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I ask mostly out of curiosity. Obviously, a proper cookbook would involve real ingredients and not fantasy creatures. There's such a cookbook for Skyrim and Lord of the Rings. What I am curious about is this: what challenges are there in writing a fantasy cookbook where creatures that don't exist in real life are used as the ingredients?

Having trouble following along? In 1998, a Pokemon cookbook was published online. No, it wasn't a cookbook where it shows you how to make the food shown in the show of Pokemon. It was a cookbook where the writer, K.S. Suslick, used Pokemon as the ingredients.

Now in my case, I have no interest in making a cookbook involving Pokemon... but what about a cookbook where the recipes are inspired by my own fantasy world? Obviously, in order to make the cookbook be valuable to anyone aside from as a random merch item for my story, I need to include recipes that can be made with real-world items... but what about if I get to a recipe where it calls for 8 ounces of dragon steak (for example)? This is obviously just one example, but what challenges are there for such a cookbook? Assume I'm wanting it to be sellable as its own thing, not attached to a given story, so it's just a cookbook for a fantasy world.

  • I editted my answer to add a resource – bruglesco Mar 15 at 2:12
  • Probably access to the ingredients – Thomo Mar 15 at 3:49
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First, consider the characteristics of the fantasy element in a world-building sense. Then you have a baseline understanding of what your dragon steak is like. You could do a one to one comparison. Dragon steak is the same as Bison steak. Thick, rich, hearty, earthy and grassy. Or you could decide its characteristics a little more individually. Dragon steak is tough and gamy like old mutton, but it has a natural smokey flavor and is surprisingly lean. Goes well with Worcestershire. Needs slow cooked.

Now, You can blurb about this the way a cookbook author might, but even if you don't it's important you know for your own consideration these minutiae. I would say that highlighting the fun ingredients as if they were the star ingredient with a blurb does sound like a funner read and lets you put some of that world-building into the actually print.

Then you can construct dishes that contain these elements as well as other more traditional ingredients. If using the one-to-one approach you can even look up some common dishes and swap out ingredients.

One of the challenges with this is, even if you carefully construct what each ingredient is to you, it may not come across to the reader. Even with a blurb it might not be clear what Pikachu tastes like or even remotely what texture, shape, color, consistency, aroma. Perhaps for practice try blurbs about actual food as if you were trying to explain those ingredients to people who were unfamiliar with them. Then try looking at how other cookbooks have done so successfully.

I have yet to find a good example of a cookbook that speaks about ingredients it assumes the reader not to know but I will keep looking. But as I was searching I stumbled on this little gem of a resource and thought I'd share.

  • The scary thing is I can imagine you writing and testing these recipes. :-) – Cyn Mar 14 at 16:15
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    @Cyn No self-respecting chef would publish an untested recipe. – bruglesco Mar 14 at 16:18
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In essence, you've got two elements to balance: the fantasy, and the cooking. So let's look at them separately first.

Cooking:

  • The recipes need to work. Recipes that mean nothing can be a fun gimmick on the internet, but if you're selling a cookbook, it should be a cookbook, no matter how it's styled.
  • As @Wetcircuit mentions, people expect recipes to be relatively easy. At least part of your target audience is not people who do a lot of cooking at home, but relative amateurs who would want to have a bit of fun. Teenagers would find such a book particularly appealing (as would children, but they would need supervision in the kitchen anyway). Not all recipes need to be easy, but there needs to be a sufficient number of easy ones for complete amateurs to enjoy.
  • Similar to the point above, final product should not exclude a child's palate. In fact, the "fun" element in your book might encourage children who are picky eaters to try out new things.

Fantasy:

  • People are going to buy your book for the fantasy element. You've got to give them enough of that. You can tell the reader about where a dish fits into your fantasy world's culture. You can have the recipe written by a particular character, and in that character's particular tone. You can insert anecdotes about how the recipe was created, or about someone who ate it (within the setting, of course). Be creative!

Combining the two:

  • Consider presentation. If you write about dragon steak, suggest one can substitute beef, and from then on it's just a normal steak, you've done nothing. There is a restaurant not far from where I live, called "The Witch and the Milkman". Their mains are slow-cooked meats served in a cauldron. This is an example of presentation fitting the theme.
  • I personally find that lines like "if you can't find dragon, you can substitute beef" throw me out of the fantasy. If you must have substitutions, consider having them in-world: "after dragons in fantasyland went extinct due to an influx of knights, locals started preparing beef according to the following recipe, to approximate the taste."
  • You can stylise not only the presentation, but also the text of the recipe. "Stir three times diosil, then seven times widdershins". However, make sure that the instructions remain clear.
  • 1
    I upvoted because it is a good answer, but I am not sure I agree with the premise that the target audience can't be serious cooks. Many serious cooks enjoy the realm of fantasy. Having a cookbook that balances the realm of functional and humorous could definitely fit on my bookshelf with my other cookbooks. – bruglesco Mar 14 at 16:23
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    If that knight errant is otherwise occupied at the local tourney, substitute beef for dragon. – Rasdashan Mar 14 at 17:14
  • @bruglesco criticism accepted. Edited accordingly. – Galastel Mar 14 at 19:06
  • Nice additions. Unfortunately I can't upvote again. – bruglesco Mar 14 at 19:07
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Read buyer reviews of similar books

example: customer reviews of The Wizard's Cookbook (Amazon)

Readers say what they thought of the books' creativity and artwork, and also describe needing to adapt the recipes (various reasons).

A common issue across the associated books is sourcing the ingredients.

Most show the buyers initially bought the books as a novelty or gift, then find recipes within they want to try. Many expected the recipes would be easier, implying the recipes were not taken seriously or the expected market was for young people who would not normally cook.

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