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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.

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This post is in appreciation of a new The Middle-earth Foodie’s subscriber (are there others?) who served up a warm helping of praise with the lament that there was not more.  I hinted that a motivator might be more subscribers.  So I submit this entry, simple as it may be, to say thanks!

Summer is waning and the new school year is upon the children of Hobbiton.  After a hearty breakfast of porridge, the round doors open and the paths fill with little Proudfoots, Brandybucks, Tooks, and Gamgees tramping off to be greeted by Mayor Sam.

Each year since the Scouring of the Shire, Sam has made the same speech to the returning students.  He would not let the memory of Mr. Frodo and Mr. Bilbo fade into the distance, like the Elven ship carrying them off to the Gray Havens.   He, Merry and Pippin would make sure that the lessons of The Fellowship would be remembered for all generations of Hobbits to come.  Never again would the Shire folk stand by while their land, homes, and peaceful way of life was destroyed by evil outsiders.

And so, each year, Mayor Sam calls the little ones to gather around him under the Party Tree.  The parents and elders quiet the excited group and everyone settles in to hear the story of the journey to Mordor and back again. 

Sam’s storytelling now rivals that of Old Mr. Bilbo, and the children listen, riveted, as he draws out the sword Sting and holds up the Mithril vest worn by Frodo.  They shiver at the descriptions of Wraiths, Orcs, Wargs and of the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog.  They fall silent in wonder at the gift-giving in Lothlorien.  Their mouths gape open at the final battle between Frodo and Gollum.  

And with the Mayor’s admonitions to honor the memory of Frodo and Bilbo by respecting the land, keeping loyal to family and friends, and living a peaceful life with all residents of Middle-earth stirring their hearts, a chorus begins to rise from their midst:

Tho men may call us little, and hold that we are weak,
yet we are friends of kings and queens, there’ll be no more defeat! 
The road may lead t’ward dangers, yet we shall not lose heart. 
Evil wizards, wraiths and dragons cannot pull the Shire apart.  
Together we shall thwart them, never yielding to the threat; 
for we are made of stronger stuff than they have seen as yet! 

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.”


It was a dark and stormy night.  Four frightened Hobbits approached the Inn at Bree.

Weighted down by rain-drenched clothes and the realization that this adventure had taken a most dangerous turn indeed, they hoped for respite and a warm meal in the company of the Wizard.   But the Wizard was late.  Instead, they found themselves sharing a room with a mysterious Ranger from the North.   Ordering off the room service menu they enjoyed steaming bowls of Cheddar Soup which came highly recommended by the Ranger who was a frequent guest at the Inn.  The kind but forgetful Innkeeper who delivered the meal kept winking at Mr. Frodo and calling him by the wrong name!   This made Pippin giggle and then Merry snorted and even Frodo in his great fatigue found himself laughing hysterically!  The Ranger chastised them to take their situation more seriously and warned that danger still lurked.    Sleep came swiftly but was soon disturbed by the shrieks of the Nazgul from whose deathly blades (thanks to the actions of the clever and handsome Ranger!) they had narrowly escaped. 

With no time to lose, and no promise of a meal so fine as last night’s in the foreseeable future, the group agreed that the Cheddar Soup was the best they had eaten and wished they did not have to make haste.  Sam asked for the recipe and tucked it into his vest pocket, certain that in a few days he would be home to cook up a pot.   He would leave out the carrots because he prefers them uncooked and fresh from the field.   He might substitute shallots for the leeks.  And he thought the soup would be grand with a roasted Coney and crusty brown bread.  This would surely be the dinner to win the heart of his beloved Rosie — if he could only muster the courage to invite her!

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