An old tradition created by
the friendly halflings (or
hobbits if one prefers) of Helmondsshire,
the Wandererís Hot Meal is a saviour to the travellers on the road. A plate
stocked with hobbit-cooked food, the Hot
Meal is sought after for the travellers heading north past the
Thaelon Forest. The meal carries more meat
than an average hobbitís meal, but it is
meant for the travelers after all, and the halfings do not mind sharing. The
meal is reported best, with fine company, and fine ale.
The meal is made unique not by the contents of its food, but by other factors. The meal is unique, not because of what you eat, but when you share it with the hobbits. When you speak of your travels, of a song you learned from the elves, when in the company of fine people, the good memories of old return to you, and the warm slice of meat, the sweet mead, will be far more than food, it will be a memory of your time with the hobbits.
The Wanderís Hot Meal custom is formed by three major parts. The food itself,
the drink, and the company, all of which blend together to form a custom that
represents a hobbitís hospitality.
The food itself is composed of several components, lamb, fresh bread from a baker of the Shire, sliced carroots and tuberroots on the side, and several mouth-watering pieces of freshly baked pie.
The meat is often cooked on a spit over the fire for several hours until it is a juicy golden brown colour. The lamb is tender, and one can see the juice and fat melting from the meat, it has been said that once the lamb was so appetizing that the roaring of the travellerís stomach had scared away the taenish in the area, all of which had to be rounded up again. The meat is covered in thick gravy that spills into the tuberroots next to it.
The bread served along with the meal is, nearly always, bread baked fresh from the early morning. A light gold colour, the bread is either served in one large piece, or in several slices. Depending on the preference, the bread may either be soft and fluffy, or a tougher bit, to mop up the remains of the meal.
The carroots are boiled to soften them and then sliced into large pieces and placed separate from the lamb, beside several large boiled tuberrotsalong with several large boiled tuberroots. Some hobbits, when serving, like to add some of the gravy on top of the tuberroots and carroots for extra flavour.
To finish the meal there is a warm slice of pie. Baked alongside the rest of the meal, the type of pie depends on the travellerís preference. Extra pieces are placed aside and wrapped up for the travellerís journey for the next day.
Than there is the drink and the company. Foaming tankards of mead, ale, and beer are brought out in their casks, preparing the area for a long night of a storytelling and good times. Many hobbits gather around the fire where the food on the spit is being prepared with their drinks and discuss news and light hearted conversation with the traveller. Once the food is given out, eaten by the patrons, and all recline in their seats with another ale or a pipe, it is time for payment for the revelling and the food.
The hobbits do not ask for coin or treasure
for payment in this matter, rather, they ask for it not to be given. In return
for the food, the traveller is asked to entertain them, whether it be by
recalling a tale of his past travels, a story he heard as a child, a myth of the
dark going-ons in the far away lands, or a song, a poem, anything that will
entertain the hobbits that so graciously
gave their food and time to the traveller. Although only one piece of Ďpaymentí
is asked for, the traveller will usually (if a long story is not done) do
several pieces of interesting entertainment. Usually a silly poem or story is
told for the little hobbits, but once sent
off to bed, the light hearted stories may take a bit darker term. One traveller
who attended this custom wrote in his journal,
Once we had ate and drank and made merry, we allowed the fire to die down, refilled our drinks and lit our pipes as the custom asks, and, touched by the hobbitsí hospitality, I decided I would make several narratives for them, for young and old. I began with several fairy-tales such as "Conversing with Dragons" and "The Snow Maiden", just before the young hobbits were sent to bed I graced them with the first chapter of the bedtime story "Nod and the Hydragonís Tooth", which satisfied their young minds and they were happily led to bed. Once the young ones were safely in their beds and the parents back, I changed my happy tales to a darker one, a story that blended both truth and unknown, a dark story about the Templars of the Black Pearl, and a man whom they were sent to kill who evaded them, at least for a time. The horrors that were in the story were not for the kids, but the older hobbits found it a good enough tale, and I believe that my payment was sufficient for the excellent meal and company I had tonight...
History of the Tradition. The meal was first credited, to a hobbit by the named of Grenin Alrmo around 16 a.S. Grenin was a hobbit farmer who found an unconscious traveller not far from the Shire. With difficulty, he managed to place the man on his cart and bring him back to his home, where he nursed the man back to health. Apparently the man had passed out from hunger, he merely said that he had not packed enough for the journey, and had failed to make stops to replenish his supplies of food. Grenin, a man who loved his food and would have no mention of anyone close to hungry near his home, immediately formed a large plate of lamb, bread, sliced carroots and tuberroots, and a fresh pie his wife had baked earlier that morning.
The traveller, who left several days after, reported the incident to his friends, along with the great food the hobbit had supplied him. Several weeks later, Grenin found several travellers at his door asking to trade for a meal. Grenin found the incident hilarious and gave them meals for free, but the story spread, and several times a week Grenin found travellers at his door. Before long, most of the Shire was catering to these travellers, and the Wanderers Meal at the Helmondsshire became a great reason to stop at the shire. Never once however, did the gracious hobbits charge a coin for the meal, however, it is custom that if the wanderer wishes a meal, a song, or an interesting tale is ample payment.