I've missed two B2MeM posts already, so I have some catching up to do. No fic yet, I'm afraid. I can't seem to finish anything, bleh.
Earlier this evening, I was puzzling over what to have for dinner. I was all out of ideas, so I went hunting for a cookbook and in the process, I came across a printed-out recipe for some variant of lembas. This got me thinking about the food culture of Middle-earth.
We all know that Hobbits are the ones who delight in food and ale, and that Elves seem to live on lembas and light*, but what about the rest? There are cursory mentions of Gondorian and Rohirric food, but in both of these cases, it is made clear that the food consists of wartime rations, not average food. In other cases, there is only mention of a meal, but not of the specifics. The only thing we know of the farewell meal in Meduseld is that wine was taken. What food is described in more detail is the food a moving troop: "pale yellow wine, cool and fragrant, [...] bread and butter, and salted meats, and dried fruits, and good red cheese,".
The food Pippin is offered in Minas Tirith is likewise sparse: the white cakes (sweet or savoury? Do they serve ritual purpose?) and wine he takes at the audience with Denethor, and the light breakfast of bread, cheese and apples that Beregond brings.
There is a frustrating dearth of detail here. Yes, we know that they eat, but we're not told what they eat when they sit down and dine. All we are shown are simple meals taken to stave off the worst hunger. The men (and most likely the women as well) of Gondor are tall and strong, and you can't stay that way unless you eat properly. Ditto for the Rohirrim or the Haradrim. An army marches on its stomach, and light meals make for a light and weak army. I'm not saying Faramir should have dragged a cook with him, or that the eoreds hosted cook-outs each night as they rode across the wold, but that I find it hard to believe that there were no cooked meals had during the War of the Ring.
What do you think? Did Gondor's soldiers and Rohan's riders dine like kings or just chuck a coney in a pot with some vegetables when there was time?
As for times of peace: are there any dishes that you think would be typically Gondorian, Rohirric, Haradric or Numenorean? I think the Numenoreans would have had plenty of fish, as would the people of Dol Amroth and other coastal cities. The Haradric diet might have been rich in meat. And Gondor? I think I need to ponder that one a bit more.
I'd love to hear what people think, so feel free to pimp the post. If you have recipes you think fit the theme, post away. :)
*Before you tell me off, I'd like to point out that I'm aware that the Elves do eat regular food as well. There are several mentions of this: Gildor and his company offer the Hobbits food, there is a feast in Rivendell, and I'm sure the Fellowship were served heartier food than lembas while they were in Lothlorien. The reason I did not go into that was that I was interested in the food culture of Men.