Uhtred's Feast: Inside the World of The Last Kingdom
Uhtred’s Feast is different from other books in the Last Kingdom series. It is a result of Bernard Cornwell’s “increasing fascination for the Anglo-Saxon world: its people, their culture, and their domestic lives beyond the battlefield.” Here he teams up with Susanne Pollak, a renowned chef with a passion for Anglo-Saxon cuisine. If you are curious about what the Anglo-Saxons ate you ought to consider this book.
Joining these two genres together in one book necessitated a unique format. Thus, he begins the book with an interesting introduction. Thence Cornwell divides the book into three parts that facilitates the linking of the two subjects. In each section are three subcategories: Historical Background, Recipes, and Short Stories. This is a clever concept that links the recipes to the historical section. You might find some of the 60 recipes worth following for a delightful Anglo-Saxon meal.
The historical background sections are quite informative. Did you know that Uhtred’s Bebbanburg Castle really exists? “Today it is called Bamburgh Castle and is built of stone instead of the wooden walls the Ida conquered and inhabited.”
In one of the short stories Uhtred tells us how he caught eels in the river beside the castle. This is a funny story. It befuddled everyone in the castle especially Grindin who used to bully him as a youth. On his way home with a container full of eels, Grindin and two other bullies intercepted him and stole all of his eels. They say what goes around comes around and it certainly did for bully Grindin. Uhtred got even.
“Even after Uhtred has achieved his life’s ambition, regained Bebbanburg and found himself living in a country called Englaland, he still needs to sail into battle.” The Last Shield Wall ends the saga of Uhtred the Lord if Bebbanburg, the lead up to the final showdown in Cornwell.
Several of the recipes are worth noting for they represent half of this book. Do you like to hunt? Then the Venison Stew might be worth trying. Interestingly, “deer were raised in enclosed parks to provide food for the wealthy, while the peasants would have to poach the animals if they wanted to eat venison.” The penalty for poaching was rather high.
Haddock Simmered in Ale seems worth trying. Pollak wrote: “This is fast cooking, delicious and unusual.” She notes that a pale ale is best as it does not overpower the delicate-tasting fish. If you do not have access to haddock then any flaky white fish ought to suffice. In such cases that the fish you decide to use is not as delicate as haddock then perhaps a stouter beer would be better.
As stated previously, the Last Shield Wall not only completes this book, it also brings to an end the Last Kingdom series. “The relationship between a pious Christian king and a stubborn pagan warrior was never going to be tranquil, but beneath the unlikely friendship was intense mutual respect.”