Comfort Food by Dreamflower

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Story Notes:

(Written for the first Shire Kitchen Recipe!Fic challenge)


Author's Chapter Notes:

This story takes place a year before the Quest. Frodo is not yet 49, and Pippin has just turned 27. ( in Man years, 31 and 17)


Comfort Food

Frodo stood at the door of the guest room, his eyes a bit worried, as he cast a look over his younger cousin. “Are you all right Pippin? Do you need anything?” He looked at the tray with concern. Although it appeared as though the tea had been drunk, the only thing to have been eaten was one bite of toast.

“No.” His younger cousin’s voice was raspy and thick with congestion. “I don’t need a thing.” He blew his nose loudly, and lay back against the pillows. “I’m sorry to be so much trouble to you, Frodo.”

Frodo entered the room, and reached down to plump up the pillows, before picking up the tray to take it out. “You are never too much trouble, dearest.”

Pippin gave a weak chuckle, that ended with a cough. “Frodo, I can never decide whether you are lying just to be nice, or whether you simply forget all the trouble I am when you get worried.”

Now Frodo chuckled. “I did not say you were ‘no’ trouble, just that you were not ‘too much’. And I think I am the best judge of what is too much for me.”

Pippin shook his head, and his eyelids began to droop. Frodo stood for a few seconds, and then went out silently with the tray, still worried. True, it could be just a spring cold. But with Pippin, one never knew when it might take a turn for the worse. Frodo wished Merry were still at Bag End. He was a much better judge of Pippin’s state of health. But since coming of age, his Brandybuck cousin’s springtime visits at Bag End were a good deal shorter than they used to be, due to his responsibilities for his father. He had left this year after only three weeks, leaving Pippin to carry the visit on alone.

Frodo looked once more at the tray that was *supposed* to have been Pippin’s luncheon. He’d slept through both breakfasts, and had scarcely touched his elevenses either. Mistress Salvia seemed sure that it was just a mild cold, and so far showed no sign of settling in his chest. She had prescribed willow bark tea for the slight fever and for the aches, with a bit of wild cherry bark and horehound for the congestion. But Pippin’s lack of appetite worried his older cousin.

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At teatime, Frodo prepared the nicest tray he could imagine, to tempt Pippin. There were several of his favorite biscuits, including gingersnaps, and two kinds of seedcake, and plenty of honey to disguise the medicinal taste of the tea. He sat with Pippin to keep him company and take his own tea, but it did not seem to help much.

“I wish that you would eat a bit more, Pip.” Frodo was feeling a bit desperate, and considered sending for the healer again, if he could not get Pippin to eat more.

Pippin sighed. “Nothing seems to taste right. My mouth tastes nasty. And nothing really sounds good. Except--” He stopped, and his voice trailed off.

“Except what, Pippin?”

“Do you remember that first spring after Bilbo left, when I got so horribly sick?”

“The year you switched your tonic for cold tea? I most certainly do! You gave Merry and me the fright of our lives!”

“Well, you know the only thing that tasted good to me, as I was getting better was your noodles and cheese.”

Frodo’s face brightened. He did remember that. Pippin loved his noodles and cheese. It was one of those special dishes he made from time to time that he was quite good at. And he had not made it in quite some time.

The medicine had begun to do its work again. Pippin was once more drifting off to sleep. With a smile, Frodo got up and slipped out of the room, and made his way to the kitchen.

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The noodles came first. Many hobbits made large batches of noodles and let them dry hard, to use at a later time. Frodo did do that sometimes, but most of the time he made them fresh. Sam’s mother Bell had taught him the trick of making the noodles not long after he had come to live at Bag End.

After mixing the flour, eggs, and oil, he kneaded the dough for a bit, and then let it rest. This was not a dough that would rise, but resting helped it to recover before he rolled it out. While it rested, he went to the larder to see what kinds of cheese were to be found. There was some nice sharp yellow cheese from the Northfarthing, and a lovely bit of white cheese that was made locally by a farmer’s wife in Bywater. He found the old box grater, that had once been Bilbo’s, and began to grate the cheese.

Soon he was rolling out the noodles. He would cut them into thin strips, and then they would have to dry just a little bit before he boiled them, or they would just end up as a sticky mass. They were rolling out nicely and evenly, paper thin. This was going to be a very nice batch.

He put a good sized knob of butter into a saucepan to melt, and set the big pot filled with water on the stove to boil.

_________________________________________________

As he took the tray into the guest room, laden with enough food and drink for the both of them, he saw that Pippin was sitting up. The tweenager’s head was thrown back against his propped up pillows, and his eyes were shut. He had a book on his lap, lying open as though he had been reading. But he was not asleep for he spoke without opening his eyes.

“Hullo, Frodo. This is a interesting story, but it’s just too much work to keep my eyes open.”

“Well, you will need to open them and sit up, for I’ve brought our supper. When we’ve finished, I’ll read to you, if you like.”

Pippin sighed, and stirred to sit up more. “I’m still not very hungry,” he said. Then he opened his eyes to look at the plate his cousin was handing him.

The plate was steaming, and his eyes grew wide at the sight of the pile of lovely creamy noodles laced with the golden yellow cheese, all melted throughout. He fancied he could even smell it just a little bit. He gave a mighty sniff, and was rewarded by his left nostril clearing. Yes, he *could* smell it. He looked up at Frodo with shining eyes as he took up his fork and conveyed a large bite to his mouth. His eyes closed again as he chewed, but this time in happiness. He began to eat in earnest, interspersed with sips of the fruit juice and bites of the savory scone that his cousin had brought as accompaniment.

“Oh, Frodo!” he said, “this is lovely!”

Frodo grinned, in between his own bites. This really was a nice batch. “Yes, it is, isn’t it, dearest?” It was so good to see Pippin eating finally.

_________________________________________

Frodo's Noodles and Cheese

Noodles:

4 cups flour

4 eggs

4 Tblsp. Water

2 tsp. salt

4 tsp. oil

Put the flour in a heap on some waxed paper or a cutting board. Make a well in the center. Drop the eggs in one at a time, along with water salt and oil. Mix with your hands until the dough forms a ball; knead for 15 minutes. Let the dough rest for at least one hour. Roll the dough, stretching it out, and then let rest for another 5 minutes. Keep rolling and stretching the dough until it is paper thin, adding flour occasionally to keep from sticking. Slice into strips, and let dry for at least 15 to 20 minutes before cooking. Or you can also lay a clean sheet over a chair and hang the noodles over it until they completely dry.

If cooking fresh, bring a large pot of water to boil, add a bit of salt and about a teaspoon of oil or butter to the water, and boil the noodles for about 4 or 5 minutes. If dried, it will take about 10 minutes.

For each pan of Noodles and Cheese:

2 cups grated cheese (Cheddar is good, or you can have a mixture of cheeses)

2 or 3 Tbsp. melted butter or margarine

Noodles

Drain the cooked noodles. Drizzle half the butter in a 9x12 pan. Add one third of the cheese, and then layer in half of the noodles. Sprinkle the noodles with the rest of the butter, and another third of the cheese. Layer in the remaining noodles, and top with the rest of the cheese; keep hot until serving. You can also put in a hot oven for a few moments. The cheese should be completely melted.

Serve hot.

 

 

 

End Notes:

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(Author’s note: This is one of the earliest versions of what we nowadays call “macaroni and cheese”. Recipes from the Middle Ages called this “loysons” or “makerouns”, depending on how the noodles were cut. I have made this in quantity for a couple of SCA feasts, and it is very popular. I actually adapted a modern recipe for the noodles. If you have a pasta machine, they are, of course easier to make, but I used mine for polymer clay, so I have to make my noodles by hand.)

 




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