Why fantasy and food go together like peanut butter and jelli(ed calf brains)
There’s something pretty magical about food.
Ever since I watched Mary Poppins serving up seemingly ordinary, yucky tasting medicine that transformed into different colours and flavours, I was hooked on the idea of magical food.
I’m a very enthusiastic home cook. I love to cook pretty much anything. Any cuisine, technique, savoury or sweet, I will give it a go.
Food has an amazing ability to transport you to different times, places and experiences. It uses all of the senses – taste, smell, sound, sight and touch.
Food memories are a powerful thing, but so are new food experiences – food you had never imagined, magical even; food from history or imaginary worlds; food that ultimately surprises.
It’s little wonder then that there is a growing trend among fantasy fans wanting to immerse themselves in their favourite fictional worlds via food.
Game of Thrones is the subject of several cookbooks, inspired by the many recipes featured throughout the Fire and Ice series.
Author George R.R. Martin devotes a lot of his writing to food, though it hasn’t always translated so obviously to screen. He explains his obsession for food in the foreword of the official Game of Thrones Companion cookbook written by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer, who run the popular blog, Inn at the Crossroads, that started with them cooking their way through Martin’s books.
Martin says that his goal as a writer has always been to create an immersive vicarious experience for his readers. “Sights, sounds, scents – those are the things that make a scene come alive. Battle, bedroom or banquet table, it makes no matter; the same techniques apply. That’s why I spend so much time and effort describing the food my characters eat; what it is, how it’s prepared, what it looks like, what it smells like, what it tastes like. It grounds the scenes, gives them texture, makes them vivid and visceral and memorable. Sense impressions reach us on much deeper and more primal levels than intellectual discourse can ever hope to.”
This Wall Street Journal article details how hardcore fantasy fans are swapping tips on how to cook dishes like grilled snake with fiery mustard sauce from the book ‘A Feast for Crows’ and jellied calf brains!
The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook features 150 recipes for rustic, gamy fare including fried squirrel and raccoon in bacon drippings.
Fantasy fans have made a pastime out of creating dishes featured in everything from Harry Potter to Twilight, and sharing recipes for butterbeer, chocolate frogs and cauldron cakes.
You don’t have to look far to find cookbooks inspired by your favourite fantasy and sci-fi stories. The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia are the subject of cookbooks as well as Star Wars, to name a few.
Sometimes though you don’t need to look to fantasy for food that surprises. Nothing can be more interesting that the actual food consumed in centuries past.
One of my favourite chefs, of all time, is Heston Blumenthal, who has had a life-long obsession with historical food and the origins of popular dishes. He has specifically explored these themes in Heston’s Feasts TV series as well as in his book Historic Heston.
Starting from the beginning of the Middle Ages through the late Victorian Period, Blumenthal dives into the rich history of these times and creates bold, daring, and creative recipes inspired of course by dishes from the past.
He gives a twenty-first-century take on delicacies including meat fruit (1500), quaking pudding (1660) and mock turtle soup (1892). Just for the record, meat fruit is exactly as it sounds – meat that looks like fruit.
Like Heston, I like to imagine food from medieval times. What would my characters eat? What would they drink? How would it taste?
For me the ultimate fantasy medieval feast would have to start off with some meat fruit, followed by some hearty roasted pork knuckles with crunchy crackling, washed down with some mulled wine.
For a sweet fix I would turn to some Game of Thrones inspired lemon cakes and blueberry tart. My friend Stephanie over at the Dessert Spoon has recreated both these dishes with delicious results.
Mmmm…I’m salivating already.
So what would you have for your ultimate fantasy feast?
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