I love cooking. There’s something satisfying about making a meal and occasionally even serving it to others. But while I’ll spend hours on end completing a quest line or tackling a new boss, I can’t always find the inspiration to cook. In fact, I’ve been known to occasionally skip a meal in real-life to level up my cooking skill in a game. So, I reasoned, why not combine my love of cooking with my other great love, gaming, and try my hand at some real-world versions of videogame food? It would be an interesting quest with tangible rewards and force me to branch out into some different ways to refill my mana and health.

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While it would have been easy to pick a single game and cook five different recipes, I set out with two goals for myself: first, to cover five different games, and second, to hit most of the main components of a meal – a drink, appetizer, side dish and dessert. Fortunately, I found a way to do both. With a shopping list in hand and my recipes chosen, I even managed to cover the critical food groups of Geekdom: sugary, salty and caffeinated!

Fallout‘s Nuka-Cola (via Instructables):

The most popular flavored soft drink both prior to and after the Great War, this radioactive concoction is a staple of the Fallout universe. According to lore, Nuka-Cola contains the essence of at least 17 different fruits alongside the typical cola ingredients. The “Quantum” version I found at Instructables, however, is considerably simpler: Most of the ingredients were available at the local grocery store, except for the Foosh mints, which were a special-order item and took an extra couple days to get here.

Obviously there aren’t any real fruits involved in making Nuka-Cola, nor do you need any kind of equipment to carbonate the concoction yourself. Instead, the recipe I found only requires three different kinds of soda, a mixing cup and an exceptionally caffeinated mint. In Fallout, you find bottles of Nuka-Cola strewn all over the place, and drinking one has a slight health benefit. In the real world, you not only have to mix your own, but you will also probably lose some health by drinking it.

When I finished mixing my version of the cola, I took a sip. It was painfully sweet and tasted everything like citrus and nothing like actual cola. After one small glass, I decided I’d had enough. Later on that evening, I attempted to give it another try and found it didn’t keep well. By the next morning, the soda had turned approximately 98 percent mint, two percent citrus and 100 percent undrinkable. That said, I still cheerfully labeled it “better than expected” – after all, I didn’t end up glowing green.

World of Warcraft‘s Rock-Salted Pretzels (via Wrath of the Kitchen King):

Deep within the darkness of World of Warcraft‘s Blackrock Depths, you can find the Rock-Salted Pretzel, an excellent snack for any adventurer. They’re not particularly hard to acquire in the game: Simply make your way to the Grim Guzzler tavern and you’ll find a merchant selling the doughy snacks. In real life, the process is a bit more complicated than a simple bar run – something I didn’t realize initially. The process started out innocently enough by mixing, kneading and letting things rise. Then I knocked down the dough, rolled it out and cut it into strips. By my third attempt, I had the pretzel shape on farm status.

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A few hours passed and I realized I was still making pretzels. I rolled, I shaped, they sat and I waited. There’s a lot of patience involved in this recipe, which is ideal for doing a quick round of daily quests, crafting some much needed potions for raiding or leveling your fishing skill. (It even provides an excellent excuse for leaving a dismal pick-up group: “Gotta go, need to check pretzels.”) After returning to the stove and dipping 13 pretzels into a pot of boiling salt water, letting them sit for a short bit on a paper towel and coating them with egg wash and coarse salt, they were finally ready to be placed in the oven.

The recipe notes these baked goods are “master” level, and for good reason. When all was said and done, I felt like I’d been grinding my cooking skill for hours for that one final point. The final product was worth it: They’re both delicious and suitable for a variety of dipping possibilities.

The Sims 3‘s Autumn Salad:

When looking up recipes for this article, I learned fairly quickly that most game-related recipes tend toward the “dessert” side of the spectrum, so I took it upon myself to contribute a dish that would give gamers (and me) a much-needed break from all the sugar, salt and fat. My main problem was I had no idea what to make. Thankfully, I found inspiration via an in-game dish in The Sims 3, a game I’ve lost far too much spare time playing.

My most developed Sim is a master chef, but I decided to pick a recipe every Sim can create: Autumn Salad. The in-game picture and recipe (which requires a head of lettuce and nothing more) was of little help, so I improvised. “Chimaera’s Sims 3 Autumn Salad” requires almost no skill to replicate, just the following ingredients:

    Lettuce
    Carrots
    Pecans
    Walnuts
    Blue cheese or gorzongola, crumbled
    Apple, sliced
    Pears, sliced
    Croutons (optional)
    Raspberry vinaigrette dressing

The process is so easy that you probably won’t level up your real-world cooking skill, but you can at least add “tasty salad” to your kitchen skill set. There are no measurements, naturally – after all, you know how much salad you can eat, so adjust accordingly. All you have to do is put that stuff in a bowl in any order and you’re ready to chow down like a Sim – wherever you can find a chair. Autumn Salad is excellent and fast to make in any size and quantity, making it an ideal snack for long gaming sessions with minimal cleanup.

EarthBound‘s Peanut (Cream) Cheese Bars (via Snack or Die):

The classic game EarthBound is filled with all sorts of intriguing sounding food, such as Pasta di Summers, Calorie Sticks, Royal Iced Tea, Piggy Jelly and Peanut Cheese Bars. The bars in particular are noted by fans as one of the best foods in game for recovering health, as well as being series mascot Mr. Saturn’s favorite dessert. I’m fond of peanut butter, baking and retro games in almost equal measure, so it seemed like an excellent idea.

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The recipe I found at Snack or Die requires few ingredients, but a bit of effort (and, ideally, a decent mixer). Starting with store-bought peanut butter cookie dough, I constructed not a dozen individual cookies, but one very large cookie. I was tempted to stop right there and then, but I pressed on. The second half of the recipe involved mixing actual peanut butter and cream cheese. These ingredients are difficult to mix by themselves, but put together they’re twice as hard to handle. Sadly, my only available mixer at the time was a single fork, so I threw myself into the process with the gusto and bravery I usually reserve for boss fights. At the end of a seemingly endless battle between fork and bowl I had a spreadable topping and was ready to proceed.

Finally, after spreading the cream cheese topping over the cookie base and waiting for a half hour for them to set, they were ready to eat. My peanut cheese bars looked tasty, if a bit thick. Unfortunately, the creamy peanut topping simply didn’t want to adhere to the cookie bottom. Slight structural integrity issues aside, however, I deemed my peanut cheese bars a modest success.

Portal‘s Cake

The Portal cake is iconic. The ultimate clich√© in a discussion about food and games, it was a perfect fit for my rapidly growing collection of culinary delights. Although I consider myself an accomplished baker and have an enviable secret cheesecake recipe, I’ve never made a layer cake. If I couldn’t master the game properly, I figured I could at least master its cake – at least, that’s the lie I told myself as I set off to the kitchen.

Everything went smoothly at first. The layers themselves were composed of German chocolate cake mix, oil, egg and water. But once I took the pans out of the oven, a bit of a situation arose: My mini-cake layers had domed tops. In fact, they looked more like oversized cupcakes than stackable discs.

Worried, I messaged one of my best friends, who assured me that the domes should fall a bit upon cooling. They didn’t. Undaunted, I cut off the domed parts and started layering. That turned out to be a risky proposition: Three-fourths of the way through, the bottom layer started to sink, tipping my concoction at a dangerous 45-degree angle. I decided to put some cherries on top, toss in a candle and document the process before the fragile structure collapsed on itself.

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But even in failure, there is learning. It tipped even further to one side after I cut a slice, but I was surprisingly okay with this outcome. My Portal cake was probably the most ugly duckling cake ever, but it was not a lost cause. Anyway, the cake was great – it’s so delicious and moist.

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As it goes with games, sometimes in cooking you win big or you fail, and occasionally you have to throw out your most painstaking strategies and just wing it. Julia Child once said, “In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude,” and I tried to take that advice to heart. That’s the joy of videogame cooking: When you win, you have great food; when you lose, you learn something and have a funny story to tell.

After my videogame cooking adventure drew to a close, I opened the fridge to survey the leftovers, tucked away Tetris-style in little containers. There, I found a vast assortment of both finished dishes and unused ingredients waiting to find a home in other dishes. So, in light of all the new recipes and techniques I’ve learned, the ability to explain the difference in varieties of blue cheese and the fun I’ve I had eating new things, I did the most logical thing to me at that point: I picked up the phone and ordered out. Sometimes you just want someone else to do the cooking.

Nova Barlow hasn’t done much cooking since writing this article, and finally owns a proper mixer.

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