Across the world we live in, and the many others from various fantasy and sci-fi settings, food is a great indication of culture and society. The types of fruits, vegetables, and meats a people or culture eat are influenced by geography, religion, and economics. All of these factors make for great world-building opportunities. Does your isolated island nation have a way to produce grains or fruits on the small amount of land they have? Does the desert village trade gold or silks for sea food? Let’s see how foods can affect culture.
Related: Heroes’ Feast Cook Book Cook-Through
Pick a generic fantasy city on rolling grassy plains. If this city takes inspiration from Medieval Europe, as many do, it probably grows lots of grains and livestock on the exterior of the city walls. Grains like wheat, barley, and hops are used to make loaves of bread and drinks which can be preserved. Livestock like cows and sheep would be raised in the flatlands around the city as well. As a result, the diet of this city would have lots of grain products, red meat, and hearty vegetables like corn or peas, which also take a large area of land to cultivate.
If you move this same city of people to an island or coastline due to conquest, famine, destructions, or migration, they lose the space to expand or farm with and have a vastly different soil makeup to contend with. As a result, their diet will likely switch to one that includes lots of fish, crustaceans, or aquaponics depending on the setting. If the city becomes a trade hub, then foods from exotic, far-off lands may be available as well and would allow for an evolution of dishes to be added to the history of the culture.
Related: Heroes’ Feast Cookbook Cook-Through: Traveler’s Stew
When this idea is applied to fantasy settings, you can start to see unique foods and diets from different fantasy races and peoples. In Lord of the Rings, the Elves and Dwarves both trade with local human settlements for unique foods and drinks. The Elves of Thranduil’s Hall particularly enjoy Daleish wine, while the Dwarves of Erebor enjoy their mead. A very fun way to expand on the culture of a group is to show what they eat and how is prepared.
In conjunction with this post and to inspire your next culinary exploration in a fictional setting, our team at Variant Ventures is going through the “Hero’s Feast: Official D&D Cookbook,” with several of the recipes to be shared here on the blog. Be sure to check them out as they are released on our blog and I hope the bellies of the residents of your fantasy world remain filled!