WHY I LOVE

Tast­ing the world of Aze­roth through 100 recipes.

PC GAMER (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Re­bekah Valen­tine

Cook­ing with World­ofWar­craft.

I had con­vinced my­self that I was go­ing to fin­ish the darn thing

Paus­ing on a snowy Northrend cliff, the icy twist of the wind sharp­ens as I gaze upon the Ice­crown Ci­tadel. I can hear a dis­tant thud of Mag­nataur hooves and flap of blue drakes. But none of these vir­tual sen­sa­tions comes as close to bring­ing Northrend to life for me as the re­mem­bered tastes of bit­ing ju­niper, smoky pine, and chilled, fresh-caught salmon.

On De­cem­ber 25, 2016, my par­ents showed up for Christ­mas Day din­ner and I, a dis­or­gan­ised young adult, had no plan for the turkey. In des­per­a­tion I cracked open one of my Christ­mas Eve gifts, World of Warcraft: The Of­fi­cial Cook­book, and flipped to the recipe dis­played on the cover: Slow-Roasted Turkey. A quick skim of the in­gre­di­ents (com­mon) and the in­struc­tions (easy) and six hours later, din­ner was pre­sented. It was both tasty and a touch un­canny.

The de­li­cious­ness spurred me to try more recipes un­til, some­how, I had con­vinced my­self that I was go­ing to fin­ish the darn thing: all 100 recipes. It took 15 months. In the end, not ev­ery recipe was de­li­cious. But like the turkey, most recipes pos­sessed an un­canny flavour or ap­pear­ance that whis­pered of their ori­gins in fan­tasy and drew me, slowly, back to WoW.

Within each dish is a strange in­ter­play: there are fa­mil­iar dishes or main in­gre­di­ents, in­spi­ra­tions from real cul­tures that in turn in­spired the Warcraft cul­ture in ques­tion, and al­most al­ways an ex­tra ‘some­thing’ that in­fuses a taste of Aze­roth. A mem­o­rable ex­am­ple are the ju­niper berries that flavour the Steam­ing Chicken Soup. In a sin­gle spice, a sim­ple chicken and dumpling dish finds a home in frozen Northrend. An­other ex­am­ple is the rose­wa­ter in the De­li­cious Cho­co­late Cake, which author Chelsea Mon­roe-Cas­sel in­di­cates is to stand in for the craft­ing herb Mageroyal. Just a spoon­ful, and a sim­ple white rasp­berry cake is trans­formed into a herbal­ist treat straight from the Sil­ver­pine For­est.

RECIPE FOR SUC­CESS

For most peo­ple and most cook­books, it’s enough to dabble only in the most in­ter­est­ing recipes. By tak­ing on the en­tire book, I got a dou­ble dose of food world tours en­com­pass­ing the real world and Aze­roth. Mon­roeCas­sel has con­cocted a bril­liant mish­mash of cul­tures with this work, rang­ing from Chi­nese noo­dle dishes to Ital­ian breads to im­prove­ments on ba­sic chicken fin­gers.

The recipes, which often in­cluded in­gre­di­ents my general gro­cery store didn’t stock, of­fered real-life fetch quests that lev­elled up my cook­ing and in­gre­di­ent-hunt­ing skills, too. I vis­ited Asian gro­cery stores, farm­ers’ mar­kets, meat coun­ters, spice stores. There, I met fel­low chefs fas­ci­nated by my project and ea­ger to share their own ex­pe­ri­ences with food, fan­tasy, or both. Of course, no recipe was eaten in soli­tude. My friends and fam­ily en­joyed the ben­e­fits of the project, and some learned about World of Warcraft for the first time.

Through these dis­cov­er­ies, the cook­book in­stilled in me not only a love for the craft of cook­ing, but a new­found love for the game. I re­subbed to World of Warcraft ahead of the Battle for Aze­roth ex­pan­sion, and un­sur­pris­ingly, I now no­tice food ev­ery­where. In inns and house­holds you can find hogs roast­ing on spits over roar­ing fires sur­rounded by friendly NPCs and hear the laugh­ter of elves as they take an­other sip of wine to­gether. We sur­round an over­loaded ta­ble and devour a feast be­fore each raid for a stat buff, or pester a mage to drop a ta­ble piled with sweets for quick mana re­gen­er­a­tion. Food in Aze­roth, as in our world, of­fers warmth and safety dur­ing an end­less strug­gle.

Over the years, I’ve re­turned to Aze­roth again and again for the thrill of be­ing an ad­ven­turer: pow­er­ful, brave and ready to battle my way through its vast and mys­te­ri­ous uni­verse. The es­capism of World of Warcraft al­lows me to be pow­er­ful in a safe, vir­tual space that can (thank­fully) never cross over into re­al­ity. But in that world of con­flict, racial ten­sion and, well, Warcraft, my new favourite ex­pe­ri­ence has noth­ing to do with divi­sion. It’s in the safety and in­ti­macy of shar­ing a meal that the fan­tasy of Aze­roth can be­come real for any­one, even those who would oth­er­wise never set foot there. Just drop a ta­ble, and eat up.

LEFT: Graccu’s Mince­meat Fruit­cake with its brandy ic­ing makes a de­li­cious and im­pres­sive win­ter cen­tre­piece.

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