When Peter Jackson’s first Lord of the Rings film opened in December of 2001, I began a long tradition of associating Tolkien stories with the holiday season. I read all the books. My father re-read them. And for a few years seeing one of the Lord of the Rings films with my Dad became an important Christmas ritual.
This holiday season, I was excited to renew that tradition by seeing the newest Tolkien film, The Hobbit. In preparation, I started reading the book and I was pleased to discover that Mr. Bilbo Baggins is a foodie!
The Hobbit opens with a description of a hobbit-hole which means comfort. Shortly after that, 13 uninvited guests show up for tea and then stay for supper. In other words, it’s your typical day in the life of the Garlic, My Soul kitchen.
The first chapter of the Hobbit casually lists the menu for an impromptu tea with 13 dwarfs: tea; beer; seed-cakes; ale; porter; coffee; cakes; buttered scones; raspberry jam and apple-tart; mince-pies and cheese; eggs; cold chicken and pickles; and biscuits. That’s just one meal! If you’re like 10 million other people, and you saw the movie last weekend, you know there was a delightful scene in which Jackson captured the wealth of Bilbo Baggins’ well-stocked larder. All this got me thinking about the kinds of hearty, home-grown, comfort foods that hobbits must eat.
Right away, I thought of my favorite cold-weather comfort food, cassoulet. Cassoulet is a traditional French peasant dish that’s slow-cooked and features seasonal root vegetables, cannellini beans, and pork or duck. The peasant roots of this dish have always appealed to me, because its most important ingredients are interchangeable depending on whatever you might have on hand. I like to think a hobbit would also appreciate a dish that is at once so practical and so delicious.
Now, I’ve made cassoulet before with spicy pork sausage using this recipe from Real Simple. This time, however, I substituted spicy lamb merguez sausage both to try something new and because it felt more hobbit-esque.
To accompany my lamb stew, I needed hearty homemade bread. This recipe from the Pioneer Woman for rosemary onion bread with blue cheese topping is an old favorite and seemed perfect for the job. I swear I saw a plate of these exact rolls being passed around by the dwarfs in the movie!
And to wash it all down? Ice cold beer of course. Hobbits are known to love their pints, so we made sure to include a brown ale with our hobbit meal!
In my mind, eating like a hobbit means eating comfort foods made with fresh, local ingredients. Fresh and local is always good, but it’s those comfort foods that warm our hearts and make it really feel like the holidays.
What are your seasonal favorites that could be Hobbit foods?