Jabbado's Kitchen

A Gnome's culinary journey.

Fantasy Cooking – an Introduction

Fantasy Cooking is an amazing technique to change the way you perceive and consume food. Is it healthy? Possibly! Is it fun? Definitely! And the best part? It does not require any work to turn an ordinary meal into something amazing! So let me introduce you to Fantasy Cooking with an example.

Given the choice, would you prefer to have plain chopped meat with rice on the side, or a serving of street rat, a specialty of your dwarven landlord, prepared for you as a token of her gratitude after you helped her settle some issues with a local gang of ogres?

Another one. Would you prefer a slice of roast and a dumpling to go along with it, or the cutlet of the dragon that you and your friends tracked and slain, with parts of his liver on the side?

There is no visible difference between these options. What sets them apart is the narrative, the names that the dish and its ingredients are given. A few choice words can transform a boring dinner to an adventure and can transport you into an unusual situation in a different world. This is Fantasy Cooking, and as you can see, you do not even need to cook yourself.

 

How Fantasy Cooking works (and why)

Fantasy Cooking is nothing more (or less) than play-pretend or make-belief to enrich the experiencing of food. Just like a wooden stick can become the mystical sword of Excalibur in the right hands, an egg that you know perfectly well came from a chicken turns into that of a harpy. Or that of a rare breed of dragon if you are so inclined. It does not even have to be an egg at all. Maybe it is the fruit of the famed feather tree, found only in the most distant reaches of the world, behind the clucking swamps.

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There are several techniques to coming up with good names and a good narrative, and I will go into them in detail at a later date. At its most basic, Fantasy Cooking revolves around finding different names for common things. From there, you can spin a story to tie it all together or let the story unfold as your bellies grow fuller.

The most important thing is to not overdo it. Do not cramp up looking for that perfect narrative for why you used this spice or that herb. There is something to be said for the mystery (“What is this magnificent white substance you sprinkled on top?”) as well as for keeping it real on occasion (“The natives refer to it as ‘salt'”). And who knows what you come up with when you least expect it? (“They say it is made from the ground droppings of salt pigeons”). Also keep in mind that if you enjoy your meal with a group, they might come up with things you would never have thought of.

If you are playing a roleplaying game, you can incorporate Fantasy Cooking into almost every session, by things as simple as reinventing your crackers of choice as blessings from your favorite made-up deity – or a demon’s curse. And if you are not into roleplaying you can use your favorite game of movie to inspire you. Let your imagination run wild, and see what it can come up with to enhance your meals.

Fantasy Cooking even when eating out (or ordering in)

While the name implies that cooking has to happen, there is no stipulation that you have to do it yourself. Whether that means that someone else cooks while you spin the tales to go along with it, or even that you are eating out, making up things on the fly, it always works to make things more fun.

The characters you play or imagine do not prepare their own food most of the time either but eat in taverns and inns. There will be specialties heavily informed by the local flora and fauna as well as the culture of your hosts. So if you are eating out, use that mindset to come up with new ways to name and explain time-honored foodstuff, and enjoy your meal even more.

The cuisines of Jabbado’s World

Jabbado’s Kitchen is set in a fantasy world, not based on any of the well-known properties, but still firmly rooted in the common races that can be found there. As such, most of the recipes presented here will fall into different categories based mostly on these fantasy races. There will probably be some that do not fit as neatly, but they will find their niche, too.

Important note: the recipe collections mentioned below will eventually contain a selection of diverse recipes. There will be meat-less dishes, will be sides, sweets and beverages, and also ideas on how to make them gluten-free where applicable. Make sure to subscribe to the newsletter so you do not miss anything!

There will be detailed introductions for those categories to help you understand the background and the thematic ideas behind them. These descriptions will also allow you to adapt other recipes, by inventing stories or by slightly modifying the originals to make them more, say, dwarven. Do not take these guidelines too serious, though. If you prefer your dwarves having a sweet tooth, and your orcs to be heavily into cauliflower, then so be it!

Here are the main groups presented in Jabbado’s Kitchen. Keep in mind that these will be filled over time! The idea is to offer recipes for main dishes, sweets, and beverages in all those categories eventually.

  • Humans – Human beings can be found almost everywhere, and they are cunning and easily adapt to their surroundings. One might think those inventing these fantasy worlds are biased somehow. Be that as it may, while Jabbado acknowledges that human cuisine is actually quite diverse, his experiences have focused on dragon hunters, and thus most human recipes revolve around the preparation of dragons.
  • Dwarves – Being vertically challenged and rather rough around the edges Dwarves have to deal with a lot of abuse from other races and mostly stick to themselves. That their favorite thing to cook is rats does not really help their reputation. Nevertheless, once you have overcome your initial aversion to the idea, you will realize that Dwarves are real masters in taking something nobody wants and turning it into something everyone craves.
  • Orcs – Wild and unruly, Orcs are generally considered to be a scourge on the land, and most Orcs will happily agree with that – and then try to hit you over the head for good measure. Live as marauding tribes has given the orcish cuisine a unique sense of practicability. You eat what you can get, and on the battlefield, sometimes that refers to the enemy. But as long as you are polite, well-armed, and do not insult their mothers before they do, you should be fine.
  • Gnomes – While Gnomes themselves are not generally known to be volatile, the alchemy they often indulge in usually is. Most of the famous recipes in Gnome cuisine originate in the humungous alchemy manufactories of their capital city and started out as by-products of alchemistic procedures, and the need to keep workers fed well enough so they do not ruin whole batches of potions if they collapse and fall into one of the huge cauldrons.
  • Cosmic – Not a race as such, but a vast and dangerous place to be, where anything is possible. It encompasses places where immortals have to fear for their lives, and where mortals can find several fortunes or the end of a very short stick. Food served here will either kill you instantly or bring you bliss and deep insights into the cosmos – and sometimes both. In truth, this is a catch-all for all the outrageous recipes that do not fit anywhere else.
  • Other – This is a catch-all for all other recipes, the extraordinary ones that are not quite outrageous enough to be considered cosmic, but still deserve a place here.

Fantasy Cooking beyond Jabbado’s World

While this site’s main focus is on Fantasy Cooking in the proverbial fantasy world, full of magic, dragons, and orcs, the concepts presented here can be adapted to any other scenario as well using some basic techniques (I will dive deeper into giving a taste to any setting later, too).

Fantasy Cooking works just as well for science fiction, where things get replicated or dehydrated to pill-form. Maybe ingredients do not look as they used to, and memories of planets long lost inform the things people eat. And who knows what the indigenous produce looks on the new worlds you discover, too.

You can adapt recepies to a dystopian steampunk setting when food does not get fried but oil-steamed and most things grown are actually different species (and shapes) of fungi. What food would you expect to be served in an industrial world, where smoke is more abundant than fresh air? Can you already taste it?

Or go for a magic world full of wizards and witches, where you can have your meals enchanted, cursed or glamoured. One thing might look like another, or taste like something else entirely. Would you have to cook yourself, or let enchanted kitchen tools do that for you?

Seriously, it’s easy!

There are so many ways to implement these ideas that I could write a number of follow-ups, and over time I will. But the first step to this is to get started. Try something simple, like the Street Rat or the Swamp Dragon Ragout. Or pick your favorite meal and think about where else it might come from. Consider a setting that you enjoy, and think about what kind of meals you would expect there. Let your imagination run wild!

Be inspired, and enjoy your meal!

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