Chew On This: Food Culture in Games

MandarificHey! Who’s hungry?!Oh, well, before we get to that part, allow me to introduce myself! I’m Manda, sometimes known as Mandarific, and I’ve been a gamer for quite awhile. I started with chat and forum RP years ago and have moved on to tabletop over the past few years, and love every minute of it. I love it so much that I also run a blog called Charisma Bonus, where I talk about gaming type things with other female writers, and a forum called Roleplay Hub for all sorts of folks to get together and talk about games and gaming. I just really love games!

You know what I love just as much as games, though? Food.

Food is interesting and weird. Remember that question I asked a few minutes ago, wondering who’s hungry? There’s a good chance that you’re hungry right now, or you were earlier, or that you’re probably going to eat at some point today. You might chow down on a bag of Doritos alone in front of your computer, or you might go out to a swanky restaurant for steak and lobster. Moreover, all sorts of things happen to us because of food: food can cause sickness and health, and meals can make or break families, jobs, and relationships. Food is at the very core of our society and how we function!

So why do we forget about food at the gaming table?

No, no, not the pizza and the chips and the Mountain Dew, the real food. The gruel served up at the local tavern, the rations we insist on picking up at the start of every character creation even though we’re probably going to run out or abandon the idea by the time the second session rolls around. We forget about the rations, the bootlegging, the farms, and every step in between. Sure, it makes an appearance sometimes, but by and large food and food culture are conspicuously absent from the gaming table. I hope to change that.

In this series, I plan to dig into some fun and interesting ways we can work in food culture at the gaming table. No matter what the genre or edition, food culture can serve as a tasty backdrop for entire campaigns, small twists to keep things interesting, and fill gaps in your game that you didn’t even know were there. Oh, and I guess we might talk a little about what to serve up at the gaming table too from time to time. You know, if you’re into that.

To get us started today, I just have one question: when was the last time food or food culture played an important role in your game? Moreover, do you keep track of your rations in the dungeon, or do you conveniently forget about them? Let’s talk about food in your games in the comments below, and I’ll be back soon to kick the conversation up a notch!

11 thoughts on “Chew On This: Food Culture in Games

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    1. NiTessine — I love the idea of thematically appropriate food–and while I’m not sure I’d have the guts to eat that, that is just AWESOME that you did it for your players. Omg.

      I would say that is doing it very, very right! Seriously cool.

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  1. I try never to forget about food at the gaming table, though I guess that is kind of obvious given my handle.

    It has been a while, but the last time I incorporated food into gaming, I was catering a dungeons and dragons meet and greet. The campaign was going to be set into kind of a jungle ruins with elves setting, and I had a number of vegetarian players, so I opted to go for things that were both vegetarian friendly and at least somewhat exotic.

    These items included strawberry basil sorbet: http://www.acookandageek.com/2012/12/03/strawberry-basil-sorbet/

    and curried lentil soup: http://www.acookandageek.com/2012/11/15/curried-lentil-soup/

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    1. Yum, these look awesome! Plus the added challenge of cooking vegetarian is something I’m not sure I would be able to handle well normally, but man that stuff looks good.

      And what a great idea for a blog, too 😀 I totally did not realize you were the Foie Gras to Fear guy. Well done! 🙂

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  2. We’re working to develop our lore to that level. Because there’s so much and it’s all volunteer it of course takes a while but we even have some IG recipes! I mean ones that are tied into culture rather than just the generic ones that we can make via the crafting system. Some of our deity structures (ie god of wine? *nods vigurously*) has the beginnings of blending religion and food into culture as well.

    I’ve toyed around with makin RL and IG recipe crossovers. So far I’m 1/1 on the attempt! I hope to make the effort a published thing some day.

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    1. 1/1 is still 100%! That is really awesome. I love, love, love the idea of crossing over real life and in game recipes and coming up with things to fit the setting. I usually tend to end up eating pizza while gaming, so I really would love to work in actual meals to games…maybe when I’m running one of my own again and am not just a player!

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      1. Yeah, there was a lot of pizza and other more junkier foods consumed in our earlier days. It was actually the onset of having kids and having gaming pals with health issues that brought food more into focus for me. Silly that it should take that kind of nudging I guess but now it’s really played a part into how I construct both games and lore.

        As far as when to work it in, try hitting up your GM if you have a current group and see if you can do something themed? Maybe pass out pot luck ideas to the group to spread the labor around a little? I know for me as GM it’s a bit hard to juggle real food into the equation on my own for the group on top of all the other prep. But it’s fun and such a labor of love so it depends on what kind of time and steam you’ve got, I guess!

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  3. Way back when I was in college we did a pot luck to create a Royal Banquet I got lemon juice squirted into my potatoes as poison… it was a fun game night even if I had to pretend to be food poisoned. the one issue was the proximity food to character sheets.

    In another campaign my character was a significant land owner with a number of Vineyards and other farms under his control and protection. I made it a point to realy get into character on this point, negotiating contracts with merchants to ship the food and wine, trying to persuade the druids to keep the weather good with the rain at the right time of year. At one point some one asked me if I was a “farmer or an adventure” and told them I was a “responsible nobleman guarding the interest of his people.” A lot of this did happen “off screen” to keep the other players from getting bogged down but it added some extra roll playing opportunities at other times.

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    1. Those are great! 😀 Sounds like you’ve had some pretty awesome food-y games. I REALLY like the use of vineyards in particular in games–especially since most settings have wine in some capacity, so it has to come from somewhere. The merchants, contracts, and so on can really make things tricky, too. I love it. 🙂

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