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Merry's Mulled Cider and Chai Spiced Tea

Merry’s Mulled Cider and Chai Spiced Tea

“And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them).” — The Lord of the Rings, Prologue.

It’s the season for invitations to holiday parties, most of which you cannot decline lest you find yourself alone at home next year.   Some Hobbits enjoy staying at home with a pipe and a pint; but they would not wish to be rude.  Miss Dora Baggins’ Book of Manners was the definitive work on Hobbit meals and etiquette. It was followed exactly by all good Hobbit wives and husbands. So off they would go, from party to party to party, eating their way across the Shire from breakfast to second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner and supper.

You wouldn’t hear the words “No, thanks, I’m dieting,” at one of these parties!   There would be huge glazed hams, sweet baby carrots, buttery potatoes, fried mushrooms, and mouth-watering breads.  For dessert there would be scones, cakes and tarts.  As for beverages, Hobbits are fond of good wine and ale, but they also enjoy a nice cup of tea or a mulled apple cider.

Estella and Merry Brandybuck usually had tea with Pippin and Diamond Took and their son Faramir.  Often they would invite Samwise and Rosie but only when school was in session.  Oh, they loved all 13 of the Gamgee children, but having so many little Hobbits around at tea time made the whole affair pointless.  There was simply too much noise and activity to relax and talk with old friends.

After Frodo left the Shire for the Gray Havens, the three didn’t speak as much about their journey when they were together.  But now and then, at tea time, the room would grow still, and everyone would lift their cups in silence to the memory of Frodo.  How thankful they were for their friendship, and the good things of the Shire — like a pint of mulled cider or a cup of spiced tea.  It was good to be home, feeling safe again, since King Aragorn re-gained the throne of Gondor and brought peace to all the residents of Middle-earth.


Hobbits will write poems about you when you serve this delicacy!

 

Rivendell Hall of Fire Black-Bottom Cheesecake Muffins

What would it be like to have 3,000 years ahead of you — what would you do with the time?
 
When they weren’t fighting off the armies of Sauron and saving men, hobbits and dwarves from orcs, the Elves used the time that they were given perfecting the art of forging the finest swords in all of Middle-earth, stitching intricately embroidered banners and tapestries, and relaxing together as a community with fine food and friends. 
 
When Bilbo first came to Rivendell he charmed the Elves with his extemporaneous poetry at their evening gathering at Elrond’s House, in the Hall of Fire.   (This was on Bilbo’s adventure with the Dwarves to recover their wealth from the dragon Smaug.)  Lucky for this Hobbit there were Elves who had perfected the art of cooking!  They provided the community with such tasty morsels as these Black-Bottom Cheesecake Muffins to cap off a night of “spoken word” performances.  And since Bilbo could go on and on into the night, obviously enjoying the spotlight and camaraderie, everyone must have gotten the munchies before he finally gave out and they could retire to their beds. 
 
Chocolate is a universally adored confection, and this recipe is easy to like.  While I believe I followed the directions correctly, I thought the cream cheese mixture was a little runny.  It didn’t sink into the chocolate batter base like I expected it would.  The  result was fine, but I was expecting a creamier cream cheese center.  I probably overfilled the muffin tins or perhaps my baking soda was a little close to its expiration date, but the muffins raised and then the tops went flat and crunchy. 
 
I planned to serve them for a birthday party at work, but they didn’t look as good as I wanted.  I had taken the suggestion in the recipe to double the ingredients for the chocolate base so  there was enough batter after 12 muffins to make a 9 inch square cake.  I spooned the cream cheese mixture into the cake same as directed for muffins, then swirled it around a bit for a marbled effect.  But I got worried that it would be  dry the next day, so I bought hot fudge sauce and, just before the party,  I warmed up the cake and poured the hot fudge on top, letting it drizzle down the sides.   We served it with triple vanilla ice cream and fresh raspberries!
 
 

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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