Recipes from the World of Tolkien: Inspired by the Legends – Robert Tueslay Anderson (Thunder Bay Press/Simon & Schuster) $26.99
While I’ll say straight up that this isn’t one of my favourite cookbooks, it’s certainly a superb way to get a Hobbit/Lord Of The Rings/Fantasy-daft kid excited about making stuff in the kitchen.
I received this attractive cookbook as a thoughtful gift from our eight-year-old, and this week we’ll be attempting a few of the recipes together; naturally he has chosen some of the more outlandishly named ones (The Green Dragon’s Mushroom and Leek Pie, Gollum’s Raw Fish (actually just sushi), and Dragon Eggs (children sure do like dragons).
The 75+ recipes contained within are all pretty simple which young Hobbit cooks will find reasonably easy to follow with some assistance from grown-ups. Although most of the recipes are everyday ones somewhat inspired by Tolkien’s writings, a handful are approximations of dishes actually mentioned by the author (see Sam’s Coney Stew or Beorn’s Honey Cakes). Each recipe comes with its own sidebar explaining the dish’s relevance within Tolkien’s fantasy world of Middle Earth.
It’s probably worth noting that there are three alcoholic concoctions (see pic below) in the closing “And To Drink…” chapter, so those certainly aren’t for the younger ones.
Speaking of chapters, the book is divided into six of these, arranged according to the Hobbits’ six daily meals, that is: Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Elevenses, Luncheon, Afternoon Tea, and Dinner… and then the aforementioned closing chapter.
In hindsight, I have come to realise that Tolkien wrote about food often throughout all of his books, with food (or the mention of food) being wholly integral to many a scene throughout his writing. The perfect example of this would be the unexpected party at Bilbo’s home in the opening scenes of The Hobbit, one of our son’s favourite parts of all the films and also the Lego Hobbit video game.
It’s certainly a good looking book, the Charles Rennie Mackintosh headings font working well with the overall theme, the illustrations and muted watercolours give it, for the most part, a gentle pastoral feel, something that is very much in keeping with the rolling shires of Middle Earth. Saying this, the book is also peppered with detailed fantasy art ink drawings by acclaimed Italian illustrator Mauro Mazzara, the orcs pictured below being a notable example.
Indeed, it’s these wonderful fantasy illustrations that will keep your child’s attention more than anything, as otherwise it could be viewed as a genial English Country Kitchen cookbook, which in many ways, at heart, it actually is. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, as I am sure that our son will never notice as he’ll be too busy thinking about orcs, goblins, giant spiders, and the like…
(Four out of a possible five apples)