Nerd School: An interview with the Chefs from “Inn at the Crossroads”

by Joe on May 2, 2011

Game of Thrones , (more properly A Song of Ice and Fire) is becoming a full blown cultural phenomenon. Much of that has to do with HBO’s new series.  Like every popular book or television series of the past 40 years, what makes it take root is the fans and their ability to flesh out the worlds and make them seem real. The land of Westeros in the Game of Thrones series is certainly not lacking its fans. One that recently caught my own attention was the website Inn at the Crossroads. Here, the websites creators Sariann and Chelsea single handedly go through the books and pick out the food of Westeros and recreate it for their readers.

I asked the head chefs to join me in an interview about their experience creating this world of food.

Joe:  Thank you for doing this for us.  The first question that I’ve got for you is, why The Game of Thrones? Out of all the fantasy novels and TV shows out there, why this one in particular?

Chelsea:  I think it’s sort of, it’s the kind of book where the description of the food is mouthwatering and it’s clear from his writing that George [R.R. Martin] is a man who loves his food. The descriptions are called food porn sometimes. You just want to bite in to it because it sounds sooo good.  And we love to cook so we thought, ‘We love the book, we love the food, it’s a match made in heaven’.

 

Sorry George, but worked too well.

Joe:  Has George Martin contacted you?

Chelsea:  We’ve been in touch with him.  He relinked us on his blog, which was awesome.  We had crazy web traffic for a couple of days due to that, but he finished the book and now we’re old news.  But he’s supportive of us and that is great.

Joe:  Awesome! Do either of you have a food background?

Sariann:  No, neither of us do.  Both of us are pretty much from rural America and home cooking and family recipes are a big part of what I know how to cook, and I kind of just fake it til I make it.  And it’s been working out pretty well.

Joe:  You could have fooled me, the pictures on your site look amazing.

Both:  Thank you.

Joe:  Is English food really that appetizing?

Chelsea:  [To Sariann] Well, you’re the resident anglophile…

Sariann:  I am the resident Anglophile and I’m obsessed with all things English, and I think English food has really gotten a bad rap, and mostly because a lot of it is boiled food.  And most people associate that with leeching all of the flavor out of food, which is really not the case.  I really, really enjoy English cooking, so no,  it’s not too bad.

Joe:  Well I’ll take your word on that. But some of the stuff on your site looks absolutely amazing, like the Breakfast at Winterfell you did, and then some of it looks like… Well, the potted hare.  As appetizing as rabbit is, it looks like…Well, cat food.

Uhhhhhh......

Chelsea:  A little bit, we like to think it looked more like pate, but that is a fair point.  It looks a lot less appetizing than it actually was.  I think we might actually make that again today because we were surprised at how good that was, and how good a lot of the medieval recipes are.  Medieval recipes get the same rap as British food in that it “seems boring” or “has no spice”, but from what we’re doing that does not seem true at all.  It’s actually really cool, because it’s different flavors which is cool to do the modern and medieval [recipes] for the  contrast.  For example, a modern pork pie is savory, but a medieval pork pie has ginger and is more of a sweet dish.  And you really wouldn’t expect it to work, but it does.

Joe:  So why did you decide to start a website about all this?

Chelsea:  Good question,  I think it’s in part to discipline us.  It would be fun to cook a couple of dishes, but we’re driven to go big or go home.

Sariann:  Let’s premise this with the fact that we’re  craft aficionados, and we routinely pile on projects that are far too big for us.

Chelsea:  We’re great at starting projects, not so great at finishing them.  So [we thought] if we’re accountable to someone other than ourselves it would be really helpful and it would be really fun.  And the feedback we’ve gotten so far has been great, people really do appreciate these recipes and we’re having a blast making them.

Joe:  So who does what in the kitchen?  Are you both head chefs, or is one a soux chef and the other the head giving orders?

Chelsea:  It changes from dish to dish.  I think Sariann has more of a cooking focus where I really like baking a lot.  But if a particular dish strikes our fancy then one of us will fix the whole dish, or one of us will do the modern, and the other will do the medieval.  [To Sariann] You’re excited about the lamprey pie.

Joe: Ugh.

Chelsea:  It scared me, so I’m glad you’re [Sariann] fielding that one.  But the cat is really the soux chef.

Joe:  How has the fan reaction been, you said you’ve gotten 20,000 visitors on one day.  Have most of the responses been positive?

Chelsea:  Yeah, shockingly so.  It’s been really, really good.

Sariann:  It’s great when people use the recipes, because it shows that they’re worth cooking and that we are competent enough to put together a recipe on the website that people can follow themselves, which I was little bit worried about. Because I look at a recipe once and fudge it, and to have people replicate the recipe more than once is a plus.

Chelsea:  And it’s great because people have been sending us pictures of the food they’ve been making from the recipes. That is the really satisfying part.

Joe:  I assume you’ve been watching the show?

Both:  YES!

Joe:  What do you think of the casting so far?

Chelsea: I think it’s spot on, they did an excellent job.

Sariann:  Yeah the casting is brilliant, there were a couple I was a little doubtful of.   But after seeing them, they really fit the part well.

Joe:  I personally think the guy playing Jon Snow doesn’t fit the character at all, but that’s just me.

Sariann:  Well we think he’s really attractive, so we buy it.

Chelsea:  He wasn’t how I pictured Jon Snow, and I thought Theon Greyjoy should have looked different from the Starks, I think I pictured him more of a dirty blond.

Joe:  What do you think of the food they show?

Sariann:  I think they went through a lot of effort to make it look period.

Chelsea:  Vague middle ages.

Sariann:  I think they went a little bit overboard trying to make it too realistic like giant slabs of uncooked meat being served at the banquet which is something I totally didn’t agree with.  I understand you’re trying to build the scene but…

Chelsea:  I think it would nice in the show if they, and I’m biased, but if they focused on the food, because I feel the food is an important part of the books.  Martin chooses his food  deliberately, and spoilers and at later dates when something horrible happens if you read through, the food is unappetizing, and you think oh god I don’t like this food and then something horrible happens, but when its a good scene it’ll be appetizing food and you’ll want to eat it.  It’s subtle but interesting.

Joe:  I never thought of it that way, when I go back and reread I’ll have to double check that.

Chelsea:  Yeah check the Red Wedding, the food is totally not cool.

Joe:  What’s coming up on the website?

Sariann:  I’m starting my lamprey pie, and people seem excited to see it made.

SWEET JESUS!!!!!

Chelsea:  Yeah I really wouldn’t have expected that one.  I would never have thought people would be clamoring for lamprey pie and there’s been a fair amount of that.  I thought quail drowned in butter, which is my personal favorite, would get a lot of positive response but instead we got crazy amounts of feedback on leek soup.  So that was unexpected.  We also have a bunch of recipes we have to do the other half of right now.

Joe:  Final question:  Who, in The Game of Thrones universe would you Be/Boff/Murder?

Chelsea:  Oh god, I wish you sent that question earlier… we would have been all over that question.

Sariann:  I would marry the Knight of Flowers, and I would be Arya, cause she’s awesome.  And I’d kill Theon Greyjoy.

Chelsea:  I would kill Cersei, easy choice, but she’s got to die.  I would marry Jamie, and be Margaery Tyrell because she lives a charmed life, and has a good support system in place.

…and that’s the end!

Follow the Master Chefs of Westeros at their  website or their twitter

Read Joe’s other articles A Love Letter  to Natalie PortmanFailed Star Trek Spinoffs Thor Primer, Doctor Who Season 6 primerA Game of Thrones PrimerMore

Check Joe’s reviews Game of Thrones S1E2, S1E1, S1E3,   Doctor Who S6E1, S6E2.

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