Sunday, December 4, 2011
Thinking about pie
This got me thinking about how much food and cooking ties into defining particular regions and cultures.
One great example is the role of food and dietary laws in religion. The way food is prepared, what is permitted for consumption, and even what foods may be eaten together help define the people of Israel in the Bible. The specific laws that are given for the people of Israel separate them from their neighbors, marking them out in a very fundamental way as God's people. The same is true with Islam, Hinduism, and other religions. The things they are permitted to eat help to define who followers of these religions are.
Every region of the world has its own unique diet and culinary specialties, often depending on what is plentiful in the region. Sometimes, though, something could become a delicacy in a particular place just because of its rarity. Look at the role of spices in world history for a great example of this.
Fantasy authors occassionally use food and spices to highlight the cultural identity of particular people or places. J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin are the two best examples that come immediately to mind, but there have been plenty of others. In both of their works, they use food to distinguish particular regions or people, as well as particular classes. Compare the descriptions in Martin's books of the fare at the Inn at the Crossroads and the fare at the nobles' tables in Kings Landing.
I'm sure that someone will correct me as soon as I post this, but I don't recall any gaming products that really recognize and use food as such a distinctive and distinguishing characteristic. I remember in some of the old Forgotten Realms products there would be occassional mentions of food or spices, but I don't recall them having any particular import in defining the culture or regional identity of the place or people being described.
So I'm thinking that I need to start looking at food and seeing how to incorporate it into my games as a way of separating and distinguishing particular people and places.
* Except for Indiana, proving my theory that Indiana is the northernmost southern state in the US.