Forum: Middle-earth Cookbook

Discussing: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

I have lately been finding myself wondering about what goes into Middle-earth dishes or would be served for a meal by each species. Milk, cheese, and butter seem to be a given, but from what animal? Cows, goats, or something else? Would the Rohirrim raise cows? How about Elves? How would a Hobbit or a Dwarf take care of a cow? Is it cows or oxen?

Then there are the growing things. I can see apples, pears, strawberries, and cherries, but what about peaches? I have seen potatoes and tomatoes mentioned in fanfiction and the movies show fields of corn, but all of the above, like tobacco and peanuts, originated from America and weren't known until after the Spanish Exploration.

Is what appears on the menu based on Old English foodstuffs, or on what was available in England when Tolkien wrote the books?

Just some food for thought...



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

Sam specifically mentions potatoes in TTT, the book. Likewise it's clear in the prologue of FotR that pipeweed is in fact tobacco. So Tolkien wasn't consistent in that - he certainly didn't limit himself to only foodstuffs that were native to medieval Europe.

Modern cattle are considerably larger than their ancestors of even a couple hundred years ago. Since children acted as cowherds, I would presume that a fully-grown Hobbit could do the same, if perhaps not their children.

Peaches - they were native to the Old World, China actually but brought to the Near East in antiquity. I can see them having originated in, say, Harad perhaps, and brought into the region that became Gondor by the Second Age.

Good topic for speculation, this. I have an abiding interest in food and in fact am teaching a course on food in preindustrial Europe right now.

Are you thinking of actually developing a Middle-earth cookbook, with plausible recipes that might have been prepared by the various races? That could be quite a lot of fun, since you'd have to think not only of what foodstuffs they might have available but also what equipment and therefore cooking techniques would have been used.




Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

Are you thinking of actually developing a Middle-earth cookbook, with plausible recipes that might have been prepared by the various races? That could be quite a lot of fun, since you'd have to think not only of what foodstuffs they might have available but also what equipment and therefore cooking techniques would have been used.

I think that would be fun, but I doubt I'm a good enough cook to manage it by myself. I only know basic stuff, like baking in an open pit and how to make beef jerky (and the stuff mentioned in Little House in the Big Woods) and would quickly bow to someone more knowledgeable than I. I started this in hopes of getting other people interested in it, because of course the foodstuffs and cooking techniques have changed. I find myself pausing when I read a fic concerning food and thinking "Would they have that?" or "Can they cook that?" If you want to add anything, or anyone else, everything is quite welcome.



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

Hi! I just thought I'd throw in my two cents. I've taken care of a cow and goats, and been around them all my life.

Despite the fact that cattle are so popular today, they are actually a good deal less useful than goats. I didn't know that cattle are much larger these days, but I'll take your word for it, Celandine. However, no cow can be described as "small." They are very dangerous animals, even without meaning to harm you. I doubt that hobbits would keep them, for that reason. If a goat steps on your foot, you shove it off. Depending on its size and weight distribution, it can even be ignored. It will not damage you, though it is more painful for children. But if even a smaller cow steps on your foot, it is VERY painful (I speak from too much experience ). It can leave you with severe bruises, or simply break your foot (once again, it depends on weight distribution), and that's for a fully grown foot for a human. If it stepped on a hobbit's foot, it would undoubtedly cause serious damage. Furthermore, if you're around a cow, you will end up getting your foot stepped on at some point. It is inevitable, no matter how careful you are. Probably multiple times.

Also, cows are much harder to feed. A small cow will eat more than a small herd of goats. All cows are more finicky eaters than goats, and depending on the breed, some will eat only a few certain kinds of grass. Goats eat anything and everything, especially plastic sacks and the bark of fruit trees. In the case of a kind of cow that will eat most things, then they simply eat everything in sight. They have to have a very wide range too, because they are so big that they wear down all the plants and keep them from growing again. They always walk in the same places, making trails where nothing grows, and generally just crushing everything in their path. Goats eat everything, but they don't crush the vegetation, and eat such a wide variety of things that it doesn't hurt the plant life.

Finally (before I blather on too much ), goat's milk is much better than cow's milk. Cows milk has a much larger curd, which makes it harder to digest and not as healthful for you to consume. It also has a much smaller butterfat content, which means less cream. Of all goats, Nubians have the highest butterfat content in their milk. I believe it's around 6%, but it might be higher, I'm not sure. In case you were wondering, Nubians are the spotted goats with the floppy ears that chew on your clothes and manage to look adorable while doing it.

Well, I hope this helped everyone. I tried to keep it short.

Still Anonymous



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

stuff mentioned in Little House in the Big Woods

Waves to another Laura fan. ;-) I often steal inspiration from there. I'm still in shock though by your opening remarks - are there people who don't know how you make toast without a toaster? (Silly question, I suppose - the kids I teach can't believe I have to push a button to turn my telly on! ;-)) I'm only 37 but my grandparents lived up country so I've met pan toilets, wringers, chip heaters (for the bath water), wood stoves etc.

I'm currently venturing into having to describe LOTR food for the first time - and I'm finding ti dead scary. ;-) I don't subscribe to the it's-middle-ages-in- England-theory totally - because as far as I can see Tolkien didn't ever, but on the other hand I hate things that grate because they are too modern or too (sorry) American. I'm trying to make it different from now without tieing it in too much to any real period. This is in Gondor, mind you - if I was in Hobbiton I'd much more be calling on my childhood of reading old English kids' books.




Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

My take on the Shire is to describe their food as Victorian, thereby allowing things like potatoes & other New World foodstuff to be part of the menu. And while ale is a big thing with hobbits, cider would be have been important too. I also think that there might be some parallels between the Shire & Rohan in terms of diet.

In regards to Gondor, I think something similar to 15th & 16th century Italy would do the trick. I picture the Gondorians using citrus fruits, rice, & spices that would be unknown in the North.

One question that has been bothering me: would chocolate & vanilla be convincing as Gondorian food, or are they both too modern?




Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

One question that has been bothering me: would chocolate & vanilla be convincing as Gondorian food, or are they both too modern?

Don't know what's modern about either, Regina. both have been around for thousands of years, although chocolate was not sweetened until it hit europe. It was brought back to Europe by Cortez. I agree on the 15th and 16th century Italian for the food of Gondor - given their level of sophistication and their locale, makes sense. In which case, there would be chocolate, brought in from oversea somewhere south, since it is a rainforest product, likewise vanilla. both probably only for the wealthy.

Just saw a lovely exhibit at the Houston museum of natural history on the topic, so I'm terribly in tune to it at the moment. Chocolate was served as a drink, like coffee and it was some years before anybody thought to put it into solid form.




Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

would chocolate & vanilla be convincing as Gondorian food, or are they both too modern

Modern in the way that they are presently used, I think. Both are New World foods, and although Tolkien certainly included potatoes in the Shire diet, I'm personally leery of going too far down that path. I could possibly see chocolate being drunk, but not used in solid form - it strikes me as a more likely beverage in the Shire than in Gondor though, simply because of the climate. As a flavoring, rose-water would seem more probable to me than vanilla, either place - it is something that can be home-made, for one thing, and would be far less expensive than vanilla.

Incidentally, rice and spices were known in northern Europe in the medieval period - not common, certainly, used mostly by the wealthy - but they were known. Rice and white sugar were accounted spices, in fact, and sold by the same merchants. So while ordinary Hobbits might not have rice pudding, for instance, I could see celebrations by the Thain or the Master including, say, spice-cake. Citrus - probably not in the Shire, simply because of the difficulty of transportation over such a long distance. But I would think that they might well grow citrus fruits in parts of Gondor.




Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

In which case, there would be chocolate, brought in from oversea somewhere south, since it is a rainforest product, likewise vanilla. both probably only for the wealthy.

That was my reasoning as well; that both would be produced in Harad's southern jungles & then traded sporadically to Gondor, making them rare luxuries only the very rich could afford.

But when I say "modern," I mean "New World," & I'm hesitant to introduce anything from the New World into Gondor, which I view as being much more overtly medieval in its nature than the Shire. But I can't quite figure out how a rainforest food from the far south could travel to there, given the very unsafe conditions of most roads & trading routes in the Third Age.




Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

Daring merchants who risk coastal waters and the Corsairs to bring it by sea is my answer, and something I use in HotK. I'm thinking of the trading patterns seen in the Indian Ocean and in and about the Indonesian archipelago, particularly prior to the European expansion into those trade routes. Toodles - Ang



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

When anybody goes the 'medieval' route with LOTR, all I can think of is clocks and post offices. Not to start a debate, but the 'medieval' assumptions and concerns about New World vs Old World products seem out of place in a fantasy world in which it's creator can count its history in thousands, not billions of years. Columbus does not exist in Middle-Earth, nor Magellan nor Cortez nor Marco Polo nor Attila the Hun nor Alexander the Great.

The question is whether or not they would have chocolate or vanilla before Columbus discovered Valinor or wherever the 'New World' is supposed to be.

Aztec traders carried the cocoa beans in baskets on their backs with heavily armed escorts, such was its value. Marco Polo visited China in the 12th century(not sure of dates) but pretty darned long ago.

Gondor lay along an ocean and there was a great big river that traveled up from the harbor to Minas Tirith. The question is whether or not there would have been access to products typically grown in climes south of their clime. Given that Minas Tirith is at level with Florence, Italy, from there, its a simple matter of doing research as to what sorts of food products can be (not necessarily ARE) but can be grown in Florence, Italy. From there, work south.

From a practical standpoint it seems far less likely that the Shire would have chocolate, unless those same traders worked their way up the coast to the west and north. The shire seems to be a rather insular place (despite the clocks and post offices) and less likely to trade with the outside world.

I base that on the personality of the hobbits themselves as described by Tolkien - seeming to eschew the world of the 'big folk' and also on Aragorn's apparent dearth of information regarding ANYTHING that was going on in his world, despite his previous errantries to Rohan and Gondor and points east and south. I am referring to the conversation with Gandalf and Boromir outside the Mines of Moria in which he seemed to have not a clue of the political situation anywhere.

My conclusion: A big hole in Tolkien's plotting OR the roads were really awful to travel. Or a combination of the two.

Gondor is a different story. With a long coastline and a great river, there would be plenty of opportunity for products of all sorts to reach it from all over whatever known world they traded with. Also, it is a BIG country, relatively speaking, and no doubt had a variety of climates and microclimates and zones within its own borders - although I doubt chocolate could have been grown there.

Also products which reach those 'further afield' places and from there be traded with the people of Gondor also.

Regina - you might try finding out what the USDA zone equivalent for planting is in Florence and then extrapolate it for points a bit further south. As I am certain you are aware, even fifty miles or slight changes in elevation can change what sorts of crops can be grown where.

From there make your presumptions on what CAN be grown in those climes without being hampered by 'New World/Old World' considerations which have no real place in a fantasy world such as Middle-earth and go from there. Study the maps and make your own determinations.

I suppose if you do actually do all that, it would be a valuable resource for the 'resources section' since it would be based on pretty strong science and not wishful thinking.

Men have traded with one another ever since the idea of bartering was established and formalized trade of all sorts of things was well-established in the Ancient Mediterranean.

People have pursued that trade despite the obvious risks because the rewards were so high.

Yep, I'm rambling. Hope this helps, or makes you feel better about whatever plotline you are working on.




Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

Yes, I do feel better--will noodle about with some maps & see what I come up with. Perhaps drawing a line from Mexico east & seeing whether the area it hits in Africa is a good match for parts of Harad will work as well.

Just so you know, this is all for my brothel fic--am intenting that a small banquet is served up to the gang when they first arrive, & that the hobbits & Gimli have their first astonished encounter with chocolate. Thought that would help set the mood nicely.




Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

Quick comment. When The Hobbit was revised (primarily to change the riddle-game between Gollum and Bilbo), one minor change made was to Bilbo's larder in the very first chapter. Tolkien changed "cold chicken and tomatoes" to "cold chicken and pickles." Similarly in LotR Sam doesn't say "potatoes," he says "taters," and "pipeweed" is used instead of "tobacco." All those things together suggest to me that in the end the good professor decided that items that were obviously from the New World didn't properly have a place in Middle-earth. But of course that's just my interpretation. Celandine



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

I understand what you are saying Celandine. Truthfully. But it is difficult to determine what was in the mind of a dead man when he made changes. You are an author. I am an author. There are lots of authors here. We all make changes, often for quite obscure and personal and convoluted reasons. I am willing to bet that we would all find it quite amusing to hear others interpretations of why or when we made those changes. Unless there is someplace the good professor said - NO NEW WORLD PRODUCTS, the New World to be defined thusly: blah blah blah. I think we can allow authors to use their own good sense. Middle-Earth is not a real world. It is a fantasy world. As such, much leeway may be given, as long as there is some basis for justification. Perhaps the professors preferred pickles with his chicken? Perhaps he thought 'taters sounded more rustic? Perhaps he liked the idea of calling it pipeweed rather than tobacco? Perhaps Mrs. Good Professor did not approve of the use of tobacco and made the good professor change it? It is unlikely we'll ever know. As an aside and completely off-topic: I was reading Mrs. Dalloway on a plane flight last week. She spells 'wagon' as waGGon. I about bust a gut. Mr. Lindorien was like, "WHAT is so funny?" All I could think about was all the discussion in my Summary Version concerning the spelling of waGGon. In the end, fanfic is fun. That is all it is. So, I figure, to paraphrase my dear friend Marie Antoinette, 'Let 'em eat chocolate.' Besides, Regina, your story idea sounds cute. Have 'em stick some cinnamon in that chocolate also and really cause a stir. I don't think a brothel would have chocolate, though. But I can see the good Steward trotting it out at a fancy affair. He probably has a cup every morning himself to clear the fog. best to all, Lindorien



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

I think we can allow authors to use their own good sense. Middle-Earth is not a real world. It is a fantasy world. As such, much leeway may be given, as long as there is some basis for justification.
I tend to agree - it is fantasy after all, not history. Consider tea and coffee. Two beverage products obviously not grown in England, nor anywhere else in Europe, even to this day. Tea was the sole provenance of China until the British government got some tea plants smuggled into India and began its propagation there toward the mid-nineteenth century. Coffee has a history similarly riddled with exclusivity and commercial espionage. Yet both are found in Bilbo's larder. Still many writers of fanfiction will insist that anything not native to the British Isles is verboten in the Shire. So where does that leave coffee and tea? I do believe that it is not unreasonable that certain foodstuffs (and plants) might have found their way to the different regions of M-e via trade routes. Whether those trade routes would be viable during a particular period in M-e history given that perod's conditions as laid forth by Tolkien is for each writer to try to determine - and then to convince the reader (or at least convince the reader to suspend disbelief ). BTW, weed is a very old slang term for tobacco - see Pipe-weed has a somewhat rustic sound to it. Same is true for taters in place of potatoes. The changes Tolkien made could have been for just for that purpose. He did have tomatoes in at least one other place and changed that to taters, so the pickle substitution doesn't convince me that it was an attempt to expunge all references to imports from the New World - unless the Professor explicitly stated somewhere that this was his intent. Just my two-bits. ~Nessime



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

Thanks, one & all, for the imput on the chocolate question. I'll try to write something up tomorrow (at long last!), after I recover from my cooking disaster tonight--the black walnut pound cake I baked for Easter came out BURNED. Guess I didn't butter the pan suffciently--sigh. Thought I was a good enough cook to avoid this sort of thing. Will crawl off to pout now. Regina



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

Same is true for taters in place of potatoes. The changes Tolkien made could have been for just for that purpose He also retained the use of potatoes in two places so I feel he more likely changed the word for a dialogue effect. Avon



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

Thought I was a good enough cook to avoid this sort of thing.
Do you know what Julia Child would do? She'd scrape off the burnt outer layer and cover the whole thing with some sort of icing or glaze - camouflage. I also saw her do that when cakes got stuck in the pan and broke when she'd try to turn them out. She'd stick it back together and "hide" the damage with frosting. Have I mentioned that Julia Child is my hero? ~Nessime



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

Errr... I don't believe I ever said that another author couldn't use products from the New World, did I? I've just been trying to explain the reasons why I tend not to do so. (And I won't say I've never done it myself - I honestly don't remember if I have or not.) Coffee and tea - not native to Britain, no, but native to the Old World and used in Victorian England without question. Long-distance trade took place to a much greater extent than people realize in medieval and early modern Europe, and I would strongly suspect that in the Shire there was quite a bit too; all those Dwarves passing through, for one thing. Tomatoes and potatoes, incidentally, both took a long time to be accepted for human consumption in Europe. Potatoes were said to cause leprosy, and the fact that they were eaten by the very poorest people (because of their high yields per acre) didn't tend to make the middle and upper classes think very highly of them. Tomatoes, related to the deadly nightshade, were likewise thought to be poisonous for many years after they were first introduced to Europe. If Regina wishes to have chocolate in her story, it won't be any skin off my nose, certainly - it's entirely her decision. All I've done is give what information I have from this world, so that she can make that decision with the most knowledge possible. Cel



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

Errr... I don't believe I ever said that another author couldn't use products from the New World, did I? I've just been trying to explain the reasons why I tend not to do so. (And I won't say I've never done it myself - I honestly don't remember if I have or not.) Nope, you didn't and if that is what you thought I was saying in my post, than my apologies. My point -- and I do have one -- is pretty much what is being reiterated here. It does not matter that Europeans thought potatoes caused leprosy or thought tomatoes were deadly nightshade. It matters no more than Theodoric York, Medieval Doctor (to use a very American Analogy from the early days of Saturday Night Live) thought that evil spirits could cause illness or might have bled his patients to death with the use of leeches. None of these things have any bearing in a fantasy world whose history does not track our history in the least. Another aside: my Dad tells me people could buy leeches at the corner drugstore when he was a kid. Old stupidities die hard, I suppose. "Hi there! I'll have a Root Bear Float and then a leech to-go, please." So, chocolate, coffee, tea, go for it guys. Regina - regarding your black walnut cake. You can camouflage or go with the old Italian way of handling such disasters - a quick trip to the grocery story for a tray of those lovely Italian cookies. People love 'em to dunk in their coffee after a big meal, anyway. To those of you celebrating it, have a nice holiday today. Best, Lindorien



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

Errr... I don't believe I ever said that another author couldn't use products from the New World, did I?
My apolgies, Cel. I didn't mean you specifically, even though I was responding in part to your comments on pipe-weed and taters. It just that this same kind of debate has occurred on-list at HA so often, and some writers are adamant about excluding "non-native" plants and foodstuffs. There are also those who won't accept anything that wasn't present in England during our own Middle Ages - which would effectively exclude things like coffee and tea (which are still not grown in Europe, though the import of those commodities has been going on for a few centuries now. Chocolate as a beverage was introduced in England in 1657, just a couple of years after coffee (1652 - the first coffeehouse in London opened) and tea (the first samples of tea reached England between 1652 and 1654). Those were the kinds of things I had most in mind when I posted. Aside from that, I've always thought that if Tolkien included something in his depiction of M-e, like taters or pipe-weed, it must belong there. I neglected to cite the one thing that Tolkien himself wrote which convinces me that pipe-weed is indeed tobacco:
...they [i.e the Hobbits] imbibed or inhaled, through pipes of clay or wood, the smoke of the burning leaves of a herb, which they called pipe-weed or leaf, a variety probably of Nicotiana.
(LotR: Prologue: Concerning Pipe-weed)
Nicotiana is the genus to which tobacco belongs - there's one variety, related to commercial tobacco, that goes by the common name Flowering Tobacco and is popular for its sweet-scented flowers (especially the older varieties). Chocolate is something Tolkien doesn't mention in either LotR or The Hobbit, but I don't equate omission with exclusion. I am willing to be convinced either way by a skillful writer. To me that's just another apsect of the fantasy that is LotR. ~Nessime



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

New to HASA and just thought I'd get this thread started again, to see if anything new has come up. In all the discussion of potatoes (of which, we are told in FotR, Sam's Gaffer is a recognised authority), I haven't seen anyone mention Sam's comments on fish and chips in TT. Fish and chips doesn't seem very medieval to me--takes a fair amount of fat for the frying--but Sam mentions "fried fish and chips" as he tries to get Gollum to hunt for herbs for the stewed rabbit. Tea is another oddity; I don't think it had turned up in Europe in medieval times, but Frodo is drinking tea in FotR after driving driving off Lobelia and the excavating hobbits and I don't think one could stretch "tea" to mean an herbal tisane when one is talking about something written by an Englishman. Oh, and I just noticed coffee mentioned in The Hobbit (in An Unexpected Party). It does seem to be the hobbits who have the anachronistic foodstuffs--and clothing, come to that--so, perhaps, the other regions of Middle-Earth may be closer to the medieval than thte Shire and that could be one of the differences in species cuisines, except where other races have been in contact with hobbits (like Gandalf, Saruman, and Aragorn smoking pipeweed--except that the dwarves in The Hobbit ask for coffee). Think Gandalf's tried fish and chips? He's had more time in the Shire than Aragorn and been in contact with the hobbit who employs--and consults with--the local expert on potatoes, whose son has experience with those disreputable delights. Anyone want to play with kitchen equipment, while we're at it? I've done a very little bit of fireplace and campfire cookery as part of my interest in 18th century reenactment, so I know a little of the practicalities of wood-burning ovens and hearth cookery--although I am a bit foggy on the early 19th-century type range that PJ showed in Bilbo's kitchen in the filmed FotR. Does anyone remember stoves or ranges mentioned in a kitchen context among hobbits in canon? I assume the hobbits would have them if anyone did, since they seem to be the species most interested in, ahem, Nouvelle Cuisine. --elisabeth parva



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

Grrr! There's coffee in Middle-earth? Well, probably that's a hobbit thing... I had a similar discussion over at TFF. "Easy chairs in Middle-earth". The conclusion was more or less that Tolkien did not construct his mythology historically correct. The hobbits seem to live in the late 18th or early 19th century. The Rohirrim can probably tied to the Anglo-Saxon period - or early Middle Ages (though I always put them a little later, to give my characters a bit more in the way of creature comforts). It's a bit difficult to place Gondor. Somewhere - I think in one of his letters - Tolkien says himself that there are probably "a lot of industries" in Gondor's cities, but we are not told about them. I personally place Gondor somewhere between 1400 and 1600. If you could tell me something about making fire and getting a hearth going, I would be deeply indebted to you. I have a lot of kitchen scenes in one of my stories, and I would have loved to write more about the actual cooking, but I did not dare - because while I have seen lots of ancient kitchens in castles and palaces, I have never seen them "in action". Yours Juno



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

hello, Juno, dear. Oooo fires and hearths..I found this forum by accident! Yippee! Making a fire is both easy and extrimely difficult. Having made cooking fires both in historical scenarios from the 900CE to 1915CE the fire pit varies broadly depending on the location. I have to admit I've never had the pleasure of making a fire in a huge cooking hearth but smaller ones are often banked from night to night, ensuring an ample supply of coals in the morning. Just like one would close the dampers and bank a wood stove up for the evening. To start a fire in the wild I've never been good at without matches. Now cousin Vistula can do so with flint and steel quite effectivly. But I prefer not to be in the wild for very long. Now start a fire in a cold hearth I usually use a triangular or log cabin stacked type of pile of kindling (small peices of wood either high in resin as cedar and pine or thinly cut hardwoods...I like to think of them as julienned firewood ) If there are dampers, open them to increase the draw of air. A small ball of tow (flax waste left over from the production of linen) or birchbark or a very small candle end nested in dried grass is useful for keeping fire going and is placed directly under the tipi or cabin of wood. I usually place it on a couple of sticks of slightly large wood as a base. Please be careful of tow. It can combust rather explosivly. Put a match or a hot coal to the ball and blow gently until a flame starts. As the fire starts growing, add progressivly large peices of kindling and then wood to the fire. Close dampers as necessary. I hope this helps in your endevour. -- Love -- Molly



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

To add to Molly's reply, if you have a hearth--that is, a fireplace like those mentioned, you might have andirons to hold the wood, but I won't assume that. You want the wood stacked loosely like Molly's triangle so that air can get through it. Don't worry about dampers--that's a stove thing--and don't worry about opening the flue, since I think that didn't exist yet either, but do make a little pile of kindling that includes both the small pieces of wood and tow or dry bark or straw or other flammable stuff. You can use flint and steel to make sparks to start the flame, but expect it to take longer than you like (although your characters would probably be experienced in this, and quicker than us moderns who have matches ). If at all possible, keep some of the previous fire alive by banking it (piling up the ashes carefully--sometimes people had a special cover they could put over the banked coals to keep it safe); then you can start the fire again by supplying it with tinder and blowing on it with a bellows or long pipe--my friends use a piece of copper pipe. The fire in the cooking fireplace doesn't need to take up the whole fireplace. Most of the cooking aside from boiling is done on the hearth proper--that space in front of the firebox which is conveniently made of fireproof materials. You pull hot coals from the fire onto the hearth and set up your equipment over them--often fireplace cooking stuff has little legs on it, or else there are separate tripods on which pots can be set. Roasting is done in front of the fire with a drip pan below the meat to catch the fat and juices (why feed them to the fire?). Someone has to keep turning the meat at intervals so that all sides cook and to prevent burning; if the meat is small enough, there is a technique of trussing it and hanging it from a string where one can twist the string and it will turn itself as it untwists--but one still has to retwist it at intervals. Break's over; back to work. --elisabeth p



Re: Foodstuffs and Ingredients in Middle-Earth

Mercedes Lackey wrote a novel entitled 'By the Sword.' in the first few pages, there is a full High Feast being served. It is wriiten from the POV of the young woman who is in charge of the feast. My favorite bit reads: A full High Feast and who was it had to figure out our little backwoods Keep could come up with enough courses to satisfy the requirements? Me, of course. Tubs full of eel in the garden for days, the moat stocked with fish in a net-pen, crates of pigeons and hens driving us all crazy. . . let's not talk about the rest of the livestock. Previous to this was her thoughts as the various courses are taken out and she is making sure that everything runs smoothly. I now understand why medieval feasts lasted for hours. It was a combination of eating and entertainment. RiverOtter



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