Food in video games has often existed within the confines of arbitrary video game logic. Most often, it’s used to provide health boosts and stat buffs. But, the conversion between stew and adding +4 to evasion stats makes little to no real-life sense. Video game logic is also how a mishmosh of three random ingredients turns into a mouth-watering looking meal worthy of at least one Michelin star. Besides the logical quandary of food functionality in games, one has to wonder: how would these video game foods taste in the real world?
Over the past couple of years, there have been a handful of high-profile creators who have recreated video game dishes. Brian David Gilbert, formerly of Polygon, attempted to make every single dish in Breath of the Wild by following the game’s exact recipes. Similarly, Ann Reardon of How To Cook That made the cake from Minecraft, going so far as to mill her own flour. Binging With Babish tackled bear stew from Red Dead Redemption 2 and a handful of other video game recipes. But few have gone through the massive undertaking of recreating and developing actually tasty recipes for every single dish from a video game — until Dining Hall Delicacies.
Dining Hall Delicacies is the project and brain child of Monica Kislig, an American Culinary Federation-accredited pastry chef from Orlando, Florida, currently working at a Walt Disney World Resort theme park in the area. With nine years of culinary experience, and having played Fire Emblem for the past 15 years, she mixed her two hobbies together to do something both special and unusual. Kislig has sautéed, simmered, and baked her way through the whole Fire Emblem: Three Houses dining hall menu, posting the finished dishes and accompanying recipes to her Twitter page, which has a modest but growing community of 800 followers.
The dining hall menu is extensive with lean breakfasts, hearty stews, succulent roast dinners, cloying desserts, and some dubious-looking tarts. Between cooking, researching, and recipe writing, Kislig estimates she spent 225 hours on the project after wrapping it up at the beginning of June.
In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, cooking in the dining hall is largely a means of schmoozing with the game’s colorful cast. You can essentially set them up on blind dates with each other, or spend precious one-on-one time together cooking meals that aid your fortitude in battle. It’s a socializing mechanic that enriches the world of Fodlan — after all, one of the best ways to understand someone and their culture is by eating their food.
“After logging about three hundred hours into the game and feeding Claude over and over again so that he loved me, I spent a lot of time looking at the menu,” Kislig says, explaining where the project derived inspiration from. “I actually did some research before the pandemic hit. I had some extra time, I wasn’t working a huge amount of hours at work, and I’m like, ‘Y’know, I haven’t done anything fun like this. I wonder if anyone else has.’ So I looked into it, saw it hadn’t really been done yet, and thought, ‘Why not? It sounds like it’d be a good time.’”
To get a better idea of the project’s scope, she started with each in-game dish carefully laid out with their ingredients and brief flavor text describing their taste. Many dishes were based off of real-life counterparts, making the process a bit easier. Kislig worked on four recipes at a time and managed to have “one really good meal one day a week.” For every kitchen trial, recipes were written the day before. The first trials mostly worked out — except for one dish.
The fruit and herring tart proved to be the most difficult to make appealing. No one wants to eat fish and fruit together, let alone in a tart. The first attempt ended up being pretty good, but it wasn’t a tart. Kislig describes it as a weird focaccia. So back to the drawing board she went, eventually creating a delicious version.
However, just like there are a lot of seafood dishes in Three Houses, there are also a lot of characters, each with specific tastes. For example, if you want to develop a closer relationship with the fish-loving Flayn, you have to make use of the pond on campus. Though JRPGs may be the perfect fit for fishing, as game developer Yoko Taro once pointed out, Kislig’s real-life household soon grew tired of all the fish.
“My wife was part of the taste testing, and she hates fish,” Kislig says. “She would ask me, ‘Fish again?’ And I would joke, ’Shut up and eat it, that’s Dimitri’s favorite dish!’” It got to the point where her wife got Culver’s for dinner instead.
The project was always meant to be more than just an experiment posted on Twitter. Kislig started it with the goal of making a PDF and physical cookbook of every single food available in the dining hall. This would include the normal menu, the Cooking Together recipes, and recipes that never made it into the game but were found in the game’s code by dataminers. In total, this culminated in sixty-one recipes from Three Houses. Kislig feels the process was altogether seamless, thanks to friends who provided food photography and helped format the book, as well as artists who were commissioned to provide illustrations. Preorders recently ended for the PDF and physical version of the Dining Hall Delicacies cookbook; however, almost all of the recipes are still available on the Twitter page.
As for what’s next for Kislig? She’s serving as a moderator for Fodlan Cuizine, a Fire Emblem: Three Houses food zine, and a contributor for a Nintendo food themed zine, but otherwise, she’s taking a long, deserved break from any huge cooking projects.
Dining Hall Delicacies is a true passion project, one that Kislig didn’t think she would ever finish because of its ambitious scope. But, with support from the Fire Emblem community, she did. Often, we see fandom expressions come in the form of cosplay, fanart, and fanfiction. Kislig shows you can express your love of a game in other ways, too, for cooking is just as creative as anything else. We’ve seen game developers drop in-depth character models just for cosplayers; maybe one day we’ll see them consider full recipe production too. Food brings people together just like fandom does. It’s the perfect combination — maybe not like fruit and herring, but like peanut butter and jelly.