How To Incorporate Food Into Your Novel
Updated: Aug 30
Are you in need for some unique meal ideas when writing your fantasy story? After all, your characters are likely to eat and if your world is unique, your food might as well fit the scene. But if you don't know where to begin, then you have come to the right place! Let's get muchin' !
What preferences do your Fantasy people have when it comes to food?
a. Are your fantasy people vegetarian, fruitarian, strictly meat eaters, or all of the above?
It is helpful to think about the dietary restrictions you want your fantasy culture to have. Like the different cultures around the world, this could be due to what food sources are available to them, what is allowed to them religiously, or a mix of both. Perhaps the food source spike a belief not to eat certain foods that is later thought of as a religious rule.
Now that we have the foundations of what your fantasy people eat, lets build up from there!
b. How often do your fantasy people eat?
This is a great an inventive question! Why should your fantasy people eat three square meals a day? That's boring! If you are a Hobbit, you have seven meals a day! It is less likely that your fantasy characters will eat several times a day if they are poor, food is scarce, they are traveling/ trying to survive in the unknown....
2. What do different people eat around the world?
It might benefit you to learn what cultures you are unfamiliar with eat around the world. And you might be curious to know there are more cultures than one would expect. Learning about the world often inspires one's own art. For this reason alone, I would recommend shows like Bizzare Foods to get inspired. The host, Andrew Zimmerman travels the world and not only stops at places you have never heard before, but he dives into culture with deep respect, open arms, and tries meals that are not what people would consider "normal". Don't believe me? Have you ever seen a mollusk that resembles men’s reproductive organs? Well, neither have I, until Andrew Zimmerman ate it.... I do regret watching that one though... haha. Fun fact: Apparently, they are one of the longest living creatures in the world!
Are looking for some blood based meals for your gothic vibes? You would be thrilled to know a lot of countries cook with blood! Animal blood, to be clear. For example, the Polish have blood sausages and the Chinese cook their meals with blood as the color red is meant for luck. Maybe this could inspire you to invent some blood based meals!
2. Let's get creative!
Are you inspired by a meal you just learned about and want to build up from there? Great! Then allow me to tickle your brain!
If we are talking meat, perhaps your fantasy meat when cooked is a different color other than red, brown, white, pink? Where does the meat source come from? Grassland? Mountains? Under ground? Is it a sea creature or a mammal? What is it called?
What if it didn't taste like chicken?
What if it tasted different than it smelled?
How long does it take to cook? Do you have to be a skilled chef to cook this meal? For example, only skilled chefs can cut a blowfish so its poisonous meat won’t kill the consumer.
Is it a cold or hot dish? Is it a delicacy that only the rich can eat, or is it an every day ordinary meal your fantasy people have?
Since we are talking about meat, keep in mind, your fantasy animal might migrate through the seasons to follow their food source. Perhaps your fantasy people are nomads chasing this animal too, or maybe they wait for this animal to come back every year.
There are probably more species of fruits and vegetables than you realize. Like an Afrian Horned Cucumber which tastes like a banana, or a Durian which tastes like almonds.
Get creative! What do your fantasy fruits or vegies look like, smell like, taste like, feel like? Remember that when we cook fruits or vegetables the taste, texture, and smell change or enhance. Something to keep in mind.
As always, it is best to look at bountiful nature to get inspiration for our own inventions!
This is a fun one. In our world, there are drinks of all kinds! Water, milk from a number of different animals, juices from all sorts of fruits and vegetables. You got your sodas, smoothies, coffees, hot and cold alcoholic beverages, hot chocolate, and then there's the wide variety of tea. Ahhh, tea. There are so many herbs in the world, so many leaves, all with their own unique purposes. Chamomile for relaxation, Green tea for overall health, Oolong tea for your brain. You can even make tea out of fruits and berries!
If there's one thing you can get creative with it beverages! Here are some questions to get you started!
Which category mentioned above is it most related to?
Is it hot or cold?
What color is it?
Is it expensive or not?
Is it a luxury, made from a rare, potentially poisonous, or hard to grow/harvest ingredient?
How does it smell? Get descriptive!
Is it good for you? Bad for you? In what way? What are the benefits and/or side effects?
What texture does it have? Is it creamy, viscous, or watery?
Holy Canoli! There are a lot of desserts in the world! You got your cakes, pies, ice creams, gelato, lava cakes, muffins, cupcakes, doughnuts, tarts, puddings, cobblers, etc.! But what's special about these deserts are all the flavors you can choose from! Maybe your fantasy culture has a desert like the ones I just mentioned with a unique otherworldly flavor!
3. Why is this important again?
When thinking about why you want to incorporate food into your novel, even if it's a brief passage, remember that if you are striving to build a unique fantasy world with rich cultures among its people, food is a major part of culture. It will add great depth and even realism into your fantasy world. Plenty of fantasy writers talk about food all the time! But they are not very creative, as they want to make the food relate to their audience, so the characters will be eating normal human food.
For example, C.S. Lewis includes Turkish Delight, tea, omelettes, lamb with green peas, strawberry ice, lemon-squash, etc. in Narnia.
Then there's Tolkien's The Hobbit, who we know ate quite a bit: cold chicken, cheese, eggs, pickles, raspberry jam, salad, seed cakes, mince pie, apple tart, etc.
That's two classical fantasy pieces admired around the world speaking about eating foods we "ordinary humans" eat in a fantasy world! While it might be relatable for the readers, it seems unlikely that the fantasy world wouldn't have otherworldly foods.
J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter is a great success for several reasons! Her inventiveness cuts through most magical literature. Don't believe me? Have you every heard of Butterbeer, Cauldron cakes, Fizzing Whizzbees? She invented those foods, and now it is a thriving trend on social media to attempt to bring her creations to life! Know that J.K. Rowling also includes human foods like sausages, toast, and puddings because her characters are very much human. However, adding these inventive foods adds culture to the wizarding world she's invented. Her immersive story telling not only makes you feel a part of the wizarding world, but intrigues the readers so much so they yearn to experience the same luxuries the characters do!
Was this post helpful? What are the fantasy foods of your invention? What do they taste, smell, feel like? Tell me in the comments below!