Exploring Critical Role Cuisine with Liz Marsham and Exquisite Exandria

Published: September 5, 2023 11:00 AM /


Author Liz Marsham against an image of Exquisite Exandria, a Critical Role Cookbook

Exquisite Exandria is the new cookbook from Darrington Press written by Liz Marsham with Recipes by Jesse Szewczyk, Susan Vu, and Amanda Yee. Where this cookbook differs from many that you might be familiar with is that instead of being centered around a particular culinary region or style, this book is about Critical Role Cuisine.

Not only is the food of Critical Role the focus of this book, but it's written by a book club turned recipe hunters known as the First Draught Book Club. This week, TechRaptor spoke with Liz Marsham about the importance of food in Critical Role, how this book came to be, and what the process of creating these recipes was like.

The Establishment of Exquisite Exandria

When asked how the project started Marsham explained that when she came onto the project "Critical Role and Penguin Random House were already developing the project. They already had fantastic recipe developers and food experts. They just needed a nerdy-ass color commentator to round out the team, and that's where I came in."

Various Critical Role characters eating in a tavern while the First Draught Book Club enter
The artwork shows characters from each Critical Role campaign enjoying different foods. You can even see the First Draught Book Club entering in the distance.

Marsham had previously worked with Critical Role to create The World of Critical Role, a history of the inception of Critical Role including behind-the-scenes information and additional anecdotes.

Talking about the creation of this cookbook Marsham explained "Matt and the rest of the cast have always talked about in-game food in an incredibly vivid way" Whether it be Scanlan's Magnificent Mansion that serves only chicken-based meals, or Matt describing the sights and smells of the Byroden Peachiest Pie Bake-Off food is constantly a topic that comes up.

"It’s impossible for me to pick one favorite food reference, but speaking of food and stories and emotions: Aabria’s description of the hastily-thrown-together meal in Niirdal-Poc really touched me. It was mid-pandemic in the real world, but in Exandria an earth genasi was making fresh fry bread for unexpected guests, and that was just wonderful."

Fantasy and Non-Fantasy Foods of Exandria

In the process of creating foods that would be part of the world of Critical Role, there's a lot to have drawn from over the course of Critical Role's three main campaigns. 

"That’s how many of these recipes got their start – on the fly, improvised by Matt and the cast. Some Exandrian foods started simply with geography – a desert oasis will naturally have different traditional fare than a snowy mountain village. But Matt also drew inspiration from various real-world places when creating the different areas of Exandria"

Danish cuisine has the Smorrebrod, an open-faced sandwich that could have all manner of ingredients on it but normally includes things like cheeses, sliced cucumber or egg, and pickled herrings. Within Exandria however the port city of Shorecomb, to the far south-west of Vasselheim, is where the Smorrebrod comes from.

A page from Exquisite Exandria showing off the artwork of Smorrebrod

"Like any good world-building, the various influences end up in a bit of a tangle, and the results are places (and foods!) that feel both new and familiar."

When I asked about any recipes that didn't make the cut, or what a hope for future food to appear in Exandria would be Marsham's answers both had to do with the blood-red moon, Ruidus. While Ruidus is now a major focus of Critical Role Campaign 3 Bell's Hells "The brainstorming meeting [...] happened in March of 2022, when less than twenty episodes of Campaign 3 had aired."

"In addition to the huge list of food references, I put together a brief on the major characteristics of each continent. At the bottom, I had a short list of other possible points of inspiration, including a mention of Exandria’s red, ill-omened, second moon. I think I said something like 'This might be a neat concept for a drink.' We ended up with way too many strong ideas, so the moon drink quickly went by the wayside."

With Bell's Hells seemingly on their way to visit the moon in the not-so-distant future Marsham also hopes that we'll find out what they have been eating up there. "What do they eat on the moon? I have no idea, but I bet Matt does. I can’t wait to find out."

How To Pick Critical Role Cuisine

Some of the dishes in Exquisite Exandria are born of small references ad-libbed at the table, while others are the core of a long joke at the table or perhaps a story-defining moment (such as Laura tricking Matt with the Dust of Deliciousness). Marsham described the process of finding these dishes as "fun and nostalgic and also a little tedious. That last part is my fault…"

"I’m the kind of writer who maybe takes homework too seriously, and there are hundreds of Critical Role episodes. So, before the first project meeting, I picked ten key words like “breakfast” and “taste,” searched the episode captions for those words, wrote little descriptions for the results, sorted them by continent, and ended up with a 14-page document of options. Some of them were obvious winners – clearly, we had to include Fusaka, Black Moss Cupcakes, a non-lethal version of GoFiBePo, etc. -- but there was plenty of room for Jesse and Amanda and Susan to riff on things that inspired them."

When asked about her own favorite dish from Exquisite Exandria Marsham picked Dead People Tea, inspired by Caddeuceus Clay. "I drink a ton of tea every day, but before working on this book it had never occurred to me that I could make my own. It seems like magic to me, which is probably the best reason to give it a try."

The Stories You Can Tell About Food

As a Critical Role fan, you'll read punny titles, or short anecdotes about how the First Draught Book Club came across recipes and immediately be reminded of moments from the show. Linking food and stories is something easy to do.

"The ingredients we have to work with, the recipes we know, and the people we share our food with are parts of our world that go way beyond mealtime. Also, smell and taste are huge nudges to our memories and emotions, so our personal stories naturally come up when we eat "

The Heartmoor Harvest from Exquisite Exandria
The Heartmoor Harvest, a salad dressed with a tomato vinaigrette from the continent of Marquet

The idea of the First Draught Book Club occurred accidentally as Marsham was writing. "I started a running gag where the recipe developers actually existed in Exandria. My editors and the team at Critical Role liked the bit but wanted me to expand it into something more concrete, so I came up with the book club. Then they asked me to name the club, and frankly I blanked – but a friend who is stellar with puns rescued me (thanks, Jess)."

What began as a gag continued to snowball as the First Draught Book Club continued to establish themselves in the world of Exandria. Now they're also immortalized as art in Exquisite Exandria. "The editors told me they were commissioning art of the book club and asked how I wanted to look, which was a delightful surprise. Jesse, Amanda, Susan, and I sent in little wish lists – our preferred class or our favorite style of coat, things like that. (My spectral cat is based, Caleb-style, on my childhood cat DJ.) Next thing we knew, artist Adrián Ibarra Lugo had made us into adventurers!"

If you're interested in learning more about Exquisite Exandria including the range of recipes, how it appeals to chefs of all skill levels, and is filled to the brim with references you can check out our review.

TechRaptor would like to thank Liz Marsham for taking the time to talk with us about food, the stories that accompany it, and the cuisine of Exandria in Exquisite Exandria.


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