Food is great at engaging all five senses. Not only is it one of the few places where you get to talk about taste, but food gives off aromas. Eating food is a tactile experience: you can feel the stickiness of a sweet jelly as you lick it off your fingers. Food has a texture that you can feel on your tongue, and it feels different in your mouth depending on whether you allow it to slowly slide down your throat or stuff your cheeks with it. And kitchens are full of sounds that add richness to the setting: you can hear the crackling of a fire, the sizzle of a piece of meat dropped onto an iron cooking surface, the delightful shing of a carving knife being sharpened. You hear things at the dinner table, too: the delightful crunch of biting into a cracker, or the clattering of cutlery on plates. A baked pastry will make different sounds when you bite into it depending on whether it crust is hard or thin and flaky.
Fantasy is often viewed as one of the most immersive genres, largely because it spends so much time on providing detailed description that not only tells you what is happening in the world, but giving you a sense of what it feels like to live in that world. This often means that fantasy novels are longer and slower paced, but one of the reasons that many people enjoy large fantasy tomes is that they enjoy the feeling of being transported and immersed in another world.
It begins “Look - here’s a table covered with a red cloth.” https://www.google.ca/amp/s/mukundacharan.wordpress.com/2011...
As someone like you who hates too much description, I’m comforted in the idea that judicious description is a skill to be appreciated.
My experience with fantasy books is The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I tried LotR first, throwed it away after a few pages and, following advice from an expert, bought The Hobbit, that was a quick and enjoyable read. Then I turned to LotR, much better that time. But the third part was painful, not because the food, but the endless tour into Mordor. I skipped most of it, just scanning through pages to see if someone interesting showed. I guess there's a detail level beyond what regular readers get lost.
I got to the point where I read the first and last lines of a paragraph and if it seems like things happen in the middle I then read it. I don't really need "unoriginal description of a femme fatale" #5666481.
As a reader, this does nothing for me. Written fiction does not really stimulate any of my senses. I primarily come for the worldbuilding, setting, the plot and the characters, in that order. It might have something to do with aphantasia.
Usually I prefer scifi for that reason, but occasionally fantasy parodies get quite serious about taking the setting apart and exploring what consequences the tropes have, which is quite fun to read.
The only thing I remember about lembas is that it is damn useful.
I'm a novice cook, but if you've got a hodgepodge of foraged ingredients, some kind of stew is definitely what I'd be making. Hard to imagine an intrepid adventurer having the time or equipment to cook much else.
I mean really, when was the last time you cooked a perfect omelette or steak over a campfire on the lam?
Aside from equipment there is just the reality of nutrition.
The last time I ate campfire-cooked pizza was over 20 years ago, but it was still a pizza. The most annoying part was carrying the oven over the portages.
It folded up, like Skidbladnir for cooks.
Damper (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damper_(food)) is an Australian tradition that can be cooked on nothing but campfire ashes.
I'm not sure about alum foil, but sounds worth a try. the melting point is high enough, but so thin... There's a (NZ) maori tradition of roasting by wrapping meat/veg in leaves (foil would do), then burying in coal and heated stones. Might work for bread, too?
If the idea of an oven is uniform heat (idk, is it? IANAC), that buried in coals & stones seems pretty good, with foil to keep ash out. If hot air is part of an oven (again, idk), maybe a little space at the top could constructed too.
When I've attempted damper, I've lost a lot, in the form of charred skin. Maybe I'm doing it wrong.
I think they just feel that way because we hold them extended with one arm. In a backpack with tonnes of other stuff I doubt it would be that noticeable. I've mostly used much thinner pots and found they work well though, the al-foil approach too.
> If the idea of an oven is uniform heat (idk, is it? IANAC), that buried in coals & stones seems pretty good, with foil to keep ash out. If hot air is part of an oven (again, idk), maybe a little space at the top could constructed too.
The main thing is you want the charcoal to cool a bit first, not red hot straight from the fire, then the thickness doesn't matter and it will be uniform enough.
There's a chance I could be forgetting some stuff here because it's been a long time. If you've got a wood fired BBQ (not many do anymore) they make an ideal testing ground every time you have a BBQ, that's where I learned my craft as a kid.
Cast iron dutch ovens weight about 30lbs. How much do you normally carry in your backpack, that 30lbs would not be noticeable?
There's a horizontal panel to support the food, a 45-degree lower panel to reflect heat upward into the food, and a 45-degree panel to reflect heat downward into the food. And then there's some wirework to keep it upright next to your fire.
It all folds flat and slides into the pocket of your pack normally reserved for the ballistic armor plate. Maybe it isn't designed for that, but few other things would fit in there. Maps, perhaps?
There may be another way to rig the reflectors to reconfigure as a solar oven.
The arm increases weight percieved, but I really mean "ultra-light" bushwalking. e.g. my tent (a "bivvy") was less than 1kg. So... even a regular saucepan or frying pan is over-the-top in weight! Alum foil is more "ultra-light". :)
I'll give you an example of one of my favorites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQ_ly0Ja394
Camping doesn't have to mean bad food! It can mean even better food than normal! (I also a vote for damper , which I call aborigine bread, it's great for snacking on the go)
The main issue is the length of time it takes for things to cook. You've got to get a fire going for coals which takes time and also alerts potential enemies or predatory creatures. Most folks traveling around in fantasy novels aren't undertaking their journeys as pleasure tours and usually they're traveling through dangerous areas.
Likewise even for nomadic peoples who might find the time to use it, a cast-iron pot would be an extreme luxury given the weight.
So I think dutch ovens in a fantasy setting would probably serve the same purpose they often did for your family: serving foppish urban aristocrats tasty food whilst afield!
I agree that dutch ovens are capable of truly remarkable food.
On the lam, no. In a team with a waggon or two to carry flour and a dutch oven, absolutely.
EDIT: The ratings are my opinion, but the downturn can be seen on goodreads ratings and is discussed in the WoT community. While not all agree there was a downturn, it being a point of contention in this series is an indicator there was one for most people.
For reference, the other series was Twilight, and I made it all the way through book three before I gave up in disgust at that waste of time. So maybe that means WoT is roughly twice as good as Twilight in my eyes? I'm not exactly sure that's high praise. Or praise at all...
It slows to a tedious chore, particularly around the Knitting Circle leaving Ebou Dar with the Aes Sedai. All that is pretty obvious grinding to quota from the author.
If you want some next level fantasy, check out The Malazan Book of the Fallen, by Steven Erikson. Few stories have so emotionally buffeted me. It is brutal, macabre, tragic; but also redemptive, funny, clever - dazzlingly imaginative.
It slows things down, but adds some nice visual context.
> Beside it stood a beetle-like individual wearing a Continental outfit: tweed toga, loafers, crimson sash and a purple airplane-propeller beanie.
Ready Player One had a moment where for two full pages it was a literal comma separated list of pop culture references. It was one of many such lists although not normally so long.
In a similar vein, my anticipation of The Doors of Stone has gone from fervent to uneasy as the years have dragged on...
I just hope that George RR Martin doesn't keel over before he finishes his next book, and we're left with the incomprehensible hack job of the HBO series as the resolution.
The Wheel of Time was stupidly verbose and slow from book one. I really have no idea how the books became so popular. I think it was because Jordan was willing to talk to people online back when that was a thing.
If you simply focused on Mat instead of Rand's Tsundere Haremfest, you would have a good story and it would be 3 books long, tops. (I'm leaving aside Sanderson's seeming inability to write Mat's character properly.)
Yes it was sprawled out more by then, but at least the plot started to move forward again. I remember doing the math and for one of the PoV characters in book 5 (Rand maybe?) it was less than 48 hours for the entire book, much of which was him worrying internally about things mostly inconsequential to the plot.
I also really enjoyed the prior book, when Mat's luck runs hot leaving Tar Valon.
I said to a friend when I stopped that he would die before he finished the series. I didn't think it would be as soon as it was but I happened to be right anyway.
Picking Sanderson to finish it was smart. He knows how be ruthless with a subplot
Did he intend to finish? Probably.
Was he capable of finishing? Previous work suggests not.
Blog devoted to "revisiting rpg rations": http://cookingtheperiodway.blogspot.com/
Somewhat related, blog from the food stylist for the recent Hannibal and American God series:
I didn't realize other books had so much food.
Unless Mr. Valabar prepares it, of course.
Eating food is something everyone does, and is an important cultural indicator in the real world. When your book is essentially a travelogue of the hero's journey, of course you're going to describe the food. For the rest of the age, tourists are going to just show up in Mordor and order a bowl of authentic Master Samwise's coney stew. And they'll visit Lonely Mountain to order lakemen's cram, whether the locals still eat it or not. It'd be like going to Mexico and never eating a taco.
Just remember that there's only a very small subset of "tacos" that actually represent historic/traditional Mexican cuisine, and it gets even more controversial when you try to define what it means to be Mexican (does Tex Mex cuisine count?) -- it's really a fascinating history.
Brandon Sanderson pointed out that showing meals is a great way to demonstrate worldbuilding and culture at the same time in a scene.
As a consequence I can't read his books while even a little bit hungry.
Am I missing something subtle here, or are you actually going "HURR DURR FANTASY FANS ARE FAT"?
or are you actually going "HURR DURR FANTASY FANS ARE FAT"?
"Us" generally, yes. I think I've succeeded.
or are you just going to be smug and inscrutable?
I find that your reaction indicates that my approach is commensurate with the tone you've displayed in the rest of this thread. I hope that most everyone else has a different experience.
The inscrutability is part and parcel of the message.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvwlt4FqmS0 explores this in the context of video games...
I look back to my own bachelor life in the past, and I barely had a sandwich in my fridge!
Being surprised that he has an inordinate quantity of food is like being surprised a wealthy single geek has an unusual quantity of computing equipment.
That's not to say that such detail isn't valuable, of course. But, at least for me, there's a time and place for it. The first time I read LOTR I skimmed past the food and the songs, as I cared more about the plot, but I did otherwise on subsequent readings.
He also wrote books (i.e. Redwall) with blind children in mind, which might explain some of the emphasis on the taste and texture of the food.
Also, SF often uses food and drink for atmosphere, from the replicators in Star Trek, to the yeast-derived meals in The Expanse, to diner food on Gibson's Bridge.
It wasn't in midevil Europe, but most fantasy is a whole new world so there is no reason to say potato shouldn't be in any novel.