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A Meal Fit for a King
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1
A Meal Fit for a King

Many thanks to my lovely Beta, Juno!


~~~

“Have you dismissed the cook?”

Éowyn looked up from her work, slicing pears at the kitchen table. Faramir stood in the doorway, arms crossed and looking at her with curious eyes. He was still dressed in the green and brown clothes of the rangers, so must have met the cook before he’d even reached the house.

“Is Barhador still mad at me?” she asked. She poured the bowl of sliced pears into an iron pan. The pan had been the inspiration for taking over the kitchen today. It was a wedding gift from Gimli, part of a set of iron cookware the dwarf had made with his own hands. The handle was engraved with the twisted knots and running horses of her people, and she loved Gimli dearly for giving her this little bit of Rohan to keep in Ithilien. She didn’t feel right passing such a personal gift off to the kitchen staff, and she had decided that it should no longer sit idle, either. So she decided to cook a meal for her new husband.

“He said if his services are not adequate, then he would be happy to resign his position.”

Éowyn snorted and turned her attention to the recipe she’d found in the ragged, stained journal that must have been passed down through generations of cooks. 

Pears in Wine Sauce
four small hard pears peeled and sliced
a quarter cup red wine
a half cup honey
one teaspoon ground cinnamon
a half teaspoon ground cloves
an eighth teaspoon ground cumin
an eighth teaspoon ground black pepper

She mixed the red wine, honey and pepper in a wooden bowl, along with the formerly rare southern spices that were now available again due to the peace with Harad. Barhador, the head cook, had been bewildered by her request to use the kitchen today. Apparently the Ladies of Gondor barely set foot in one except to approve menus, unlike at Edoras where Éowyn had often been up to her elbows in dough or a goose’s carcass. “I only asked to borrow it for the afternoon,” she said. She breathed deeply of the aromatic spices. She couldn’t wait to take them to Rohan. Her brother would be delighted to have a ready supply of his favorite, cinnamon. A fiery spice to match his temper. 

She had miraculously managed to keep her own temper in check when the cook had at first refused to let her use the kitchen. He had given her a look that she had grown all to used to from all levels of Gondorian society, that they considered her an uncouth rustic from the wild lands of Rohan, probably imagining she would be using his precious kitchen to cook up the household cats.

“I’m sure he’s only worried about having time to prepare dinner?” Faramir said, always the diplomat.

She shrugged. “I’ve already made dinner,” she said. She poured the sauce over the pears. “The main course is already in the house. I only have to get the dessert in the oven and find a kitchen boy to watch it, then we can eat.” She smiled him, her eyes going over his woolen cape covered in burs. “After you change for dinner, of course.” She set the lid on the pan and stood up.

“You… you’re cooking dinner tonight?” 

Éowyn frowned. Her husband sounded almost frightened by the prospect. “Yes. I thought I would put Gimli’s lovely gift to good use and make a meal for my dear husband all at the same time.” She picked up the pan to take it over to the oven, then looked over her shoulder at him. “Go on! Change your clothes, and I’ll meet you in the dining room.”

Faramir left, and she shook her head, wondering if something had happened with his men today to make him look like he was going to his death. 

* * *

“It smells good,” Faramir said as he entered the dining room. He looked over the covered pots and dishes grouped together on the corner of the massive oak table better suited for formal dinners more than intimate, romantic meals. “What did you make?”

Éowyn started pulling off lids, eager to show off her cooking skills and the recipes that had been her favorites in Rohan. “Hwerhwettan wyrtmete. Hunigbære moran. Bræde eofer mid aeppla syfling.” She smiled at Faramir, but his brow was furrowed, and she realized she’d unconsciously switched to the Rohirric names for the dishes. Faramir was still not completely fluent in her mother tongue. “Cucumber salad, honey-glazed carrots, and roast pork with apple butter,’ she said. “The wine is from Dol Amroth.” She picked up a silver plate, engraved around the border in delicate Elvish script—she wondered what words an elf or Númenórean would engrave on a dinner plate—and started serving up the food.

Her stomach was starting to rumble by the time she took her seat. She picked up her fork, then noticed that Faramir had yet to take a bite. “Is something wrong?” she asked.

“Er…no.” He carefully impaled a carrot on his fork, took a deep breath, then popped it in his mouth. His eyes widened. “This is good!” He took another bite, this time of the pork smothered in apple butter. “Excellent, in fact!”

“You seem so surprised,” Éowyn said, picking up her fork to scoop up some salad. “You didn’t think I could cook?”

“Well…” He frowned and practically squirmed in his seat. “Aragorn had mentioned…something…” His voice trailed off and his cheeks flushed.

“Aragorn? I’ve never cooked anything for Aragorn.” She bit her lip, trying to figure out why Aragorn would have disparaged her cooking skills. Then it hit her. “The soup? From the journey to Helm’s Deep?” She dropped her fork and clapped her hands over her mouth, stifling the laughter that was bursting forth. “Of course it tasted horrible! We barely had time to pack enough vegetables to feed fifty, let alone stretched for hundreds over days. We had to do without stewing hens and the salt and spices had been forgotten. It was a few pathetic turnips and some thin dumplings boiled in plain water!” She huffed and crossed her arms. “I had assumed he had an iron stomach from traveling so much, and of course I was smitten with him at the time so I thought it simply lovely that he liked my awful soup. It was only later I realized he was just being polite.” She huffed again, then picked up her fork and stabbed a slice of cucumber. “Honestly, judging a woman's cooking by one bowl of soup in the middle of the wilderness...”

Faramir chuckled and dug into his plate. “I’m relieved he was wrong,” he said, taking another mouthful of the pork. “This is truly delicious.”

“Thank you,” Éowyn said, pleased that he liked it so much. Then she gave a sly smile. “Perhaps I should invite the king for dinner next week. Prepared by the Lady of Ithilien herself.” 

Faramir laughed and leaned over to kiss her.

* * *

The Recipes


The recipes are from Mary Savelli's book, Tastes of Anglo-Saxon England. The recipes have, of course, been adapted to modern usage. The cup measurement is US cups (8 oz), teaspoons are 0.16 fl. oz. or 5 mL, tablespoons are 0.5 fl. oz. or 15mL.


Hwerhwettan Wyrtmete (Cucumber Salad)
Serves 4

1 large cucumber, sliced (2 cups)
1 medium onion, sliced (0.5 cups)
0.5 teaspoon salt
0.25 teaspoon ground black pepper
3oz/0.25 cup/85g liquid honey
2 fl oz/0.25 cup/60mL white wine vinegar
2 fl oz/0.25 cup/60mL water

Place the cucumber and onion in a medium bowl.
In a small bowl, mix the salt, pepper, honey, vinegar, and water. Pour this mixture over the cucumber and onion.
Cover the bowl and chill the salad at least one hour before serving.


Hunigbære Moran (Honey-Glazed Carrots)
Serves 4 to 6.

5 carrots, chopped (2.5 cups)
0.5 teaspoon salt
2 to 4 medium radishes, sliced (0.125 to 0.25 cup)
2oz/0.25 cup/55g butter
3oz/0.25cup/85g liquid honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
0.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
0.25 teaspoon dried mint leaves, crushed
1 tablespoon cress, chopped

Put the carrots and salt into a pot. Cover the carrots with water and bring to a boil.
Cover the pot with a lid; let the carrots simmer for 15 minutes. Drain the water.
Sauté the radishes in butter in a large frying pan. Add the honey and vinegar. When this is blended, add the carrots, cinnamon, mint, and cress. Lower the heat and cover the pan. Heat the carrots through (about 5 minutes).


Bræde Eofor (Pork Roast)
Serves 4.

0.5 teaspoon salt
2 fl oz/0.25 cup/60mL vegetable oil
1 tablespoon liquid honey
2 fl oz/0.25 cup/60mL white wine vinegar
6 fl oz/0.75 cup/180mL dry white wine or white grape juice
0.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
0.25 teaspoon ground black pepper
0.25 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons cress, chopped
1 small cooking apple, chopped (0.5 to 0.75 cup)
2 lbs/1 kg lean boneless pork loin or shoulder

Place the roast in a large container.
Mix the oil, honey, wine, apple and seasonings; pour the marinade over the roast. Cover the container with a lid. Place the roast in the refrigerator and marinade for at least four hours. 
Put the roast in a roasting pan and cover with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake in a preheated oven, 325°F/160°C/GM 3, for 1 to 1.5 hours or until the center temperature has reached 170°F/75°C.
Let the roast stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Æppla Syfling (Apple Butter)
Makes 1.5 cups.

Note: While we use apple butter on bread, the Anglo-Saxons used fruit sauces on meat.

2 medium cooking apples, peeled and finely chopped (2 cups)
8 fl oz/1 cup/240 mL cider or apple juice
2 tablespoons liquid honey
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
0.25 teaspoon dried mint leaves, crushed
0.25 teaspoon ground cumin

Boil the apples in the cider (or juice) for 30 minutes or until they are soft; purée.
Thoroughly mix the honey and spices into the apple purée.
Let the sauce cool first, if serving it with bread.


Peru on Wine (Pears in Wine Sauce)
Serves 4.

4 small hard pears peeled and sliced.
2 fl oz/0.25 cup/60mL red wine
6 oz/0.25 cup/170g liquid honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
0.5 teaspoon ground cloves
0.125 teaspoon ground cumin
0.125 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/GM 4.
Place the pears in a baking dish (8x8 inch; 20x20 cm)
Mix the wine, honey and spices and pour over the pears.
Cover the pears with a lid or foil; bake at 350°F/180°C/GM 4 for one hour or until tender. Serve the pears either hot or cold.

~~~

It's always bothered me some that Éowyn -- an intelligent, capable woman who was raised in a culture that revolves around the feasting hall -- was portrayed as being a terrible cook in the movies. I decided to "fix" that. ;-)


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