Interview With the Authors of the Official Game of Thrones Cookbook
If you’ve read George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones or watched the HBO series, chances are you’ve noticed all of the crazy delicious food. Martin lovingly details every bite of honeycake and gristle, and every sip of ale the characters take.
Call it fantasy food porn all you want, but when Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer read the books, they were inspired. In March of 2011 they opened The Inn at the Crossroads, a food blog devoted to testing out recipes for the medieval foods George Martin had written about, and updating them for a modern audience. Just a few months later their blog had taken off, and they were fielding calls from Random House asking them to create an official cookbook for A Game of Thrones.
I sat down with Chelsea and Sariann at Comic Con, where they were busy signing books at the Random House booth, to ask them about the cookbook.
Tell me about the development of this cookbook, how did you come up with the idea?
We started The Inn at the Crossroads in March 2011, and it blew up. Random House found us and here we are.
What was the first recipe you started with?
Lemon Cakes. We went through a lot of attempts before we found one that we liked. It was tough to find historical recipes. When possible, we try to compare medieval recipes with modern recipes to see how they’ve changed.
Tell me about the development for each recipe.
We have two recipes for each recipe in the book. We did a lot of research for the historical ones, using source documents from the middle ages, ancient Rome, sometimes translating them. We didn’t change much from the historical recipes, just adapt them to modern cooking. But the modern recipes we did whatever we wanted, it took us 6 months to find the perfect modern lemon cake, but there was at least a month or two for development on each recipe in the cookbook.
We probably made 17 different pork pies; it’s just a little crazy.
Do you have any formal experience as chefs?
No, we don’t. So if we can do it you can too!
How did you came up with the idea?
We are both fans of George Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire. For us the details are what really stick out; it’s something that makes it really unique and cool, and one of those details is the food. It really leapt out at us as something appealing that we wanted to taste. And then it clearly got out of control (laughs).
George Martin put a lot of detail into describing each meal. How long did it take to publish the book?
We signed the contract in late 2011. We had July to November to turn in the first copy manuscript, so it was crunch time. We made a lot of food; we’re glad we had a lot of roommates to eat it all. We had an emergency eaters list on Facebook and had everyone we know come over and eat.
It’s unfortunate for them that they had to taste all of the iterations of the dishes, not just the last one, but they didn’t mind much.
What’s it like coming to Comic Con this year?
It’s a whirlwind, it’s so surreal. The last couple days, we’ve been in a daze. We went out for drinks with George last night, he’s really cool.
Publishing a book have you learned much?
We jumped in with both feet. Having the blog was indispensable. We did a fair amount of recipe testing in that too. Someone would write in and say: “I put this much lemon juice in” and we would try that and if we liked it, we would tweak the recipe accordingly. So the blog almost worked as a test kitchen for the first few months. We had a great reader response and developed a great community with the blog.
Did you develop new recipes for the book that are not on the blog?
Yes, there are some new recipes that weren’t on the blog, and we’ve also pulled down some recipes that were on the blog and revamped and updated them.
What’s your favorite recipe?
Non-book medieval recipe: Spice Plum Mousse with honey. From the cookbook, the medieval Aria’s Tarts; they’re made with stewed fruit, wine and shortbread biscuit. The rack of lamb, the meat pie… we spent a year plus eating all this food and we’re not sick of it.
My favorite is the traditional Buns on the Wall recipe, which is a berry cake and they’re amazing. They’re little rounds that you can pop in your pocket and take hiking, stuffed with currants.
What’s the biggest food disaster you’ve had?
There’s a medieval strawberry pie that defeated us. There was also a time that I made shortbread and thought that the silicon mold was oven safe and it was not. So we had melted hard silicone all over the oven.
We occasionally do things too, where I’ll have bread in the oven and it bakes for an hour, and I’m like, well I have to prep for the next dish that I’m making because it needs to be photographed for the blog, so I’ll go to the grocery store while the bread is in the oven that I forgot about.
A Feast of Ice and Fire sold out at Comic Con, before I had a chance to pick up my copy, but it’s available online, now. You can also visit The Inn at the Crossroads and test out one of their early versions of the Lemon Cake recipe.