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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Peaslee

Fantasy Foods: Why They Matter

One of my favorite elements of fantasy is the food. It always sounds so delicious!

Food might seem trivial when writing a book, but when you read a lot of fantasy, you notice that descriptive food and drink pops up quite a lot. Fantasy food is an immersive detail that can help bring your story to life in the minds of your readers.


Edmund felt much better as he began to sip the hot drink. It was something he had never tasted before, very sweet and foamy and creamy, and it warmed him right down to his toes. C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

 

Food can play many different roles in your story. It can be a way to show cultural differences, like the following passage from GOT. Daenerys Targaryen has just been married to the Khal (king) of the Dothraki—a nomadic, brutal tribe.


Food was brought to her, steaming joints of meat and thick black sausages and Dothraki blood pies, and later fruits and sweetgrass stews and delicate pastries from the kitchens of Pentos. George RR Martin, A Game of Thrones

From that paragraph alone, we can see what Daenerys is used to (fruits and delicate foods from Pentos) and see the massive difference in what she'll be eating from now on: meat, meat, and more meat...and blood. Delicious!


 

In The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins also uses food to show cultural differences, as the protagonist Katniss was raised in a district where starvation always lingered at the door. Suddenly, she's thrust into the Capitol lifestyle, where she's fattened up like a sacrificial lamb before being led to the slaughter of the Hunger Games.


I start daydreaming about food. Particularly the decadent dishes served in the Capitol. The chicken in creamy orange sauce. The cakes and pudding. Bread with butter. Noodles in green sauce. The lamb and dried plum stew. Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

This passage, which takes place during the Games, also shows us Katniss's state of mind now that food is no longer readily available. She's unsurprisingly distracted, which was probably part of the Capitol's plan.


 

In Ella Enchanted, food is used to show the greed of the antagonists, Hattie and Olive. The titular Ella is mourning the recent death of her mother, but Hattie and Olive are more concerned with how much food they can pile onto their plates at the funeral.


Gooseberry tarts and currant bread and cream trifle and plum pudding and chocolate bonbons and spice cake—all dribbled over with butter rum sauce and apricot sauce and peppermint sauce. Gail Carson Levine, Ella Enchanted

 

And in The Hobbit, Tolkien uses food to show Bilbo's lifestyle and to show how the visiting dwarves are a little...demanding.


"A little red wine, I think for me." "And for me," said Thorin. "And raspberry jam and apple-tart," said Bifure. "And mince-pies and cheese," said Bofur. "And more cakes—and ale—and coffee, if you don't mind," called the other dwarves through the door. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

 

One of my writer friends says that her protagonist is always eating on the go, to signify the character is in a rush, due to her important duties tending to a kingdom.


As my friend puts it: "She's usually shoving food in her mouth while listening to other people explain things—she often misses meals and has to snack during meetings."


As you can see, food can play a lot of different roles. It's not a detail that you want to overlook!



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