Dining in Middle Earth: The Courtesy of the Golden Hall

“At the King’s board sat Éomer and the four guests, and there also waiting upon the king was the lady Éowyn. They ate and drank swiftly.”

LotR Dinner9 Main

This month we visit the Golden Hall of Meduseld in Rohan. Our food reflects the northern roots of Tolkien’s Rohirrim, drawing on Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon traditions.

LotR Dinner9 Starter

We start with a hearty rye porridge, followed by braised beef and roasted vegetables. For dessert, a rich saffron and cream pancake served with apple compote.

LotR Dinner9 Dessert

The table setting is built with multiple colors, layers, and lush textiles. The colors refer to the expansive grasslands of Rohan, and gold-colored or metallic-sheen details add opulence. The dishware turns showier as the meal progresses, moving from a plain white bowl to a plate with brown and green glazing, and ends with a pale teal handblown glass plate on a gold-rimmed white charger.

Dinner9 Runner and Ribbons2

Check out what’s it about in the introduction, or read the how-to!

Images 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!

Advertisement

Making Rangers’ Rations

Here’s a look at how we made yesterday’s Rangers’ Rations.

The menu

  • Ham
  • Fruit sauce
  • Cucumber salad
  • Bread
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • White wine

erikchef1Like the Hobbits’ dinner at the Prancing Pony in Bree, we get a pretty clear description of what the rangers of Gondor eat at their camp in Ithilien and it all makes a lot of sense for people who are stuck out in the wild away from supply lines living off rations. Ham, dried fruit, butter, and cheese are all preserved foods that keep well long-term. (4.5) Not all breads keep well, but there are many kinds that do. I’ve stuck to this description with a couple of adjustments.

First, I added a cucumber salad for the sake of some more vegetables. This particular salad uses vinegar and salt, not unlike a pickling brine. While this salad wouldn’t last as long as a proper pickle, the brine does help it keep a little longer.

Second, I made a softer bread rather than the hardtack Faramir’s troops would probably have had for their regular rations. Since Ithilien has olive trees and other characteristically Mediterranean vegetation, I’ve used a basic Mediterranean-style dough that can be baked in many different ways. (4.4)

Dinner8 Ithilien Pared Down

The thinking behind these adjustments (other than I wanted a vegetable and didn’t feel like making hardtack again) is that Faramir broke out the good stuff for his honored guests. (Remember we’re going by the novel here, not the Peter Jackson movies—which were mostly great but turned Faramir into a total jerk.) Cucumbers and soft fresh bread may not be much of a luxury to most of us, but for weary travelers they could be a welcome change from waybread and forage.

Continue reading

Dining in Middle Earth: Rangers’ Rations

“After so long journeying and camping, and days spent in the lonely wild, the evening meal seemed a feast to the hobbits; to drink pale yellow wine, cool and fragrant, and eat bread and butter, and salted meats, and dried fruits, and good red cheese, with clean hands and clean knives and plates. Neither Frodo nor Sam refused anything that was offered, nor a second, nor indeed a third helping. The wine coursed in the veins and tired limbs, and they felt glad and easy of heart as they had not done since they left the land of Lórien.”

LotR Dinner8

The rangers of Gondor in Ithilien offer a simple but satisfying dinner for two hungry Hobbits. For this month’s meal, we have a version following Tolkien’s description (with the addition of a salad, just to have a vegetable on the table). We served up ham with dried fruit sauce, a cucumber salad, bread, butter, and cheese, and a cup of wine to go with it.

LotR Dinner8 Main

A makeshift narrow trestle table holds brown glazed pottery as well as plain wooden bowls and serving plates, closely resembling the rangers’ base. Butter is served from its own little green ceramic bowl and bread is accessible from a fabric-covered basket. Hunks of cheese can be cut on the same small wooden cutting board that it’s served on.

LotR Dinner8 Alt Setup

Check out what’s it about in the introduction, or read the how-to!

Images 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!

Making Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit

Here’s a look at how we made yesterday’s Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit.

Dinner7 All

The menu

  • Rabbit stew
  • Hardtack leaves (lembas)
  • Blackberries

erikchef1Tolkien is very clear about not only what goes into Sam’s rabbit stew but how Sam cooks it. I’ve stuck as close as I can to that recipe.

Lembas presents more of a problem, since magical Elvish bakeries are in short supply these days, but we are helped by Gimli’s observation that lembas is like a delicious version of the Dale-men’s cram. (2.8) Cram is also mentioned in The Hobbit, which tells us: “it is biscuitish, keeps good indefinitely, is supposed to be sustaining, and is certainly not entertaining, being in fact very uninteresting except as a chewing exercise. It was made by the Lake-men for long journeys.” (H13) All of which suggests one thing: hardtack.

Hardtack has been made for centuries as a way of making grain into rations that are dense with nutrition and resistant to spoilage, both qualities that are desirable in food that must sustain travelers on long journeys.

Continue reading

Dining in Middle Earth: Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit

“’I’ve got a bit of a stew for you, and some broth, Mr. Frodo. Do you good. You’ll have to sup it in your mug; or straight from the pan, when it’s cooled a bit. I haven’t brought no bowls, nor nothing proper.’

“Sam and his master sat just within the fern-brake and ate their stew from the pans, sharing the old fork and spoon. They allowed themselves half a piece of the Elvish waybread each.”

 

LotR Dinner7

The simplest and most famous of all meals in The Lord of the Rings is without doubt the rabbit stew cooked in the wilds of Ithilien by Sam Gamgee. This is the closest Tolkien comes to giving us a recipe and we have done our best to honor both Tolkien’s words and the simplicity of the scene he evokes. This month we have a simple rabbit stew cooked on a fire outdoors and accompanied by our version of lembas bread.

LotR Dinner7 Stew

Like in The Lord of the Rings, our stew is served from the pan. Hobbit implements from previous dinners (Long-Expected Party and Farewell Feast in Bag End) make a reappearance. There’s also a skewer-like metal poker for cooking, and an old metal measuring cup has pretensions of mughood. Lembas wrapped in strawberry leaves and blackberries inside a piece of cloth add a hint of comfort to the austerity.

LotR Dinner7 Munchies

Check out what’s it about in the introduction, or read the how-to!

Images 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!

Making Dinner with Durin’s Folk

Here’s a look at how we made yesterday’s Dinner with Durin’s Folk.

The menu

  • Sourdough rye bread
  • Rosemary crackers
  • Lentil soup
  • Grilled sausages
  • Honey-nut cakes
  • Beer
  • Whiskey cider punch

 

erikchef1The idea for this month’s dinner is a meal that doesn’t actually happen in Tolkien’s text. We were trying to imagine what sort of a dinner the Fellowship might have enjoyed if they had arrived at Moria and found a thriving Dwarven colony there instead of a fallen kingdom. Not only is there no particular meal in the text for us to use for reference, in fact it is a bit of a puzzle to work out what proper Dwarven food would actually be like. Gimli doesn’t have much of an opportunity in The Lord of the Rings to serve up food of his own. There’s plenty of Dwarves and plenty of food in The Hobbit, but it’s mostly the Dwarves eating food prepared by other people—Hobbits, Elves, Beorn, etc.—or making do with what they can find in the wild. We don’t get much of a sense of what Dwarves cook for a nice dinner at home or offer to guests.

LotR Dinner6 Utensils etc

So, a little speculation is called for. We can start with the fact that Moria is underground. Thorin recounts to Bilbo that the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain traded with the Men of Dale for food rather than growing their own. (H1) We know that the Dwarves of Moria traded with the Elves of Hollin long ago, so Balin and company would probably have traded for food from the world outside as well. (2.4) Since the lands west of the Misty Mountains were quite desolate, most of the Dwarves’ trade would have been with people to the east, especially with the Beornings whose baking Gimli praises. (2.8) In those days of wolves and war, keeping the trade routes open for fresh food would have been difficult. The Dwarves of Moria would have mostly had to make do with food that would keep for a long time.

These are the ideas that inform our menu: ingredients that keep (salted and smoked meats, roasted nuts, dried lentils) and things they could have gotten in trade from the Beornings or other peoples east of the mountains (honey, bread, and flour).

Continue reading

Dining in Middle Earth: Dinner with Durin’s Folk

 “’I thought it was only a kind of cram, such as the Dale-man make for journeys in the wild,’ said the Dwarf.

‘So it is,’ they answered. ‘But we call it lembas or waybread, and it is more strengthening than any food made by Men, and it is more pleasant than cram, by all accounts.’

‘Indeed it is,’ said Gimli. ‘Why, it is better than the honey-cakes of the Beornings, and that is great praise, for the Beornings are the best bakers that I know of.’”

LotR Dinner6

We never get to see proper Dwarven food in The Lord of the Rings, but what if we had? What would a proper Dwarven feast look like? For this month’s dinner, we try to imagine what sort of a welcome Frodo and the company might have received in Moria if they had come in better days, when Balin and his followers were bringing the ancient kingdom of the Dwarves back to life. Lentil soup, rye bread, rosemary crackers, a great pile of sausages, and honey-nut cakes make a hearty meal for weary travelers, with beer and whiskey cider punch on the side.

LotR Dinner6 Fire

Instead of place settings, a pile of heavy plates stands near the food for an informal help-yourself serving. There’s also a utensils crock with a mishmash of forks, knives, and spoons. Two simple candle holders of black metal hold white tapers. They are accompanied by a tall white marbled pillar candle and a silver napkin ring for a little more flair.

LotR Dinner6 Utensils etc

A table runner with hexagonal woven decorations softens the polished stone table, and a striped scarf stands in for banners or wall hangings.

LotR Dinner6 Soup

Chunky stoneware mugs for the frothy beer and simple pottery bowls for the soup are perfect for the setting.

Dinner6 Soup

Check out what’s it about in the introduction, or read the how-to!

Images 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!

Making In the House of Elrond

Here’s a look at how we made yesterday’s In the House of Elrond.

The menu

  • Roast lamb
  • Peas
  • Salad with strawberries and roasted apples
  • Bannocks
  • Cardamom buns

erikchef1Elven food leaves us in a bit of a pickle, as Sam Gamgee would say. We know that Elves eat and drink, but Tolkien’s descriptions of their food, as with most things Elven, are long on ethereal glamour and short on detail. (Most of our information about Elven food comes from The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings is a little more circumspect about what exactly Elves eat.) We have to do a little detective work to come up with a menu.

Dinner5 Main

Continue reading

Dining in Middle Earth: In the House of Elrond

“Pippin afterwards recalled little of either food or drink, for his mind was filled with the light upon the elf-faces, and the sound of voices so various and so beautiful that he felt in a waking dream. But he remembered that there was bread, surpassing the savour of a fair white loaf to one who is starving; and fruits sweet as wildberries and richer than the tended fruits of gardens; he drained a cup that was filled with a fragrant draught, cool as a clear fountain, golden as a summer afternoon.”

LotR Dinner5

This month we present an Elven dinner such as Frodo and his companions might have enjoyed during their stay in Rivendell. With very little information from Tolkien to go on, we have put together a dinner of roast lamb, peas, bannocks, and salad, with cardamom buns for dessert and wine to go with it.

LotR Dinner5 Main

The dark wood beams Frodo saw upon waking in Rivendell inspired us to use a dark table. The vibrant greens, reds and browns of this dinner prevent the mostly white table setting from getting monotonous. A printed white on white tablecloth with meandering vines provides a thematically appropriate background. A silver-stemmed martini glass and a reindeer candle holder bring glimmers of silver to the table.

LotR Dinner5 Bread

LotR Dinner5 Salad

The dessert is as delicious to the eye as to the mouth: Erik’s cardamom buns are pretty enough on their own not to require a more ornate plate, especially with a small mound of strawberries placed in the middle.

LotR Dinner5 Dessert

Check out what’s it about in the introduction, or read the how-to!

Images 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!

Making Food in the Wild

Here’s a look at how we made yesterday’s Food in the Wild.

The menu

  • Pan-braised game hens with root vegetables
  • Leaf and herb salad
  • Blackberries with mint leaves

erikchef1Our heroes were in too much of a hurry to do any good eating in the wild between Bree and Rivendell, but we’ve tried to imagine what a ranger might have been able to cook up in better times. Strider mentions four different kinds of wild food: berries, roots, herbs, and game, and we’ve used a little of each in this meal. (1.11)

Dinner4 Main

The main course is pan-braised game hens. It is the only dish that needs cooking and can be cooked in a shallow pan over a campfire. We used commercially raised game hens and farmed roots for our version, but wild-caught birds and carefully dug wild root vegetables would also do. We also used farmed greens and blackberries, but there are many wild-growing plants whose young leaves can be eaten (the full-grown leaves of most edible wild plants, in contrast to their cultivated cousins, are too tough or bitter to be eaten raw, but may still be useful for cooking). Wild blackberries are common in many forested areas—and they seem to be especially common in Middle Earth, as Bilbo frequently wishes for blackberries while traveling and the Prancing Pony offers a blackberry tart (H4, H6, 1.9)

Continue reading