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Food porn in fantasy writing

Finchbearer

Minstrel
How does everyone feel about food porn when they are reading fantasy genre novels/short stories etc?

And do any of you write detailed and yummy descriptions of food being prepared and eaten? Do you invent new kinds of food/dishes?

Maybe this is a niche/weird subject but also maybe not?!

I personally enjoy reading book where the writer clearly loves their food, and so they’ve made the readers (my) mouth water by including this as a writing element. Not fantasy, but Murakami does this incredibly well for an example!

Food enthusiasts, discuss 🍲

Finchbearer 🪶
 

CupofJoe

Myth Weaver
I do include versions of real dishes when the story calls for it.
In a stalled project I had my MC trying to bring back seeds of a rare spice and being chased by the people he had "acquired" them from.
I got lost in world-building [i usually do].
There are certainly fantasy inspired cook books. I haven't read it but I like the idea of an official D&D cookbook.
And let us not forget Firefly - The Big Damn Cookbook!
There is a whole sub-genre of detective/mystery stories what include recipes [Cosy Crime?].
 

Finchbearer

Minstrel
Yes I’ve definitely used versions of real dishes, some older more traditional recipes, like pottage or bubble and squeak.

I suppose it is basically ‘cozycore’!

Now I’m going down the rabbithole of fantasy inspired cookbooks, thanks CupofJoe!
 

pmmg

Vala
I've no issues with food in stories. I certainly think it can be used to help with immersion. But...I dont think I have ever really dwelled on anything anyone is eating, other than, I am always on the look out for things that would make the story accurate. Since my characters mostly travel a lot, and live in a harsh environment, I kind of look for what would be the type of survival or travelling food they would have (no lembas bread here). While my characters do eat, I am not sure I mention what it is very often.

I did buy a Dungeons and Dragons cookbook for my daughter for Christmas, which was a big hit. Though I have not seen it since.
 

Ban

Troglodytic Trouvère
Article Team
I'm going to very casually drop this link and pretend I'm being slick: Foodbuilding as Worldbuilding — Creating Fantasy Cuisines

As for the question, I find cuisine (not just food) to be one of the most effective ways of both worldbuilding and character building. A dish, its preparation, its presentation and the ingredients used within it can tell you a wealth of information about the world without having to spell things out. The spices used within it can give a reader an idea of how advanced global trade is; The techniques used to prepare a dish can give them an idea of how advanced the in-world society is (sous vide in the Classical Age? Doubtful); A meager meal can tell a reader that a character or town is going through hard times; A gargantuan, frivolously-decorated but poor-tasting dish can tell a reader that a character is vain and superficial, interested in grand displays over real substance. And this is just the surface level. You can go anywhere with it. For example, you can create subtle distinctions between in-world cultures by differentiating their serving styles, having one culture prefer service à la Russe, while another doggedly maintains service à la Francaise.
 

Finchbearer

Minstrel
I've no issues with food in stories. I certainly think it can be used to help with immersion. But...I dont think I have ever really dwelled on anything anyone is eating, other than, I am always on the look out for things that would make the story accurate. Since my characters mostly travel a lot, and live in a harsh environment, I kind of look for what would be the type of survival or travelling food they would have (no lembas bread here). While my characters do eat, I am not sure I mention what it is very often.

I did buy a Dungeons and Dragons cookbook for my daughter for Christmas, which was a big hit. Though I have not seen it since.
If you’ve ever gone camping, or taken a long journey yourself, sometimes those are the tastiest meals aren’t they? I know it’s a bit different in a survival situation…

I think what draws me in with food is that it can really set the tone, and even give context to the scene, or even gives the reader a particular insight into an entire culture. You can tell a lot about a person, a place or a culture from the cuisine I think.

I’ve bought my husband cookbooks that never really get opened, but they don’t half look great on a shelf.
 

Finchbearer

Minstrel
I'm going to very casually drop this link and pretend I'm being slick: Foodbuilding as Worldbuilding — Creating Fantasy Cuisines

As for the question, I find cuisine (not just food) to be one of the most effective ways of both worldbuilding and character building. A dish, its preparation, its presentation and the ingredients used within it can tell you a wealth of information about the world without having to spell things out. The spices used within it can give a reader an idea of how advanced global trade is; The techniques used to prepare a dish can give them an idea of how advanced the in-world society is (sous vide in the Classical Age? Doubtful); A meager meal can tell a reader that a character or town is going through hard times; A gargantuan, frivolously-decorated but poor-tasting dish can tell a reader that a character is vain and superficial, interested in grand displays over real substance. And this is just the surface level. You can go anywhere with it. For example, you can create subtle distinctions between in-world cultures by differentiating their serving styles, having one culture prefer service à la Russe, while another doggedly maintains service à la Francaise.
Totally agree with all of this and you’ve raised some really interesting points, it’s a whole thing! I just can’t put it as eloquently as you…

I’ll have a read of the subtly placed link too.
 
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A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
Total food whore here. Food always plays a role in the setting of the Books of Binding. Here's a bit from our third book, Beneath a Stone Sky...

There was something special about dwarven cooking that appealed to the carnivore in Etienne’s heart. The meeting of meat and fire was perfection, and dwarves would roast or grill just about anything that held still for it. Etienne tossed a rib bone to a passing dog and let out a contented sigh.

Cian, sitting beside him, popped a piece of roasted potato into his mouth and smiled. “This is really good. Is this where you learned to cook?”

Etienne leaned back in his chair, giving his stomach more room. “Yes. I did a lot of things for Ráthulfr during my service. One of them was cooking. I didn’t know much about it when I arrived. Bess did all of the meals for us, and the beer brewing, and I worked the forge. But you better believe I knew how by the time I left.” He chuckled softly, and then trailed off.

Bess...

A flagon of beer was plunked down in front of him, and he pulled himself out of his thoughts as Ráthulfr and Drános found seats across from them. It wasn’t hard to do. No one else wanted to sit with the sidhe. “My liege.” He took up the flagon. “Thank you.”

The new dwarven king set down his own flagon. “Not faerie beer, but it’s still good. I used to think no one could top dwarven beer, but then I met your woman.” He took a drink. “Hell of a day.”

Etienne held up his beer in a toast. “Hell of a day.”

The four of them tapped their flagons and took a drink.

Ráthulfr set down his empty flagon and gestured to a servant to bring another. “I never wanted to lead this lot. I’d rather be in my forge. But now that I have them, it’s time to turn our attention to vengeance.”

Etienne nodded. He had expected this. “What are your plans for Summer’s Splendor?”

“Regime change.”

Etienne eyed a roasted vegetable he hadn’t tried, yet. But he also didn’t recognize it. “I admit, I wouldn’t weep to see that.” Mother or not, she and Anluan were murderers and thieves.

“Good. A king for our king and a queen for our prince. There is nothing those two snakes don’t ultimately do together.”

A thought entered Etienne’s head and he fidgeted with the vegetable for a moment. “Just who exactly are you planning on putting on the throne?”

Ráthulfr laughed. “Calm down, boy, you look terrified.” He waved a hand at Drános. “You tell it. I’m going to steal Etienne’s food.” He reached out and plucked the vegetable out of Etienne’s grasp.

Cian chuckled, casting an amused gaze at Etienne.

“Shut up.” But his tone was warm with affection.

Drános turned and gestured to another servant. “Bring the king another plate before he eats our guests.”
 

Finchbearer

Minstrel
Total food whore here. Food always plays a role in the setting of the Books of Binding. Here's a bit from our third book, Beneath a Stone Sky...

There was something special about dwarven cooking that appealed to the carnivore in Etienne’s heart. The meeting of meat and fire was perfection, and dwarves would roast or grill just about anything that held still for it. Etienne tossed a rib bone to a passing dog and let out a contented sigh.

Cian, sitting beside him, popped a piece of roasted potato into his mouth and smiled. “This is really good. Is this where you learned to cook?”

Etienne leaned back in his chair, giving his stomach more room. “Yes. I did a lot of things for Ráthulfr during my service. One of them was cooking. I didn’t know much about it when I arrived. Bess did all of the meals for us, and the beer brewing, and I worked the forge. But you better believe I knew how by the time I left.” He chuckled softly, and then trailed off.


Bess...

A flagon of beer was plunked down in front of him, and he pulled himself out of his thoughts as Ráthulfr and Drános found seats across from them. It wasn’t hard to do. No one else wanted to sit with the sidhe. “My liege.” He took up the flagon. “Thank you.”

The new dwarven king set down his own flagon. “Not faerie beer, but it’s still good. I used to think no one could top dwarven beer, but then I met your woman.” He took a drink. “Hell of a day.”

Etienne held up his beer in a toast. “Hell of a day.”

The four of them tapped their flagons and took a drink.

Ráthulfr set down his empty flagon and gestured to a servant to bring another. “I never wanted to lead this lot. I’d rather be in my forge. But now that I have them, it’s time to turn our attention to vengeance.”

Etienne nodded. He had expected this. “What are your plans for Summer’s Splendor?”

“Regime change.”

Etienne eyed a roasted vegetable he hadn’t tried, yet. But he also didn’t recognize it. “I admit, I wouldn’t weep to see that.” Mother or not, she and Anluan were murderers and thieves.

“Good. A king for our king and a queen for our prince. There is nothing those two snakes don’t ultimately do together.”

A thought entered Etienne’s head and he fidgeted with the vegetable for a moment. “Just who exactly are you planning on putting on the throne?”

Ráthulfr laughed. “Calm down, boy, you look terrified.” He waved a hand at Drános. “You tell it. I’m going to steal Etienne’s food.” He reached out and plucked the vegetable out of Etienne’s grasp.

Cian chuckled, casting an amused gaze at Etienne.

“Shut up.” But his tone was warm with affection.

Drános turned and gestured to another servant. “Bring the king another plate before he eats our guests.”
Good to know it’s not just me then.

I wouldn’t expect anything less from Dwarven cuisine!
 

Ban

Troglodytic Trouvère
Article Team
Lol, do we have permission to share food descriptions? Prepare yourselves for the Big Ol' Manifest Bloom

In corporate cola deep-fried fried chicken, sliced-up burger patties and mac & cheese baked into a cheesy-dough deep dish pizza topped with Texan chili and a layer of cheese-stuffed jalapenos and pepperonis wrapped in bacon, which in turn have been flambéed and clad in a layer of hollandaise, itself topped with a crunchy crust of popcorn and baked hot-dog sausages. In the middle of the piece sat a flowering onion with buffalo wings balanced precariously on its buttery tips. Ranch sauce and snips of bacon are drizzled on all liberally and it’s served with a diet coke. A bar of butter on the side for flavour is optional.

The Big Ol' Manifest Bloom is used as this near future sci-fi world's equivalent of the Drop Bear. Got to terrify newcomers ;)
 
Yes, I guess I do, to some degree. I use it more to point out differences from the stark, bland northern tundra lifestyle compared to more southern, advanced societies. Not food porn, in my opinion.
 

Queshire

Auror
Well, it probably tells you something that one of the earliest perks for cultivating mana in my setting is that you no longer need to eat.

I'm fine with things like what AE posted where the food supports the main action of the scene, but few things lose me faster than pure descriptions of food like what Ban posted. I have the same problem with in universe poems or songs. While I understand the appeal for a writer to feature such things they really don't do it for me.

When food does appear in my stuff it's mostly to help communicate world building and one of the key things I often strive to communicate is that the setting is NOT just Earth only the holidays have been renamed.
 

pmmg

Vala
Just rename the holidays? Good idea :)

Thinking back on it, I tend to use food as an opportunity to say what things taste like, but not really what they are. I might write something like,

She pulled something from her pack and bit into it, it was hard and tasted of salt.

But never dwell on what it was, or how it was made. In a more food friendly environment, such as somebody visited a kitchen, I might list out some items as a way to paint the scene, but more I would want to mention its smells, and less its creations, cause I always look for opportunities to use other senses in the story. I think I might have a character or two for whom food would be important, but most of them are focused on other things. To stop on food, while it might help with immersion, would interrupt the flow of the narrative to much. Maybe in another work, I do it differently.
 

Finchbearer

Minstrel
Lol, do we have permission to share food descriptions? Prepare yourselves for the Big Ol' Manifest Bloom

In corporate cola deep-fried fried chicken, sliced-up burger patties and mac & cheese baked into a cheesy-dough deep dish pizza topped with Texan chili and a layer of cheese-stuffed jalapenos and pepperonis wrapped in bacon, which in turn have been flambéed and clad in a layer of hollandaise, itself topped with a crunchy crust of popcorn and baked hot-dog sausages. In the middle of the piece sat a flowering onion with buffalo wings balanced precariously on its buttery tips. Ranch sauce and snips of bacon are drizzled on all liberally and it’s served with a diet coke. A bar of butter on the side for flavour is optional.

The Big Ol' Manifest Bloom is used as this near future sci-fi world's equivalent of the Drop Bear. Got to terrify newcomers ;)
Like man vs food, it is terrifying…

But, ‘diet coke’??
 
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Finchbearer

Minstrel
Well, it probably tells you something that one of the earliest perks for cultivating mana in my setting is that you no longer need to eat.

I'm fine with things like what AE posted where the food supports the main action of the scene, but few things lose me faster than pure descriptions of food like what Ban posted. I have the same problem with in universe poems or songs. While I understand the appeal for a writer to feature such things they really don't do it for me.

When food does appear in my stuff it's mostly to help communicate world building and one of the key things I often strive to communicate is that the setting is NOT just Earth only the holidays have been renamed.
Interesting, to be so food avert. I’ve certainly enjoyed many books that don’t have descriptions of food anywhere in the storyline. I would agree with you on the poems and songs, I tend to skim read to get the gist, but they don’t pull me in!
 

Ban

Troglodytic Trouvère
Article Team
Like man vs food, it is terrifying…

But, ‘diet coke’??
Yup, just a little joke. All that nonsense and than a `diet` coke, as if it would have any dietary impact. Makes me chuckle like the nerd I am every time.
 
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The diet coke humor reminds me of a time I was in a Subway sandwich line with 4-5 people in front of me during the Subway weight loss craze. Every one of them ordered a—relatively—healthy sandwich with spinach, turkey, etc., and then kept having the preparer add more and more mayo until my eyes bugged. I probably eat that much mayo in a year and have no idea how they could even eat those sandwiches.
 

Ban

Troglodytic Trouvère
Article Team
The diet coke humor reminds me of a time I was in a Subway sandwich line with 4-5 people in front of me during the Subway weight loss craze. Every one of them ordered a—relatively—healthy sandwich with spinach, turkey, etc., and then kept having the preparer add more and more mayo until my eyes bugged. I probably eat that much mayo in a year and have no idea how they could even eat those sandwiches.
Haha, maybe if one puts enough mayo on a sandwich the entire thing will just slide away. That would be an effective diet. 0 calories.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
Feasts do play a role in some of my tales. This one is from 'Empire: Metropolis.' Peter, the POV character, is a hedge knight with connections to the greater nobility.

The brides and grooms migrated with their close kin to an elevated banquet table overlooking the immense ‘U’ shaped bar where those of lesser status dined.

“It’s about time,” said Pomeroy as he started for the table. “I’m famished.”

Peter stomach agreed with his comrades statement. He hadn’t eaten since dawn.

Peter’s status warranted him almost at the ‘U’s’ tip, giving him an excellent view of those on the stage and the estates entrance. The knight stared in confoundment at the assorted plates and serving implements, desperately hoping he’d remember to choose the correct fork or cup. He sorely, desperately missed Tia.

I should be scouring the city for her, not here.

Servers raced around the table with laden carts for the first course as tumblers somersaulted their way to the ‘U’s center. A tiny plate of greens appeared before Peter. He glanced at his neighbors to see what tong they employed. No luck. Half ignored the offering altogether, and the rest grabbed implements at random. So be it. He hefted a fork. Five bites and the salad was gone.

Next up was a lumpy soup, accompanied by a comic skit. Peter couldn’t identify half the bits floating in the liquid, but the whole was tasty. He wished for seconds. Alas so did his neighbors.

The play reached its ludicrous climax as the next course arrived: tiny buns stuffed with bits of chopped meat, one per guest. Peter’s vanished in two bites. It seemed dry.

The waitstaff reappeared bearing tiny copper goblets filled with spiced ale, a delicacy from the Avar lands. Peter drooled at the aroma, gulped it down quickly, then almost snorted the fluid through his nostrils at the skits (almost) obscene conclusion. Several others did spit or spill their drinks. Iona laughed herself silly and tossed a fat purse at the performers.

Motion and raised voices drew Peter’s eye to a spat at the festivities edge, where Granicus argued with a colorfully dressed girl holding a lyre. The woman made Peter think of Tia, but then she turned, and he recognized her. “Rebecca.” Peter sighed, flagged down a servant, and sent him out to the steward. Damn gypsy wench. She was supposed to have checked in yesterday.

The next event involved poodles jumping through hoops. Peter couldn’t identify the accompanying dish: hard lumps of something slathered in thick gravy. One bite was all he could stomach.

Rebecca took the stage in conjunction with a fruit medley, working her way through three lively Rover tunes that had the entire table tapping their feet in rhythm. Dancer’s in flowing skirts joined her as the servers brought out wine and trays of thin-sliced bread topped with a spicy paste of meat and herbs. Peter enjoyed both the food and entertainment. Then both were done, and he found himself wondering why Rebecca reminded him so strongly of Tia. Had Rebecca done something with her hair?

More food and more entertainment: miniature steaks and a sweet pudding accompanied by an epic ballad performed by a copper bearded man in a green robe, followed by slivers of fish in a fiery sauce while limber entertainers in checked outfits tossed silverware and crystal cups in intricate patterns with nary a mistake.

Peter gulped the wine to extinguish the fire in his throat and leaned back. A new commotion made him glance at the gate. He sat straight at the sight of Kyle, clad in that absurd blue coachman’s jacket, looming over Granicus’s undersized form.
 

pmmg

Vala
and then kept having the preparer add more and more mayo until my eyes bugged. I probably eat that much mayo in a year and have no idea how they could even eat those sandwiches.
I thought Mayo was its own food group...

I just have to avoid subway if I want to lose weight. The Diet Coke would do me in faster though. It may say diet, but its a gateway drink to me.
 
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