1. A Perfect Pie
I stick the small piece of parchment into the brick-lined oven and watch anxiously for it to crisp. Behind me, Edulfa clucks disapprovingly. “My lady, you really ought to be outside to greet your guests with Lord Faramir. I told you that I could take care of this.”
“I am aware of what you said, Edulfa,” I reply with irritation, “and you are equally aware of how I want to bake this pie myself. I may be the Lady of Ithilien, but I am also a new wife, so you should understand my desire to impress my husband and my friends. Stop hovering and go check some of the other dishes, for pity’s sake.”
As Edulfa retreats to the other side of the kitchen, I refocus my attention on the apple and cherry pie baking away before me; the pastry is beginning to turn a nice golden brown, just as the recipe said it would. A smile creeps over my face. My darling little rogue may not be here in the flesh, but he is in spirit for a certainty with all this food!
I had not heard from Merry in some time, not until his first letter arrived early this spring with tidings of what had befallen the Shire during the war. The continued need to repair the damage meant that he could not travel to Minas Tirith and attend my more formal bridal ceremony in May. To make up for our mutual disappointment, we began to exchange frequent letters, and I often read parts aloud in the evenings to Faramir to entertain him.
So I thought nothing of it a month ago when I shared Merry’s description of the traditional harvest feast he was helping his parents plan for their folk at Brandy Hall. When I finished reading, Faramir studied me thoughtfully as he puffed away on a long pipe, having adopted the hobbit habit at last.
“A harvest feast? Perhaps we should have one as well for all our people here. This year has granted us a rich yield, and we ought to commemorate the resettlement of Ithilien. What do you think?”
I looked at him in surprise, taken aback at the suggestion. “I suppose we could; it might help everyone—men, elves, and dwarves—to become better acquainted.” Despite the close friendship of their leaders, there had been some tension between the dwarven building crews and Legolas’ elves in South Ithilien. “But,” I temporized, “I do not know how much of an effort anyone will want in regards to the cooking.”
“Do not worry, Eowyn,” Faramir said, his eyes twinkling, “I do not expect you to prepare a banquet for all with your own two hands.” He crossed over to his writing table. “Let me ask Legolas and Gimli what they think of the idea, and then we shall plan!”
It did not take long for both elf and dwarf to give their assent, and we quickly decided to hold the feast at our smaller house near Henneth Annum, in the midst of the wooded glade we had selected with Gimli last spring. That way we could set up tables outside, which was not easily done at Emyn Arnen. Faramir immediately led out hunting parties to bag enough venison and duck, while I led my ladies in digging through our stores for the best fruits of our harvest. Elves and dwarves were busy as well, eager to show each other that they were the best of hosts.
But even as everyone began gathering here a few days ago, I continued to be nettled at Faramir’s assumption that I could not cook well. It was true that I did not do it very often, being more accustomed to supervising a large kitchen staff than preparing things myself, but the food I did cook was always tasty. I became determined to prove Faramir wrong, and cast about for a suitable dish. I had nearly given up when I remembered that Merry had sent me a sheaf of Shire recipes that his mother had copied as a wedding present. Looking through them, I found one for an apple and cherry pie, and I seized on it despite never having baked a pie before. I only hope I can follow the directions closely and produce something edible, which I am struggling to achieve at this very moment.
The parchment turns a deep brown; I grab a wooden platter, slip it under the pie, and draw it out, careful not to let my dress brush the fire. I place it on the table with a sigh of relief, for while some of the pastry has caved in, it does not look burnt.
“Lady Eowyn! Lord Faramir says he is ready to begin!”
Edulfa’s cry causes me to utter a curse as I fight to pull my tunic off. I snatch up a metal plate to check that my hair and dress are tidy, toss it back down, and rush out the door to join Faramir, Legolas and Gimli at the main table. As I hurry to Faramir’s side, he takes my hand. “A most impressive collection,” he murmurs to me.
I look out over the trestle tables and nod. It is indeed a remarkable sight, dozens upon dozens of our different folk mingled together in the bright autumn sunshine. There are many Rangers, some with the families they had long left behind in Minas Tirith while they roamed the forests. The guards of the White Company sit glowing in silver and black. My ladies are laughing and flirting with the men of Gondor, and I wonder if some will find husbands among them soon. A handful of soldiers that Eomer sent to us to supplement our forces are talking with some elves; I cannot tell whether they are debating battle tactics or the quality of the wine.
And Gimli’s dwarves are here, speaking freely if a little stiffly with the elves as well. The elves’ proud bearing is clear, but so is their effort to be polite to their one-time enemies. Gimli notes where my gaze is wandering and chuckles. “Yes, I told them to mind their manners today even if it hurt,” he says.
“As did I,” adds Legolas.
“Good,” Faramir says briskly. “Now let us begin.” He signals us all to stand and face west; we do so for the brief moment of silence custom demands, and then he lifts his goblet of wine and clears his throat.
“My friends, we have gathered to celebrate our first harvest here in Ithilien, finally reclaimed from the forces of evil. All of us, whether men, elves, or dwarves, have joined together to forge a new life in the garden of Gondor and to make it beautiful once again. I offer you now a simple toast—to the future!”
"To the future!”
A chorus of voices echoes his words in various tongues as we drink our wine. “Now let us eat!” exclaims Faramir.
We feast for the next hour on a variety of dishes. There are delicate elven breads and hearty dwarven stews, roasted meats served with Rohan’s sauces and vegetables flavored with rare spices from Dol Amroth. The fine wine is from the cellars of Mirkwood, but I prefer my Eastfold cider while Gimli savors the ale he brewed specially for today.
We finally come to the last course. As the cooks bring out the other sweets, I slip away into the kitchen and emerge carrying my now-cooled pie. I march over to the head table with my head held high. Faramir, Legolas and Gimli all look up at me in surprise.
“What is this?” says Faramir.
“A pie I baked myself.” I cannot keep the pride out of my voice. “And you doubted my cooking skills!” I place it down before them, pleased that the collapsed top is not too horrible, and ask expectantly, “Who would like the first piece?”
Faramir and Legolas both eye my creation with uncertain expressions; I suppose they fancy that something queer might come crawling out. Before I can take them to task, however, I realize a sturdy hand is holding up his plate.
“It smells very good, Eowyn, with the cherries. Cut me a piece, please.”
I smile in gratitude at Gimli and cut him a large wedge. He picks up his fork, spears a chunk of pie, and chews thoroughly. He returns my smile as he swallows.
“Very good indeed! Eat up, you fools! Your wife can cook, Faramir, so enjoy her skills!”
Both Faramir and Legolas immediately cut themselves pieces and begin to eat. As Faramir tastes his slice, his eyebrows go up. “My apologies, Eowyn,” he says in a chagrined tone. “I ought not to have impugned your cooking. Where did you learn to make this?”
I open my mouth, but then decide to keep my source quiet. “My secret, my dear husband,” I tell him smugly, even as I privately resolve to write Esmeralda Brandybuck and demand every recipe she knows. I do have a reputation to uphold now.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.