Food and adequate nutrition are not only essential to all life, but make for excellent world building in historical fiction, and lots of tension. Isn’t that what turns pages? Hunting, gathering, farming, storing, preparing, whether living rough off the land or in a lavish banquet scene: taste, smell, visual, texture, and sound all treat the reader to a five senses event. Does the protagonist get to eat or go hungry? Will there be enough? Does the game escape?Have the provisions spoiled? Every time period has a feast of opportunity to engage, entertain and enlighten readers through food.
In Medieval Ireland, where my books take place, getting enough to eat is not only essential, but often difficult and always hard work for someone, frequently my protagonist, Eloise, in Archer’s Grace. She depends on her hunting skills, field dressing and preparing meals on the road. She has deep gratitude and appreciation for the food served to her. Her father told her: “Hungry people are resourceful.” He was correct. I also love to write banquet scenes, with soups, pies, and game, while the intrigues and treacheries are played out among the diners.
There are many great on-line sources for research on food. My daughter turned me on to Tasting History, with Max Miller, you tube link below. If you haven’t watched this – get on over there. Tasting history from all times and places with how to’s and a history lesson:
Here is another fun one on you tube – Ancient recipes with Sohla
I used you tube for field dressing rabbits. I will spare my delicate readers, but trust me, you, too can learn to field dress about anything.
Next some blogs and online stories with food, food, food from history:
It is never too late to research coronation banquets or holidays here.
I even found a culinary and food history database:
Please remember to check out the Paper Lantern Writers Holiday Cookbooks come December.
Before I had the luxury of on-line resources I depended on books, and have included a photo of some of my Medieval research library.
Books and food:
One of my all-time favorite series, with such meticulous research, was Jean Auel’s Earth Children Series. The great culinary arts of the prehistoric cave dwellers.
Babette’s Feast, by Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen, though I still cry for the tortoise.
So many more excellent books about food and cooking. What would you add to the list?
Anne M. Beggs writes adventure romance and family saga set in Medieval Ireland. She is a member of Paper Lantern Writers and Historical Novel Society. For about her books, mounted archery, and horses, please contact her on Facebook or Instagram @annitbella72