Where to start with my feelings about A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook? Authors Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer have been up to their elbows in the food of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire for over a year. They were passionate about the series, and after talking about how nice it would be to have one of Sansa’s treasured lemon cakes, they decided to just make them. It took off from there, and they started a blog to document their experiments, The Inn at the Crossroads.
They realized that the food mentioned in delectable detail in the series closely parallels medieval style fare. They researched in earnest, finding old recipes, trying them, and then creating modern day versions. They’d post both on their blog. Their attention to the minutiae and their love for the book series and the new (at the time) television show, Game of Thrones, quickly became apparent. Somewhere along the way, GRRM himself took notice and praised their work. He liked what they were doing so much that he sanctioned a cookbook and even wrote an introduction for it. I’m in love with it, and I think any fan of A Song of Ice and Fire who enjoys food will feel the same.
First of all, the superficial. The book is a hardcover, and it’s sturdy. I’ve seen people knock the price of $35, but folks: you get what you pay for (and if you order on Amazon, it’s currently $22). The layout is attractive, and there are several glossy photos of finished recipes. Besides the lovely introduction from GRRM, there are sections covering how to stock a medieval kitchen, how to make some of the basic medieval recipes referenced throughout the book, and tips on throwing a full-on feast. The recipes are split up by region (The Wall, King’s Landing, etc), and each recipe lists other items that could go with it and puts the page number for each suggested pairing.
These all may sound like obvious things for a cookbook, but you’d be surprised at how many leave out the basics. I have to say that even if you just have a passion for the series and have no interest in cooking, this would still be fun to own and would make a nice coffee table book because of the high quality presentation.
Now, to the food! The recipes are well researched and fit in with the book. They are not gratuitous. By that I mean the authors didn’t slap Westerosi words and character names on just any old recipe. The food fits the region, and if there is a character name in the title, it’s for a reason. They also limit the recipes to items that were actually in Westeros. For example, there aren’t any tomatoes in the books so none of the recipes include them.
The actual recipes are clear and easy to understand. I am a capable cook, not beginner and not crazy experienced, and no recipes I tried were beyond me. In fact, many dishes were quite simple to prepare. Most recipes have medieval and modern versions, and it’s fun to try out both to figure out which you like best. If you find yourself stumped or needing help, the authors are there for you too. Contact them on the blog linked above or look them up on social media. They’re happy to answer questions about recipes. That accessibility is reassuring!
I particularly like that despite the fact that these recipes certainly lend themselves to a grand, themed feast (my friends and I are prepping one for the season two finale of Game of Thrones on Sunday), they’re also ideal for everyday meals. Breakfast at Winterfell has become one of my go to weekend breakfasts. It’s simple – a soft boiled egg, bacon, and bread – but just preparing a meal tied to one of my favorite series makes me smile. And smiling in the mornings isn’t something I do often.
I like to flip through the pages and choose a side dish to accompany a weeknight dinner of salad or chicken breast. The Roman Buttered Carrots only took a little prep time, and let me tell you – carrots have never tasted so good. I’ve also made the beets (which I keep trying to like, but even with mouthwatering butter and parsley I’m still not a big fan), roasted onions with gravy (oh my), and white beans and bacon. I’ve also set aside some weekend time to bake the modern version of lemon cakes, beef and bacon pie, and poached pears. I didn’t have issues with any of the recipes.
The cookbook even tackles some more exotic meats including rattlesnake, quail, duck (not exactly exotic but not available everywhere), and boar. With a little effort, you can find cuts of these meats available at a local market or even from the internet. I was too lazy to seek any of these out, but I plan to eventually! The great part is that there are plenty of tasty recipes to try if you just want to stick with chicken, lamb, and beef.
Sure, you’ll love and treasure this cookbook more if you’ve actually read the series, but even those not well versed with Westeros can enjoy and follow these recipes. Honeyed chicken sounds delicious regardless of whether you know it’s referencing a meal Jon Snow and Ghost consumed or not. I will caution that if you have not read the books and do not want to be spoiled at all be careful about reading the quotes above the recipes. The authors pull food and beverage mentions up to most recent book, A Dance With Dragons. They’re spoilers in that if a name is mentioned in the quote, you’ll know that character is still alive in the given book. In my opinion, it’s minor.
One more thing. If you’re still on the fence about the cookbook, visit their blog to get an idea of what you’ll find in the book. Intrigued? Order A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook and read my interview with the authors.