When I was a young girl, my Dad introduced me to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Dad ran a drugstore in Nelson, Nebraska: “Young’s Pharmacy,” where he sold not only prescriptions and bandaids, but also cherry phosphates and root beer floats and coffee at the soda fountain, and magazines and paperback books in the window nook. I hung out at the drugstore quite a bit, and when I was old enough, I worked there. My favorite place to be was in that window nook, surrounded by the newest copies of my favorite comic books and tantalizing new paperback books.
When a shipment of new books came in, the old ones were stripped of their covers (I know, *gasp*), which were sent back to the publisher for credit; the cover-less books were then pitched into the trash can. The same ill treatment was applied to the comic books. When I discovered piles of cover-less books in the trash can, I asked Dad why I couldn’t just take them home? He said if I wanted to dig them out of the trash, I could have as many as I wanted, but it would have been against the marketing rules for him to save them for me.
So I became a dumpster diver at a very young age. I couldn’t understand why–even when I put up a very large, creatively-lettered sign above the trash bin–the clerks at the store wouldn’t put aside the trashed comic books and paperbacks for me to sort through. But I guess they were trying to be honest to the publisher and whatnot.
No matter. I still hauled home armloads of treasure dug out of the trash bin. Richie Rich. Archie and Veronica. Casper the Ghost. Barbara Cartland. Best of all, I discovered J.R.R. Tolkien. Dad actually pulled out a copy of The Hobbit from the trash bin, and handed it to me and told me that I’d like it. He was right: I did. And when The Lord of the Rings books were published, I selfishly dug through the trash bin for them, too.
C’mon, folks, it was a very small town and it wasn’t like I had any money to spend on books. Or anything.
But gosh, reading Tolkien was like turning my black and white world of reading to vivid and sparkling color. I just loved his writing and his stories. And even back then, I could see many similarities between the way Hobbits felt about food, and the way my own family was about food.
My daughter Amalia and I have written a cookbook with a few dozen recipes that we can imagine Hobbits would prepare and enjoy. If you come back to this space on Wednesday of this week–Amalia’s birthday!–you can get a copy for your own self.
In the meanwhile, here’s how you can eat more like a Hobbit:
1. Get your food locally, as much as possible. Stay in the Shire, as it were, to do your marketing. The only goods that the hobbits seem to import are tea, coffee, and salt.
2. Prepare food as simply as you can, to retain nutrients, and for ease and because then you have time to eat it. Hobbits especially loved “hot soup, cold meats, a blackberry tart, new loaves, slabs of butter, and half a ripe cheese. Good plain food, as good as the Shire could grow.” As for sauces and seasonings, they are seldom mentioned in Tolkien’s works. Hobbits evidently did not favor rich sauces or dressings.
3. Grow as much of your food as you have time to do so. Hobbits were entranced by their gardens, and “growing food and eating it occupied most of their time.”
4. Pack your pantry, freezer, and second pantry full through the growing season, and then eat from them all winter long.
Hobbits work very hard to keep their larders and pantries well-stocked. They squirrel away many vegetables and fruits, jams and preserves, meats, cakes and scones, pastries and pies, tea, coffee, beer, and occasionally wine. As I mentioned earlier, the food of Hobbits is very simple–though Hobbits do love abundant fresh herbs and a pinch of salt.
Almost all Hobbit food seems to have been grown, raised, collected, brewed, processed, and baked in the Shire. This feat inspired great pride and perhaps even a little smugness amongst the Hobbits, and I completely understand why.
It is quite a job to produce nearly all your food, but it is satisfying work.
5. Grow your own meat, or buy from a farmer who treats his animals with respect. Eat plenty of meat, but let it be meat that you’ve either raised yourself, trapped or caught yourself (in the matter of rabbits and fish) or purchased from a neighbor.
6. Use plenty of fresh (and dried, during the winter) herbs. Grow as many as you can in your own garden. Many herbs look just beautiful in the flower garden, as well. So buying herb plants in the early spring (your local nursery or farmer’s market probably has a wonderful selection then) and planting them with your early spring annuals in your beds and pots is an easy way to add more herbs to your landscape, and to your meals!
7. Share meals with friends and family. Sit down with the family and eat meals together. When Bilbo heard the doorbell and, thinking it was Gandalf coming for tea, he “put on the kettle, and put out another cup and saucer, and an extra cake or two.” It’s a Jesus thing, too. Practice hospitality!
8. Teach your little ones how to tend the garden, and how to prepare food, and how to clean up after food preparation, too. Teach them to bless those around them!
9. Eat an abundance of fresh foods, in a great variety. Already we have seen the hobbits enjoy a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other plants: apples, turnips, carrots, onions, mushrooms, corn, blackberries, and pickles. We know also that Sam was fond of potatoes, and they are the Gaffer’s “delight.” As the hobbits picked blackberries, they probably also picked other seasonal berries, for eating and for tarts and jams, such as the raspberry jam requested by Bifor. They collected honey and eggs. Hobbits also were fond of—and probably made their own—cheeses, butter, bread, and preserves.
They also mastered the art of baking: seed-cakes, fruit tarts, scones, and pies were all favorite Hobbit fare.
10. Have as many celebrations–(hint: small ones are just as fun as big ones, and are a lot less work)–as you can swing. Celebrate National Pie Day, for example. And Friday. And February. And Regional Hug a Goat Day, and so forth.
We’re all about a merrier world, here at vomitingchicken.com, right, Gentle Reader? Totally in favor of a merrier world. 🙂
11. Buy our recipe book on Wednesday! My daughter and I have written an ebook which will be available on Amalia’s 16th birthday: this Wednesday, in fact, February the 11th. In it are plenty of delicious, easy-to-make, Hobbit-inspired recipes, using all of the standards above. The photographs are drool-worthy. You’re going to want it, you are!
Oh, I almost forgot! The title of the book is “Recipes from a Halfling’s Pantry: Lots of These.”
Thanks for reading, Gentle Reader!
(And yes, I know I actually came up with 11 tips . . . Hobbits aren’t all that into the maths, you know. . .)
Update: OH! The ebook is released: check it out here!
- The Nourishing Homestead, by Ben Hewitt: fun comes in threes!
- It’s Here! “Recipes from a Halfling’s Pantry: lots of these” ebook