Catherine has vended at multiple renaissance faires and knows the ins and outs of the industry.
Renaissance Faires: Delicious Food
Turkey legs. Steak on a stick. Fresh doughnuts hot from the fryer.
Renaissance faires are a panoply of delights, and one of the biggest delights is the food of the faire. The sizzle of chicken on skewers being grilled in teriyaki sauce. The smell of Turkish coffee served in little cups from the traveling pushcart. The sound of a pickle salesman hawking, "Green knights on a stick..."
But what if you have limitations on the foods you can have because of your health, beliefs, or other reasons? Fear not! Your faithful guide to the New Renaissance is here with tips for specialized eating at a renaissance faire.
I offer food options and tips for the following restrictions/health concerns:
- Food allergies
- vegetarian and vegan
There are a lot of different food allergies out there (I know, having had quite a number of them myself), and there's not enough space in this article to address all of them individually. Certain allergies, such as wheat, corn, or soy, are particularly hard to work around at faire, although there are options if you look hard enough.
Some general things to keep in mind for food allergies at the faire:
- While all facilities are clean, most booths do not have prep space to isolate food allergens. If you will react if your meal is cooked on the same grill with a food you are allergic to, it's wise to give a miss to booths that serve anything you react to, even if they have foods that are OK for you, as they may have graced the same grill or counter.
- If your reaction is severe enough that you'll react just by being in the presence of your allergic trigger, you would do well to consult the website or call the management to find out where such foods are offered, so you can avoid them. If you get short of breath if you're near almonds, you need to know where they're selling sugared almonds, as well as anyone who might be using them as ingredients.
- If you have severe reactions, bring your epi-pen. If you have reactions but they're not anaphylactic, bring the medications you need to compensate.
- Consult the website for the faire in advance for information on what foods are available. If there's not enough, given your allergies, check the website or contact faire management to find out whether it's OK to bring in your own food.
A renaissance faire tends to be light on vegetables and fruits and have a lot of carbohydrate-based offerings. It also tends to be a meat-heavy environment, so there are quite a number of carb-lite offerings for the diabetic, especially if he does not also have to watch out for fat levels.
- Smoked turkey legs.
- Steak on a stick.
- Chicken on skewers.
- Gyros, hold the pita.
- Chinese or Thai food, skipping rice or noodles.
- Turkish coffee.
A number of these choices are cooked on the spot, and not all of them have sauces (which may be carb-heavy) applied in advance. Ask if you can get the steak on a stick without a teriyaki glaze, or ask for the stir-fry, hold the rice.
Like a diabetic, there are many treats at the faire that don't work for the person on the gluten-free diet, but there are a number of others that do.
- Check on roasted meat dishes, such as smoked turkey legs or steak on a stick, to determine if any sauces or condiments were used in preparation that might contain gluten.
- Avoid breaded foods.
- Ask for your food to be cooked without sauce, if possible.
- Meat on a skewer
- Baked potatoes
- The ever-popular pickles
The facilities at a renaissance faire are not kosher in the strictest sense, as they do not keep separate facilities or pots for cooking meat and milk, nor are they blessed by a rabbi.
That being said, I am told that there are a number of levels of strictness in keeping kosher and that many folks can find kosher options in a broader sense at faire.
- Turkey legs
- Steak on a stick
- Fried dough
- Thai food
Depending on how strictly you keep kosher, you may find interesting options at a renaissance faire.
Vegetarian and Vegan
It's hard to be a vegetarian or vegan at a renaissance faire. The preponderance of entrees featuring meat, eggs or milk makes your options limited. A lot depends on where you fall, along with the range of vegetarian/vegan. Will you eat fish? Eggs? Milk?
Depending on your choices, some options are:
- Fried dough
- Certain dishes at Chinese or Thai booths
- Fresh fruit
- Strawberry shortcake
You might find that your best option is to bring your own food.
The Ingredients for Success With Food Limitations
There are some strategies that are useful, no matter what kind of food limitations you have.
- Know your food limitations. This includes not only knowing what you're allergic to but also how it might be concealed in other foods. (Corn is particularly insidious in concealing itself under aliases.)
- Use the websites in advance. Use the faire websites to find out what food vendors will be attending and the vendors' websites to find out what they offer.
- Carry any medications you need for bad reactions.
- Some faires will let you bring in your own food. Some won't. If they will, many times, this is posted on their websites. In extremis, contact the faire management, explain your situation, and ask. (Even if it is not their usual policy, some faires may make a specific exception for you if your limitation is serious enough and you ask nicely.)
The Final Course
Food limitations are rarely easy to deal with in any situation, and the renaissance faire is no exception. The good news, however, is a good faire usually has enough variety to offer some choices at least for most faire goers.
If you do your homework, know your limitation, take precautions and choose well, you, too, can have your own faire feast, despite your limitations.