George R.R. Martin's detailed descriptions of food is not only used to point out how delicious it is, but it is also key for describing—and evoking—important emotions.
By Andrea Guzmán
In the Song of Ice and Fire saga, the book series in which Games of Thrones is based, American author George R.R. Martin uses food to establish the emotional states of his characters. His descriptions about food can sometimes even seem to border on erotica. In what follows, we show you a few examples of the importance of food in George R.R. Martin's saga and how he utilizes this particular resource to develop the plot.
In the scenes where the main characters are eating, Martin describes with great detail everything about the food in addition to establishing the circumstances of the scene itself. For instance, in the book titled A Game of Thrones, the first in the series, Jon Snow is invited to share a meal with the Lord Commander as a sign of acceptance.
"That night, Three-Finger Hobb cooked the boys a special meal to mark the occasion. When Jon arrived at the common hall, the Lord Steward himself led him to the bench near the fire. The older men clapped him on the arm in passing. The eight soon-to-be brothers feasted on rack of lamb baked in a crust of garlic and herbs, garnished with sprigs of mint, and surrounded by mashed yellow turnips swimming in butter. 'From the Lord Commander’s own table,' Bowen Marsh told them. There were salads of spinach and chickpeas and turnip greens, and afterward bowls of iced blueberries and sweet cream." — A Game of Thrones, chapter 41.
This meal is a sign of brotherhood, of the sense of fraternity that Jon Snow finds as soon as he reaches The Night's Watch, where the Lord Commander makes it a point to share a feast with his new brothers. There are three important meals for Jon in A Game of Thrones. The first is in Winterfell, where Jon feeds Ghost chicken and honey. Ghost is there because Jon, as a bastard, is not fit to sit in the main hall. He's very isolated and his scarce food goes barely noticed by the reader. The second meal is the one above, a more joyous occasion with much more description. The third one is when Jon receives an extra portion of stew out of sympathy.
Another example of George R.R. Martin's idiosyncratic use of food is the scene of Dany's wedding, in chapter 11 of A Game of Thrones.
"They gorged themselves on horseflesh roasted with honey and peppers, drank themselves blind on fermented mare's milk and Illyrio's fine wines, and spat jests at each other across the fires, their voices harsh and alien in Dany's ears. [...] Food was brought to her, steaming joints of meat and thick black sausages and Dothraki blood pies, and later fruits and sweetgrass stews and delicate pastries from the kitchens of Pentos, but she waved it all away. Her stomach was a roil, and she knew she could keep none of it down." — A Game of Thrones, chapter 11
This description serves two purposes. First, Dothraki food, drink, and the way they celebrate tell us quite a bit about them as a group. Second, Dany's lack of appetite, even when offered "delicate pastries," reinforces how she feels. Martin often uses a character's reaction to food in order to show their particular mood.
Translated by Oliver G. Alvar
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