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What Do Elves Eat, Anyway?

It's no accident that we've skipped most of the "meals" associated with elves in Heroes' Feast, but we finally came around to make one: bacon and asparagus. The bacon surprised us because we don't associate meat with elves.

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Not Just Vegetables​

Heroes' Feast says a lot about elven cuisine by what it doesn't include. Of the elven recipes in Heroes' Feast, two involve seafood (shrimp and Dragon Salmon), one involves eggs, and only one involves meat: Greenspear Bundles in Bacon. Why was it included? Because it's actually made by half-elves:
Greenspears, also referred to as asparagus or "sparrow grass" by humans, is a perennial flower plant that has ascended to staple-status in many elven diets. While elves consume greenspear raw, seasoned, roasted, or steamed with herbs, their half-elf brethren--liberated from certain culinary taboos--have developed an additional preparation technique. In an irreverent touch, but one that flavorfully complements the greenspear, half-elves add salted and cured pork into the mix, in deference to their half-human taste buds. Regarding bacon, the thicker cut is always the better!"
This is the first meal we served with guests and they found it surprisingly delicious. It's the sort of meal that's different enough to introduce as an appetizer but flavorful enough that it gets eaten quickly. I'm not fond of asparagus or bacon, but the combination is delicious.

It's also a meal you can feasibly make for your players with a very short baking time (15 minutes or longer if you prefer your bacon crispier).

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Tolkien's Elves​

The association of elves with vegetarianism is likely due to their affinity with nature, established in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. There's much discussion of elven lembas, a kind of travel ration, but little else. The association with elves avoiding meat likely stems from the inspiration for wood elves, the Green Elves of Ossiriand, who decided that men as "hewers of trees and hunters of beasts" were no friends of theirs.

Still, there is enough evidence throughout Tolkien's works to indicate that meat was present when elves served a meal or when they ate at a table, and the fact it wasn't mentioned that an elf skipped the meat portion of the meal argues that they were not vegetarian.

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D&D Elves​

But what of elves in Dungeons & Dragons? Here's what Heroes' Feast has to say on the subject:
Because they place such a strong value on life, a high percentage of elves stringently exercise food restrictions, and a great many would fall into the category of vegetarian, vegan, or pescatarian--little that bleeds ends up on elven plates.
Ironically, D&D wood elves seem to be different from their Tolkien-inspired brethren:
High elves tend to align their diets most closely to their values, and prefer fruits, vegetables, and grains to meat and poultry. By contrast, wood elves are often wanderers and adventures and, consequently, more disposed to hunting and foraging.
So it seems that at least some elves eat meat after all. But you wouldn't know it from the recipes in Heroes' Feast.

Your Turn: Do elves eat meat in your fantasy campaign?
 
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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Wood elves are hunters, therefore definitely eat meat, including fish, deer, goose, and boar, plus gather wild plants and insects. Magic is often involved to forage food.

High elves are normally vegetarian, eating from magically cultivated plants.

Drow eat subterranean foods, such as otherworldly reptiles and funguses.

Eladrin eat magical versions of human food − compare Harry Potter.
 


Ixal

Adventurer
And because elves are so in tune with nature and value life so highly they clear huge tracks of land for farming required to have a balanced vegetarian diet and do not even have house pigs used to eat their leftovers and garbage until they are fat enough for slaughter.
 

Democratus

Adventurer
Hmm. If elves use magic to hunt their food, then the prey animals would have to evolve magical defenses or go extinct.

So many interesting possibilities...
 


Yaarel

Mind Mage
I view High Elves as living in elegant treetowns, of interconnected treehouses that are made of living tree wood. They mainly eat from trees, including fruits, berries, and leaves.
 

talien

Community Supporter
Wood elves are hunters, therefore definitely eat meat, including fish, deer, goose, and boar, plus gather wild plants and insects. Magic is often involved to forage food.

High elves are normally vegetarian, eating from magically cultivated plants.

Drow eat subterranean foods, such as otherworldly reptiles and funguses.

Eladrin eat magical versions of human food − compare Harry Potter.

Tolkien seemed to land on the "the elves who live in harmony with nature are not okay with hunting animals" which implies they're vegetarians.

Modern D&D decided wood elves are hunters and therefore eat meat, because they're hunters and travel a lot where you can't always forage.

In Tolkien, the "less-woodsy" elves ate meat. But in D&D the luxury of not having to hunt gives high elves the ability to be vegetarian.

It's an interesting question as to what "living in harmony with nature" really means. I feel like conceptions around what makes a culture decide to be a vegetarian have evolved over time.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
It's an interesting question as to what "living in harmony with nature" really means. I feel like conceptions around what makes a culture decide to be a vegetarian have evolved over time.
Hunting and gathering is being part of nature.

Herding and gardening is learning to harness nature.

Vegetarianism is an ethical effort to transcend nature.
 





Hunting and gathering is being part of nature.

Herding and gardening is learning to harness nature.

Vegetarianism is an ethical effort to transcend nature.
Elves having cities etc. would prevent them being part of nature in the gatherer-hunter sense. To maintain that connection they'd probably need to stay largely nomadic with small populations or encamp permanently only in areas which could support them.
Humans evolved eating meat. To not eat meat is in some sense unnatural.
Literally 90% of what we eat now is "in some sense unnatural" (diary, for example, is hilariously "unnatural"), so that seems like a pretty random assertion. Historical diets tend to be vastly lower in meat than modern diets and have very different kinds of meat too. Especially in gatherer-hunter societies. It's unclear if elves evolved at all, and if they did, they could have been vegetarian/herbivorous or
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Elves having cities etc. would prevent them being part of nature in the gatherer-hunter sense. To maintain that connection they'd probably need to stay largely nomadic with small populations or encamp permanently only in areas which could support them.

In my campaigns, Wood Elves are emphatically nomadic. High Elves live in smallish but fortified towns among trees. Elven cities are rare − mainly a supertower or a city in the sky.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
It's unclear if elves evolved at all

I view the Material Plane as physical matter. In the Fey Plane, elves are immaterial fey spirits. Some elven spirits chose to materialize taking on organic bodies, whence Wood Elves etcetera. The Wood Elves revere and became part of the natural wildlife of the Material World. Wood Elves eat animals like animals eat animals.
 





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