Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dothraki Wedding Part 3

As soon as I read "joints of meat" I immediately recalled "ouzi", a delicious lamb dish made for feasts and special occasions.  For large gatherings, and entire lamb will be roasted, but more commonly it's the leg or shoulder so...joints!

It's not really lamb season so the butcher did not have any bone in legs, or shoulders, so I made do with boneless, but for a proper meat joint presentation, you would want those bones.

  • 2 shoulder's of lamb,or one leg (If you want to go REALLY authentic dothraki, use goat)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, cut into 8ths
  • 6 cloves of garlic sliced

  • 2 1/2 c basmati rice(soak at least 30 mins before cooking)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 tbs oil
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbs cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 4 1/4 c lamb or chicken stock
  • 1/2 c almonds, sliced and toasted
  • 1/3 c pine nuts toasted
  • 1/2 cup pistachios

 Preheat oven to 425.  Rub the spices all over your lamb with the oil. Place in a roasting pan and put into oven.


After 20 minutes take your pan from the oven and transfer to a dutch oven. cover the lamb with 1-2 cups of water, add onion and garlic. place back into the oven on 300 F, cooking for 2.5 hours for rare, 3 hours for medium or  3.5 hours for well.  I like rare.

When the lamb has an hour left start your rice.  In a sauce pan fry the onion with 2 tbs of oil. Add the ground lamb and cook. Add the rest of your spices, stir well and add rice.

Pour in the boiling stock, mix well and simmer covered for 10-20 mins until rice is tender, add more stock if it becomes dry. Drain and place on plate then add your lamb on top decorating the top with the nuts.Serve the broth from the pan for dipping, and the onions as a side.  NOMNOMNOM!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dothraki Wedding Part 2

Sweet grass stew, you say? That can mean only one thing! (And this is one of the few vegan friendly recipes this blog will ever have!)

  • 4 stalks lemongrass
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 sweet potatoes peeled and chopped
  • 3 carrots chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms (I used baby portabellas because they were handy, and sliced them, but enoki would be awesome!)
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup snap peas
  • 13.5 oz of coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

First, "dress" the lemon grass.  Peel the hard outer layers and cut off the dry green tips.  Take the soft white bases and crush with a knife.  Enjoy the delicious aroma of sweet, sweet, lemon grass.  In fact, rub some on your wrists, just for fun!

Heat the olive oil and saute the grass and onion for 3 minutes.  Add the spices and saute  for another 2-3 minutes.  Then add the remaining veggies.

Yes... I picked this sweet potato because it looked just like a Kamakura cookie!

Cook for another 2 minutes, then add the broth and water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.

Remove the lemongrass...or don't. I didn't.  However, when eating the soup, be careful not to eat the lemongrass.  It won't kill you put it's not pleasant to nom.

Add the peas and the coconut milk.  Cook 3 more minutes, then add the cilantro and serve.

Delicious and soooooooooooooo healthy!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ahoy! Here Thar be Soy!

In researching my Dothraki wedding feast, I came to the conclusion that, statements of GRRM about composite cultures aside, I wanted to make Mongolian-esque food.

This of course required the use of Soy sauce.  But would that be proper? What exactly is this delightfully salty sauce and would a Dothraki Horde have access to it?

Answer: Yes.

The good folks over at the Kikkoman Soy Museum have put together a nice condensed history of soy sauce, but the take home point is that soy sauce (the American and British name derived from the Japanese term "Shoyu" or "Shio") is an ancient method that served the two very important purposes of both preserving perishable foods and enhancing the flavor in an economical and efficient manner given the high cost of pure salt.

For more on Salt, and the history of Salt, including a great discussion of the history of soy sauce and the many wars fought over the salt trades, I highly recommend this book.   All the salt and history you could ever want, and more!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dothraki Wedding Part 1

She had never seen so many people in one place, nor people so strange and frightening... They gorged themselves on horseflesh roasted with honey and peppers, drank themselves blind on fermented mare’s milk and Illyrio’s fine wines...Food was brought to her, steaming joints of meat and thick black sausages and Dothraki blood pies, and later fruits and sweetgrass stews and delicate pastries from the kitchens of Pentos, but she waved it all away.

My question...WHY???? Because that sounds pretty awesome.  Okay, so maybe I know why...the whole "being sold as a child bride by your creepy power hungry brother" thing probably doesn't do much for one's appetite, but still...

I've given a lot of thought to Dothraki cuisine and have come up with the following rules:

1. GRRM has said many times that the Dothraki are a composite of many cultures, including the Mongolians and various Native American cultures.  However, although there is not a direct one for one analogy, it is impossible to look at Khal Drogo and not see shades of Genghis Khan, so many of my Dothraki meals will have a Mongolian feel to them.  Mmmmmmm...Mongolian....

2. The Dothraki would likely have access to a wide variety of spices, ingredients, and culinary styles, borrowed from places that paid them tribute or...well...didn't pay them tribute and got their stuff taken anyway.  So there will be shades of middle eastern, far eastern, and basically anything that is good, meaty and hearty.

3. As a nomadic culture, the cooking methods must be simple.  There may be the ability to do things a little more complex while close to town, but this will largely be campfire and dutch oven cuisine.  Again...yum!

4.  "horseflesh" will be represented by either elk when I can get it, or very lean beef.  Horse are friends, not food.  And besides, in the US horse consumption is banned.

So, now that that is settled...without further ado...Part one of a multi-part series:

Horseflesh Roasted with honey and peppers!

  • one large, lean sirloin steak or elk steak.
  • 1/3 cup of soy sauce*
  • 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp ginger crushed
  • 2 tsp garlic
  • 1/3 cup honey 
  • Colorful Peppers
Cut the steak with the grain into 1/2 inch strips.  Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, pepper, ginger, and garlic.  Marinate in a shallow dish for 20 minutes.  Flip over, and marinate for another 20.

please ignore the fact this meat has been frozen...Dothraki meat would of course be steaming fresh off the horse!

Skewer the beef, weaving it with some cut up peppers.

Add the honey to the reserved marinate liquid and baste liberally.

Grill beef to your liking.  We did 3-4 minutes per side at medium high heat and ended up with "medium".

While the meat is grilling, boil the remaining marinate and honey until it reduces to a syrup for dipping.

I then served it over a bed of couscous with cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger.

*Stay posted for a discussion of soy sauce and how yes, indeed, your ancient recipie may in fact use your favorite salty condiment!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pondering the Dothraki, but for now...HAKA POWER!

I will be doing a more thorough post on my thoughts on the Dothraki, namely "are they just the Mongols, or something else?" but for now this is too cool not to post:


That's right, Jason Momoa, HBO's "noble savage" got the part by performing a haka for the casting directors.

I knew the first time I saw that scene that Momoa had absolutely drawn inspiration for that scene from the haka.  Here's the official New Zealand and Tonga rugby versions:

And, since this is after all a cooking blog, the same..performed by gingerbread men:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dinner in Pentos

 My fellow magisters have doubled the size of the city guard,’ Illyrio told them over platter’s of honey duck and orange snap peppers one night at the manse that had been Drogo’s. The khal had joined his khalasar, his estate given over to Daenerys and her brother until the wedding.”

Apologies for the delay in posting this, travel took me away from both the kitchen and the keyboard.  However, I hope this is worth the wait.  For Magister Illyrio's dinner, I decided a wealthy merchant would have access to all manner of spices and rich foods and, when dining with the potential future king whose royal butt he's been kissing, the dinner would be rich and succulent.

For the duck you will need:

  • One whole duck.  You can truss it if appearances matter, but most ducks cook up fine on their own.  I did not truss mine.
  • 1 tsp fresh crushed basil
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 orange cut into quarters
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • dried crushed tarragon to taste
Preheat oven to 350.  Mix basil, ginger and salt and sprinkle on inside and outside of duck. (NOTE THIS SHOULD GO WITHOUT SAYING...but if your duck came stuffed with its neck and liver, remove these!) Stuff duck with quartered orange and 4 of the bay leaves.  Sprinkle tarragon on top of the duck.  Lay in a roasting pan breast up, and fill pan with 2 cups of water.

In sauce pan, combine butter, honey, lemon juice and 2 bay leaves and simmer until it reduces to a syrupy consistency.  Pour half over the duck and save the rest for basting.

Cover and back for 30 min.  Remove, flip breast side down, baste and continue to roast covered at 300 for 2-2.5 hours.

Turn breast side up and uncovered for last 15 minutes, covering the breast with the remaining syrup.

As always, steal the skin while no one is looking and eat it yourself!

For the orange snap peppers, I simply sauteed some orange peppers and sugar snap peas in a blood orange infused olive oil with sea salt, orange slices, ginger and curry powder. until the peas were soft but still had a nice crunch.  These images are odd because apparently "rotate image" is just a suggestion.  So, enjoy sideways peppers!

In a later post, I will show you what to do with any delicious leftover duck, but for now...I think I like Pentos!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Free City States

GRRM has said many times that while there are some clear sources of inspiration (Hadrian's Wall, for example) much of his world is inspired by different sources and direct one to one comparisons are rare.  Still, there seems to be an obvious analogy between the Free Cities and the City States of Italy and, to help me narrow down my cooking styles and ingredients, this seems as good a parallel as any.  Life in the Free Cities seems a little more historically advanced than in Westeros, comparable to the earlier start of the Renaissance period in Italy, and its eventual spread to other parts of Europe.

One can't help read about the "Doom of Volantis" without thinking of Mount Vesuvius and the fate of Pompeii, (to be discussed in greater detail later), and High Valyrian, a language forced on the children of the highborn and spoken with bastardized accent elsewhere in the world seems reminiscent of Latin.  Imagine Arya trying desperately to flee her Septa while being drilled in the fact that Gaul was indeed divided into three parts!

The nine Free Cities are Lys, Myr, Pentos, Braavos, Lorath, Norvos, Qohor, Volantis and Tyrosh. They are independent city-states that lie across the narrow sea on the western side of Essos, mostly on islands or along the coast. Mountains to the east separate the coast from the plains of the Dothraki Sea, though gaps in the mountain range provide the Dothraki people some access to the Free Cities. The Free Cities were colonies built by the ancient Valyrian Freehold, and later declared independence after the Doom of Valyria.  Similarly, the first Italian city-states appeared in northern Italy as a result of a struggle to gain independence from the  Holy Roman Empire. The Lombard League was an alliance formed around 1167, which at its apex included most of the cities of northern Italy.  Around 1100, Genoa and Venice emerged as independent Maritime republics. For Genoa the Holy Roman Emperor was overlord and the Bishop of Genoa was president of the city; however, actual power was wielded by a number of consuls annually elected by popular assembly. Pisa and Amalfi also emerged as maritime republics: trade, shipbuilding and banking helped support their powerful navies in the Mediterranean in those medieval centuries.

Between the 12th and 13th centuries, Italy was vastly different from feudal Europe north of the Alps. The Peninsula was a melange of political and cultural elements rather than a unified state. The very mountainous nature of Italy's landscape was a barrier to effective inter-city communication. The Po plain however, was an exception: it was the only large contiguous area, and most city states that fell to invasion were located there. Those that survived the longest were in the more rugged regions, such as Florence or Venice, which was protected by its lagoon. The rugged terrain of the Alps prevented the German Princes from attacking Northern Italy, safeguarding the country from German political control. Largely for these reasons, no strong monarchies emerged as they did in the rest of Europe; instead there emerged the independent city-state.
While those Roman, urban, republican sensibilities persisted, there were many movements and changes afoot. Italy first felt the changes in Europe from the 11th to the 13th centuries. Most notably, the city states developed as centers for urban life, commerce, and the re-emergence of the religious cathedral.

In recent writing on the city states, American scholar Rodney Stark emphasizes that they married responsive government, Christianity and the birth of capitalism. He argues that these states were mostly republics unlike the great European monarchies of France and Spain with absolute power vested in rulers who could and did stifle commerce. Keeping both direct Church control and imperial power at arms length the independent city republics prospered through commerce based on early capitalist principles ultimately creating the conditions for the artistic and intellectual changes produced by the Renaissance.

So what about Pentos?

Pentos is one of the Free Cities. It is a port located on the western coast of Essos. Pentos is a large port city, more populous than Astapor on Slaver's Bay, and may be one of the most populous of the Free Cities. It lies on a bay off the narrow sea, with the Flatlands plains and Velvet Hills to the east.  The city has many square brick towers, controlled by the spice traders. Most of the roofing is done in tiles. There is a large red temple in Pentos, and the 'Sunrise Gate' allows the traveler to exit the city to the east, in the direction of the Rhoyne. Pentos is a city where wealth equals power, ruled over by a prince with a council of magisters. The prince has a mostly ceremonial function while the rich magisters rule.  The prince is chosen from the forty families, and presides chiefly over balls and feasts. Three heralds travel with him: the golden scales of trade, the iron sword of war and the silver scourge of justice. On the first day of every new year, the Prince must deflower the maid of the fields and the maid of the seas. When the Pentoshi believe the gods are angry at them, such as after loss in a war or a crop failure, they sacrifice the prince by cutting his throat to appease the gods and then choose a new prince from amongst the forty families. The city survives largely by paying tribute to the Dothraki, and trying not to anger Braavos.

Which sounds like GRRM may have stolen the idea from these guys: (shiny nickel to anyone who remembers that reference!)

So, taking all of that into account, in my mind, Pentos = Pisa.  For starters, they both begin with a P.  Why not?  Second, like Pentos, Pisa is a commerce center on the northwestern coast or Italy.  Throughout much of its history, Pisa was sacked by various enemies including Vikings, Byzantines and Saracens.  No Dothraki mentioned...but enough other invaders to establish it as a vulnerable locale.  Pisa was a great sea power, credited with the invention of the battering ram (for when you really want to tell that other ship you don't like it) and was a leader in maritime trade.  The perfect home for a Magister cheese monger!

Why this is important is tonight I am making Pentoshi Duck! More to follow!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Breakfast for Tyrion

I'm probably not alone in thinking that Tyrion Lannister is the embodiment of awesome.  One of my favorite lines of dialogue from season one, and one of the earliest food references in the books comes just after Tyrion gives Joffrey that well-deserved backhand to the face.

Tired from a hard morning of slapping the crowned prince, he enters Winterfell and orders himself up a nice hearty breakfast.

"Bread! And two of those little fishes.  And a mug of dark beer to wash it down.  And bacon, burn it until it turns black."

I see nothing in this plan I don't like.  Largely because It gives me an excuse to a. drink beer with breakfast and b.  bacon.

For the bread, pumpernickel seemed most fitting.  Dark, hearty, delicious.  I will eventually post some more thorough thoughts on breads and starters and, gods willing, may even be venturing into the realm of beer mash leavening, but for now,I cheated and made a nice dark loaf with dry quick rise yeast.  Sacrilege, I know.

I used rye flour and added 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons of molasses for color and it was wonderful.

For the bacon, I used our local butcher and got some delightfully thick slices.  I'm not a huge fan of burnt bacon, as I like the taste of bacon, not char, but I do like the crispiness, so I roll my bacon in a little bit of flour before frying.  It soaks in the juices nicely.

 As for the little fishes, this to me screamed "smelt fried in bacon grease".  This sounds gross but is actually quite tasty.  I purchased my smelt already dressed, but if you have the time and inclination, they are fairly simple to gut.  Simply slice below the neck and slice open the belly to gut.  As a general rule, fish under 2 inches long do not need to be gutted at all. And leave the heads on if you are feeling particularly adventurous.  I made a quick batter by dipping my smelt in a whisked egg and rolling them in flour, then fried them in the bacon grease for about 2 minutes each side.  A small dish of salt and black pepper makes for a nice dipping plate.

Finally, for the dark beer, I went with Harvestoun Old Engine Oil black ale.  It's thick but not too heavy, and has a nice, mildly sweet creamy taste.  And finally, a nice wedge of hard cheese.  This one was an aged sheep's milk.  

All in all, a breakfast fit for an imp!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lunch Along the Kingsroad

It was a day for adventures.  They explored the caves by the riverbank, and tracked a shadowcat to its lair. And when they grew hungry, Joffrey found a holdfast by its smoke and told them to fetch food and wine for their prince and his lady.  They dined on trout fresh from the river and Sansa drank more wine than she had ever drunk before.

And then of course there was that whole "unprovoked sadism followed by getting bested by a nine year old girl" thing...

I don't generally care about the food Joffrey eats, unless it's food he's choking on.  But this sounded rather tasty.

First take a cedar plank and soak it for about 2 hours.  Then take two trout fillets and baste them with olive oil, rock salt, black pepper and some dried tarragon.

Grill over indirect heat on medium high heat for about 20 minutes or until fish is flaky.

Serve with wine...of course.

Now if only that holdfast had paid less attention deboning that trout...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sugar, doo doo doo doo doot do, oh honey honey...

I'll be getting more into the foods of the books in due time, but today seems as good a time as ever to discuss a topic near and dear to everyone's heart: What about dessert?

Before getting to far afield with lemon tarts and the delicate pastries of Pentos, it's important to recognize that something that's fairly common in modern kitchens, sugar, would have been quite a luxury in a Medieval kitchen, or even a Renaissance kitchen (It's hard to tell exactly "when" the world of Westeros is and, like most fantasy, this world seems to blend a little of this and that).

Originally, people of India chewed sugarcane to extract its sweetness.  Then, around 350 AD, some great people learned that it could be boiled into a syrup and then solidified into an easy to transport, preservable crystalline form.

Shortly thereafter, sugar made its way to China and the Middle East.

There are records of knowledge of sugar among the ancient Greeks and Romans, but only as an imported medicine, and not as a food.  In particular, the "honey like salt" was thought to alleviate kidney and bladder pain. During the Muslim Agricultural Revolution, Arab merchants adopted the sugar refinement techniques of India and transformed them into large scale operation.  The conquests of the Iberian peninsula brought sugar to Europe in the 8th century, and more sugar was introduced when Crusaders encountered caravans carrying "sweet salt" and brought it home.

By the 12th century, Venice began to farm sugar plantations for export to Europe.  So, of course sugar would be available in Westeros, likely shipped in from across the Narrow Sea where it's traders could rely on slave labor, but like many things we take for granted, it too would be a luxury.

Honey, sugar beets, maple syrup and other more local sweeteners would be used by the small folk, but for special occasions, even Ned Stark might allow a little bit of sweet.

So, with that said, here is a delightful cake that might have found itself a home in the kitchens of Winterfell.  (Note, baking soda absolutely would NOT have been available, so this cake omits any baking soda or other leaveners.  For a lighter, less accurate cake add 1.5 tsp of baking soda)

Winterfell Cake

  1. 1/2 cup of cooking oil (I used vegetable) 
  2. 2 cups flour
  3. 2 tsp cinnamon
  4. .5 tsp cloves
  5. .5 tsp salt
  6. 1/2 cup honey
  7. 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  8. 1 egg
  9. 1 tsp ground ginger
  10. 1 apple, chopped (I used a Macintosh, because it was there, but in a perfect world, use a granny smith)

Heat oven to 350.  Oil a round cake pan and dust with flour. EDIT: An astute reader has called me out.  Lard would have been more likely used instead of oil.  However, in a lot of my desserts especially, I will be trying to a. not give my husband a heart attack and b. keep things that don't NEED to involve animal products vegetarian friendly to balance out the barrage of meat fests!  So veggie oil it is!

In a large bowl, whisk flour, cinnamon, cloves, and salt (and baking powder if you are a cheater...)  In a medium bowl whisk oil, honey, sugar, egg, ginger and 1/2 cup boiling water.  Add to dry ingredients and whisk until combined.  Do not over whisk.  Fold in apples.  I added some more cinnamon on top because cinnamon is delicious.

Transfer to pan and bake 40-45  minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 30 min, then turn onto a rack to cool completely.  You can dust with some confectioners sugar if you like, but I don't think Ned Stark would approve.  Serve with milk, or a nice winter stout.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Honeyed Chicken and Roast Onions

 “‘Hungry again?’ he asked.  There was still half a honeyed chicken in the center of the table.  Jon reached out to tear off a leg, then had a better idea.  He knifed the bird whole and let the carcass slide to the floor between his legs.  Ghost ripped into it in savage silence.”

Our first mention of food is the feast prepared upon King Robert's arrival at Winterfell.  Not much of the food is mentioned, save for two dishes: Honeyed Chicken and Roast Onions.  (And of course trenchers...but what else is new?) I figured this would be an easy first venture.

First, I decided that the kitchen of Ned Stark would be simple, frugal, and prone to reusing ingredients.  However, this was a feast for a king, so some extravagances would be allowed.  Lemons were cultivated on a large scale in Genoa as early as the 15th century and, while it would be difficult to raise lemons in the North, King's Landing seems to have no shortage of them, and regions of Dorn are similarly known for their lemons.  With a caravan traveling from King's Landing, it's not difficult to imagine some traders and merchants would tag along for safety, and lemons may be just the type of practical luxury a man like Ned Stark would spring for.  So our honeyed chicken will feature lemons.

For the honeyed chicken you will need:
  1. Rosemary Sprigs.  A lot of them.  Lucky for me I have a garden in which about the only thing that actually grows is rosemary.
  2. One chicken.
  3. 1/2 cup olive oil 
  4. 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  5. 4 tablespoons honey
  6. One sliced lemon
  7. 4 shallots (peeled)
  8. Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 375.  Line a roasting dish or dutch oven (I used a dutch oven) with 3/4 of your rosemary.  Put chicken on top.

Whisk the oil, lemon juice and honey in a small bowl to blend.  Lift the skin away from the chicken breast and rub 1/4 of the mix into the meat.  Careful, don't break the skin.  Drizzle the remainder over the chicken and stuff with half a lemon, one shallot, and some more rosemary.

Tower to honey sauce, you are clear for landing.

 Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste and surround with shallots.  Top with lemon slices and more rosemary.

Happy Chicken is happy.

Roast chicken, basting frequently for one hour.  Increase temperature to 425 and finish roasting until skin is golden and crispy.

Finally, remove chicken from pot and steal all the skin while no one is looking.  OMNOMNOMNOMNOM.

For the onions, peel two onions and cut in half, crosswise. Place in a dish, cut side down, sprinkle with water and bake covered at 350 for 30 minutes.

Mix together 1/4 cup of honey, 1 tablespoon of melted butter, salt and pepper to taste, and a teaspoon of dried rosemary.  Flip the onions over and baste with 1/2 of the mixture.  Bake for an additional 30 minutes, uncovered.  At 15 minutes, cover with the remaining honey sauce.

When all was done, the chicken was tender and succulent, but the honey taste was more subtle than I had hoped.  I imagine that would be cured by taking some of the pan juices, combining with another 1/4 cup of honey and reducing to a nice honey glaze but a. that is more calories than I wanted in this meal and b. I didn't want to wait to eat my wonderful smelling chicken.

The onions had a delightfully sweet taste and a nice crunch, but did not want to hold together.  It's hard to imagine Benjen Stark managing to pick them up without the aid of a fork, but their juices were delightfully runny, so I guess we can just assume Benjen is a man who doesn't mind getting his hands dirty when he eats.

One and A Half Man: Tuesdays on ABC

This has nothing to do with food, eating, feasting, or trenchers, but it's too funny not to post.

The sad thing is...I kind of wish this was real.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Some Thoughts on Trenchers

Seems we can't swing a dead direwolf without running into a reference to trenchers.  My husband was pleased with this, as it meant, in his mind, lots of delicious bread bowls drenched in soppy goodness.

Not true, unfortunately.  The "trencher", from the French "tranchier" (to cut) was less a bread and more a form of tableware.  Eventually replaced by wood, stone, or metal plates, the trencher was a square slab of stale bread.  By most historical accounts, the best trencher was half a foot wide and four inches tall.

Rarely did people eat their own trencher.  The bread was stale and made of particularly coarse flour to ensure it was tough enough for it's intended purpose.  Most bakers had distinct recepies for table bread and trencher bread.  In fact, the term "trencherman" was often used to describe a person who ate or drank to excess.  The trenchers were more often either tossed to the more prized hounds (a trencher fed pack) or gathered up as alms for the poor.  OMNOMNOM! Leftovers!

For those interested in the history governemnt regulation of private industry, one of the first laws to regulate the production and sale of food was the Assize of Bread and Ale, enacted by Henry III in 1267. The law tied the price of bread to the price of wheat to limit a baker's ability to inflate the price of bread. Similarly, the price of ale was tied to the price of wheat, barley and oats. Beer and ale was regulated by gustatores cervisiae, or ale-conners, appointed “to examine and assay the beer and ale, and to take care that they were good and wholesome, and sold at proper prices according to the assize.“

The Assize of Bread and Ale remained in effect until the mid 19th century.  A shame, because that sounds like a pretty awesome job.

Trenchers made perhaps their first literary appearance in Virgil's Aeneid.  In book 3, Aeneas recounts to Dido that the Chief of the Harpies made a prophesy in which he would arrive in Italy but...

Never shall you build your promised city
Until the injury you did us by this slaughter
Has brought you to a hunger so cruel
That you gnaw your very tables.
The prophecy is fulfilled in book 7, when the Trojans eat their trenchers. Aeneas states:

I now can tell you, my father Anchises
Revealed these secrets to me for he said:
"When you have sailed, son, to an unknown shore
And, short of food, are driven to eat your tables,
Then, weary though you are, hope you are home

After much thought, I have decided to deviate from coarse stale bread and go with the more modern "bread bowl" for several reasons, the most compelling of which is that I have been unable to find a local shelter willing to take stale bread with leftover food bits on it.  More to follow.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Location, Location, Location: Winterfell

Before delving too deeply into the tasty treats, it's important to figure out just "where" everything is, and accordingly, what ingredients are available.  Exceptions will be made when a particular food is explicitly mentioned in the text.

So let's start with our very first two locations: The North and Winterfell.

GRRM has acknowledged that the inspiration for the Wall is indeed Hadrian's Wall.  Of course.  What else could it be? A giant wall built by the civilized empire to keep out the barbarians to the North.

However, as you can see, Hadrian's Wall, though heavily fortified in its day, is hardly the imposing Wall of the Night's Watch.  More likely, Hadrian's Wall was focused on a. preventing simple cattle thievery (it's hard to drive cattle over a wall...even a short 10 footer) b. Customs and Taxation; and c. sheer Roman "look at what we can do, because we're ROME!"

Obviously that's not the stuff of fantasy epics, so with some imagineering, we get this:

The real Hadrian's Wall would not have been nearly as impressive to pee off of.

So, having settled that the Wall is Hadrian's Wall, applying historical parallels, that makes the North Scotland.  A fairly easy leap.  Hadrian's wall divided the Scottish Highlands from the Lowlands, and the Highland Scots retained the Gaelic language (perhaps the "Old Tongue") and many of the more "barbarian" attributes of the Gaelic Celts.

Plus: Exhibit A

I understand there are some who argue, quite literally, that the Seven Kingdoms are the Heptarchy, or the Biblical Seven Kingdoms.  But that's just silly.

The North = Scotland.  Stand by for hearty stews and trenchers!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Let's Start at the Very...Start?

So, I have finished book five, watched all episodes of season two...twice.  And what to do, what to do until season three next year, or book six sometime before my yet to be born children reach adulthood. (GRRM will NOT be confined by publishing deadlines!)

One of the things I have enjoyed most about the books are the mouth watering descriptions of food.  Food, glorious food.  I thought it would be fun and interesting to do a culinary romp through the worlds of Ice and Fire, thus the genesis of this blog.

A few ground rules as they were:

1. Dishes will appear largely in the order in which they appear in the books, with support where applicable.
2. I will attempt to keep ingredients as close to historically accurate as possible, which should be good for folks on raw food type diets.  The men of the Night's Watch did not have high fructose anything, thank you very much.
3. I will try to keep to "locally available ingedients".  To do so, I will be drawing parallells between various locations in the books and their real world counterparts.  These locations will be announced as I decide what they are.

So this is it, my intro post.  Look forward to trenchers and more trenchers full of...well...stuff.

PS...does anyone else think that Westeros looks an awful lot like Kalimdor in this map?