Friday, February 12, 2010

Redwall Rodents Get It Right!

My kids are huge fans of the Redwall story series by Liverpool author Brian Jacques... but first they have to fight me to read them since I'm an even bigger fan. Jacques has created an idyllic world in which the peaceful inhabitants of Redwall Abbey - mice, moles, squirrels, otters and badgers - live in peace and harmony (at least when not under threat by marauding stoats, evil weasels or greedy rats... there are probably those who decry Jacques' stereotyping of these "vermin" as such!).

But mostly what these happy rodents do inside the Abbey is feast. Jacques himself was very young during the food rationing of WWII, and recalls being disappointed when the adventure stories he loved would refer to a "great feast" but give no description of the fare. In writing the Redwall series he set out to correct this oversight, and describes the animals' (mostly vegetarian with the occasional freshwater shrimp for the benefit of the otters) lavish meals.

Prominent among the "victuals" are acorns. In 2 successive pages very early in the first book in the series we get these passages:

Abbott Mortimer is asking head chef Friar Hugo if they have enough food for the assembled throng. "And nuts? We must not run short of nuts." To which Hugo replies, "You name them, we've got them. Even candied chestnuts and acorn crunch. We could feed the district for a year."

Yes, with chestnuts and acorns you could feed a district for a year... and for thousands of years people did!

And then on the following page: "Brother Alf remarked that Friar Hugo had excelled himself, as course after course was brought to the table. Tender freshwater shrimp garnished with cream and rose leaves, devilled barley pearls in acorn puree, apple and carrot chews, marinated cabbage stalks steeped in creamed white turnip with nutmeg."

I'd love to know if Jacques' inclusion of acorns as a prominent part of the Abbey diet is based more on his assumption that acorns are what these creatures would eat, or if it is based on knowledge - conscious or subconscious - that acorns are what all creatures did eat, and should eat?

And yes, now that you're hungry, there is a Redwall Cookbook.

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