There’s lots to love about the writing in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, Martin can make even the minuscule parts of life, like someone eating a peach, a major dramatic moment. Great writers can use every part of a story to show character traits. We’ve found that Martin has a particular skill in writing about food. Here are 8 of the most famous food scenes in A Song of Ice and Fire.
1. Catelyn Stark reminiscing about a haunting image from her childhood
“She still remembered the innkeeper, a fat woman named Masha Heddle who chewed sourleaf night and day and seemed to have an endless supply of smiles and sweet cakes for the children. The sweet cakes had been soaked with honey, rich and heavy on the tongue, but how Catelyn had dreaded those smiles.” A Game of Thrones, p. 276
A benevolent old woman sharing treats with all the children sounds like a childhood dream but it fills young Catelyn with anger and dread. Without outright saying that she may occasionally become irrationally angry, Martin gives a brief description of her reacting to something that would make everyone else happy.
2. Sansa and Joffrey connecting through food
“All the while the courses came and went. A thick soup of barley and venison. Salads of sweetgrass and spinach and plums, sprinkled with crushed nuts. Snails in honey and garlic. Sansa had never eaten snails before; Joffrey showed her how to get the snail out of the shell, and fed her the first sweet morsel himself. Then came trout fresh from the river, baked in clay; her prince helped her crack open the hard casing to expose the flaky white flesh within. And when the meat course was brought out, he served her himself, slicing a queen’s portion from the joint, smiling as he laid it on her plate. She could see from the way he moved that his right arm was still troubling him, yet he uttered not a word of complaint. Later came sweetbreads and pigeon pie and baked apples fragrant with cinnamon and lemon cakes frosted in sugar, but by then Sansa was so stuffed that she could not manage more than two little lemon cakes, as much as she loved them. She was wondering whether she might attempt a third when the king began to shout.” A Game of Thrones, p. 290
Young Sansa is the beautiful but conceited older daughter of the Warden of the North, yet whenever she starts to talk about her love of food (most importantly lemon cakes) she becomes much more relatable. Also, is this the most endearing Joffrey moment in the entire series?
3. Dany almost being poisoned
“Turning a corner, they came upon a wine merchant offering thimble-sized cups of his wares to the passersby. ‘Sweet reds,’ he cried in fluent Dothraki, ‘I have sweet reds, from Lys and Volantis and the Arbor. Whites from Lys, Tyroshi pear brandy, firewine, pepperwine, the pale green nectars of Myr. Smokeberry browns and Andalish sours, I have them, I have them.’ He was a small man, slender and handsome, his flaxen hair curled and perfumed after the fashion of Lys. When Dany paused before his stall, he bowed low. ‘A taste for the khaleesi? I have a sweet red from Dorne, my lady, it sings of plums and cherries and rich dark oak. A cask, a cup, a swallow? One taste, and you will name your child after me.’ A Game of Thrones, p. 568–9
The wine that he is selling to Daenerys is poisoned, so he has to try his hardest to tempt her into trying some. How do you turn down a wine so good that you will name your children after the salesman?
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4. Tyrion reacting to the Red Viper’s failure
“He found himself on his knees retching bacon and sausage and applecakes, and that double helping of fried eggs cooked up with onions and fiery Dornish peppers.” A Storm of Swords, p. 802
Martin sums up the anger and disgust Tyrion feels after seeing Oberyn die at the hands of the Mountain in a poetic vomiting scene.
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5. Renly’s feast
“Of food there was plenty. The war had not touched the fabled bounty of Highgarden. While singers sang and tumblers tumbled, they began with pears poached in wine, and went on to tiny savory fish rolled in salt and cooked crisp, and capons stuffed with onions and mushrooms. There were great loaves of brown bread, mounds of turnips and sweetcorn and peas, immense hams and roast geese and trenchers dripping full of venison stewed with beer and barley. For the sweet, Lord Caswell’s servants brought down trays of pastries from his castle kitchens, cream swans and spun-sugar unicorns, lemon cakes in the shape of roses, spiced honey biscuits and blackberry tarts, apple crisps and wheels of buttery cheese.” A Clash of Kings, p. 262
This scene is a great example of Renly’s overindulgence. One should be saving as much as possible during war time but Renly wants to look lordly and rich. It’s easy to imagine Renly becoming like his brother Robert if given all that power, more worried about eating like a good king than ruling like one.
6. Cersei eating the murderous boar
“You should have been at the feast, Tyrion. There has never been a boar so delicious They cooked it with mushrooms and onions, and it tasted like triumph.” A Clash of Kings, p. 45
What do you do with the animal that killed the king? We eat it, of course! Cersei is always peddling further and further into a total vindictive psychopath and eating the boar that killed her husband is certainly indicative of her callousness.
7. Renly offering his brother a peach
“He came here with his banners and his peaches, to his doom … and it was well for me he did” A Clash of Kings, pg. 464
Another instance of Renly wanting to appear strong, he eats a peach during a confrontation before the battle with his brother. He feels too confident in his army and his right to the throne that he disrespects the meeting by eating throughout it. Stannis is haunted by Renly defying him and offering the peach to him, which may have led to him using magic to defeat his brother instead of fighting him in battle.
8. Daenerys eating a horse’s heart
“The wild stallion’s heart was all muscle and Dany had to worry it with her teeth and chew each mouthful a long time…she had to rip the heart apart with her teeth and nails. Her stomach roiled and heaved, yet she kept on, her face smeared with the heartsblood that sometimes seemed to explode against her lips.” A Game of Thrones, pg. 410
The most infamous eating scene happens in the first book. Once Dany is pregnant, she must comply with the Dothraki ceremonies which unfortunately for her… involves eating a stallion’s heart. She prepares for weeks before eating it and masters the disgusting ceremony. This is a major growing moment for Daenerys, as she turns from a child into the fearless Khaleesi.
BONUS: This scene was not in the books but is too great to ignore. When Sandor Clegane and Arya show up at an inn, Polliver tries to bring them to the king. When Clegane refuses to go, Polliver tries to get The Hound to trade Arya for one of the chickens he wants. When Polliver asks if he would die to get those chickens, Clegane responds with “Somebody is” then proceeds to fight everyone at the inn until he got his chicken.
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