“In the Game of Food, you win, or you wash the dishes.” That’s the tagline of The Inn at the Crossroads, a food blog with a unique twist: Authors Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer are trying to cook every dish that appears in George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. Well, almost every dish — the denizens of Westeros and beyond sometimes eat things that are illegal in the U.S. (horse meat, camel, dog) or downright horrifying (olives stuffed with maggots).
But Monroe-Cassel and Lehrer have triumphed over challenges like honey-spiced locusts and the mysterious “bowls of brown” served in Flea Bottom, as well as a score of more appetizing recipes (lemon cakes, anyone?) — and now they’ve taken their hobby to the next level. Next Tuesday, Bantam will release A Feast of Ice and Fire, a Game of Thrones-themed cookbook that has George R. R. Martin’s official seal of approval; he even wrote the tome’s poetic introduction. Before its release, EW called up Monroe-Cassel and Lehrer to chat about the challenges of cooking fictional food, weird medieval recipes, and which fantastical world they’d like to tackle next. Hint: It rhymes with “Larry Totter.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What inspired you to start your blog?
Monroe-Cassel: We really wanted lemon cakes, and a Google search didn’t bring up anything that fit the almost reverent description of lemon cakes in the books. So naturally, we decided to try and make our own.
Research must have been a huge undertaking. Can you explain your process?
Monroe-Cassel: We basically try to do an historical and a modern take on each dish when possible — it can be anything from ancient Roman to Elizabethan. We’ll look at the description in the book and then we’ll go back in old cookbooks and try to find a description that fairly closely matches. The old recipes often don’t have quantities or very clear directions or temperatures or anything like that.
I’m imagining you two sitting in an enormous library, examining scrolls.
Monroe-Cassel: [Laughs] That would be the dream. I’m a classical history major, so I did put my dead language skills to work for some of the recipes. We’ve done a lot of library research and a lot of online research.
I guess you can find anything on the Internet.
Monroe-Cassel: It’s true. We got our crickets from Amazon.
It’s a little disappointing that the book doesn’t include a recipe for a pie filled with 100 live doves.
Monroe-Cassel: We get that a lot!
But you do include dishes like locusts and rattlesnake.
Lehrer: Although we enjoy the fact that people can actually cook from our recipes, the book still has a certain amount of coffee table book appeal. [But] if you really want to make that rattlesnake, that recipe will definitely work for you.
Monroe-Cassel: I think I’d go for a bigger kind of snake next time. There were a lot of tiny bones you had to pick through.
What’s the weirdest medieval recipe you came across while doing research?
Monroe-Cassel: There are loads of completely bizarre recipes.
Lehrer: The chicken riding the pig?
Monroe-Cassel: Yes! There’s a medieval dish called Coqz Heaumez, which is a chicken riding a suckling pig. And the chicken is made to look like it’s jousting, with a little lance and a helmet.
Tell me about the first time you met George R. R. Martin. It was at a book signing, right?
Lehrer: It was completely surreal. There was a giant line of people outside of a Barnes & Noble, and we just kind of walked in like we knew what we were doing. And the Random House people were like, “Oh, we’ve been waiting for you! Come meet George!” [Monroe-Cassel and Lehrer were already in talks to write A Feast of Ice and Fire. And they brought us and our basket of food and our bewildered friends back to George’s table, and we met George. And it was amazing.
Monroe-Cassel: We brought lemon cakes, of course. Pork pies. A small bottle of a local cognac. Potted hare.
Lehrer: Tears of Lys.
Monroe-Cassel: A little bottle of fake Tears of Lys, the poison in the books. It was an overflowing basket with furs and linens, and everything was hand-wrapped and labeled. We’re sort of creative overachievers. We get carried away.
Which region do you think has the best food?
Monroe-Cassel: King’s Landing, probably, because it contains food from all of the other regions. Although for winter food, everything from the north is awesome. But you can’t do beef and bacon pies and mulled wine in the heat of August.
And which character do you think eats the best?
Monroe-Cassel: Tyrion. He’s a man of great appetites. I think that there’s a little bit of George Martin in Tyrion.
Cookbooks inspired by fiction are getting more and more popular. Could you see yourselves doing this with another series?
Monroe-Cassel: I think we’d love to. There are already a few Hobbit cookbooks out. That would have been amazing — homey, British staple food. I would love to explore fairy tale foods. And there isn’t an official Harry Potter cookbook yet.
Monroe-Cassel: It is! There’s an unofficial one, but eh. If it doesn’t have butterbeer in it, I have my doubts.
Have you read the unofficial Game of Thrones cookbook?
Lehrer: We’ve seen it.
Do you have any comment on it?
Monroe-Cassel: Probably not. It’s one of those [things where] if you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s probably better not to say anything at all.