Tough Travelling: Food
Welcome intrepid adventurers to Tough Travelling with the Tough Guide to Fantasyland!
That’s right, we’ve dusted it down and brought back this feature (created by Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn, revived by our friends over on Fantasy Faction, then dragged kicking and screaming to the Hive).
It is a monthly feature in which we rack our brains for popular (and not so popular) examples of fantasy tropes.
Tough Travelling is inspired by the informative and hilarious Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones. Fellow bloggers are absolutely welcome to join in – just make your own list, publish it on your site, and then comment with the link on this article!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!
This month, to celebrate the festivities, we’re looking at FOOD in fantasy. Here’s what Diana Wynne Jones had to say on the subject…
Food. See STEW, SCURVY, STEW, WAYBREAD (also known as Journey Cake) and STEW – though there are occasional BIRDS, FISH, RABBITS and pieces of cheese. Generally the diet is an unvaried one, although MARSH DWELLERS can work wonders with ROOTS. Puddings are unknown except occasionally in the Courts of KINGS. Tourists who suffer from diabetes should be quite safe.
A big thank you to Gray, Nils, and Beth for their recommendations…
We need to talk about Delicious in Dungeon by Ryōko Kui. The premise is a frantic dungeon delve where the main characters had no time to gather supplies, resulting in them having to eat the monsters that they find as they descend. Luckily, they encounter a dwarf cook who is brilliant at preparing monster meat as a meal early on and from there the adventure is as much culinary as it is fantastical. It is a manga, rather than a book, but it is so worth the time to read it.
On a similar note is Spider and Me by Kikori Morino, which is a post-apocalyptic fantasy story where a child and her giant mutant spider friend prepare delicious meals together (and provide readers with the recipes.)
I have to start off with mentioning Lembas bread from The Lord of the Rings, which is also known as Elven bread or Waybread. As you may tell by the name it was a bread made by the elves particularly useful when travelling as “it is more strengthening than any food by men”, and a single bite could fortify a person for days. Galadriel gives a great deal of the bread to The Fellowship just before they depart from Lothlorien. There are actually recipes online to make Lembas but it doesn’t sound very tasty!
I have to also mention The Twice Lucky restaurant featured in The Green Bone saga by Fonda Lee. We get quite a few scenes within this restaurant as a lot of drama and fights take place there, much to the owner, Mr. Une’s dismay! Yet Kaul Hilo, the Horn of No Peak clan has the restaurant under his protection, he loves the food there, and in the beginning of Jade City we see him eating the chef’s famous crispy squid balls right before he clashes with Jade thieves.
I’m currently reading The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart and with each negotiation our main character Lin partakes in, a meal is always involved. In the chapter I’m reading right now Lin has been served sautéed mushrooms, fried bean curd and noodles. The cuisine always sounds sooo good It’s just such a shame with one disaster after another Lin and Jovis rarely get to finish their meal in peace!
Lastly there is also a lot of Egyptian and Middle-Eastern food mentioned in The Daevabad Trilogy by Shannon Chakraborty, and I loved how food was used as a means for reminding our main character, Nahri, of her home in Cairo. I believe there was a special sweet cake and tea which was her favourite and would often be made for her by a particularly kind chef within the palace in Daevabad. There’s also one of my favourite scenes in The Empire of Gold where Nahri shares authentic Egyptian food with Ali in Cairo and it was a really funny yet endearing moment.
I absolutely love when fantasy books delve into descriptions of food, as I feel it lends so much more credence to the world building. It means like a little moment, such as Noon eating a stolen tomato on a rooftop garden in Jen Williams’ The Ninth Rain stays with for much longer.
I was going to discuss both Bone Shard and Daevabad, but Nils has already beaten me to it! So instead, I’ll bring up Anna Smith Spark’s The Court of Broken Knives. Food is included quite a lot throughout the novel, it’s one of the many tools Spark uses in her arsenal, from the lemons and the sherbets of Sorlost, to the humble curd cakes of the selkie in the White Isles. Speaking of, The Speculative Kitchen made a recipe for those which you can find here.
And we can’t really talk about food in fantasy and not mention The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis? The Witch famously lures Edmund with a box of turkish delight, and I always loved this moment and found it utterly magical, as turkish delight was something I loved but we only ever had at Christmas. I’ve since seen so many people online lament that this novel got their hopes up and they were disappointed when they finally tasted it!
Finally, would it be a Tough Travels if one of us (us being specifically myself or Gray) didn’t bring up the Discworld?? In particular, I want to lead you (cautiously, of course) through the streets of Ankh-Morpork as we follow a particularly disturbing aroma to the stall of a … a gentleman selling what appear to be pies… We’ve found Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler, and whilst he may be advertising, loudly, that his products are indeed food, we’d probably be better off giving them a wide berth.
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