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Back in the finer days, before orcs and cave trolls ravaged the great city of Dwarrowdelf, Balin’s kin would gather for his legendary feasts, which always included his famous Spiced Beef.  Now the dwarven people, as we well know, are a rather proud folk; prone to boasting and very fond of contests to demonstrate their prowess.  Games of one-ups-man-ship between best mates were a daily occurrence.

And so, on the mornings before Balin’s gatherings, it was customary for the elder dwarf to summon a few of the younger dwarves and challenge them with the question, “which of you lads has the sharpest axe, the best aim, and the strongest arm?”

As each one roared, “I DO!,” they snapped to attention, fixing their eyes on Balin’s eyes, planting feet firmly in the soil and crossing their arms over puffed-out chests.  “Well, then,” Balin continued, “it seems as though we have a stalemate – each of you believes he is the best, but only one can be the champion.  We will have a contest.  I plan a feast for tomorrow, and we are short on game.   Go out to the hunt, and bring us back a prize.  The first one to return before nightfall with the largest kill shall be the champion.”

As the young dwarves ran to gather their weapons, Balin would turn to his best huntsmen and, with a wink and a nod from him, the men set about the task of butchering the game they had caught before that morning’s sunrise.  Even if the lads managed to bring back a fox or a few rabbits, let alone a buck, it wouldn’t be enough to fill this hearty and hungry lot.  And it would take hours for the meat to slowly roast until it fell cleanly off the bone.  They would have the day to get at least the first course ready to eat.

The young champion had the honor of being seated next to Balin at the feast, his contribution to the meal now roasted to perfection.  The first bite was Balin’s, who would proclaim that it was the most delicious of all the choices laid out before them.  The cousins and brothers, mothers and sisters, grandmothers and other elders of the company would then cheer the young hunter and dig into the feast.  Strong drink flowed and merry songs of conquests were sung with great gusto. 

Torches were lit from the fire and families slowly went off to sleep, filled not just with food, but the hospitality of their friend and elder, Balin, who was greatly esteemed by all who knew him.

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This is a very delicious recipe that works well in a crock pot but for authenticity why not try a cast iron dutch oven if you can find one.  Add vegetables to make it a stew if you like, and soak up the juices with a crusty garlic bread!  We also suggest shredding the cooked beef for sandwiches to stave off your hunger while you watch the Oscars to see how The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey was honored.

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Meals that say “I’m Home”

Frodo lived alone at Bag End for years after his uncle Bilbo left.  Now that he was back from saving Middle-earth and the Shire was restored, he tried to settle in to his former way of life.  But it didn’t seem like home without his dear friend Sam.  Sam and Frodo became house mates and,  after Sam married Rosie, Frodo welcomed the couple to stay.

One day soon after moving in, Sam found an interesting box in the closet of his room.  The box was hidden at the back where the light was very dim along with several other boxes of various sizes.  Taking it into the light he discovered a thick book held shut with a strip of leather.  It was with utter delight that he opened the slightly dusty cover and read these words:  “A Collection of Favourite Recipes by Primula Brandybuck Baggins.” 

Sam was excited to show Mr. Frodo this treasure and began to call for him to come quick!   Something in Frodo cringed to hear his friend call out this way, wondering if he were again in danger.  So he was relieved to see Sam sitting on his bed bent over a book!  “Look Mr. Frodo!”  Sam shouted.  “It’s your mum’s old recipe book!”  Frodo took the book in his hands and a warmth came over him as he carefully leafed through it.  Sam excitedly proclaimed that he would cook the meal of Mr. Frodo’s choice from that book this very night! 

 “What should it be, Mr. Frodo?” Sam asked.  “Is there somethin’ in that book about pumpkins?  Cause we got a right big one ready for pickin’ in the garden.”

Indeed, there was!  “Stuffed Pumpkin,” Frodo answered.  As he said the words aloud they felt familiar, somehow. Sam set to work straight away and soon their home was filled with wonderful fragrances that promised a delicious meal.   Frodo continued to ponder the feelings that stirred within him.   He wasn’t sure if he was happy or sad or somewhere between.  By the time he and Sam filled their bowls, Frodo’s memory came fully back to him of times his mum carried her stuffed pumpkin steaming hot from the oven with a proud smile on her face.  He remembered fondly sitting at table with his parents and  in his heart he could almost hear her in the next room telling him to wash up for supper.

Frodo looked up from his bowl. Putting down the spoon he sat back for a moment.  Sam began to question his cooking as Frodo’s face was hard to read.  “Is everything all right Mr. Frodo?”

And Frodo looked at his friend with a slow growing smile and a twinkle in his eyes.  Because he finally understood.  Frodo softly answered, “I’m home, Sam.  I’m finally home.”

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