People will ingest a lot of weird things in the name of health, strength, recovery, or "hey, I dare ya!" All right, sure, I'm extrapolating to "people" from "me," but have you looked at the ingredient list for some of the buffing consumables we make our characters choke down? Look, buddy, I don't care what kind of stat boost it gives, I'm not eating any damn Kaldorei Spider Kabobs (and I've eaten tempura sushi dipped in molten chocolate. See "I dare ya," above, with the "I will if you will" proviso). But, really, would our toons get much benefit from eating this stuff, and, if so, would it square with what the buff they receive is?
What about characters who role-play having a dietary restriction, whether or not that mirrors their behavior in real life? Could a vegetarian find some stat-boosting snacks? What about folks who hew to something like the raw-food credo - are any of the recipes obviously something that won't have to be concocted over high heat? Primalists and Paleo diet aficionados would be in their element, and might even make up the majority of Azeroth's population.
Eating and drinking to replenish physical and mental energy stores is all well and good, but can a Smoked Desert Dumpling really provide a Popeye-esque strength boost? Let's take a look.
For the earliest portions of the cooking profession, when you're still using your EZ Mode Bake Oven, the vast majority of the lower-level recipes provide a simple boost to stamina and spirit - allowing our characters to go a little harder, and recover a little faster. A protein-rich diet (which, since almost every stat-enhancing recipe is grilled this, broiled that, or something-or-other-stew, seems pretty much a foregone conclusion) will certainly keep our characters topped up when it comes to having materials ready to build and repair muscle, as well as using that protein to provide stable energy, without needing to worry too much about fluctuating blood sugar levels. For us, protein is less critical before exercise than it is immediately after, especially if you're doing resistance training; getting those nutrients introduced with a quickness will ensure maximum availability. For cardio sessions, some carbohydrates are also in order to replenish the glycogen stored in the muscles. It's improbable that there's anything different enough about the Grilled Squid to account for the agility boost it provides, unless this is some carry-over effect from trying to eat it with chopsticks. I find squid to be delicious, but evasive.
In the midgame, we find ourselves with a greater variety of comestibles. There are plenty that still fill the stam/spirit niche, but now there are exciting new flavors, or at least effects. It's difficult to say whether Charred Bear Kabobs and Ravager Dogs could contain any of the chemicals that give weightlifters a pre-workout "pump" to jack up your attack power; they certainly look like most of the other meaty treats in terms of stuff like protein, creatine, and such. Perhaps they're spiced up with a big dose of capsaicin, which would give a jolt to the character's metabolism. There are several fat-burning supplements on the market that augment or replace their caffeine content with cayenne powder for exactly this reason. It's trickier to discern what the foods that grant spellpower have going for them, but it's a pretty safe bet that Golden Fish Sticks don't exactly make it on anyone's "Healthiest Snack" list. Sorry, Charlie.
The top chef shelf of cooking brings a wide array of side effects, most of which would rightly raise a skeptical eyebrow if those claims were made of actual foodstuffs. For instance, whatever it is that Worg and Manta meat has in it that provides haste, it's a pretty safe bet that it isn't caffeine, since that's typically produced by plants, and not animals (say what you will about the fugly graphics, but at least the coffee in Anarchy Online actually buffs you, whereas the one in WoW doesn't). The general heartiness of the Northrend recipes, since they all offer a stamina boost, is unsurprising, however. To simply survive in colder climates, you're going to burn more calories to maintain your body temperature. Along similar lines, the warmer your body temperature needs to be kept, for every half a degree Celsius (or one degree Farenheit), it takes about 7% more energy to maintain. This would certainly explain why those hot-blooded Trolls and Elves cut a slimmer figure than, say, Tauren, and even the more closely-related middle-lattitude humans have remained the same, whereas the polar-adjacent Vrykul have grown stockier. Plus, most folks just feel a whole lot better-equipped to take on the world (or hit the gym, or do yardwork) if we're not feeling peckish.
No matter how hungry any of my toons have gotten, however, I've never forced them to eat Pungent Seal Whey. Some things are just beyond the pale.
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