This week, I am adding another name to our roster of Kickass Fictional Ladies. Click here if you are interested in checking out our past inductees into this prestigious group.
I realize this is a no-brainer for those of us who have been watching Game of Thrones this season, but let’s be honest, she’s been getting a lot of buzz lately. Why? Because she is just so great for so many reasons. And here are just a few of them:
She is honorable: I know that some of the most intriguing characters are villians or of questionable morality, but I love Brienne because she just wants to do good in the world. I have really been won over by her desire to be a great knight and truly devote her life to one of honor. Sansa Stark turns down her first offer of protection and yet Brienne is so good to her word and the promise she gave to Lady Stark that she simply doubles down on her efforts and waits to find Sansa so she can offer her protection a second time. And yet, during this chase after Sansa, Brienne never oversteps her boundaries. She is never unnecessarily threatening and strives to make her behavior a model for others. Brienne has a lot to prove and that drive and earnestness make her just wonderful to watch. You want great things to happen for her because she has worked hard enough to deserve them. Also, thanks to some recent info from Martin, I dare say that her noble spirit is even in her blood.
She is a complete character: In my travels, I have run across the misconception that in order for a female character to be considered “good” (translation: feminist) she must be strong and perfect. The thing is that while there are many versions of women characters out there who are strong, they can’t hold a candle to Brienne for the simple reason that when a character’s only trait is that she is strong, she is also flat. I love Brienne because mixed in with her strength is a believable vulnerability. She makes mistakes, she worries about doing the right thing, and she cares so much more than she is probably willing to admit. A strong female character is great and gives us ladies something to enjoy and in some ways look up to. But a strong female character who can also be seen as human, is not only someone we can look up to, but also relate to. And trust me, it is much more powerful to be inspired by someone who has overcome a lot of the same challenges you have yourself. It’s OK if you need to work at it, because so does Brienne.
Positive body image: Brienne of Tarth is played by the charming and gorgeous Gwendoline Christie. This is important because Brienne’s body is the real body of Christie. Christie has found herself experiencing a lot of the same hardships that Brienne does when she encounters other’s expectations of conventional beauty and feminism. Christie is naturally 6’3″ and has openly discussed her own body image issues and how she has been able to use her own life experiences to influence her performance as Brienne.
Christie was so inspired by Brienne’s story that she took it upon herself to learn about Brienne’s quest to be a knight by experiencing it herself. This means that she not only trained in sword-fighting and riding before starting her role, but she gained a decent amount of muscle to make her body fit the character even more accurately. Remember what I said about devotion? Seems like Christie was born to play this part.
I realize that I might be preaching to the choir here, but I think it’s ok to just bask in the glow of something you love for a while. And that is what I’ve decided the comments section to sharing the love (or not if you have a reasonable argument). Have at it then!
On September 28th, The Red Menace, Tiny Doom and The Goog attended an official feast of Ice and Fire, sponsored by Pandemonium Books and attended by A Feast of Ice and Fire co-authors Chelsea Monroe-Cassel, and Sariann Lehrer. As you may recall from a previous post this is not TRM and TD’s first time at the Westerosi food rodeo, but this time we got to gorge ourselves (like proper gluttons) on recipes from the cookbook! Check out what we ate and what our thoughts were on each offering:
TRM: The best thing about the bread was that it was still warm when it arrived at our table. The insides were soft and delicate, while the outside was pleasantly chewy and crusty – it would make a fine bread bowl or trencher.
TD: Agreed. The bread started off the whole evening with a rustic, and decidedly medieval feel. Something you don’t often get in Central Square.
So. Of the many things fantasy, sci-fi, and comic book related that we ladies like, one of the foremost is George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF), at least for TinyDoom and I. It started with HBO’s amazing adaptation of the series, named Game of Thrones after the first book (just in case you’ve been living under a rock, I wanted to clear that up). Then we each devoured the entire 5 books of the series (and yes, we wish he’d hurry up and write the rest of them, too.) So when season two of the series came out, we were ready to take it to the next level and do some literal devouring. Thankfully, the internet was here to help.
You see, Martin is famous for his depictions of food in his books. I suspect this is due to the influence of Tolkien on his work – Tolkien’s food references are well-documented by better scholars than I. Or maybe Martin just likes to eat. In any case, two young ladies – Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer – had a brilliant idea – to take all of the dishes described in ASOIAF, cook them, eat them, and blog the results. The blog, Inn at the Crossroads, quickly gained a huge following, references in the media, and eventually led to a cookbook deal. I know what you’re thinking – how did these ladies get so lucky, and can it rub off on me? (Here’s hoping.)
So. Tiny Doom and I like ASOIAF. We also both like cooking, most especially if it involves some sort of crazy project. Would you like us to pit one million cherries by hand? Steep blueberries in vodka for a week? Churn our own butter? We will do it. Clearly, this cookbook was made for us. And when I heard that the ladies behind it would be at our local bookstore, with lemon cakes (!), we were so there.
The lemon cakes turned out to be important, because that’s what kicked off the whole project. If you’re familiar with Martin’s books, you know they come up a lot – they’re arguably the most important foodstuff in there.
In fact, I’d made the version of the Elizabethan cakes that was up on the blog myself, for a Season Two finale dinner Tiny Doom and I had cooked. It was clear that the cakes had continued to go through various iterations, as mine looked nothing like the ones Sariann (known as Chopped Ginger on the blog) had made.
This variation turned out to be a major theme of the talk – clearly, working from medieval recipes leads to interesting and variable results, not all of them positive. Monroe-Cassel and Lehrer spend a lot of time testing, tasting, and re-testing recipes to be sure that they are edible, replicable (it can be hard sourcing period ingredients) and safe (it can also be deadly sourcing period ingredients – we’re talking about people who brewed beer with hemlock).
Folks asked great questions during the talk, and the ladies had thoughtful answers and were willing to share their tips, tricks, and sources. We learned that snake is pricy, swan is illegal (in New England, anyway), and that brawn is just not that tasty no matter how well prepared. Sariann revealed that she’s fallen in love with suet pastry, and Chelsea gets satisfaction out of beating meringue by hand (the trick is a copper bowl).
All in all it was a grand evening, we got our books signed, and yes, the lemon cakes were delicious. Keep an eye out for future posts as TinyDoom and I cook our favorite recipes from the book!