Appearing in the list of the most expensive TV shows of all time, and having been proclaimed the most popular TV show in the world is no coincidence...
being based, but since departed from the novels “A Song of Ice and Fire”; The world of Game of Thrones is a literary construction of epic proportions, George R. R. Martin’s attention to detail shines in almost every imaginable aspect, from the deep lore that goes back almost ten thousand years before the start of the story, to the descriptions of the different cultures, architectures, clothing, environments, and character development.
Such love to minute detailing did not turn a blind eye to food. Martin has been a victim of many critics and reviewers that feel that his lengthy descriptions of feasts, commoners’ meals, outlaws cooking game, and all that happens when characters are sat at a table, are unnecessary and do next to nothing to help further the plot. In his own words: “I bet they eat fast food while they’re typing too”.
While this level of detail has been transferred to the TV show, to the casual viewer and even some hardcore fans, it may escape notice, as it’s rarely the focus of attention, but today I ask you to make a double take and try to register just how much of an impact food makes in this world, even if it’s in just the background.
Starting with what is, in my opinion, food’s biggest spotlight in the show, I want to talk about King Joffrey’s wedding pie. While rudimentary forms of bread and cookies date back all the way to when men started to use grains like wheat, rye, barley or even rice, wedding cakes can be found from medieval times on. Some sources cite that wedding cakes had not only to be eaten but that throwing them at the bride was a symbol of fertility. Others claim that couples would usually try to kiss over a pile of baked goods, and not knocking them over would guarantee a lifetime of prosperity. The pie that we see featured in the lovely ending of this episode is something called “Bride’s pie”, which eventually evolved into the modern wedding cake, and as King Joffrey mentioned, it was considered rude and “ill luck” not to eat it.
Next, we have Sansa’s favorite. Lemon cakes. Although there are versions upon versions of the cakes described in the books, the TV show adheres to lemon custard cakes. Custard cakes were, fittingly, all the rage in medieval times, having been originated in France. Most commonly, they were made out of milk, eggs, sugar, honey, and cream, and more exotic versions called for spices, fruits or even meat, as mixing savory and sweet ingredients was common during that time period.
Lastly, there can be no mention of food in Game of Thrones without the appropriate wine to pair with the meals. Wine, ale, and beer were originally made only by monks in monasteries (ever wondered why Catholic and Christian priests and believers drink wine at religious ceremonies?), and some historians even say that the use of yeast as we know it was the by-product of ale and beer making. As far as culinary accidents go, fermentation is one of the easiest to stumble upon, as you only need to leave your fruit juices in a warm spot. It only took somebody brave enough to drink them anyway and realize that the effect they caused could be profitable.
If you want to learn more about the fascinating world of food and drink in this universe, I was, by no means, the first fan to elaborate on the topic. In fact, it was big enough to merit its own official cookbook, with an introduction written by George R. R. Martin himself. Stock your pantries and keep your tables full, my friends. Winter Is Here.