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Dine like a TV character

Some fans' love for their favorite TV shows extends to recreating the food they see onscreen.

By Staff writer / January 21, 2014

Medieval poached pears

Courtesy of Chelsea Monroe-Cassel

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Some viewers who sit down for the new season of “Downton Abbey” tune in for the soapy drama, the pristine formalwear, or the luscious scenery. Emily Ansara Baines watches for the food.

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For her “Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook,” Ms. Baines dusted off more than 150 historical recipes that would feel right at home with the Crawleys. The dishes – some plucked from scenes, others simply reminiscent of the era – give a taste of authenticity to fans’ Sunday-night viewing parties.

With “Downton Abbey” back on the air, “Game of Thrones” returning in April, and “Breaking Bad” still in heavy rotation on Netflix, fans are hungry for new ways to celebrate the shows they love. This passion has inspired several popular food blogs and cookbooks, each serving up recipes steeped in fiction.

Chelsea Monroe-Cassel has crafted hundreds of recipes based on the books behind HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” With each reference to pork pie, for example, she combs through both modern and medieval recipes searching for ingredients that fit the fiction. A pork pie from the snow-covered castle of Winterfell would be different from one made in the lavish capital city of King’s Landing.

“You have to think like a fictional locavore,” says Ms. Monroe-Cassel, who runs the food blog “The Inn at the Crossroads.” “A pork pie in Winterfell would have dried fruits instead of fresh ones, because it would take a while for any fruit to travel there.”

Resurrecting classical recipes requires a lot of translation. Baines needed to figure out how many cups are in “a handful of flour.” Monroe-Cassel tracked down obscure spices such as “grains of paradise” – or at least found suitable substitutions. And to ease the way for readers, Baines’s book incorporates modern conveniences, such as blenders. (Although fans keeping up with the show will know that mechanical appliances do find their way to Downton.)

“Television is certainly something that both my husband and I really enjoy, so it kinda naturally branches out into the things that I like to cook,” says Amy Deline, whose food blog, “The Gourmand Mom,” doesn’t focus on TV shows, but regularly circles back to them. Rather than dive into historical dishes, Ms. Deline reimagines modern favorites. She’s whipped up bloody molten lava cakes for “Dexter,” ambrosia salad for “Battlestar Galactica,” and a full menu for a “Breaking Bad” dinner party. 

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