‘Heroes' Feast: The Official D&D Cookbook’ - Book Review

I've been playing Dungeons & Dragons for over twenty years, and during that time, I've seen all manner of ways to heighten the immersion of the hobby, be it fully ensconcing yourself in foam armor and heading out into the woods for a weekend, skillfully crafting ancient-looking maps and scrolls with tea and patience, or referring to each party member as only their character's name throughout the entire night.  One thing that always breaks the immersion is when you reach for your Funyuns and Mountain Dew (unless you're in the Mad Mage's cells...then anything's fair game), or dipping E.L. Fudge cookies in red wine (The author does not admit to being party to this behavior, but heartily recommends against in the in strongest terms.), or just annihilating the sleeve of Oatmeal Pies.  Well, friends, some great minds in gaming have taken the next logical step in game session food immersion and created a cookbook full of dishes from the most famous of the Realms in the D&D canon, including Greyhawk, Eberron, Faerun, and Krynn.  Steeped in the countless tomes of lore and the rich history of the world's best-known role-playing game, there has been a lot of love poured into making this book a recipe for not only gastronomic experimentation, but camaraderie and shared experiences, as well.

This was a very tasty product to review.  I tried my hand (and my family's palate) on a few of these intriguing creations.  I wish I had been able to try more (which I will be handling once I have a little more time for cooking).  Due to the quarantine efforts of my household right now, I was not able to nerd out with my usual party for this sort of thing, but I look forward to sharing some of these recipes with them once we're allowed to gather to eat.  One overall note is that every dish is not only carefully considered into the lore of D&D, but also guides the cook through making the dish in a very welcoming and well-thought out manner.  The book has divided cuisines by race (more on that later), and it seems to have overlaid certain styles of preparation to each of them.  For example, Halfling fare is my favorite of everything, as it's delightful comfort food that will always hit the spot.  The recipes are pulled from traditions all over the continent, and it's fun to apply my neophyte Chopped-watching kitchen knowledge to the meals contained within.

Some of the recipes I tried worked amazingly (Hello, Honeyed Ham with Pineapple Gravy and Otik's Skillet-Fired spiced potatoes) and some missed for me.  A large part of that might be my level of cooking ability, and some may just be based in a taste that I'm not a huge fan of.  Luckily, much like any other sourcebook in D&D, this book serves as a great resource to riff from, take some chances, and improvise.  Much like any D&D content, if you want to see it within the world, you're gonna have to build it yourself.  The authors spell that out early on, as well.  Everyone's palate is different, but I'm sure that most will find something that will tickle their taste buds within.  My biggest disappointment was with a bread, but I'm going to attempt that one again with my partner's help as they're the better baker, so I look forward to experiencing the process again through their skills (and even if it falls apart it'll still be tasty).

Having had my first foray into fantasy by way of Weis and Hickman's Dragonlance chronicles, seeing Otik's potatoes come to life in front of me was an amazing feeling.  It ties the nostalgia of the lore into a hot and fresh dish that you can then share with your party and makes it an incredible experience that I wouldn't trade for much.  For the serious gamer, there's not much that I've encountered that's like it.

There is a section devoted to more potent, bracing mixtures...I mean booze.  As a person who's typical drink recipe consists of applying whiskey liberally to a glass, this section was beyond my skills and interests, but I could still appreciate the love and care that went into creating them, and the lore sections still resounded incredibly for me.  Even without trying every meal, the dedication and passion brought to this project is incredible to enjoy and can kindle some part of your own adventure someday.

There's no way that I can review this product without addressing the current state of D&D and the problematic tendencies that exist within the material and the communities that run it.  In the introduction, the authors lay out the fact that the primary campaign settings that are the most well-known (Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Dragonlance) tend to be based on European feudal and middle ages traditions, and thus much of the recipe book is chock full of that style of cuisine.  The authors are very up front about this fact, though whether they are simply acknowledging it or codifying it is lost to this reader.  A lot of people feel unwelcome at tables because of this kind of lack of inclusivity (to say nothing of the gatekeepers who attempt to enforce their "canonical" knowledge), and beyond that some of the material is downright racist, like the fact that the "evil" counterparts to the races of the worlds have black skin (like the drow and deep-gnomes).  Tolkein's Orcs have the same issue, and so much of D&D is tied up with that general worldview that it tends to force away those who just want to see themselves reflected in this fantasy in a positive manner.  We all want to be heroes and should have the opportunity to do so.  As the newest tome of D&D canon is approaching with rules designed to decouple alignment and race, but they tie the former more closely to culture instead of something inherent will be a good step.  I had wished to see some ranging in these recipes to a more diverse locales, perhaps something truly different to reflect more of our real-world cultures, as well.  I think that every product that bears the D&D name ought to be doing that, as there's a lot of work to be done.

All of that being said, I think that anyone who's tossed a handful of polyhedrals at their problems or journeyed for hours into the depths of D&D lore will find this book to be an incredibly exciting adventure all its own.  Make sure that your dagger and spice rack are near and dig in.

Share the stories that move you and pass the butter.


Creative Team:  Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, Michael Witwer (Writers), Adam Ried (Chef), Ray     Katchatorian (Photographer)
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Click here to purchase.





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