Thursday, March 12, 2009

Recipe: A Hobbit Breakfast

Hobbit Breakfast

There is nothing a Hobbit likes more than a good breakfast. In fact, they are famous for it. A good hobbit breakfast could contain a variety of delightful comestibles. Certainly eggs, done by whichever method served your fancy, bacon, fried mushrooms and bread, black pudding if you are adventurous and perhaps some little sausages, all served with a nice cup of tea. Tolkien took inspiration for the Hobbit breakfast from the traditional English breakfast and in recreating a Hobbit breakfast care should be taken to look at the traditional English breakfast, not the variety of imitations that have sprung up. No baked beans, french fries or pancakes, I am afraid. Nor tomatoes, while they are a part of the traditional English breakfast, they are not a Middle Earth food.
I will be providing a list of ingredients rather than a precise recipe for Hobbit breakfast, for while the essential eggs and bacon remains, the extras can be varied. I am also assuming that anyone who reads this will understand how to fry foodstuffs. Obviously tailor the amounts depending on how many people you are serving, and their appetites.

I do not think it necessary to post specific citations mentioning hobbit breakfasts as there are so many, but for forms sake both breakfast and a 'nice little second breakfast' are mentioned on page thirty seven of the Hobbit, the first page of the chapter entitled "Roast Mutton".

The Hobbit Breakfast Guide:

Eggs: The freshest eggs you can find, fried, boiled, poached or scrambled.
Bacon rashers: Nice, thick bacon fried until crispy (Canadian style bacon, to the Americans out there)
Fried mushrooms.
Bread: Toasted, fried or even just a buttered bread roll. If serving boiled eggs, have toast rather than fried bread.
Sausages: Plain pork sausage would be my preference, avoid flavoured or spicy sausages.
Black pudding. Fried with the rest.
Porridge: For those with truly impressive appetites.
Devilled kidneys: The quintessential English Gentleman’s breakfast item.
Kippers: Smoked herring.
Jam and marmalade: If serving toast rather than fried bread, consider a selection of fine jams and marmalades.
English style tea and coffee.

Recipe: Seed Cake

"But I don't mind some cake - seed cake, if you have any." -Balin, The Hobbit, An Unexpected Party, page 19.

The first recipe to be posted here, huzzah! Seed cake is mentioned very early on in the Hobbit, so it seemed a logical place to start.
The recipe I followed came from an early 20th century copy of Mrs Beaton, it is a very traditional English cake and it is safe to assume that it is the type Tolkien would have been familiar with, though I welcome any discussion on this point.
The cake turned out well, after a few small issues such as misreading the scales and putting in 100g extra butter. It has a dense, soft texture on the inside and quite a lot of thick, golden, biscuity crust. Delicious with a good, milky tea, sweetened to taste. The cake has a mild licorice flavour from the caraway seeds, but do not be put off if you do not like licorice, it is quite palatable. The cake is robust enough that you could double the amount of caraway seeds and spices, and even throw in a handful of candied citrus peel.

Seed Cake

350g of butter

450g/3 cups of plain flour (all purpose)

350g/1 3/4 cups castor sugar

2 tablespoons of caraway seeds

6 eggs, whisked

Milk, if needed

1 teaspoon Mace, ground

Nutmeg, grated, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3.

2. Grease and line an 8 inch (20cm) round cake tin.

3. Cream the butter with the sugar, then sift in the flour.

4. Add the mace, nutmeg and caraway seeds, mix together well.

5. Stir in the whisked eggs, and enough milk to make a thick, soft batter. Beat the cake again for 2-3 minutes, until smooth.

6. Pour mixture into cake tin and bake for 1 1/2-2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cake. The cake should be well risen and a deep golden brown in colour.

Canon: What it means and its relevance

What is Canon?

Canon is a term used to describe official aspects of a fantasy world, such as Middle Earth. In the context of this blog, canon will mean food or drink which is unequivocally present in the world because it is officially quoted. Throughout this blog I will include page numbers and quotes from my copies of the books, edition details will be provided below as specifics may vary from edition to edition.


The Lord of the Rings trilogy. (1993, Harper Collins, Great Britain)
The Hobbit. (1989, Unwin Hyman, London)
The Simarillion.
Any published literature set in or relating to Middle Earth by either of the Tolkiens.
Interviews with J.R.R Tolkien .

An example of a Canon recipe would be Seed Cake, mentioned on page nineteen of An Unexpected party.
I will provide a list of all Hobbit foodstuffs and dishes mentioned in the books shortly, and over time work to provide recipes for all specific dishes.


Guides to Middle Earth published by other writers: These can be a problem. If the scholarship is good, then they should be canonical, but if it is lacking it may be they make assumptions as to Hobbit food which may not match with what is set up by the official Canon. A grey area, requires caution.

Lord of the Rings Online: Highly scrutinized in terms of Lore by the Tolkien gurus, but not canonical. Things can be done in LOTRO which are not represented in the world of the books, so long as they are consistent with the theme and ‘flavour’. There is a Cooking profession with many recipes which could have some bearing on this blog, if it is accepted as canon. Again, discretion required.

I may on occasion discuss semi-canonical sources.

Non canon:

Fan fiction
Anything written without sources.
The Peter Jackson films. Brilliant yes, but too many liberties taken to trust (tomatoes are mentioned).

I may talk about the films now and then, but on the whole non-canon sources will be avoided.

The relevance of Canon to this blog?

Most of the recipes I post will not be mentioned in the books at all, but I will explain why I think they should be included as Hobbit recipes. In a sense these recipes will be non-canonical. But in terms of the canon mentioned above, I aim to include recipes for all specific Hobbit dishes mentioned in Canon sources. The recipes on this blog will, I hope, be acceptable as semi-canonical as my reasons for inclusion will be grounded in the canon.

What is NOT Hobbit food.

Hobbit food is NOT American, Mexican, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern etc.

New World Foodstuffs:
Tolkien specifically ruled out any New World foods, with the big exception of potatoes, (and pipeweed/tobacco) for Hobbits. Potatoes are allowed, Tolkien decided that they were such a staple of the English diet they had to be included, so they are referred to as taters and it opens the possibility that canonically they are NOT potatoes, but an identical kind of tuber. For our purposes, potatoes are in.
Tomatoes are out. Sorry. Yes, part of the quintessential English breakfast, amongst other things, but Tolkien ditched them.
All other New World foodstuffs are to be avoided, so no:
Maize (for you Americans out there, there are repeated references to corn in the Books, corn is a generic term for grains, generally it means wheat)
Etc etc.

Tropical foodstuffs:
None of it, sorry. Tropical fruits did not become common in England until after WWII. Even today pineapple is considered very exotic.

Mediterranean foodstuffs:
No garlic, no European mustards (English mustard is fine) and cheeses, nuts, salamis, etc.
No olive oil. In fact, no oil, Hobbits cook with butter.
No Pasta.
No foccacia and bruschetta etc.

The above all apply to all Middle Earth too, not just the Shire. There is no New World or tropics in Middle Earth.

Problematic. The English did of course eat seafood, minus such things as prawns and calamari. But not so much inland, and the Shire is unfortunately landlocked and some distance from the sea. I personally would accept sea fish as an occasional Hobbit foodsource, perhaps imported and generally salted or smoked, not fresh. Oysters, mussels, winkles etc. were a part of traditional English cuisine and may be included in moderation, though I do not believe there is any canonical support for them. Discretion required.

There is a quote from Tolkien during an interview where he was asked about what Hobbits would eat, and he said something along the lines of "none of that cuisine mystique." So take him at his word. No aioli and emulsions.

What IS Hobbit Food?

Hobbit food is good, simple ENGLISH rustic cooking.

Anything that would have existed in the West Midlands (the counties Tolkien based the Shire on) in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Pies, tarts, roasts, English cheeses, cakes, muffins, scones, ham, bacon, eggs, puddings, pastries, etc.
Beer, ale, ciders, a little wine, the odd gin or scotch are all acceptable beverages, along with any non alcoholic beverages they may have had in rural England c1800. Tea and coffee, of course. Tea arrived in England prior to 1700 so Tolkien deemed it perfectly acceptable.
Coffee. Coffee originated in Ethiopia and had found itself in England by the mid 17th century, so well and truly acceptable. Indeed, coffee is canon.
Below is a list of foods that are mentioned specifically in The Hobbit, and are thus canon, although some are not mentioned in direct relation to the Shire (example or caveat in brackets):

Cakes (seed cake)
Pies (pork pie)
Bread (English rustic style, NOT Italian rustic style)
Cream (clotted cream)
Pickles (I would assume chutneys as well)
Herbs (sorrel, any herb would have been grown in 18-19th century England would be acceptable)



Roasting, grilling and barbecuing are mentioned as cooking methods. Barbecuing would not be the American equivalent, just simple cooking on an outside fire. No mesquite.

The quintessential thing to remember is that all of Middle Earth is based on England to some degree. The hobbits are the pastoralists, the Rohan were the Anglo-Saxons, etc. Stick to this English rustic theme, anything else lacks any kind of authenticity.

Food of the Shire

So you want to learn about the Shires finest dishes, do you, young Hobbit? Well, sitdown, order some ale (it is very good here you know, the finest in theEastfarthing) and I will tell you what I can.
-Dan Baggins, Hobbit Gourmand.

Welcome to Food of the Shire, the first blog (that I'm aware of)
to deal with the food and cooking of the Hobbits from J.R.R Tolkiens Middle Earth fantasy world.Much has been written about the Hobbits and the Shire, outside of Tolkiens original books. There is even some small amount of literature regarding the food of the Shire. But no where is there any website or book which gives practical advice and recipes for the recreation of Hobbit food.How can this be done, given that the Hobbits are fantasy creatures, and the Shire does not exist?

Both the Hobbits and the Shire reflect the old pastoral view of England, the idyllic English countryside of the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I will be taking recipes from old English sources, such as Mrs Beaton, which I believe can be justified for inclusion as a Hobbit recipe. I will write why I think this is the case, then reproduce the recipe, and if possible, follow the recipe myself and talk about the results. Then whether you are looking to have a Hobbit themed dinner party, just cook something to wat while watching the Peter Jackson films, or just learn about what those little Hobbits ate, you will have somewhere to come.

All constructive comments and suggestions welcome. Do not just take my word for why a recipe or foodstuff should or should not be included in a Hobbit Food Manifesto, tell me what you think.I will do my best to update this blog regularly, once every one to two weeks, and atleast one recipe a month, but due to real-life responsibilities this may not be possible.

Legal stuff: Hobbit, Middle Earth, etc, all copyright of Tolkien etc, everything is my opinion