In my humble opinion, food makes any situation better. One of my favorite movies is Oceans 11 (who doesn't love classic George Clooney?), and in that move Brad Pitt's character is eating in almost every scene. Something about that quirk feels very real to me - because I, too, am eating in almost every scene of my life.
When creating a fantasy world, food is one of those things that helps add dimensionality to the environment. Think about it - when we visit new places, one of the first things we do is explore the food there. You get off a plane or out of a car, and stop at the nearest coffee shop or burger joint. Food defines a lot of different places - Maryland Crab, Chicago-Style Pizza, New York Bagels....the list is endless.
That's why adding in food to places in your new world is really important. It helps the reader feel like your world is an actual place with cultures and unique quirks. But that brings us to an important challenge: how do you add food to your world in a way that feels authentic and meaningful?
The first trick I've found is pick something this area is known for. For example, Rosemoor is known for it's honeycomb tea. Doesn't that sound amazing? The cool thing is that honeycomb tea can be anything to anyone. When I imagine it, I imagine a slightly sweet earthy tea that can be served either hot or iced, that people enjoy kind of like sweet tea in the American South. However, that's just my interpretation. When you read the words honeycomb tea, what do you imagine? Maybe there's actual honeycomb served beside it, or it has a surprising kick when you swallow that helps you wake up.
Second, I really enjoy incorporating food into natural places in the story. In other words; your character's gotta eat. A lot of books and movies do this thing where characters will 1) go to a diner but just talk and not eat anything or 2) magically not eat or go to the bathroom for days on end. Both of those bug me, because it feels very unrealistic. Think about yourself: when was the last time you went for more than a few hours without eating. For me, that was literally when I was asleep. It's very realistic and very normal for your characters to eat frequently. Plus, it can be a fun addition to a scene - having characters drink ale is a good way to break up dialogue, or sampling a new stew can be a nice way to show that time is passing.
Finally, the trick is actually figuring out what food sounds realistic for the world. Is your world a futuristic society where everyone lives underground? Is it on an alien planet where people only eat local flora and fauna? A medieval society where every animal must be hunted? Your setting affects what people eat, how they eat, and when they eat. Some things to consider:
Once you've figured out the role food plays in your world, you can start to actually add it in! If you're stuck on ideas, there are a ton of great generators out there to help you start to get ideas flowing. My favorites include Fantasy Name Generator, Chaotic Shiny, Name Generator, and Fantasy Food Generator. A lot of times I'll use these to get some initial ideas, then build on them or tweak them for my own world.
And that's all there is to it! Get to your (fictional) cooking - I can't wait to see what you create.
Bridget is the author of Summer Twilight, available for purchase now!