«

»

Aug 30

Worldbuilding Wednesday 8/30/17: Mundane Fare

Let’s face it. Most of the food in a typical Medieval European kingdom wasn’t very exciting.
This is what gruel looks like.

This is better than most, folks.

Historically, the peasant staple in Europe and the Near East was porridge, which is, basically, a form of oatmeal —  whole grains boiled in water or milk, decanted into a bowl and eaten with a spoon. Its thinner cousin was gruel, which was slurped rather than eaten. Wheat, rye, rice, millet, barley, oats, and hemp served as the base. If you were lucky, you had salt or butter to flavor it, and depending on season, fruit and meat. Porridges and gruels were also made with legumes such as peas and lentils. Modern Indian dhaals and rajmahs, as well as Middle Eastern  hummus, can be considered a form of porridge, albeit with more varied ingredients.

That said, I admit porridge or gruel isn’t very picturesque to write about.

So, here’s a (randomly created) list of realistic but not very exciting food a typical fantasy character might eat, perhaps at home or in some poor inn. The second column is what a character might eat while traveling on a quest. Note that they rely on ingredients that are cheap and easily obtainable.

Mundane Fare


 

Home Meals

Poached venison and creamed peas

Baked carrots and leeks, served with barley

Cornmeal crackers and a thick, buttery, lentil stew

A generous serving of rabbit with a side of mashed turnip

Goat and lentil soup

Mutton chowder spiced with thyme

Fried buckwheat and parsnip cakes

Whole grain bread and spicy cheese, served with raspberry preserves

Mushrooms simmered in pork stock

Day-old bread topped with creamed herring

Poached fish heads served with pickled turnip

 Road Food

Fermented goat’s milk

Stringy sausage made from a suckling pig

A tough, tasteless pie made with fish and onions

Wizard’s blueberry, a pale blue berry with starchy flesh

Trail crackers of wheatberry and dried quince

Cold slices of headcheese and pork

Travel biscuits of wheat and dried fig

Thin slices of sheep’s lungs dried in the sun until hard

Dwarve’s Loaf *

Gulllunga, a hard, crunchy cheese

Dehydrated pear strips

 

 

* I will leave it up to you to decide what Dwarve’s Loaf is.

 

Fantasy world utensils and bowls

Authentic tableware for your fantasy world.

 

Geek X Girls has an amusing version of RPG “Rations” (Food) for various AD&D races, complete with pictures. Gives you an idea of what adventurers might really eat on the road.

If you want to prepare your own gruel, here’s a recipe.

Basic Gruel

Ingredients
3 tbs. of groats (any combo of finely crushed grains) or, my favorite, grits!
3/4 cup water (more if you like it wetter)
Dash of salt
Little bit of butter, if your character isn’t too poor

Cooking Instructions

  1. Boil the water and salt in a saucepan on the stove. Slowly stir in groats or grits.
  2. Add butter. Cover the pan and reduce heat to low.
  3. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you like your gruel thicker, continue cooking until you have the consistency you like.

I eat this dish Mexican-style, topped with hot sauce and grated cheese.

 

2 comments

  1. Sara

    “Most of the food in a typical Medieval European kingdom wasn’t very exciting.”

    Depends on what excites you. Medieval European and Middle Eastern food is a riot of flavors and textures (witness: Norwegian pasties, which are pastry triangles stuffed with a mix of smoked salmon, capers, currants, cream cheese, and some herbs, I don’t remember which, but possibly dill), and some of the best food I’ve ever eaten was medieval recipes cooked over a fire at a Welsh castle. It’s a modern myth that medieval food was bland, tasteless, or rotten.

    1. Cobalt Jade

      I was thinking of food for the peasantry, which was limited by their economic status.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>