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There and Snack Again: How to Eat Everything in the Lord of the Rings (nate-crowley.com)
242 points by fanf2 71 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 75 comments

My kid is really into knights and castles and stuff, so last year we had a 'knight party' where we served [as much as practical] medieval European dishes. It was a blast!

Some of the most helpful books we used in planning were :

"A Medieval Feast" by Aliki [picture book]

"A Medieval Home Companion" by Tania Bayard

One thing that I really liked was the heavy use of herbs for flavoring. Also, the use of flatbread 'trenchers' as plates is sensible; I guess it's kind of like an ancestor to the sandwich.

I recommend this channel (Townsends), lots of medieval and olde worlde cooking, usually based on actual recipes


There are a few mediaeval restaurants.

Kapitelhusgården in Visby, Gotland, Sweden is one example.

Linking to TripAdvisor for the photos: https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g189807-...

Gotland! The land of Beowulf! Fantastic.

Does trenchers in this context mean that its a 'slice' of bread, from the French, une tranche?

Yes, according to wiktionary at least:

From Anglo-Norman trenchour, from Old Northern French trencheor (French tranchoir), from trenchier (“to cut, to carve”).


i knew it

Not exactly medieval perhaps, but I think you will enjoy this episode of Planet Money on cooking a Peacock - the traditional way: https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2016/01/01/461504972/epis...

Modern History TV has an episode on this, in case it's useful for future reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeVcey0Ng-w&list=PLEdnpoTDGX... .

Nice! Watching the Lord of the Rings Extended Edition in one sitting is an annual event for my close group of friends. This will be our 8th year. It's an exhausting 12 hour venture. We have a hard start time of 11:00am and have food prepped prior to the start. Though we've never integrated food from the books beyond wine, ale, and potatoes (boiled, mashed, or in a stew). Thank you for posting this, Nate.

If anyone plans to take this on, I can provide some advice beyond the article. First off, we've found that smaller groups work better. Too many people and it becomes a louder forum. Also, most newcomers pass out a short way into Two Towers. Make sure you're rested up. It may seem like you're simply sitting for several hours, but it is long and unusually exhausting. Also, too much of that previously mentioned wine and ale will only assist the dozing. Pace yourself if you're including drinks. Have the food prepped early in the day (hour before you start at least) and scheduled to bring out at certain times to help minimize delays. The biggest delay is bathroom breaks. We have these scheduled at the disc swaps, but emergency stops are understandable. If you're watching with a group, decide whether commentary should be included or not. Some people like to make jokes and quote lines the whole way through while others get really into it and just want to watch. It's helpful to determine which group you are early on. If you're in the quiet camp, know that there is almost no one talking by the end. Even if you're the most heartless person, after sitting through and watching the Fellowship's struggles, few people can refrain from welling up after Aragorn says "My friends...".

My wife and I try to do this every few years. This year we started by marathoning the Hobbit trilogy. While I like the Hobbit movies, it was the first time I had watched them back to back with the LOTR movies and I was blown away by how much more simple (in a good way) and less frenetic the LOTR movies were than the Hobbit. I actually noticed a physical reaction to the last Hobbit movie. We watched it in one sitting right before bed and I felt so mentally overdriven I couldn’t fall asleep for several hours after getting in bed.

POTATOES... Biggest complaint about the post is lack of boiled, mashed, and or stewed potatoes.

Though Sam and Frodo never actually got to eat the 'taters', the author did include some form of potatoes from that reference. He mentions it in the section about rabbit stew.

> Sam’s advice on potatoes - “boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew” - also inspired us to serve a triple side dish of new potatoes, cooked in the ways prescribed.

Every time I go backpacking I make Logan Bread (err, Lembas Bread, that is) using a recipe similar to this: https://sectionhiker.com/logan-bread-recipe/

Fair warning: don't eat too much of it while you're sitting still. It tastes good, but depending on how you make it it can have a lot of calories.

Thanks for this!

My first thought in seeing this post was wondering how they would handle the "Looks Like Meat’s Back on the Menu!" scene in the Two Towers. The ribs and sausages arrangement seemed great. Probably best to not be too true to the movies and eat raw meat...or orcs.

How do the Uruk Hai - or orcs for that matter - know what a menu is?

From the article:

For my money, this is one of the best moments in the trilogy, if only for the haunting implication that orcs understand the concept of a menu. There will come a blog post where I consider the idea that orcs have a cultural memory of a more civilised existence. Where I wonder if maybe they are good people who have been woefully misrepresented in a history told by its victors. But it is not this blog post.

Check out “The Last Ringbearer”[1] for an alternate take on the LotR mythology where the orcs aren’t monsters but instead citizens of the renaissance state of Mordor.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Ringbearer

So this is the LoTR analogue to "the Empire were teh good guys" ["teh" was a typo, but it fits, so heh].

This made my day. Thank you for the link!

> Where I wonder if maybe they are good people who have been woefully misrepresented in a history told by its victors

That would be 'The Last Ringbearer' [0]


Also half-seriously considered in this mcsweeney's satire: https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/unused-audio-commentary-...

Well, they were created from elves:

> Before Oromë first found the Elves at Cuiviénen, Melkor enslaved some of them and cruelly tortured them, turning them into Orcs.

Of course, like all answers this just poses more questions.


So are the Orcs immortal too? Do they go to Halls of Mandos when they die? What about the Uruks?

Basically Tolkien never could come up with a good way to have orcs with metaphysics he liked. He didn't believe a free willed being could be inherently evil, so at times he wrote that orcs had no free will and just did what Sauron wanted, essentially ants. Other times he thought that didn't fit and had them as people in a cruel situation who ended up cruel, but that was also unsatisfying for him. There isn't really one canon answer as to what an orc is.

It is entirely possible that they are. It is more likely that the corruption of Melkor took that away (although they still may be longer lived).


It's fairly common for translators to do this to idioms that might not make sense in the destination language.

So common it's rather endearing when authors bother to point it out. E.g. in the Afterword (though probably better as a preface) to Greg Egan's Dichronauts, he says in a note on the translation: "If you could listen to the speech sounds used by the characters in this novel, not only would you hear no words in your own native language, you would not hear any of the proper names employed in the story ... Words such as "smile," "laugh," "groan," and so on are used to indicate the nature of the emotions that elicit these acts, rather than any anatomical or phonetic similarities to human utterances and gestures. ..."

What, you've never been to the Mine Street Diner in the Misty Mountains, or the famous Orodruin Cafe?

The thing that seems to be missing here (and maybe it's also missing from the movie... I can't remember) is the bread, butter and honey at Beorning's house. Possibly people will find this strange, but before reading the LotR, I'd never eaten this. It's amazing! So simple, yet so complex in flavour. If you are thinking, like I was, bread + butter... yawn... bread + honey... been there, done that, mixing them isn't going to make a difference..... I really recommend trying it :-)

Edit: Ha ha! That was the Hobbit! That's why it's not in there :-P

Mead also seems to be very uncommon these days and is featured in The Hobbit. I’ve only tried one homebrew attempt of mead, but it tastes a bit like Western-style konbucha mixed with honey.

> I’ve only tried one homebrew attempt of mead, but it tastes a bit like Western-style konbucha mixed with honey.

That sounds like pretty bad mead; most I've had has been more like brandy than kombucha.

I've made mead a few times. I friend of mine was a really good mead maker. There are a couple of tricks. First, don't use yeast nutrient -- it affects the flavour. Also unless you are making a melomel, don't add and acid to balance it. Mead tastes best straight. Mead will ferment out completely dry, so if you want any residual sweetness, choose an OG and yeast so that the yeast will quit. For example, you can use a neutral ale yeast and an OG of 1070 or 1080 and you will get residual sweetness. If you use a champagne yeast, then you need a huge OG to get any residual sweetness (it will ferment out to 15%) so you need something like 1130 or higher. Honey has a surprisingly strong flavour, so start out with a lower gravity, sweeter version to start with. I've used the Wyeast sweet mead yeast before and it was really wonderful, but I seem to remember using 1056 and having it work out nicely as well.

Sometimes because of the acid balance and lack of nutrients, the mead fermentation will stall or finish early. That's just the way it goes. Give it lots and lots of time. I had one that took 2 years to ferment out and even then it wasn't quite done. I ended up with a really wonderful (if serendipitous) sparkling sweet mead. Do a primary fermentation in a large vessel, but while it is still off gassing, transfer it to a smaller vessel with a small amount of headspace (a small carbouy or soda keg is perfect). If you have soda kegs, it's nice to presurise the tank a bit after racking, then bleed it off and finally put in an airlock. This will get rid of the oxygen. Do a bulk secondary for as long as you can (even 1 to 2 years is not unreasonable). Personally, I like a little bit of autolysis flavour in my mead -- a bit like good champagne.

Mead ages very, very well. As long as the bottles don't have excess oxygen, you can age them for many years and they just get better over time. If you have a dry mead, you can bottle condition it to get a sparkling mead and I highly recommend it.

I can kind of see the konbucha reference, but I suspect that you probably used a recipe with a lot of adjuncts. That's not bad, but I recommend trying a straight mead if you can. I love mead, but I have not once tried a commercial mead that was any good -- at least compared to what my friend used to make and a few good batches that I made with his advice.

I'd love to make a mead here in Japan, but it illegal and also 500g of local honey costs between $10-$20! I think legally I'm allowed to make 1 liter, so I could probably afford that ;-)

The feasting might go a little bit easier if you also join in every time the hobbits or Gandalf smoke "pipe weed."

As much as the terminology used makes it sound like weed, I'm fairly sure Tolkien intended it to be tobacco.

He definitely did. He was a keen pipesmoker, and very definitely not a stoner. (edit: I think he even pins it to "a plant of the genus Nicotiana" or words to that effect in the LotR appendices)

Peter Jackson's presentation of it in the movies though... yeah. No ambiguity there. His hobbits were blazed 24/7.

Yes. "weed" was slang for tobacco in middle and early-modern English (shortly after it was introduced to England). This is where he got the term from.

The Appendix offers a number of additional suggestions, including this.

I missed this. Thanks for pointing it out.

Turns out i've already beaten the LOTR challenge mode in a sense. Rainy saturday, all day LOTR marathon on TBS, sack a nugs, plenty of grub to eat while watching the movie all day

I feel like the most important one is pipe weed which many characters, especially Gandalf smoke a lot of. Saruman was a huge fan too, he had barrels of the best Longbottom Leaf imported from the Shire.

Judicious quantities of pipe weed would also keep your appetite sharp for all the other food you're going to eat :)

That has caused some delightful confusion. We used to live in my wife's grandma's old house, and there was a ton of grandma's old stuff scattered around the basement. My sister-in-law were visiting for a few days; her kids loved digging through the old stuff.

Nephew (approx 10 year old): Uncle Tony! Uncle Tony! We found a weed pipe downstairs!!!

Me: O_o

Nephew: Come look!

I went downstairs, ready to be horrified at a conversation I didn't want to have with the kid. Sure enough, he had found some giant ornate tobacco pipe.

Nephew: Gandalf would love this! He could smoke pipe weed all day!

Given that Tolkien explicitly calls pipe-weed a variety of Nicotiana, smoking it would tend to suppress the appetite.

If i was a wizard I would be smoking that enchanted nug. Pack up a bowl with magic and use your wand to perfectly corner it. Magic!

My father is J.R.R. Tolkien nut and my family would have parties to celebrate Bilbo's birthday (September 22). The meals would slightly vary each year, but kept with the hobbit theme. We usually had bean soup, "a mighty dish of mushrooms and bacon," a roast, Yorkshire pudding, and a desert like a tart. The evening would conclude with a reading from his Lord of the Rings collection [1], which he would call The Red Book. He hasn't done one in a few years, but this was a tradition of his for almost 20 years.


In case you didn't know (and this is deep geekery, so I don't know why you would): It's a conceit of Tolkien's presentation that the story we're reading in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings was recovered from historical manuscripts written by Bilbo and the other hobbits, which were collected by later hobbits in a tome called the Red Book of Westmarch [1]. That big red leatherbound edition of the Lord of the Rings references this conceit.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Book_of_Westmarch

This is strongly hinted at in the movies. Bilbo's first appearance in Fellowship shows him finishing off The Hobbit (in a big red manuscript), and the ending of RoTK shows Frodo finishing off The Lord of The Rings before handing it to Sam.

Oh, I am aware ;)

Nice job. As a kid I read all the Redwall books concurrently with LoTR, the delicious food and feasting descriptions throughout them can get kind of obscene... I've tried cooking a few over the years from various fan writeups (e.g. http://friarhugoskitchen.blogspot.com/) but there was an official cookbook too (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Redwall_Cookbook).

This is awesome!. LOTR is the key to my sons glimpse into fantasy and imagination. Guy was diagnosed with ASD when he was 5. Always shirked at anything that was "un-real", until he was mesmerized by the magic of LOTR. He even uses this app"Walk to Mordor" which is a pedometer app to track his journey from Shire to Mordor. Done with 21 miles. 3,500 more miles to go before he reaches Mordor!

This doesn't address the most pressing question I have. Remember the "Looks like meat's back on the menu" scene?

How do Orcs know what a menu is?

"The Geeky Chef Drinks" has a recipe for a warm elven cocktail, involving gin, white tea and elderflower liqueur. It was delicious!


Slightly relatedly, the YouTube channel Binging with Babish[0] "recreate[s] the iconic and obscure foods from you[r] favorite movies and TV shows".

[0] https://www.youtube.com/user/bgfilms

The closest analog to lembas bread in spirit and function is Icelandic rugbraud: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rúgbrauð. It was vital when I was cycling, one slice seemed to give me a ton of energy, probably because the stuff was sticky with syrup. For pure function as a homemade energy loaf, there's also logan bread: https://sectionhiker.com/logan-bread-recipe/. I've made that very recipe and it's really good and it keeps well for several days.

Bara Brith is another candidate: https://www.bbc.com/food/recipes/bara_brith_33441

I've wanted this my entire life since I was 13. Bookmarked and going shopping this week!

I haven't rewatched the trilogy in a few years and my grandma just passed away. I've also been working on some ideas to challenge the rise of Mordor.

"I've also been working on some ideas to challenge the rise of Mordor"

Hypothetically or metaphorically or ........?

"What does your heart tell you?"

"Our marathon inspired endless debates about what Lembas Bread should be represented by - some said shortbread, others said drop scones, while some even argued for Kendal Mint Cake. "

I knew this is where they would have trouble. Its the most mentioned food in the book, but doesn't really have a good description of what it actually is.

Tolkien also doesn't give detailed descriptions of what many of the characters actually look like, except in non-specific terms such as 'kingly'. Frodo does get a mini description, because it is written down in a letter that someone reads out.

His descriptions of the places are more definitive.

Someone (http://flyingmoose.org/tolksarc/theories/twinkies.htm) preserved an old Usenet post comparing Lembas to Twinkies:

From postings to rec.arts.books.tolkien by BThompson <williamt-aaaaaaat-lamar-dawt-colostate.edu>, dated 11 April and 18 September 1995.

Has anyone else noticed the apparent similarities between Lembas and Hostess Twinkies? Please consider the following:

1) Both are lightly-baked cakes with creme filling.

2) Both are hermetically-sealed in some type of wrapper (mallorn leaf for lembas and malleable plastic leaf for Twinkies).

3) Both will remain fresh if their wrapping remains unbroken (in fact, Twinkies are reputed to have a shelf-life of several million years either in or out of their wrapping).

Are lembas an early prototype for the modern-day Twinkies? Any and all comments are welcome.

For some reason, I think of it as stroopwafels.

Maybe that is Tolkien's genius, people can just imagine their own prefered food.

Always been Army ration pack Biscuits Brown to me.

...to be clear, I kinda liked those things. Kinda.

wouldn't it make sense that this would be one of the metaphors upon which tolkien drew from his time in the british army? i seem to recall some bit of information that these subtle images were inspired by objects and events during that time of his life.

so biscuits brown is probably a good image.

Well, it's impossibly nutritious, far more calorie-rich than pure fat. So it doesn't really make much sense to even try to describe it.

Looks like meat is back on the menu.

Indeed! My Smeagol-sandwich was delicccious!

I imagined Lembas Bread to be like ration bars (e.g. datrex, sos, etc)

displays a blank page with 3rd-party javascript disabled.

I thought the same but gave it a few seconds more and the content finally loaded.

https://www.nate-crowley.com/apps/lists/1/Batch?consistentRe... Time: 5.1 sec

The site is just under a bit of load right now.

No it uses scripts from parastorage.com (part of wix).

Welcome to the web in recent years. Looking at my umatrix rules, for basic functionality a lot of sites need scripts from ajax.googleapis.com, [cdnjs.]cloudflare.com, brightcovecdn.com, static.parastorage.com (as in this site), and many other cdns besides.

As is often the case, Firefox's Reader View fixes the problem.

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