Hobbits and Their Love of Food
Tolkien inspired me to take an interest in so many aspects of life. Cooking, gardening, crafting, hiking, travelling, history, and languages have fascinated me since I dived deep into the pages of middle earth and lost myself in Tolkien's intricately detailed world.
This hub is dedicated to my favourite author, his books set in middle earth, and his obvious love of good, healthy food!
Clean water is precious
Potable water for cleaning, drinking and cooking is of great importance.
Our bodies are made of mostly water, and a good amount of (healthy) liquid intake per day is required to keep them running well.
During the trek through Mordor, Sam's desperate worries were the dwindling of their food supplies, and the lack of clean water to drink.
Upon the hobbits' return to the Shire, they noted the fouling of the lakes and rivers by the rise of heavier industry.
Pumping unclean water onto crops destroys the land, wild animals and insects depart for healthier pastures, farmed animals sicken, and tree growth is stunted when the only water roots can reach is polluted or salty.
Clean water is not just necessary for our bodies, but for the entire ecosystem. Water is also important for making beer, wine and mead! Precious indeed!
Meals throughout the day
Eating smaller meals throughout the day is normal in Hobbiton. By eating many small meals you avoid the sugar crash and tiredness between meals, which usually results in poor snack choices or overeating at mealtimes. It is also then easier to maintain a varied diet.
Taking a break more often also helps with stress levels, and can help with solving problems, especially if time is taken to enjoy the meal. The brain can switch to a more creative problem solving mode.
A varied diet is best
A varied diet can stave off boredom, keep family members' interest, provide talking points for visitors, and improve your cooking skills.
You learn more about the world, about nutrition and health by learning about different foods and cooking styles.
A variety of foods, dishes and cooking styles is best for gathering the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. It is much more natural than popping a bunch of pills each morning.
But I also learnt that if you only have access to the same food day in, day out, you will get bored, you may succumb to sickness more easily, but you won't die.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with falling back to favourite foods and dishes every now and again. It is easy to lose inspiration in the hassle and busy-ness of everyday living, but a new ingredient, a new dish, a different spice, a new method of cooking, can provide a bright spot in a dull yet hectic week.
There are so many different foods and dishes to sample - the road is long, let's vary the culinary scenery on our journey!
Everything in moderation
Overeating, over drinking, or even over-partaking of one particular food or drink is not healthy. One food does not give the body the nutrients it needs. Too much food oversupplies the body with energy, which is later stored as fat. Too much alcohol can cause many problems, just as too much beer resulted in careless hobbits at the inn in Bree.
Too much of anything, is not good.
A dire lack of food is also obviously not healthy, causing illness and can eventually lead to death. We see Frodo wither and become thin on his trek to Mordor thanks to too little food. Most weight loss diets are a form of extreme change and deprivation - often dreaded, and almost always left behind.
So, too little is also not good.
In moderation is the best motto, not too much, not too little.
Food from the wilderness
Most of the people I know are horrified if you suggest a meal of game meats. Rabbits, deer, boar, wild birds and fish are all good, healthy sources of protein. But of course, you shouldn't eat the family pet!
If you are in Australia, don't forget kangaroos, emus and crocodiles!
Berries, fruits, herbs, tubers, other vegetables, and greens, were all originally foraged for on the plains and in the forests. It doesn't need to come out of a can, or from the freezer section of the supermarket for food to be healthy.
It goes without saying that care needs to be taken, as there are a number of poisonous plants and fungi.
Growing your own food
As in the Shire, growing your own small garden of food and herb plants can provide fresh fruit and vegetables, cutting down on shopping trips and grocery bills.
Garden maintenance provides a cheap form of exercise.
And it is very rewarding to be able to say, I grew part of that meal myself!
Even if you only have a small balcony garden, you can grow a few compact vegetables, salad greens and herbs.
You never know what you'll overhear or where you mind will wander to, while working in your garden, waiting for fish to bite, or foraging in the forest.
The importance of fish
Gollum isn't exactly the best role model, but he did make fish more acceptable for me.
I grew up almost never eating fish, other than tuna or salmon from a tin. And even then, I hated it. Back then fish was definitely not juicy or delicious. But over time I learned to cook it in tasty ways, and love sashimi!
Fish is an important food for the brain and heart. Omega 3 fatty acids help with circulation and blood health, brain, tissue and nerve growth and repair, and may also help with inflammation and the immune system.
All good reasons to eat more juicy fish.
Spice with taste
In middle earth cooking was a fluid process, where spices and herbs were added to dishes according to how the dish tasted throughout the cooking process.
Herbs were added as they were in season, or from dried stores left-over from past seasons.
Cooking on the trail meant that foods caught or gathered were also spiced with herbs found locally, or from a small stock of precious spices, carried by a 'gourmet' cook (like Sam, who simply liked his salt).
Thanks to our global trade and delivery networks, we have access to a huge variety of spices with which we can play. Use your taste buds to spice a dish - it will never be the same twice, but with a little spice knowledge, it will be guaranteed to be delicious!
Tip: The best herbs are those grown in your own garden - super fresh and tasty.
Food tastes better with company
Eating with friends and family can make a meal more enjoyable. Cooking for, or even cooking with good friends and family results in meals that are produced with care, a present for the ones who eat.
An occasional all-day, or all-night feast can provide many happy memories. Add in games, stories, movies, or other fun activities and I feel it's rather reminiscent of Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving.
Plus friends and family can help you eat sweet and rich foods in moderation, helping you stick to your eating plan if you are trying to lose weight.
Conversations and laughter make meals more memorable than they would be if eaten in silence or alone.
Can you imagine what the atmosphere inside Bilbo's home would have been had the dwarves eaten in silence, instead of turning it into a rowdy feast? I doubt Bilbo would have been swept along with their plans!
What's your favourite way to consume potatoes?
Taters are versatile!
And last, but a long way from least, is the humble potato, which became popular after it was discovered in Incan societies in the early 16th century.
They can be used in so many ways, plain boiled, steamed, sautéed, roasted whole or in aluminium foil, and stuffed with meat, cheese or other vegetables.
Mashed potato with herbs and spices can be formed into such shapes as dumplings, breaded as croquettes, battered as deep fried potato cakes, or simply layered at the top of a shepherds pie.
Grated, they can be used with onions to make röschti, or with quark, egg or other seasonings to make kartoffelpuffer and latkes - potato pancakes.
They are also great cold in potato salad, or used to make various alcoholic drinks, such as vodka.
They can bulk out a stew, thicken a soup, replace the pasta to make a layered veggie bake, soak up the intense flavours of curry sauce, turn an ordinary pizza into a gourmet one, and pair with a good pasta sauce as gnocchi.
Of course, I can't leave out golden fried chips, ever popular with kids, or the more gourmet version - wedges covered in spices. And the oil-laden, more-ish, thinly sliced crisps (also known as chips in various versions of English).
Or in Sam's words, from the Two Towers movie:
"Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew... Lovely big golden chips with a nice piece of fried fish."
What did you learn about cooking and food from the Tolkien's writings, or the later films?
Let us know in the comments below!