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Worldbuilding: Food

Whether exploring the past or developing the future, it is important to consider what types of food they had access to. It is hard to imagine today that we didn't have aisles and aisles of exotic foods and a hundred types of ice cream back in the 1970s a in small town grocery. Our town didn't have lots of fast food options. We had a root beer stand and a drive-in with popcorn and pop.

What will we eat in the future and how will we produce it?

In fantasy, I always wonder where all of the magical food items appear from. I know it is magic, but you still have to assemble molecules, right?

What is your character's favorite beverage or meal? How hard is it to obtain?

Is it a land of plenty or famine? What are people willing to kill or die for?

How do your characters obtain food? Are they hunter gatherers, farmers, fishermen?

How do they grow food: household gardens, community gardens, commercial gardening, greenhouses, hydroponics, or some future technology?

Do they have Frankenfood (genetically modified) or synthetic substitutes?

In your fantasy world, can they make food magically appear? Do they take it from somewhere or does it materialize out of thin air?

Was food scarce or plentiful?

Was it available to some or all?

Were there droughts, famines, fires, or other shortages affecting supply?

Where do they acquire the food? Individual homesteads (you grow/kill what you eat), local farmers or sellers, community co-ops, butcher shops, bakeries, farmers' markets, local grocers, distant suppliers, importing? Do they have soup kitchens or cafeterias?

Do they have kitschy diners, drive-ins with skaters, food trucks, or fancy restaurants?

What foods did they have access to: nuts, seeds, berries, greens, legumes, gourds, fruits, meats, dairy, cheeses, vegetables? What food items were common and what were considered rare?

Did they have sweets like sugar, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup, or other synthetic sweeteners?

Did they bake and have access to baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, yeast, or salt or some form of grains or flour? Did they have common or exotic spices?

In your Science Fiction world, what do they eat in space? In a Fantasy world what kind of food items are magically delicious?

What meals did they eat, when, where, how often, and common menus?

Did they have special feast days or holidays they celebrated with food?

What beverages were on tap: milk, fruit juices, ales, beers, whiskey, rum, champagne, vodka, or other alcoholic drinks? Do they have alcohol in space or special magical drinks that affect the senses?

Did they have cocoa, coffees, teas or other hot drinks?

Suggested references:

1. Everyday Life in the Ancient World: Learn about homes, houses, and what food the Romans, Celts, Egyptians, and other people of the past used to eat by Halstead, Rachel
2. What Did the Ancient Israelites Eat?: Diet in Biblical Times by Nathan MacDonald
3. Agriculture in Iron Age Israel by Oded Borowski
4. Hunter-Gatherer Foraging: Five Simple Models by Robert L. Bettinger
5. Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
6. Spice: The History of a Temptation by Jack Turner
7. Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History by Rachel Laudan
8. Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages by Patrick E. McGovern
9. The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide by Mary Lou Heiss & Robert J. Heiss
10. Coffee: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Coffee by Jack Frisks
11. The Complete Guide to Your New Root Cellar: How to Build an Underground Root Cellar and Use It for Natural Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by Julie Fryer

Next week, we will explore Climate and Weather.

For advanced world-building, the SBB Build A World Workbook is available in print and e-book.

Other titles in the series:

Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict available in print and e-book takes you from story seed to conflict outline. The fourteen companion Build A Plot Workbooks, in print and e-book, offer step by step development prompts: ComedyCon, Heist & Prison BreakFantasyGothicHistoricalHorrorLiterary
(Drama),  MysteryRoad TripRomanceScience FictionTeam VictoryThriller & SuspenseWestern.

SBB II Crafting Believable Conflict in print and e-book and the Build A Cast Workbook in print and e-book help you build a believable cast and add conflict based on the sixteen personality types.

SBB III The Revision Layers in print and e-book helps you self-edit your manuscript.

Free story building tools are available at  

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