Food is a vital part of life. It’s a major component in social interaction. It’s expressive of culture. And, let’s face it, we have to eat to live.
The characters in fantasy worlds are no different. They have to eat, and what they eat depends on where they live, their economic status, their culture, their personal preferences, and what time of year it is. Just like in our world.
The easiest way to create fantasy foods is to take something from our world and change the name of the dish or some of the ingredients. Easy-peasy.
However, if you’re more adventurous, you can create recipes for your world. These can be anything from typical meals to holiday delights. Mix ingredients you’ve never considered and have fun with it. Some of the dishes will be awesomely yummy, while others might be…well…more appropriate for the demons.
This was one of the things I enjoyed most about creating Grevared. There was an entire world full of different cultures, with a plethora of plants and animals that don’t exist in our world, to play with. The trick was finding our world equivalents for what I wanted to do.
Tips for Creating Fantasy Food
- Decide what grows and lives in your world. I know this sounds like common sense, but knowing what plants and animals exist in your world and deciding on their ‘our world’ equivalent is important. For example, the assaberry is a common fruit all over Grevared. It’s used in Yuletide cooking, drinks, and candies. But what is it? My description of the plant is “common in all parts of Grevared except the Shizzuria Wasteland, the assaberry has small, bluish-green leaves and deep maroon berries. It has a sweet taste and is used in baking and pies.” Now, a raspberry would probably work, but I want something else. I’m still working on the ‘something else’, but there are several combinations I’m considering.
- Explore and expand. Fantasy food doesn’t have to be restricted to baked goods, though, for me, that’s what’s easiest. Creating main dishes is even more fun. Take talakilkonna tail, for instance. (A talakilkonna is an eight-foot-tall bipedal turtle-like creature common to the Sea of Sands in Moirena.) This is a dish favored by the demons, so it’s taking some thought. I want it to be edible, but, at the same time, not something your average human is going to pick up to munch on. I have some ideas for this, too, but getting the primary ingredient is proving difficult. I’m hoping to locate what I need soon.
- Be consistent with what’s available to your characters. Empire Delight is a cake made from a pudding base with typical Christmas spices added to it, while Rada’ke Cakes are made with pancake mix. While there’s nothing strange (to us) about the ingredients, I chose things that would mirror the cultures that created the dishes. The Xaggarene Empire is somewhat technologically advanced with strong trade and plenty of variety, while the Shizzuria Wasteland is frozen and supplies are limited. That being the case, Empire Delight is a three layer cake, while Rada’ke cakes are simple desserts made with few ingredients.
- Know the culture that created the dish. This is extremely important if you want to keep your cultures consistent. A people based primarily in the desert is going to have a much more limited diet than those who live in the forest. Likewise, those in cities with restaurants and markets are going to have access to ingredients that those in small towns won’t. Those with a religious background that forbids meat or alcohol aren’t likely to indulge in those foods.
- Have a strong stomach and an expanded grocery budget. Not all recipes will work, so having a strong stomach may be required. I discovered this with Melon Peckers and Nutty Fluffies. I still haven’t figured them out. And while breaking your budget on ingredients isn’t a necessity, you will have to purchase things to experiment with.
Creating fantasy food is one of the most enjoyable parts of creating a fantasy world, and it can add depth to the world you’re creating. If you’re one of those who likes to play in the kitchen, it can also give you more insight into the world and cultures that you’re bringing to life. Not to mention that it can improve your cooking skills.