogwarts' population must eat, it makes sense that there would be so many. Remember, Hogwarts feasts are enough to feed an army.