Several years ago I was telling Cousin Ruthie about a book Richard bought me, and how much I enjoyed it.
The real treasure, she said, is having a son who knows what his mother loves to read.
Before Richard returned to Belgium in July, he gave me George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice five-pack: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons.
I had heard of the Game of Thrones series on HBO, but had not watched it. From bits and pieces I’d read about the shows, the whole thing sounded too violent, too weird, like too many dungeons and dragons for me.
But here I was, with my little library, and an empty nest shared with my 87-year-old mother. I started the first book and I told Richard I was enjoying it, but thought I’d alternate each volume with a “normal” book.
“Oh no,” he said, “I think you should read them one right after the other.”
Well, one-third of the way through A Game of Thrones, I was hooked. There was no going back to “normal”.
During the Olympics, I heard a journalist refer to a fencing match as sword fighting and I thought to myself, she must be a Game of Thrones groupie too. In September, I began wondering if the coyote/fox a neighbor spotted was really a direwolf. And soon, I started hungering for a glass of wine and a little snack to accompany my bedside reading.
What do I love so much about the books? The characters. The suspense. George R.R. Martin’s writing. And, perhaps the biggest surprise of all, I am drawn in (to the books as well as the refrigerator) with his descriptions of food.
The food connection carries throughout all five books, but it wasn’t until I was devouring A Dance with Dragons that I started making notes.
Page 79: “They nibbled on spiced sausage that morning, washed down with a dark smokeberry brown. Jellied eels and Dornish reds filled their afternoon. Come evening there were sliced hams, boiled eggs, and roasted larks stuffed with garlic and onions, with pale ales and Myrish fire wines to help in their digestion.“
Well, anything stuffed with garlic and onions makes my mouth water, and a Myrish fire wine sounds perfect for sipping with the fowl in front of a stone hearth.
Page 542: “The Lord of White Harbor had furnished the food and drink. Black stout and yellow beer and wines red and gold and purple, brought up from the warm south on flat-bottomed ships and aged in his deep cellars. The wedding guests gorged on cod cakes and winter squash, hills of neeps and great round wheels of cheese, on smoking slabs of mutton and beef ribs charred almost black, and lastly on three great wedding pies as wide across as wagon wheels, their flaky crusts stuffed to bursting with carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips, mushrooms and chunks of seasoned pork swimming in a savory brown gravy.”
Neeps, it turns out, is a Scottish term for turnips…I never knew that. It’s more than coincidence that I started gathering turnips in my market bag along with sweet potatoes and carrots for roasting. And just imagine “pies as wide across as wagon wheels”—what a visual—even though they wouldn’t fit in my oven!
Page 553: “The feast continued late into the night, presided over by the grinning skull on its pillar of black marble. Seven courses were served, in honor of the seven gods and the seven brothers of the Kingsguard. The soup was made with eggs and lemons, the long green peppers stuffed with cheese and onions. There were lamprey pies, capons glazed with honey, a whiskerfish from the bottom of the Greenblood that was so big it took four serving men to carry it to table. After that came a savory snake stew, chunks of seven different sorts of snake slow simmered with dragon peppers and blood oranges and a dash of venom to give it a good bite. The stew was fiery hot, Hotah knew, though he tasted none of it. Sherbet followed, to cool the tongue. For the sweet, each guest was served a skull of spun sugar. When the crust was broken, they found sweet custard inside with bits of plum and cherry.”
Wouldn’t that be the perfect Halloween spread? No feasting for me. I’m in withdrawal. Book No. 6 isn’t due out until 2017, and Winter is Coming. Happy reading. Happy eating. Laurie Lynch
Written on Blackwood Vale Slate: “Past a certain point, all the dates grow hazy and confused, and the clarity of history becomes the fog of legend.” George R.R. Martin