Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Regional Cooking from Middle-earth: Recipes of the Third Age
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on February 18, 2003
I received Regional Cooking from Middle-Earth as a Yuletide gift, and was very excited to see it after having read a positive review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. However, after closely looking through the book, I'm sorry to say that I can only give it 1 star. It seems Stephanie Simmons (Emerald Took) had some fun in creating the book, but it's just not what I had in mind. Here are my main problems with it:

* The very title, Regional Cooking from Middle-Earth, is misleading with respect to the content. Most of the recipes (apart from a few exceptions, including interpretations of Ent Draught and Lembas) are pretty modern and commonplace, such as hamburgers, chili, three-bean-salad, deviled eggs, etc. There is nothing resembling Middle-Earth in these versions of typical American foods, and their banality is disguised by an exotic Elvish name.

* The recipes are supposed to reflect geographical regions, and I know that the author's intent was to leave many of them open to vegetarians and sometimes vegans (which is great), but she uses vegetable oil (something I can't imagine being widely available in Middle-Earth, except perhaps far South) as the fat in sweets such as cakes. It seems more likely that butter would be used instead. Speaking of not being widely available in Middle-Earth, I doubt Miracle Whip (which appears in recipes) existed there, either.

* It is self-published (spiral-bound). Spiral binding can be useful in a cookbook, but the unprofessional look of the text ends up being more annoying than charming. The font used throughout the book is presumably meant to look quaint, but unfortunately makes readability a problem. Also, the book is in need of a simple copy editor - there are several grammatical errors that would be easy to fix had someone just given it a second look.

* A personal quibble, but in the recipes, the author often calls for powdered herbs such as dried basil and dried parsley. Since the author extols the virtues of fresh and whole foods elsewhere in the book, why not extend this to herbs? Some are fine dried, such as rosemary, but dried parsley? It tastes like nothing!

To summarize, my expectations of Regional Cooking from Middle-Earth must have been far too high, or just off the mark. I apologize if this criticism sounds too harsh; it's just one opinion, after all. However, as a big fan of Tolkien as well as an advocate of cooking ethnic dishes and unprocessed foods of all kinds, I'd hoped to find a wonderful marriage of interesting, simple, and above all, original recipes which the author took care to match with the many regions of Middle Earth (for example, English countryside-style fare in the Shire). Instead, it's a fairly pedestrian American cookbook with the recipe names in Elvish, a handful of genuinely imaginative, Middle-Earth-inspired recipes, and some anecdotes (which admittedly are sweet and add a homey touch to the book). And although it is clearly an effort of love, and the book could have seemed like a charming endeavor within the author's close friends and family...to the rest of the world, it just seems perplexing what most of the content has to do with Middle Earth.

The Middle-Earth-inspired recipes could have been posted (or offered for sale) on one of the many Tolkien fan sites; the rest of them ought to have stayed in the author's kitchen. I hope it isn't true, but I can't help but wonder if, in composing this cookbook, the author wanted to capitalize a bit on Tolkien's recent popularity...
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on January 20, 2012
Some call it a labor of love, and I am sure in the very small circle of the author's friends it is loved. But outside that circle? Don't be taken in, the recipes are not from middle earth -- there are barely half a dozen that even have connection to the books. The rest are created fan fiction supplements made by someone who thinks of themselves as a hobbit. Though I am sure hobbits never used milk powder.

The recipes don't even attempt to be old English in nature, instead what you get is crappy american recipes with a loosely translated elvish name slapped on them.

Don't waste the money! There are better free recipes available on the net!
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on March 1, 2008
"Beer, cheese, pastry, a little win, good, simple food, none of that cuisine mystique". A direct quote form J.R.R Tolkien himself.

Dear Lord, what a travesty.

The Food of Middle Earth, particularly the Shire, is specifically and unequivocally based on that of rural England in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries.
No Garlic. No Shrimp. No chocolate or cocoa. No chili. No bison! No peppers.
I was so very excited to see this book, and then, God, what wasted effort. This book is disgraceful. I hate to say it, I hate to be so critical of this womans efforts, but it has to be said. Do not buy it.
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on May 13, 2012
I got this book thinking there would be a few thing inaccurate like potatos from the new world or black pepper. There is a curry recipe for the elves of lothlorian. Elves eating curry WTF! Also there are a lot of recipes that add sugar to what should be a savory dish, now my cabbage is too sweet for a side dish but too much of a vegtable for desert and it's just really yucky.
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on September 15, 2013
I borrowed this book from the library and I didn't want to give it back! I saw a lot of recipes that looked very good but I didn't have time to try them all out. There are tons and tons of recipes in the book and very imaginative descriptions that make you want to eat the food. I think the elves have made me want to eat my veggies, with their beautiful Salads. There was a stew in here that i loved, i think it was from minus tirth, It was beef tomatoes, beans, and i added tortellini and cheese think I would have left out the sugar, but it was great! There is a section in the back to stock a hobbit pantry. The recipes are all different and separated according to region, which I thought was interesting. I'm not sure what all is real or imagined but this book made me believe it with it's brilliant recipes and beautiful descriptions. Could there be a better book? Yes, this book with pictures :) I have to say if you're just a die hard fan and just want to eat Lembas bread, you can try this recipe in the book for fun but if your looking for something more serious there are good ones online. But as far as I'm concerned I love this book, I only wish it had photos!
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on June 16, 2014
it is a nice book but not as colorfull as i expected, it will nece next time to include pictures of the food prepared
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on April 6, 2015
It is an enjoyable read. I can't wait to use it.
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on June 18, 2003
I own this book, and it has most of my favorite recipes in it. I love the little twists on traditional recipes, which is what the introduction tells us. It's like being in Middle-earth. The author paid very close attention to what foods would have been available to the people who could have lived there, and the preparations were very traditional. I also liked the use of whole foods and the vegetarian options. It is a cookbook that anyone could use, and that's what makes it so much fun. It is the perfect gift.
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on March 30, 2007
Regional Cooking from Middle-Earth is a delightful book - a weave of history. One of the reviews of this book is, to me, inappropriately critical. They ask for 'exotic' ingredients and other ~immersion~ in the fantasy world they find through LOTR. What they seem to miss is that Tolkien, in writing his works, drew upon the order of cultural ways he saw in our present world and our history. Whether the Third Age is in our past, our future, or our hearts, it is squarely seated along the arrow of time that we find ourselves.

My point, past the poetics: The people and cultures that Tolkien paints for us through his work have access to largely the same foods that we do. I'll grant a few enshrined and mysterious things - but even doing so, we can assume that the bulk of foods consume by those in Middle Earth were largely made from the same things we have access to now. Considering also the somewhat medieval times in which Middle Earth is described, we can also assume that many foods would be simple, comforting - homely, at times. The kinds on which most of us were raised.

The recipes in this book are a crafted blend of home cooking, dazzlers for occasions, and creative presentations. If you're the kind of person who likes to live with a bit of Middle Earth in your life all the time, you'll find consonance with this collection of recipes. If you look past the recipes, you may find a genuine attempt to do credit to Tolkien's styl of bridging between worlds.
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