I love this idea! What a fun, creative and exciting way to talk about our books and characters! So let’s get going!
When I was in the early stages creating myfantasy series, I had to decide how much world building to delve into. Did I want to create a fantasy rich in detail (like GRR Martin) or something like The Hunger Games? I found (IMHO) a happy median and focused on topics that interested me. I’d much rather watch a cooking show than a political exposé on CNN, so food and dining ousted political/economic backstory. Plus, a meal (or lack thereof) will tell you more about a country or a character’s economic situation than a discourse on finances.
The next hurdle was this: what would my heroine, Elabea (pronounced “Ella-bay”) eat in her dystopian, medieval-like world? Since her nation, Allsbruth, is relegated to an agrarian life by their adversaries, the Ebonites, their diet consists of vegetables with meat coming from what they could hunt. In Chapter 1, while debating the Oracles of the Cauldron with her mother, I chose porridge as her breakfast meal. It is one of their staples, yet is bland and simple, all of which reflect her dull, oppressed life.
Despite their harsh conditions, the Allsbruthians are still able to brew their noteworthy tea. Inspiration for this came from one of my favorites, a spicy brew made by Celestial Seasonings called “Bengal Spice.” Tea drinking is thread throughout the stories but I did so sparingly, which is the culinary secret to using any spice.
Since I love to cook, I created a nation—the MerriNoons—who are hailed as culinary masters. Digri, a MerriNoon who befriends Elabea, emphasizes this point. “Allsbruthians know nothing of cooking…too much fire. Too little spice.” When Elabea is invited to dine with the MerriNoons, she marvels at the sights and aromas. “The air was filled with the fragrance of hickory-smoked meats, yeast breads, rich spices and fresh herbs.”
The Ebonites, who were the victors in the Dark War, are on the other spectrum. They enjoy the spoils of war: the best art, coffers filled with coins & jewels, and of course, the finest food and wine. To emphasize this lavish lifestyle, I have scenes where Brairtok, their king, dines in opulent splendor while gorging himself on roasted pheasant, boar, fruits, desserts…
In Book II,, I have a key chapter set around an elegant meal where the conversation is as delicious as the food in the banquet hall. But to describe it here would be a “spoiler alert,” so I’ll leave it for you to discover on your own.
If you’re like me, nothing is better than a good meal shared with good friends. Unless, of course, they are characters in your book!
Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Jay!
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