Oct 25, 201209:33 AM
Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

In Which the Author Admits to Being a Nerd

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When I was 9 years old, my parents decided to renovate our house. The process involved us moving for a little over a month to an apartment not far away, where we shared a large bed in a room with windows shaded by the branches of a huge live oak. That's where I first read The Hobbit. I don't remember much of my life at that age, but I have a clear, distinct memory of sitting propped up in that bed under the branches of that oak reading about Bilbo Baggins and his adventures.

I am a nerd. I do not apologize for it, nor am I proud; it is a fact.

Tolkien built the world in which he set his novels before he wrote them. He recognized that a large part of crafting a believable world involves describing such mundane things such as food and eating. He meant some of this to be quaint or even amusing. His hobbits, in particular, are always looking for their next meal. In the Fellowship of the Ring, the first of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, one of the hobbits complains during an interlude that their quest does not allow time for “second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner and supper.”

Tolkien meant the hobbits to represent the contrast between a life enjoyed and a life endured. The hobbits feast on honey-cakes, blackberry tart, bacon and other wholesome foods, while the evil characters – orcs, trolls and wolves – eat foul things purely for sustenance. I know it's a stretch, but the contrast reminds me of New Orleans. 

We take food seriously here. It's difficult to explain to folks who have never traveled outside of South Louisiana, but in the rest of the country, people don't seem to care a whole lot about what they eat. That's not to say that you can't find good food elsewhere. We have a lot of great restaurants, but we're never going to have as many as New York City, for example. But then again, most people in New York City don't eat as well as we do on a daily basis. Nobody eats as well as we do on a daily basis.

We're hobbits, is what I'm saying.

All of which is a preface for what got me started down this nerdish path in the first place. I'll see the three films that Peter Jackson is making out of The Hobbit. I will not, on the other hand, be waiting in line for any of the specials Denny's is basing on Tolkien's work. I have my standards, after all.

Sometimes I feel a bit like a cheerleader. This blog is a space for me to write about meals I've enjoyed and to share news. I've never written anything I won't stand behind, but I can understand if you think I'm something of a Pollyanna.

But if that is your opinion of me, go read this blog post from The Huffington Post about Denny's menu items inspired by "The Hobbit" film. This kind of stuff makes me feel better about myself:

For someone who owns two versions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy (books and movies) and four versions of The Hobbit book, this new themed menu surrounding the upcoming movie has my inner-geek excited."The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" hits theaters December 14th and this big new menu of Middle Earth grub will be hitting Denny's tables on November 6th.

The author's inner geek then posts a series of pictures of hobbit-inspired food and captions taken directly from Denny's PR department. I say that with full knowledge that I have re-purposed press releases here more than once, and I'm not immune to irony, but still; the very first caption to the very first picture:

Pumpkin Patch Pancakes: Feast on this. Two fluffy pumpkin pancakes topped with a pumpkin whipped topping and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Part of the "Build Your Own Hobbit Slam" where you can pick four a la carte items for $6.49. (49¢ up-charge for premium items such as Shire Sausage and Seed Cake French Toast)

Feast on that indeed. I mean, I think my caption would have been more like, “BITE ME, HOBBIT” but I'm a jackass.

It's not just regurgitation of Denny's advertising though. The author of that post independently says: 

It was nice to see the menu went a little beyond just calling simple regular everyday menu items new names. There was some thought put behind the food that helps tie in the story of The Hobbit and the world of Middle-Earth. These new creations should please the fans of The Hobbit and fans of just good diner grub in general. Anyone who knows all things Hobbits and Dwarves knows that they love to eat.

What's distressing about that quote is not that the author is a sycophant. What's distressing is that in most parts of the United States, the stuff served at Denny's passes as “good diner grub.” I have nothing against Denny's, but aren't you glad you live in a place where you don't have to rely on a chain for good “diner grub”?

It's a strange world we live in. We've gotten to a place where fine dining concepts that used to be considered elitist are mainstream, while at the same time Guy Fieri is somehow popular. I like to think that in New Orleans we're immune to some of the more crass food trends, and I hope that includes the hobbit-inspired menu at Denny's. I mean, unless I'm out at 3 a.m. one night and get really hungry. In that case, I'm all over a hobbit slam breakfast.

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Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

about

Robert D. Peyton was born at Ochsner Hospital and, apart from four years in Tennessee for college and three years in Baton Rouge for law school, has lived here his entire life. He is a strong believer in the importance of food to our local culture and in the importance of our local food culture, generally. He has practiced law since 1994, and began writing about food on his website, www.appetites.us, in 1999. He mainly wrote about partying that year, obviously.

In 2006, New Orleans Magazine named Appetites the best food blog in New Orleans. The choice was made relatively easy due to the fact that Appetites was, at the time, the only food blog in New Orleans.

He began writing the Restaurant Insider column for New Orleans Magazine in 2007 and has been published in St. Charles Avenue, Louisiana Life and New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles magazines. He is the only person he knows personally who has been interviewed in GQ magazine, albeit for calling Alan Richman a nasty name. He is not proud of that, incidentally. (Yes, he is.)

Robert’s maternal grandmother is responsible for his love of good food, and he has never since had fried chicken or homemade biscuits as good as hers. He developed his curiosity about restaurant cooking in part from the venerable PBS cooking show "Great Chefs" and has an extensive collection of cookbooks, many of which do not require coloring, and some of which have not been defaced.

Robert lives in Mid-City with his wife Eve and their three children, and is fond of receiving comments and emails. Please humor him.

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