Let’s face it. Most of the food in a typical Medieval European kingdom wasn’t very exciting.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Boil the water and salt in a saucepan on the stove. Slowly stir in groats or grits.
- Add butter. Cover the pan and reduce heat to low.
- 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.