In recent years there has been an increased focus on the wider material culture of video games. Branded clothing and accessories are the most visible of these intrusions into wider culture, and sometimes the most cynical, but more interesting are the examples that expand on the world building of particular game series.
Food is a key part of establishing the kind of world context you are playing in but despite the increased effort put into scanning and modelling authentic looking delicacies, it too often gets overlooked as merely set dressing. The current popularity of survival games and survival elements does offer the opportunity for a more involved treatment of food preparation, as any players of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or even Kingdom Hearts III will attest to. Things have come a long way since ‘Blue Wizard has shot food’ in Gauntlet. So iconic are the culinary offerings of the post-apocalyptic world of the Fallout universe that Titan Books have published a full-on glossy cookbook featuring recipes directly from and inspired by the games.
Unlike many cheap cash-in products, the Fallout Cookbook is a properly high-end publication. With beautiful and glossy high quality paper stock and lavish full page photographs illustrating every recipe, the book itself is a fantastic object and Titan Books should be commended.
Replete with Vault logos and branding for Nuka-Cola, there has been a clear effort to immerse the title in the world of its gaming inspiration. Alongside these visual references the recipes themselves feature Fallout versions of popular ingredients (with the real-life equivalents included too so you don’t have to hunt down a Rad-Scorpion). However, the relationship between the recipes and the Fallout universe is mostly superficial and the Vault Dweller’s Cookbook is really a classic American recipe book in Fallout packaging. Of course, the Fallout series itself is wrapped up in this nostalgic idea of Golden Age consumerism, so this all feels appropriate.
The range of recipes is impressive and covers a wide spectrum of American cuisine. Meaty mains, calorie laden desserts and a surprising number of drinks are all included. There are even some vegetarian options, which was a pleasant surprise.
Having now tried out a few of these dishes on my willing test subjects (otherwise known as my family) I can report that they are clearly written, easy to follow and result in mostly excellent results. We particularly enjoyed a Pork Pot Pie full of melting meat and delicious gravy, a light and fragrant Chicken Noodle Soup, and a veg-packed Baked Bloatfly (basically a nut roast). It is in these mains that the book really shines. I’d love to show you some of the results, but alas, those pesky kids of mine diligently decided to spring clean my phone’s photo gallery and removed the evidence more ruthlessly than a Communist propaganda machine.
Given the American focus there are some questionable recipes in terms of calorie content. A recipe for Sugar-Bombed carrots, especially, is suitably named as it contains enough sugary ingredients to see off a whole family’s pancreases. Suffice it to say that we didn’t try that one out. Desserts also largely lean to the high calorie, super sweet end of the spectrum, but are worth trying in moderation. Fallout fans will be excited to make their own Nuka-Cola mix too, although nobody else in my family wanted to try it.
As a classic American cookbook, the Official Vault Dweller’s Cookbook is a fantastically produced item, and has enough Fallout branding to appeal to fans of the series. I found a couple of the recipes to be a little strange – one cornbread muffin that was simultaneously sweet and spicy did not go down well – but there is plenty here to get your teeth into. As a gift for a Vault Dweller in your life, you can’t go too far wrong with the Fallout Cookbook. It’s certainly more worth your time and money than Fallout ’76.