Welcome to Part 13 of my World Building blog series :D I’ll be covering just about every topic I can think of that goes into world crafting. If you have any topics you’d like me to write about, please let me know :)
Food is a huge part of culture and it’s so fun to play with when you’re making your own. You can uses scents and flavors to enrich a scent, immerse your reader in where your characters are. Spices and ingredients can allude to cultures you’re basing your world off, or it can give clues to the geography and climate. When you’re trying to give a scene life you’re often looking to implement the five senses.
An example of how food can set a scene would be if you were entering a home where someone is making a holiday meal. You’re going to be hit with the scent and all the memories associated with it. You’ll hear the sounds of people talking, glasses clinking, food being chopped and fried. You’ll see the decor, the arrangement of food and flatware and the people making it all happen. You’ll feel the weight of your cup, the heat of your first mouthful. You’ll get all the flavors put into the meal, the sweet and savory, spicy and sour.
You can make food mean something more than just being a casually mentioned fuel. Obviously you don’t have to, but the opportunity is there. Besides the food itself, think of where the food might be coming from. You have lots of choices from having it appear magically to your characters foraging themselves a dinner. You can explore cooking, survival skills, etc. when you incorporate food into the story.
Be aware of what the main foods are for each culture you develop. What are the staples? How does food change between classes? What foods are served at holidays? Where is the food coming from and how does it get to people? What do people do if they don’t have access to food? What is a normal meal for your characters and when are they typically eaten? What do your characters love or hate to eat and why? Is there a story behind those foods for them?
If your characters are going anywhere in your story they’re probably going to pass areas of food production. Include gardens, fields of crops, orchards, etc. to make your landscape more realistic and supportive of your population. Consider how the location of your characters influences the food they have access to? If they’re traveling, how do they feed themselves while on the road?
Make food work for you. Use it to enrich and to embolden your world. Think of how integral food is to your daily life and bring that into your story.