"Delvers crawl on their stomachs. Don't matter how traps your thief can spring, how good your sword swinger might be, or how many fireballs the mage can sling, if you didn't bring enough to eat, you ain't getting past level one. First timers always set out with a sackful of them so-called iron rations, but you only make that mistake once. I still bring some on occasion. They’re usually packed with so much sawdust that you can burn'em like coal..
"Your best bet will always be some dried fruit to keep away the scurvy, a sack full of beans and as much salted meat as you can carry. Now, mutton or pork work best because beef always ends up making everything taste like a saddlebag. You start by boiling down the beans with a bit of molasses or lard, and you never really stop. Every night, you throw in a few more beans and add in whatever else you can scrounge. Next morning, you bottle what’s left and carrying it on to the next site. We call it “the mash”.
"Salt meat gets real tired quick, though. You spend more time pulling it out of your teeth than you did chewing it. After a couple of levels to, you'll start to get creative. Nothing fancy at first, probably just a little fresh giant rat. That's not so bad. If you grew up the way most of us did, pretty sure you've had rat before. Giant rat is actually better than yer average alley-rat, especially if you catch them young.
"The general rule of thumb is, the more animal-like it is; the more you can eat it. Of course there are exceptions to this. A personal favourite of mine is carrion-crawler. Now that might sound a bit nasty, but it tastes just like 'gator. Had a druid tell me that rust-eaters are real good for you, but they taste like you're sucking chainmail. Catoblepas on the other hand, might look like a camel, but they are so foul they might as well be poisonous.
"Obviously, you are going to want to stay away from your molds and fungi, though cut up shriekers are surprisingly good in the mash. I once met a ranger who swore he'd found a way to eat black puddings. Then one night he tried to prove it. He didn't die pretty.
“Dragons? Depends on the antiquity and the colour of the scales. Red one right out the egg taste like fine lobster. Old reds taste like show leather soaked in rotten eggs.
“Now we come to dark part. You delve long enough and deep enough, sooner or later you’re gonna have to make some tough decisions. Trolls are always a mistake. Seen one desperate fella choke a piece down once, right before it started to regenerate … that one still comes up in the worst kind of nightmares.
“You get that kind of desperate and other thoughts begin to occur, if you know what I mean. Don't worry, we've all had them when times get tough. The first time for me was this time when we were royally lost in the Borderlands looking for some damned keep. We'd been eating boiled grass for two days when we were ambushed by a tribe of centaur. Turns out they are a lot less horsey than you’d think. Like anything though, you get use to anything after a while. Next time were some half-man, half snake savages when we were lost in some forbidden city or another.
"After that it got easier. Dark elf is really good, I find it has a spicier texture than the regular kind. Dwarf’s like leftover mutton, but gets more palatable if you slow roast it over a fire, like a bull or a boar.
“Now Halfling … Halfling is the best. Soft and tender and fatty like fresh rabbit. Don’t matter how you prepare it; broiled, baked, fried or slow roasted, it don’t matter. They’re delicious almost any which way. It got so that when I joined a party I’d make sure that there were always at least of them two around, just so that no one would notice if one went missing.
“Been a long time since one’s come this deep before. The last party left me tied up for the scavengers, but I got loose and showed them. Since then, I’ve had to make do with what’s around. Doesn't happen that often, but it always nice to have a little company, if only for a little while.
“In fact, I got a little mash bubbling on the fire back a ways, leftover from a party that passed through this way about a week ago.