I have embarked on a project of extraordinary magnitude, so gather round while I spin the tale.
First off, a little background. I have a group of friends who get together for the more geeky of pursuits – watching SF movies, playing games, that sort of thing. However we rarely see the wives of this group coming out, because they are by and large not geeks, and leave us to our basement pursuits. So last year I determined to start having more people over to my house (so as to get some use out of all this dining room furniture I have), and the logical place to start was to provide an event that my geek friends could bring their wives to. The first of these was nebulously near Christmas, but the second fell very near to March 21st, and so the sobriquet of “Geekquinox” was born. Twice a year seems like a good schedule, and thus a tradition was born.
Well, fall is here and so it’s time to cook again. But what? It’s a group of 11 people; arguably the upper limit for a decent dinner party. (Any more and it’s a catering chore, and more than 8-10 people start breaking up into smaller groups. Hardly a cohesive event. But it’s 11, and we make due.) I figured I needed a theme to give me some hint of what I could cook. So I started pondering what would make a good geeky theme for a party, and this is where I began the slow slide into madness.
A little more background for the non-geeks who may stumble across this blog (hi, people’s moms and dads!): this summer was the release of the fifth book of an epic fantasy series entitled A Dance With Dragons. It’s critically acclaimed, loved by the group, and the books are slow to come out. In fact, this latest release marks the end of a 6½ year wait! So we were all quite excited, it was definitely one of the big geek landmarks of the year. The series as a whole is properly called A Song of Ice and Fire, but is commonly known by the title of the first book, A Game of Thrones (now an HBO series). And so the name popped into my head at the same time as the idea itself – A Feast of Thrones! So I had my theme.
The author George R.R. Martin actually mentions food that the characters are eating more than most books of the genre; in that regard it reads far more like a “novel” (the “realistic” novel) of the 19th century, when the prosaic became fodder for storytelling. But the more I thought about it, the more I got carried away. In the books, the land of Westeros is called “The Seven Kingdoms” because the seven lordly houses used to be independent kingdoms before they were conquered. Also, in the south the bulk of the populace follow the seven gods (or the seven faces of god), and seven is a holy number. In fact for the king’s wedding his pomp-obsessed mother insists on a feast of 77 courses! But obviously a feast of seven courses would be the thing to do.
Wow. What have I just signed myself up for? But clearly my subconscious was leading me down this path before I realized it, because one of the appetizers I’ve been anxious to try but haven’t gotten around to yet is miniature Yorkshire puddings with a bit of beef and horseradish in them. There’s a local bar, The Pint, which has them on the appetizers menu, and they’re quite good. While George R.R. Martin doesn’t mention anything like that specifically, one of the major characters in the books is a dwarf named Tyrion Lannister, whose family is famous for being the richest house by virtue of their extensive gold mines. So suddenly those were dwarf Yorkshire puddings, toasted golden brown. Hah! That was one down, and seemingly far too easily. As the month of August rolled on, I chewed over possibilities and metaphors and connections and ideas, and eventually I forged a menu. Last night, to ensure that I keep my feet to the fire and to take away any chance that I could back out, I sent out the menu to all my guests. So now it’s on, and no mistake. Like Cortez, I’ve burned my boats and there’s no retreat!
And so, the menu.
This will be a multi-part blog event, with a detailed description of the preparation of all the dishes. But while I’ll be photographing as I go, I probably won’t start posting until after September 24th, so as not to give too much away to my guests. So tune in again at the end of the month. I can already promise you that not all of these courses have been seamless! So there will be advice for those attempting the dishes referred to here. Not necessarily, y’know, good advice. But nonetheless.
Move on to Part the First: Preparation.