The 7 Best Feasts from the Redwall Books
The greatest comfort food isn't at the Thanksgiving dinner you're missing—it's in these children's books about talking mice
Sometimes when I’m trying to trick my brain into calming down, I think about comfort foods: Toasted cheese on oatcakes; honey and blackberry pie; shrimp and hotroot soup; almond bread, warm and fresh from the ovens, spread with clover butter.
This particular mantra of meals comes from the Brian Jacques Redwall series books I loved as a kid, a 22-novel world revolving around Redwall Abbey, its charming, medieval woodland characters, their adventures, and everything they ate along the way.
Jacques made food a character in these books as well as a ritual of familiarity or comfort or victory. As much as you expected heroic mice and a tale of adventure, you also expected feasts, especially to celebrate the triumph of good.
In Mariel of Redwall, for example, our heroes are preparing for battle in the story’s crescendo, about three-quarters of the way through the book, but before the action starts we have three pages of visiting warriors ruminating the food they’ve encountered: Turnip-potato-beetroot pie, cold fizzy strawberry cordial, damson shortcrust and cream, cowslip and parsley liquor, brown ale, cheese and mushroom pasties, and nutbread cake iced with clover honey.
It’s a meditation on what makes life delicious, and these little love letters to simple delights eventually became an illustrated Redwall cookbook. This means you can bring these iconic feasts to life—possibly even bring a little Eulalia to your Thanksgiving—and there’s a Redwall Feast Bot Twitter account listing out dishes daily.
Meanwhile, let your brain marinate in something delicious and gentle, with some of my favorite foods and descriptions from the Tales of Redwall.
Redwall (Book 1)
“Bring the white gooseberry wine! Fetch me some rosemary, thyme, beechnuts and honey, quickly. And now, friends,” he squeaked, waving a dandelion wildly with his tail, “I, Hugo, will create a Grayling a la Redwall such as will melt in the mouth of mice. Fresh cream! I need lots of fresh cream. Bring some mint leaves, too.”
This is part of the first feast we get in Redwall, and it really sets the tone with the variety of flavors used in these simple meals as well as the abundance and near-outright worship of cream. As a kid, I didn’t think about where the anthropomorphic animals got said cream, and I won’t start now.
The Bellmaker (Book 7)
“I say, I say, jolly old meadowcream pudden, wot?”
“Just lookit those button mushrooms fallin’ out o’ that leek an’ onion pastie, m’dear. Absolutely spiffin’!”
It’s one thing to list the foods being enjoyed in narration, and entirely another to let a couple of hungry hares do it for you. It DOES sound absolutely spiffin’.
It was a joyous meal for honest creatures. Dishes were passed to be shared, both sweet and savory. October ale and strawberry cordial, tarts, pies, flans, and puddings, served out and replaced by fresh delights from Redwall’s kitchens. Turnovers, trifles, breads, fondants, salads, pasties, and cheeses alternated with beakers of greensap milk, mint tea, rosehip cup and elderberry wine.
But yes, the lists are also effective at making me wish I was at this meal.
Marlfox (Book 11)
Hot cornbread with hazelnuts and apple baked into it, and a salad of celery, lettuce, shredded carrot, and white button mushrooms, with beakers of hot mint and dandelion tea to wash it down.
This is just one of the casual meals our characters eat while they’re out and about on quests, a quick breakfast or snack they find on their travels. And it sounds like something you’d currently find on a hip brunch menu for approximately $37.
Mariel of Redwall (Book 4)
“Look, dried Applewood and sweet herbs to burn—it makes my abode smell fresh in the mornings. Now, you will find a small rockpool outside to wash in, and I will prepare wild oatcakes, small fish, and gorseflower honey to break your fast.”
This character’s name is Bobbo and he’s a dormouse with a wildly traumatic past who lives in a cave with his buddy Firl, who is a newt. We meet Bobbo when he pops up to help our heroes on their quest and rest at his cave with aromatherapy, a bath, and a delicious meal. I love you, Bobbo.
Martin the Warrior (Book 6)
Dishes went this way and that from paw to paw, snowcream pudding, hot fruit pies, colorful trifles, tasty pasties, steaming soup, new bread with shiny golden crusts, old cheeses studded with dandelion, acorn and celery. Sugared plums and honeyed pears vied for place with winter salads and vegetable flans.
New bread! Old cheeses! It’s a cornucopia of simple foods made well and with love, which qualifies them as comfort food even if I haven’t technically eaten them.
Mossflower (Book 2)
“You’ll like Goody Stickle…wait till you taste her spring vegetable soup, or her oat and honey scones, piping hot and oozing butter, or her apple and blackberry pudding with spices and cream, or just her new yellow cheese with hot oven bread and a stick of fresh celery, aye, and a bowl of milk with nutmeg grated on top of it…”
This is Gonff the Mousethief waxing poetically about a hedgehog’s cooking while he’s falling asleep in jail and it’s the same relaxation technique I use as an adult human to cope with our current pandemic realities. Hold steady, for on the horizon, there’s a good, warm meal prepared by loving paws.