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 to 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 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's 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?
Dependant 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.
Eliza on June 30, 2017:
Hi! I just want to correct a few things about kosher: kosher food does not have to be blessed by a rabbi- if there is a rabbi present, it is only to make sure that nothing that is non kosher is being put into the food and that the process is being done properly. Also, chances are the meat (any type, including turkey and steak) is not kosher because kosher meat means that it has been slaughtered a certain way (on the neck).
Catherine Kane (author) on May 30, 2013:
Respectfully Cynthia, while having healthy options is a good thing, especially if you have food limitations, being able to participate in fun activities without so much struggle that it makes them not fun is also important.
Years back, I had a wide range of food allergies, enough to make most processed or commerically available foods unworkable for me, and the sheer struggle of finding anything that I could eat was stressful and shut me out of many activities I enjoyed. Finding ways to be able to do more than spend my life cooking from scratch was important to me.
The point of this article is not really about staying home and cooking healthy- there are many other articles for that. This article is about the fact that, even if you have food limitations, you don't have to stay home and cook- there are many options at a renaissance faire that you may not have thought of and we want to include you, not exclude you.
Cynthia Anne Womack on May 29, 2013:
Try alternative sweeteners and spices. Salt and sugar aren't as vital to fresh,good quality food with their own delicious flavor. Artificial flavors are missed even less. Cinnamon,tumeric,mint,pepper,etc. are period friendly,tasty and healthy. Remember these two things: Our forbears ate well when food was rationed and many condiments and delicacies were reserved for the armed forces during the last two centuries,at least. Back in the day,we ate what we grew or hunted with few imports. Most foods were healthy with the exceptions reserved for special populations and special occasions. Lifestyle and food sources worked against most of our man-made ailments. If we retain our ancestors' way of life minus the plagues and with the addition of sanitation,then the lack of bad fats,MSG,modified grains,high fructose corn syrup and the like will more than make up for what we might get from Medieval treats.
Catherine Kane (author) on June 05, 2012:
Gail, I had to do the low sodium tango at one point. While I can't help you w/ faire scotch eggs, you can get low sodium varieties of ketchup, bbq and dressings at health food stores (pretty good, to!)
and, have you considered searching for the recipe and making your own at home, perhaps substituting turkey sausage?
Gail Bailey on June 05, 2012:
My favorite faire food is scotch eggs. But now diagnosed with high blood pressure so all high sodium foods are verboten:( [And that sucker also hides in things like BBQ sauce, ketchup, salad dressings, etc.]
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on April 18, 2012:
So sorry to hear that, Catherine, but at least YOU know what foods to avoid at Faire and still have great culinary experiences! ;D
Catherine Kane (author) on April 18, 2012:
Awhile back, I had rather global food allergies (most of which have been cured). This period in my life, along with diabetes ( my husband has had for years, and I am now borderline) has made me a lot more food aware
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on April 18, 2012:
Great tips! Having no (known) food allergies, it never occurred that some people might and what they could eat at Faire. On the poll, I had to check "Other" because there was no "All of the above except Mead" category. I like Mead, but Mead doesn't like me!
Voted up, useful and awesome! ;D
Catherine Kane (author) on April 12, 2012:
There are several good faires in CT and more veggies would be delightful. She'll have to think about making them portable (plate food works, but portable is best) and at least quasi-medieval (One of my favorite faire memories is of a roving pickle salesman crying "Green knights- ona-stick!"
Rebecca on April 12, 2012:
I spoke with a Renn Faire lover who is also a raw food chef and consultant. She's considering a raw food (vegetarian/vegan) booth at one of the CT area fairs. Here's hoping for some more veggies!
Catherine Kane (author) on April 05, 2012:
I've never seen these at the faires I've worked at. How interesting! :)
Rene Pennington on April 05, 2012:
my favorite food at fair is the oyster shooters a must have at every visit and sometimes the steamed mussels or crab dip