When I think of magic, food, and the Elder Races universe—which is an alternative, present-day Earth—one of the questions I’ve asked myself is whether magic could be combined with fast food franchises. Think of it, a Starbucks-like franchise with magic-infused food and drink! Wouldn’t that be fun? (And if it existed, would you buy things there?)
I am quite certain several enterprising individuals/companies would have done in-depth research on whether they could pull something like that off. It’s possible that some enthusiastic person actually tried it… but could it work?
The short answer is no, not in a way that is compatible with the world-building I’ve done so far. What makes large franchises possible is the ability to mass-produce their products. (I had to pause in writing this so I could Google “how many cokes served at McDonald’s in 2018.” I didn’t find a number quickly, so I’ve moved on, but I DID find in a Wall Street Journal article that the McDonald’s Corporation stopped updating the number of burgers sold back in 1994 at 99 billion.)
In the Elder Races world, magic can’t be mass produced. Each magic spell has got to be thrown individually. I allude to this a little in Lionheart, when Oberon must cast his own healing spells into gems–he must do it over and over. He couldn’t cast one big spell that infused all the gems at once.
By this logic, the cost for attempting to create magic fast food would quickly become too excessive. For one thing, since magic is at such a premium, you’re talking about the need to hire top dollar labor. And even if you could coax magic users into working at such a tiring, repetitive job, you wouldn’t be able to produce enough product at a volume that could possibly keep such a venture afloat.
That doesn’t mean magic-infused foods wouldn’t be available, because they would, but they’d be found in boutiques shops and restaurants that are probably owned by the magic users who cast the spells, and their foods, meals, candies and baked goods, and drinks would sell for correspondingly high prices—and they could only be found in areas that are friendly to magic, because who would want to set up a business like that in an area where magic was ostracized?
Let’s look at the example of rainbow birthday cakes that I mentioned in a previous post, where rainbows would appear once you slice into the cake. If my granddaughter’s birthday parties are anything to go by, you can currently (on our real Earth) buy a decently decorated cake at a boutique bakery for around $150. Add magic to that mix, and you’re probably talking about charging double the price. This would mean that magic-infused foods would be a wealthy person’s prerogative. Most people would never be able to afford it, or if they did, they would save to make it a very special occasion.
There’s one aspect of food and drink that wouldn’t fit this world-building model, and that’s the magical wine I mentioned in Lionheart. That wine came from grapes that were inherently magical. I’ve not incorporated that country into stories yet, so I’m sharing this little nugget of world-building with you in advance. That country is staggeringly rich from the export of magical spices. They’re able to export it in quantity because it’s a natural resource.
I hope you enjoyed this piece! If you enjoy baking and you’re interested, this is the kind of rainbow cake I’m talking about. My daughter is a hobby baker, so she’s cooked something like this before. (Only once, though!)