Ode to Brian Jacques

“Hey, give me a cake and bring me ale,
And pudding ripe with plums,
Some cider, dear, so cool and clear,
To swill round teeth and gums,
Some round and golden mellow cheese,
And light brown nutbread, if you please,
With honey made by happy bees,
And I will be contented.”
(Martin the Warrior, Brian Jacques)

In honor of the late children’s author Brian Jacques (1939-2011), my brother and I recently had a Redwall-themed vacation complete with re-reading Martin The Warrior and Mossflower, making tea bread and Stones in a Swamp from The Redwall Cookbook and even digging up old stories inspired by the famous abbey. I must admit that I was a little scared to reread my old favorites, thinking that maybe I’d find them dull after so many years, but it turns out that they are as creative and absolutely charming as ever.

If you are unfamiliar with the series you should know, first and foremost, that Redwall is about food – feasts cement scenes together, appetites and cooking skills define quality of character, and a miserable repast shows woe more accurately than tears. I have never read such mouth-watering descriptions of food in any cookbook, fictional work or restaurant menu in my life. Not only does Brian Jacques call up blissful smells and tastes to the imagination, he also tickles the poetic fancy with names of the food, like chestnut ale, damson and hazelnut flan topped with mintcream, plum ‘n’ apple pudden, and yellow medowcream, to name a few from a single feast. The Redwall Cookbook does ample justice to my childhood memories, with a lovely little narrative and recipes that really do taste fabulous. If you think about it, Brian Jacques could have written any old cookbook with a handful of random ingredients smashed in a blender and it would have sold – instead he created a work of art, and this, to me, stands as a true testament to his own sterling character.

Beverage: When reading Redwall, it is absolutely inexcusable to drink anything normal or dull-sounding at all. If you take a gander at The Redwall Cookbook, Brian Jacques includes a different, delicious-sounding, beverage for each season, including strawberry cordial and a spiced cider. So, base your selection on the season and weather, let your creative fancy fly, and have fun!

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