What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank – Krista D. Ball

Let this be proof that if a book is well-written and interesting I will persevere over deeply annoying typos, even when they’re as frequent as they are here. There are little errors like mentioning eating more berries than you pick (I think that’s impossible, unless you don’t count windfalls as having been picked), and the best typo in any document EVER, with which I will close this review. Although “drowsy” for (I assume) “dropsy” was pretty good too. But … cellars on ships and root vegetables not in cellars (lofts? Really?) and sentences like ” something that is drank” or ” was probably drank through a straw” were much too common; the book is crying out for a strong editor. (*makes “call me” motion in author’s direction*)

There were also a few things I wondered about – like were “chocolate-dipped beef jerky protein bars” really “passed around at the Battle of Hastings”? (The author’s note was “(I’m not even making that up)”, but chocolate hadn’t made it to Europe by 1066, or even close, so… Er?) And did travelers really have to convince innkeepers of their worthiness? I thought they just took their money up front if they were worried and sent knee-breakers after you if you crossed them.

There was also a sort of odd section on “The Midwife and the Nurse”, in which the author indulges in a bit of ranting (like how she was stunned that people she informally polled all (or almost all) thought abortion was purely a modern phenomenon (I’m stunned too)), but never really discusses maternity-related food. It would have been a great place to put things like what food and drink and herbs and concoctions past cultures believed improved fertility or the chances of carrying to term, or helped a new mother “let down” milk, or how babies were weaned, or … etc.

But there were two reasons I persevered. One was the basic intelligence – which can be taken two ways:

And the other was the humor, like the note at the end of the mead recipe to “drink until your mood improves”, and the tales of the author’s experimentation for research purposes, both pleasant (chocolate for breakfast!) and un (self-ground flour).

Actually, there were three reasons – the third being Newfoundland. The author is – unless my memory is fritzing out – from Newfoundland, Canada – and so is my mother. I’ve been to visit family several times – and we still have kinfolk on the rock. So when she talks about “gooseberries, partridgeberries, cloudberries, plus blueberries. Oh and screech”, I have a big grin on my face; every chance I get I order partridgeberry and cloudberry jam from The Dark Tickle Company and anywhere else I can find it. And screech? Yes, b’y. (Well, no, neither Mom nor I have a screech habit, and I’ve never been screeched in, but I surely know of it.) The only thing here is that Mom’s from Doyles on the west coast, which is apparently much more sheltered than other areas. “Every Canadian reading this book is going to groan and complain that I just perpetuated the frozen tundra myth”, she says, and with statements like “People did live in this desolate and harsh region” I suppose she does; I know my grandfather farmed a decent plot of land for decades, and Codroy Valley is lovely. It can actually get quite hot and humid there. (And I never saw fried cod tongues there. When I was a kid the weirdest thing I met with was fries eaten with vinegar instead of ketchup.)

And now, as promised – the Best. Typo. Ever.
“Pemmican is perhaps one of the best-known preserved food stuffs in North America. It’s often in the form of beef, bison, or elf jerky, often with BBQ sauce or peppercorns.”

Well, the dwarves have cram; perhaps the orcs have elf jerky.

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