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Culinary Research: Yum to Yuck!
Michael J Lee
Posted: Sunday, May 8, 2011 4:23 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 9

Here's a site all Game of Thrones fans should look at


These foodies went about recreating many of the dishes described by Geroge R R Martin.

Martin did a lot of research in the foods of the middle ages and it helped fill out the world of Westeros. No pun intended but it gives it that added flavor.

Culinary research isn't totally necessary. Tolkien gave Middle Earth's Hobbits a 20th Century British diet and no one complained. But it can be a lot of fun.

There's plenty of medieval food books on Amazon. The one I own appears to be out of print.  There's plenty on the food and dining cultures of other countries.

Andrew Zimmern on Bizarre Foods is one of the best shows for discovering strange foods and eating customs.

The BBC once did a fascinating series called Supersizers. In it two people spend a week eating the foods of a different era. They covered nearly all of British History from the Roman times to the 80s. The one drawback is both hosts are food wimps. Watching them eat a snail you'd think they were getting teeth pulled.

The more you know about food the easier it is to create strange or imagined dishes and have them sound believable.

Anyone else have any good culinary research sources? Or strange foods or customs you'd like to share?

Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Monday, May 9, 2011 2:07 AM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356

I heard about this project! Fascinating! Thanks for posting the link. I;ll definitely check it out.
Ellie Isis
Posted: Monday, May 9, 2011 11:33 AM
Joined: 3/4/2011
Posts: 60

The late Brian Jacques also put a great deal of thought into the food in his Redwall series. A cookbook was created to showcase the various dishes, and when my class read Redwall, we finished the unit with a day when each student brought in a different dish from the story. Some were delicious. Some were downright disgusting. But everyone had fun with the concept.
Michael J Lee
Posted: Monday, May 9, 2011 8:22 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 9

I saw an interview with Jacques. Food was very important to his stories because growing up he and his family were often hungry. So when he indulged in some childhood fantasies about lavish feasts!
Alex Hollingshead
Posted: Monday, May 9, 2011 11:25 PM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 61

My protagonist is a chef, and given his... odd nature, a good half of the book is just about him making cheese, or tea, or trying to find a specific herb in backwater towns on the outskirts of his kingdom. Good fun. Whenever people ask me why I write, I tell them it's because I'm only good at two things: writing, and cooking. And I'm a picky eater. But I am still a damn good cook, if I do say so myself, and I tend to include my interests in my stories, so there you are.

Of course, I do well to make it mix with the culture. The easiest milk to find is elven milk (all of my main characters are elves). A bit squicky, but it fits.
Marshall R Maresca
Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 2:22 AM
Joined: 3/7/2011
Posts: 56

One of my favorite topics of worldbuilding!

I do plenty of work in my writing with food. What a people eat defines their culture so much, and then the class differences within that culture are even more defined.

I have a cookbook called "Country Cooking of France" (by Anne Willan), which is about so much more than just recipes. It really is about how regions are defined by the foods and flavors. Worth checking out.
Michael J Lee
Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 2:30 AM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 9


Sounds like a story I'd love to read here

Marshall thanks for the book recommendation. It is incredible when you look at the differences within a country like France and the history it implies. You can use food in almost the same way as Tolkien used language because it also changes with history and with events.
Posted: Sunday, August 21, 2011 3:39 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245

If you're looking to incorporate food as a really significant part of culture (as it always is, but some authors incorporate it more or less than others), another good resource is a food encyclopedia. Talking about how it should be prepared, where it's found, etcetera. I got one when I started culinary school and it's one of my most invaluable resources for any and all aspects of life. (Especially handy when I was interning at a magazine in their food section.)

The Flavor Bible or Escoffier's seminole work are other good resources about food in general. The Flavor Bible would really help you start creating some of your own unique dishes to create a distinct profile for any culture in your works.

Not sure why I hadn't seen this thread before.
Alexandria Brim
Posted: Sunday, February 5, 2012 2:55 AM
Joined: 10/20/2011
Posts: 353

I know I recently had to look up foods for my fantasy story. As the place is based on 18th century France, I went Tolkien's route. I looked up "haute cuisine," which was popular amongst the royals of France at this time. Then I chose mostly seafood dishes as the country is well known for their ships and their command of the water.

I didn't even consider foods when I started building my world. And then I sat my main characters down at a dinner. But I soon found the research fascinating even if my stomach growled a bit.
Alexander Hollins
Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 3:48 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416

Hunh, i totally missed this thread!  Hey, name cousin, if you're still writing that, ive got a link somewhere to a website where a woman was substituting her own milk for cows milk in recipes, finding out what worked and didnt (one thing she found real quick, which I could have told her, human milk doesn't make cheese!)  Of course, elven milk could have who knows what properties, but hominid milk is hominid milk, right?

Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2012 10:31 PM
My setting is Appalachia, and food is very important to us.

Sneaky Burrito
Posted: Monday, August 13, 2012 10:44 AM
Joined: 5/28/2012
Posts: 43

I don't have a resource to share, per se, but a word of caution.  If food is NOT a big part of your work, but you want to include it in some small way, don't just throw references to vegetables in there unless you know what you're talking about.

Example (from a published novel): Man is traveling to visit his son.  He's poor, so he has to walk and he doesn't have money to buy food along the way.  Fine.  He begs food from a kindly farm woman along the way.  Also fine.  The food he gets?  A leek.

Now, I don't know about any of you, but if I'm walking along and I don't have any cooking supplies, there's not a whole lot I'm going to be able to do with a leek.  I love to eat leeks, don't get me wrong.  I buy them frequently.  But raw, I think they're pretty much inedible.

If you ever find yourself in this position, seriously, just have the lady give the guy a carrot or an apple or something familiar.  Playing around with leeks or cassava (hint, you might get cyanide poisoning) or something like that in your writing, isn't a good idea unless you regularly consume those foods and are familiar with the preparation.


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