This is not going to come as news to anyone who has played the game before now, but Final Fantasy XIV has a lot of food in it. That’s kind of to be expected. When one of your classes is “Culinarian” and you have a whole line of content devoted to what you do while you’re cooking up delicious recipes, it’s sort of inevitable that your game is going to have an abundance of different kinds of food. And now you can make that food yourself because the cookbook exists!
Specifically, it’s dubbed The Ultimate Final Fantasy XIV Cookbook, which amuses me just because the title implies that there were prior less-definitive cookbooks and this one is the ultimate version.
Of course, all of this is simplifying the issue significantly. After all, there’s a pretty big difference between a few actions being undertaken in-game to make high-quality food and the real-world version of cooking. That’s even disregarding the fact that the food in the game is reliant on ingredients and even creatures that don’t exist in the real world, which necessitates taking some liberty with the involved recipe. So how does the cookbook stack up as both a piece of game merch and as a proper cookbook?
The first thing that’s important to note is that the book represents something of a departure from other FFXIV books in that it’s not strictly diegetic or non-diegetic. This gives me a fun chance to explain the difference in terms of how most of the game’s merchandise has traditionally been structured.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, “diegetic” refers to something that happens within the context of fiction, while “non-diegetic” (obviously) refers to something within a fictional work that isn’t technically there. The obvious example is the soundtrack. When you enter Ul’dah, there isn’t actually a song that plays every time you walk through the city streets. No one in the game’s universe is playing that music. The soundtrack is non-diegetic.
Some of the game’s books (like the art book) have always been non-diegetic, focusing on the game from a production point of view and treating the game world as the fictional entity that it is. Other books, such as the lore books, are technically diegetic, written from the perspective of being reliable in-universe documents that would make sense within the context of readers in Eorzea.
But the cookbook is both. The book is framed as a cooperation between Gyohan the Namazu and the Moogle Mogria compiling a number of recipes sourced from the Warrior of Light, ranging from the familiar starting city-states all the way to some of the recipes found on Norvrandt (with the supposed authors unclear on where Norvrandt actually is, given the context). Each recipe has a little blurb from one of the two authors placing the dish within appropriate context. But the recipes themselves are written entirely from a real-world perspective.
This is probably the right away to have done the book. The framing story is cute, don’t get me wrong, but if you’re buying the book the first thing you want is actual usable recipes. It also means that you can make some assumptions and substitutions based on context; while it’s not possible to actually taste okeanis meat (due to the okeanis not actually existing), you can surmise from the recipe that it tastes a lot like pork.
Because fried okeanis is made with pork, you see.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first because there are a couple. At 192 pages, the book is by definition hitting the highlights of the game’s various recipes rather than all of them. It’s also very much a book aimed at moderately experienced cooks; if you struggle with anything more complex than white rice, this might be a little bit beyond your skill level.
The recipes in question do make reasonably extensive use of some sauces, seasonings, and the like that might be unfamiliar to American audiences, and while some of them aren’t too difficult to find, others will require either some searching or substitutions. Last but not least, the recipes in question tend toward the more ornate rather than simply the prosaic, with many of the meals taking upwards of an hour in terms of overall prep and cooking time. This is relevant because, well… we all have limitations of time.
Beyond that, there’s precious little to complain about. The book is handsome and well laid-out, starting with breakfast options before moving on to appetizers, breads, dinners, desserts, and drinks for a variety of situations. Each recipe clearly outlines the amount of time you can expect to spend on the dish, how many servings it provides, and whether or not a given recipe contains anything objectionable for certain diets. The full presentation of each dish makes these things look appetizing even if the description doesn’t do it.
It helps that the book’s author, Victoria Rosenthal, has been doing this for some time; you can really feel that come through in the recipes themselves. These are not slapdash projects but careful, considered recipes to simulate your experience of eating this stuff in-game.
Of course, all of this is secondary if the recipes in question don’t actually produce some interesting meals to eat. I started off my experimentation with the book’s Mole Loaf recipe, which in the broad sense is more like salisbury steak with a dash of Japanese sauce and using lamb instead of beef. My wife and I quite like lamb, so it felt like a good place to start, especially since it’s one of the simplest Culinarian recipes in the game.
As mentioned before, Rosenthal has experience with writing in this genre, and it really shows in how the recipe is laid out and walks you through the steps. Everything was clear, concise, and easy to follow. The process was easy to follow from start to finish.
But none of that matters if the end result isn’t tasty, right? And this… was delicious.
Seriously, the results of the recipe produced a meal that was rich, savory, bursting with flavor, and the sort of thing that’s at once both amazingly filling and yet light enough that you don’t feel like you’re gorging yourself unnecessarily. My wife and I weren’t even halfway through the meal when we both agreed that we were cooking this again because it’s just that good. I felt like it was entirely worth every ounce of effort put into the preparation.
And that’s the real takeaway here. The Ultimate Final Fantasy XIV Cookbook contains really, really tasty recipes that are easy to follow for anyone with moderate cooking skills, it’ll give you some fun culinary ideas, and it lets you enjoy a taste of the video game in the real world as well. Short of asking it to cook the meals for you, there’s not much more you could possibly ask for, but it also has a cute framing story, nice art, and a beautiful layout. I highly recommend it.