In 2011, I was asked to write an unique kind of writer's guide: one that helps writers, appeals to readers, and is historically-based. It was a tall order, as how can a writer's guide appeal to people who never have any interest in writing? What came from those initial thoughts was my current non-fiction book, What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank: A Fantasy Lover's Guide to Food.
What Kings Ate is written for writers, but chats away at readers who love historical romance, historical fiction, steampunk, and epic fantasy. In the pages, we learn how our favourite heroines would feed herself while on the run, and what food gifts a hero could give his poor lady friend.
One of the fun parts about researching a book like this is the “helpful tips” you come across in period books. How to soak a salted cow tongue, the best ways to cook pig testicles (split them, turn them inside out, give them a bit of a boil, and add some butter *shudder*), and how to keep your servants from stealing from you.
It’s impossible to narrow down a favourite tip from all of my research, but I came across some very interesting advice.
To choose Butter at Market
Put a knife into the butter if salt, and smell it when drawn out; if there is any thing rancid or unpleasant, it is bad…Fresh butter ought to smell like a nosegay, and be of an equal colour all through: if sour in smell it has not been sufficiently washed; if veiny and open, it is probably mixed with staler or an inferior sort.
I’m so happy that all I need to do these days is head down to the local Sobey’s and buy a foil-wrapped block of butter. No smelling knives necessary.
Or, what about eggs? Today, eggs are battery-farmed. We already have access to eggs. Even for those of us who don’t buy that particular kind of egg and get free-range farm eggs, we generally are able to find plenty. When modern transportation and refrigeration doesn’t exist, eggs need to be preserved so that they don’t go bad:
How to preserve an egg?
I also learned about things like sugar. I always knew sugar was expensive in medieval Europe, but I didn’t quite understand how expensive. A one pound loaf of sugar cost about 2 shillings on average in London in the 13th century. It’s often difficult to translate money from different eras; technologies and economies in the modern world are very different than that of previous times.
To put this cost into perspective, here is what 2 shillings could buy instead:
· 24 dozen eggs
· 6 chickens
· 1 pig
· 20lbs cheese
Wow! You really would need to be rich to afford sugar at those prices.
A Fantasy Lover's Food Guide
Equal parts writer’s guide, comedy, and historical cookbook, fantasy author Krista D. Ball takes readers on a journey into the depths of epic fantasy’s obsession with rabbit stew and teaches them how to catch the blasted creatures, how to move armies across enemy territories without anyone starving to death, and what a medieval pantry should look like when your heroine is seducing the hero.
Learn how long to cook a salted cow tongue, how best to serve salt fish, what a “brewis” is (hint: it isn’t beer), how an airship captain would make breakfast, how to preserve just about anything, and why those dairy maids all have ample hips.
What Kings Ate will give writers of historical and fantastical genres the tools to create new conflicts in their stories, as well as add authenticity to their worlds, all the while giving food history lovers a taste of the past with original recipes and historical notes. Read an excerpt
The giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 7 December 2012!