D&D General What Do These People Eat?

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I was watching a WebDM video today about cities in DnD, and they talked about smoke mephits making bbq, and between that and the dwarf thread and thinking about how dwarves can eat any organic material and derive sustenance, I've been thinking today about food in a fantasy world.

So, what about it? What do your elves and dwarves and gnomes eat? Having you given any thought to the diet of more obscure races?

For me, Dwarfs love mushrooms and roots, and treat greens, fruit, like we treat spices, rather than thinking of them as food by themselves. Dwarves who learn to cook for other races are treasured for introducing flavors and preparation methods that others would never have imagined. Meat is uncommon for most dwarves, though those who live in the deep forest are happy to eat game animals, including their bones. Stew, soup, etc, is common in dwarven homes, often eating the "same" soup for a year or more, adding fresh ingredients and water every day.

Dwarven alcohol is strange stuff, often combinin stimulating elements as well as the normal soporific effects of the alcohol itself. Contrary to common belief, Dwarven ale isn't any stronger than most human ales and beers, though the roots, barks, moss, mushrooms, and animal bone and other odd ingredients create a filling, nutritious, dark, and often strange, beverage. Some dwarven spirits and wines, in particular, use ingredients that humans generally only use in a medicinal context, creating mild secondary effects associated with those medicines.

Elves tend to enjoy food that focuses on extensive preparation combined with very fresh and often raw ingredients, and that is best eaten in a sort of prolonged ritual. Therefor, an elf dish might involve rice that was soaked in aromatic herbs and slow-cooked at a simmer with fresh greens and peppers, aged and/or dried ingredients such as forest mushrooms, seaweed, etc, fermented sauces, combined with raw fish, fresh vegetables, etc, served in a series of small dishes. When you eat with elves, the intended flavor profile of a dish might require that you first sip from a bowl of herbal broth, dip a slice of fish in a fermented sauce, and follow a bite of said fish with rice mixed with finely chopped strong greens and vegatables, but if you eat it as intended, it maybe well be one of the most satisfying experiences of your life. Imagine your friend who went to culinary school, and wants to make deconstructed sushi tacos with a small batch homemade teriyaki sauce and dried shitaki mushrooms. Is it pretentious? Yep. It's also so delicious that you'll briefly consider the merits of going to culinary school yourself.

Gnomes live semi-communally in my worlds, and so there are some surface similarities with Dwarven cooking, especially amongst rock gnomes and deep gnomes. Pots of soup sitting over the home fire for extended periods aren't uncommon, but the ingredients tend to reflect an eagerness to invent and to take from the traditions of others and make something new. Forest gnomes tend to cultivate a variety of mushrooms in their root-cellar style burrows, and breed and develop varieties of berries and other natural forest fruits near their burrows. Many gnomes dishes mix sweet flavors with strong spice or bitter flavors, and a classic pot roast might involve roasting a cut of meat that has soaked in pepper oil and spices for a day or more, then had the spice sealed in with a marinade of honey and oil and vinegar, and then seared at a high heat and slow-roasted.
Gnomish households save up for spices they cannot grow locally, and they are masters of preserving ingredients out of season, and borrow liberally from the culinary tricks and traditions of other peoples.
One thing that is fairly unique to gnomish homes, and restaurants in cities lucky enough to have them, is the table barbeque. Part stove, part barbeque grill, part serving station, food is prepared in the kitchen and then brought out to the table to be cooked and served, making as much of the process of making and eating the meal a communal process as possible. A goodly portion of the evening is spent at the dinner table in gnomish cultures, discussing the work of the day, projects ongoing and upcoming, etc.

Haflings vary widely in my games. The Talenta Halflings of Eberron eat very spicey food inspired by a mix of South Asian and Latin American cuisine. My Islands World setting has coastal nomad halflings, who eat a diet mostly made up of fire grilled fish, coastal fruits, rice, and a selection of dishes inspired by Philippines and Hawaiian dishes and flavors, over a range of several archelligos, so there is a decent amount of variation from "more Philippines" to "More Hawaii". In my FR game, Halflings are less interesting but their food is a lot of comfort foods from America and Britain, with a few twists here and there. Full English Breakfast, breaded fried fish and chicken, stuffed mushrooms are a common workday snack, and "Walking Pies" where an apple is cored, stuffed with things like dried currants or salted pulled meat, and then wrapped in pastry and baked. Lots of food-stuffed pastries and breads.

Goliaths tend to make a lot of foods that can travel, but that surprisingly includes a lot of baked goods, as Goliaths are strong enough that varrying a small round oven the size of a small child isn't an extreme feat. So, broth from a stew made from the latest hunt, when it is time to move on, is used to make very nutricious trail bread, and then what little is left is reduced down and stored in an animal bladder and used at the next camp to start the next soup. Dried and sweetened fruits can provide a burst of calories, as do hard, dense, pastry breads made from honey, goatsmilk, wild grains, and mashed berries and herbs. Small game, goat, and other such sources of meat are also commonly eaten, and a sort of mead made from honey and berries and mountain herbs, usually fermented over a season in hidden places in small caves or ravines, guarded by traps against critters and poachers alike.


So, what are your ideas?
 

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Bayushi_seikuro

Adventurer
Interesting post. I got my email read on Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, with using food as a 'magic'.

In my world I'm running, I've started branching out with food. It's after an impact winter started because of Ymir's corpse crashing through the planes from Ragnarok, so food is also a scarcity.

Halflings are bakers - they created the spells like Goodberry and Heroes' Feast. One of the first consumables the party found were preserved halfling baked goods - a partial lemon loaf that actually provided protection from cold.

Where they are now, they've discovered that this human innkeeper has a combination plate - an alcoholic drink, some roasted meat, lutefisk, and some bread - that if you eat it actually gives you bonus hp.

I've found it interesting to get into.
 

cbwjm

Legend
I don't think of it often, but I do have dwarves in my setting with farmland and pastures on terraces outside the delves they live in. They'd probably also hunt and so would have plenty of meat in their diet along various grains and such to make bread and beer. They tend to live close to the surface rather than deep below the earth so have access to everything the surface has as well as whatever else they might cultivate within the nearby caverns.
 

ccs

41st lv DM
There's a tribe/clan of orcs in my games who regard gnome as a delicacy. They wipe out the local gnome population wherever they go.
For sure, gnome isn't the only thing in thier diet. But when its available.... :)
This began as a player supplied character background detail for one of their 1/2orcs years ago & I've simply kept & ran with it.

Goblins, including PC goblins, in our games will eat (nearly) anything. Sometimes even things that aren't edible....
This includes fallen foes of nearly any type.(notable exceptions are fellow goblins of any clan {"Eat our own?? Are you mad? 1st, we're not cannibals. 2nd, you do that & you'll become a wendigo and endanger everybody".} & the undead {"blech" And if a goblins' saying that about "food".... ).
 


Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
  1. The staple food of Dwarves is a pottage of roots, fungus and other ingredients (depending on type). Vermin and crustaceans (crays and large insects) are commonly mixed into Pottage recipes.
  2. Dwarves also use a lot of fermented vegetables - they will go to the surface make a seasonal harvest and then preserve it in thick relishes and sauces.
  3. Pottage ingredients can be thickened (often using powdered rock) and baked into a loaf for travel.
  4. The same ingredients (roots and mushrooms) are also fermented into various alcohols. Some dwarves also harvest hallucigenic mushrooms which they mix into drink.
  5. Dwarves also use a type of underground adapted sheep*
 

I haven't gone into exceptional detail about the full diet of people who live in the Tarrakhuna, but it's heavily drawing inspiration from the kinds of food eaten in Morocco and North Africa generally, with a few notes from the Middle East and India. Because there's a (relatively) large middle-class-equivalent, and the main city of the setting is possibly the trade capital of the world, and magic can be used to keep food from spoiling, there are some actual legitimate restaurants which serve a variety of food from various places. Some cater to the rich, some to the commonfolk, some a spectrum. Lady Safiyya's Coffeehouse is one of the most prestigious meeting-places in the city, for example, and is absolutely a restaurant (just not one that specializes in meals).

However, as a result of some of the recent conversations here on ENWorld, I've come to realize that there's really a very cohesive underlying concept for the dragonborn diet and physiology. So I've been thinking about how they make sure they get enough protein. Thus far the two bits I've come up with are underground fungus-farming and a much higher quantity of cheese and nuts vs. ordinary grains (and probably favoring grains with higher innate protein content to begin with, such as sorghum, buckwheat, teff, or a personal favorite, amaranth). I usually think of the dragonborn homeland as being semi-arid, so they probably needed to find sources of water or build irrigation systems to make their ranching and farming activity sustainable. That would also dovetail nicely with the loose idea in the 4e fan community that engineering is something Arkhosia took pride in.
 

Stormonu

Legend
This isn't something I've put much thought into in my own campaign world, other than a couple of tidbits.

High elves are vegans and have some exotic supernatural foods they have access to (such as starfruits) & honey. If you want to watch an elf recoil in horror, offer them a sandwich with the crust still present, or a fruit that hasn't been peeled.

Halflings have a penchant for soups, breads and pies, with a weakness for pheasant pie and stone soup.

Gnomes enjoy heavily spiced food, usually at a level other races cannot tolerate. They also use a lot of mushrooms in their dishes. Their favorite drink is a very weak mint tea.

For Dwarves, it's not so much what goes in as what comes out. They don't mine gems so much as gorge on heavily (sauced) meats & strong drinks and wait a few weeks for the results...

Tiefling food is terribly bland and preferred to be near rotten. When away from the disproving eyes of civilization they can offset starvation by regurgitating their previous meals.

Aasimaar do not need to eat. They can subsist off positive emotions around them. They often throw parties (with delicious food) for others so they can politely absorb partygoer's enjoyment to subsist themselves.

Dragonborn are carnivores, and prefer their food uncooked. Meals of still-living vermin are consider delicacies.
 

*Gnolls: any kind of meat that's served on the bone is going to be more popular with gnolls than it is with other races, due to the main annoyance of this type of food being abrogated by hyenids' unique ability to bite through and digest bone.

*Demons: 1.) Immunity to poison allows demons to go crazy with using hard drugs as cooking ingredients. It also allows them to use chemical weapons as cooking ingredients. 2.) Dead people

*Trolls: Trolls have a fast metabolism that causes them to need to eat constantly, preferably meat. This leads to problems with trolls attacking people's livestock, getting into a fight with the farmer, killing and eating the farmer as well, etc.


*Goblinoids herd sheep, goats, donkeys, and horses, because they find castrating them and slaughtering them to be emotionally fulfilling.

*Kobolds are similar to goblinoids, except with smaller and more underground animals. Maybe moles or something. Or rats. Or molerats.

*Medusas usually stick to plants and blind animals, because livestock would be liable to be accidentally turned to stone.
 
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I don't think of it often, but I do have dwarves in my setting with farmland and pastures on terraces outside the delves they live in. They'd probably also hunt and so would have plenty of meat in their diet along various grains and such to make bread and beer. They tend to live close to the surface rather than deep below the earth so have access to everything the surface has as well as whatever else they might cultivate within the nearby caverns.
My current Realms dwarf is a former farmer based on this exact view. To me it makes sense for hill dwarves to do this, since they live near the surface, often with a structure on the surface. Mountain dwarves would probably survive on mushrooms, fungus, and other things that grow in the darkness.
 

I've been reading the blog History Dollop quite a bit to help seed these ideas. Their latest is on the foods for Christmas in the Middle Ages. Another resource for food inspiration is Redwall Feasts on Twitter.

Together these help me realize that much of what constitutes traditional American food is nothing like the foods that fueled the time periods that inspire much of our fantasy.

Just dropping in slight changes to food experiences in the inn or on the trail helps the players realize that the world in which their characters live is alive.

Food also gives you the opportunity to tell different stories. In the modern era professional chefs consider themselves storytellers. Use their stories to inspire your next PC or NPC (I'm the author on that one).
 



Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Depends on the setting. In one of my homebrews, some of the elves photosynthesize and the Orcs eat any meat that presents itself. In another, Dwarves don’t eat at all because they’re essentially free-willed intelligent magical constructs.
 

One thing to keep in mind when designing cuisine is that in addition to the food options in the environment, it's also about the fuel source for cooking. Dwarves probably have access to coal, so they do a lot of grilling. Gnomes might use a lot of oil ("good for cooking and inventing!"), so they fry a lot. Elves, depending on your take, might have a lot of wood for ovens, or might not dream of felling wood to cook with and thus have a lot of raw food in their diet. Or maybe they like ceviche?
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
  1. The staple food of Dwarves is a pottage of roots, fungus and other ingredients (depending on type). Vermin and crustaceans (crays and large insects) are commonly mixed into Pottage recipes.
  2. Dwarves also use a lot of fermented vegetables - they will go to the surface make a seasonal harvest and then preserve it in thick relishes and sauces.
  3. Pottage ingredients can be thickened (often using powdered rock) and baked into a loaf for travel.
  4. The same ingredients (roots and mushrooms) are also fermented into various alcohols. Some dwarves also harvest hallucigenic mushrooms which they mix into drink.
  5. Dwarves also use a type of underground adapted sheep*
I've read that every human culture has developed some form of fermented food (not counting alcohol, which every human culture has also developed). Turns out fermented food is especially good for us for all kinds of reasons. For example, the real, original worcestershire sauce is the juice from fermented beef.

Not that fantasy worlds have to be realistic, but this factoid might make a good "plot hook" for developing interesting fantasy cuisines.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
One thing to keep in mind when designing cuisine is that in addition to the food options in the environment, it's also about the fuel source for cooking. Dwarves probably have access to coal, so they do a lot of grilling. Gnomes might use a lot of oil ("good for cooking and inventing!"), so they fry a lot. Elves, depending on your take, might have a lot of wood for ovens, or might not dream of felling wood to cook with and thus have a lot of raw food in their diet. Or maybe they like ceviche?
This is a great point.

Also ceviche dovetails nicely with my idea of elves being into foods that require a lot of prep.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
See also sushi & sashimi!
absolutely! The craft that goes into good sushi and sashimi would definitely appeal to them.

And i think Gnomes would have a decent overlap with them, but more focused on new dishes, and on really impressive presentation, and tricks, the kind of stuff that goes viral on tik tok, where the elves would tend toward perfecting traditional dishes, trimming what is unnecessary, adding very carefully things that enhance to traditional flavor profile, or texture, or presentation, etc.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
absolutely! The craft that goes into good sushi and sashimi would definitely appeal to them.

And i think Gnomes would have a decent overlap with them, but more focused on new dishes, and on really impressive presentation, and tricks, the kind of stuff that goes viral on tik tok, where the elves would tend toward perfecting traditional dishes, trimming what is unnecessary, adding very carefully things that enhance to traditional flavor profile, or texture, or presentation, etc.
Gnomes- especially the “tinker”/“artificer” types would be focused more on cooking in innovative ways. A gnomish salamander might actually have a salamander in it. They would experiment with explosives for rapid cooking. Etc.
 

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