Dining in Middle Earth

“As for the Hobbits of the Shire, with whom these tales are concerned, in the days of their peace and prosperity they were a merry folk… with mouths apt to laughter, and to eating and drinking. And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them).”

So Tolkien introduces us to his Hobbits, lovers of good food and good company. There is plenty of eating and drinking in The Lord of the Rings, from humble Hobbit fare to Elven delicacies, from the foraged meals of rangers in the wild to the feasts of great kings.

In 2016, we’re taking up a project to eat our way through The Lord of the Rings. Every month, we’ll prepare and present a dinner inspired by foods from the novel, working our way through the story from Bilbo’s 111th birthday party to Frodo’s return to the Shire. Along the way, there are some meals that Tolkien describes in such detail that we can read the menu straight from the page. In other places, he offers only tantalizing hints that require us to engage in gastronomical-literary archaeology to fill a table.

Napkin Knife Spoon

We’re doing our best to stay true to the novel in the project, so where Tolkien gives us a clear idea of what the characters eat, we stick to it. When we have to figure something out on our own, we use clues from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and ideas from historical cookery to guide us.

We’ll share the results of our work with you around the middle of the month. A post introducing the month’s meal and showing the results of our labors will come out on a Wednesday. The following day, we’ll offer a behind-the-scenes view of how we researched the food, decided on a menu, prepared the dishes, and designed the setting, complete with recipes you can try for yourselves. We’ll collect links to all the entries on this post, so you can always come back here to get caught up, or check the dining in Middle Earth tag to find them all.

A note on the behind-the-scenes posts: we’ll be referencing passages from the book and since there are many different editions of the text with different paginations, we’re using the book and chapter divisions given in Tolkien’s table of contents. For example, the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring is identified as Book 1. In that book, chapter 4 is “A Short Cut to Mushrooms,” so we reference that chapter as (1.4); we reference Hobbit chapters with (H).

January: A Long-Expected Party / Making A Long-Expected Party

February: A Farewell Feast in Bag End / Making A Farewell Feast in Bag End

March: Supper at the Prancing Pony / Making Supper at the Prancing Pony

April: Food in the Wild / Making Food in the Wild

May: In the House of Elrond / Making In the House of Elrond

June: Dinner with Durin’s Folk / Making Dinner with Durin’s Folk

July: Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit / Making Herbs and Stewed Rabbit

August: Rangers’ Rations / Making Rangers’ Rations

September: The Courtesy of the Golden Hall / Making The Courtesy of the Golden Hall

October: Flotsam and Jetsam / Making Flotsam and Jetsam

November: The Return of the King / Making the Return of the King

December: A Proper 1420 / Making a Proper 1420

Image by Eppu Jensen

Geeks eat, too! Second Breakfast is an occasional feature in which we talk about food with geeky connections and maybe make some of our own. Yum!