Food & Games
The tabletop is something that brings us together. It’s a gathering place, whether you play games on it or eat at it! More often than not, cooking and gaming don’t really go hand in hand. But that might be slowly changing.
Food and games have a lot in common, and the fact that they both require the use of one’s hands and mouth doesn’t exactly allow them to be practised simultaneously. Despite that, I think they make for great companions, complementing each other over the course of a day, or evening, of merrymaking!
For many, tabletop gaming requires the eventual consumption of snacks and drinks. It’s completely logical, since the majority of what we play requires concentration as well as emotional and mental work. Staying hydrated is essential regardless of your occupation and eating keeps you going physically and mentally.
Sugary snacks and junk food are often associated with tabletop RPGs. They are easy to bring along wherever you play and they come in all sorts of flavours. It’s also easy to find ones that any diet or allergy restriction and everyone can cater to their own needs. There is an old stereotype that D&D players only drink Mountain Dew and eat Cheetos and like all stereotypes, it’s based on the opinions of a few, and it isn’t representative of gamers or drinkers of pop. I guess it can be mostly attributed to the fact that for decades, the majority of gamers were teenagers or college students and that many of us, in our younger years, tend to indulge in the consumption of super sweet stuff that is mostly made from some type of sugar.
New world order
Nowadays, gaming of any kind is socially acceptable. Gathering to play is not just for kids, it’s for everyone. This change in how our hobbies are perceived, has made what used to be considered ‘weird’, common, while still retaining its fantastical quality. Being edgy has become obsolete and categorizing people based on what they like has become pointless. We’re all nerds in some way or another, because we’re all passionate about what is meaningful to us and our tribes. We can finally just be ourselves.
Modern cookbooks strike a great balance of holding your hand while not making you feel like an idiot, regardless of your skill level.
One of the many advantages of fringe hobbies becoming mainstream is that many occupations that used to be reserved to an elite of experts are now within reach of us all. Cooking is one of those things. If you have an interest in it, there is nothing stopping you from learning how to make anything from scratch, be it by reading recipes or watching someone show you how to do it.
Cultivating a passion
Growing up, food and family went hand in hand for me. My Mom is an amazing cook, and it made me interested in how we fed ourselves. By the time I left home at 19, I was far from being anything like her but I could definitely feed myself and my friends. Preparing and sharing even the simplest dishes was always an excuse to hang out with friends, or family. When I met my wife, cooking became our common hobby and to this day it’s an important part of our lives. This doesn’t mean we cook elaborate meals every day. Putting a quick dish together using four or five ingredients is as (if not more) useful a skill as having the patience to prepare something more elaborate. It’s all a matter of how much you feel it adds to your quality of life.
Getting interested in food does not mean you have to become obsessed with it either, nor does that make you a fine food expert. I’ve been cooking cuisine from all corners of the world for a few decades now and I do not consider myself close to a chef. I just enjoy making and eating good food, as complex or hearty as it might be. For me and my family, the kitchen is the most important room in the house.
Journeys of discovery
So how can making your food from scratch, using fresh and local ingredients enhance your gaming experience and vice versa? Just like I do in my tabletop adventures, I enjoy exploring cuisines I am not familiar with or that trigger my curiosity. Just like with my art, cooking and gaming are lifelong journeys. A little while back, I decided to add to my kitchen library of recipes and was intrigued by the World of Warcraft cookbook. At first, I was a little sceptical but after some online research, my initial concerns that this was all but a marketing ploy faded.
To my surprise, I found many great recipes in that cookbook and it gave me an opportunity to add more variety to our meals. It’s pretty common and easy to lose a bit of inspiration when it comes to planning meals for the week ahead. This revived my desire to try new dishes and reminded my of some I had forgotten about. Putting a fantasy twist on it added some thematic fun and gave us a little extra motivation to try new things.
A Feast for Heroes
Just a few weeks ago, I decided to give the official Dungeons & Dragons cookbook a try. I figured it could, at worst, make for a good sourcebook for our family D&D game. Again, online reviews gave me reason to believe that there was more to be found than a mere gimmick. Once I started flipping through its pages, the book did not disappoint. So far, I’ve only tried a few recipes, which were quite delicious. Just by reading through the cookbook, I can tell that its recipes are worth my time!
Some of you are probably thinking that one needs to have some experience cooking to pull anything off from a modern day cookbook. Let me tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. All you need to get started is an interest in food and a bit of time. Yes, making your own meals can take more time than ordering pizza (although, we make our own pizzas, they’re amazing and take about as much time as waiting to get one delivered; you should try!) but, like any hobby, it’s worth the investment because you’re doing something you enjoy. And what’s even better is that once you’ve done the fun part, the cooking, you get to indulge in another fun part: the eating!
If any of the fantasy fiction inspired cookbooks out there are an incentive for you to either get started or revive your cooking efforts, do it! There are snacky things you can prepare to eat or drink while you play or why not have your friends over for a Dwarven or Elvish feast, either on game night or just to have an excuse to get together and discuss your current campaign!
Slowly but surely, many people are starting to play in person again, where COVID restrictions allow it. Game cafés are opening once more and offering food and drinks before, while or after you play. Meals are meant to be celebrations of what brings us together, so what better way than cooking a stew from the Shire or a tavern steak from the Yawning Portal to honour our shared tabletop adventures?
I hope this short foray into one of my other hobbies has given you, well, some food for thought. Now get out there, start small and simple or cook up a feast worthy of the mightiest heroes!
Wouter F. Goedkoop is a multi-faceted designer, artist, cartographer and storyteller who, after living across Europe decided to find his home in Nova Scotia where he lives with his wife and kids. He helps people and companies connect with their audience in meaningful ways by telling relevant and impactful stories. For commissions and freelance inquiries, please use the form on the contact page.