There are 3 notable meals described occurring in the Shire, or its vicinity in The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings:

During the “unexpected party”, Bilbo exhausts his larder putting out cakes, buttered scones, biscuits, seed-cake, eggs, cold chicken, pickles, coffee, tea, and beer. The dwarves call for “mince pies, pork pies, raspberry jam, apple tart, and salad”, but it is not said that he has that. Only Gandalf “seems to know” what is in his larder.

At Bilbo’s one-hundred eleventh birthday party the food is said to be “rich, abundant, varied…”, but no food is described in particular.

Years later, at Farmer Maggots, Frodo and Sam gorge on a Mushroom and Bacon casserole.

Bilbo ate only the food “fit to eat” after the Trolls were killed -- bread, cheese, and bacon.

The meals at Beorn’s lodge are consumed with relish, but do not count, for obvious reasons.

Is the diet of the Shire Hobbits based on the “Full English” breakfast and High Tea? Do they eat the way Americans seem to imagine the English to eat all day long?

For questions on what Tea is, please click on the link.

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    None of those foods would be found in an English breakfast, other than bacon. – OrangeDog Feb 25 '16 at 18:41
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    @OrangeDog ...and Tea. – Cascabel Feb 25 '16 at 18:46
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    I don't think we hear of hobbits eating fried eggs, toast, baked beans, or fried/grilled tomatoes, and there are plenty of things we do hear about that aren't in the full English breakfast: cheese, buttered scones, biscuits, seed-cake, cold chicken, pickles, etc. The diet is clearly English, but not limited to the full English breakfast. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Feb 26 '16 at 1:06
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    @WadCheber I'm English, and I have exactly your interpretation. To me "English Breakfast" means the food items you mentioned, and the word tea (whether or not capitalised), particularly when used in the same sentence as "English Breakfast", means the beverage. The use of the word tea to mean a meal is a regional thing - in London, where I'm from, it is never used like that. I'm confused by the OP's use of the phrase "English Breakfast" because none of the examples given are anything like english breakfast. – JBentley Feb 26 '16 at 9:03
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    @WadCheber I'm also fairly certain that almost all British people, regardless of region, would read "English Breakfast and Tea" and assume you mean the drink, because of the context. – JBentley Feb 26 '16 at 9:10

It's hard to answer this beyond what was included in the question; in their preferred environment, hobbits eat food that would be commensurate with traditional English meals. This is demonstrably true, by numerous example.

About the best I can do is say that this was almost certainly not by accident; Tolkien was very clear in his letters that the hobbits are based on England; for example (bold is my emphasis, italic is Tolkien's):

[N]o one would have said 'The Shire is not far from North Oxford'. It is in fact more or less a Warwickshire village of about the period of the Diamond Jubilee

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 178: To Allen & Unwin. December 1955

There is no special reference to England in the 'Shire' – except of course that as an Englishman brought up in an 'almost rural' village of Warwickshire on the edge of the prosperous bourgeoisie of Birmingham (about the time of the Diamond Jubilee!) I take my models like anyone else – from such 'life' as I know.

The letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 181: To Michael Straight (draft). February 1956

[I]f we drop the 'fiction' of long ago, 'The Shire' is based on rural England and not any other country in the world

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 190: To Rayner Unwin. July 1956

I am in fact a Hobbit (in all but size). I like gardens, trees and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking; I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field)

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 213: To Deborah Webster. October 1958

The action of the story takes place in the North-west of 'Middle-earth', equivalent in latitude to the coastlands of Europe and the north shores of the Mediterranean. But this is not a purely 'Nordic' area in any sense. If Hobbiton and Rivendell are taken (as intended) to be at about the latitude of Oxford, then Minas Tirith, 600 miles south, is at about the latitude of Florence.

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien 294: To Charlotte and Dennis Plimmer. February 1967

I would, however, question the assertion that "[hobbits] eat the way Americans seem to imagine the English to eat all day long." I would rather be inclined to argue that they eat the way an Englishman imagines the English of the late nineteenth century to eat.

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    Thank you. This is great. I knew only someone with access to this material would be able to answer, but I live in a third world country with no libraries, and bookshops only offering best-sellers in English. – Cascabel Feb 25 '16 at 17:10
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    I'd imagine Tolkien was in a pretty good position to understand how the English of the late 19th century ate :-)' – Matt Gutting Feb 25 '16 at 17:34
  • But what does any of it have to do with english breakfast? – JBentley Feb 26 '16 at 9:05
  • @JBentley For an explanation of what I was trying to convey, please click on the link in the question. As I have already explained, when I was growing up, Tea was a meal. – Cascabel Feb 26 '16 at 14:16
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    @Gandalf Ah ok, I think I see what the big misunderstanding is now. "English Breakfast" means all of those items (or some combination of those, and other items that are common for English Breakfast) at the same time, in a single meal and usually cooked in a particular way. Eggs with seed-cake, cold chicken and pickles, or mushrooms and bacon featuring in a casserole, don't have any relationship to English Breakfast. In the same way that a cheese on toast isn't really similar to a burger, even though both might feature bread and cheese. – JBentley Feb 26 '16 at 15:54

While in Ithilien, Sam knows how to skin, prepare and cook rabbit, and talks wistfully of potatoes. While potatoes can constitute some part of breakfast - some of the ways Sam talks about cooking them wouldn't be.

Rabbit is most certainly not eaten at breakfast nor tea.

As Jason Baker says - Hobbit food seems to be good old English country fare - but goes a beyond breakfast or tea.


Sam . . . talks wistfully of potatoes. While potatoes can constitute some part of breakfast . . .

Hobbit food seems to be good old English country fare . . .

[I]f we drop the 'fiction' of long ago . . .

You'd better.

Potatoes are American, specifically, South American. There weren't any potatoes in England until after 1588:

"We think that the potato arrived . . . in Spain around 1570, and the . . . British isles between 1588 and 1593 . . . Sir Francis Drake or Thomas Harriot are commonly credited with introducing potatoes into England." -- WP

Europeans had to make do with carrots, turnips, and parsnips before then. If Middle Earth is Mediaeval England they shouldn't have potatoes.

(Please forgive any breach of protocol: this is my first post in this forum.)

  • Welcome to the site! The question is asking whether it's based on English meals from an era where High Tea was held, not from medieval times. The availability of potatoes is a good observation though, IIRC Tolkien edited out some other references to new world crops in later editions but kept potatoes. – Milo P Feb 26 '16 at 16:08

Considering repeated mentions of butter, honey, cream, and white bread being some of the most desirable and celebrated foodstuffs on the table, I think Tolkien's "menu" is more about what a (19th century) child would love to eat, rather than being specific about the type of food eaten by the English or Europeans in the past centuries.

Most food you mentioned in your question is not part of the English Breakfast, but would have been what the medieval/Victorian English people could eat.

  • Medieval/Victorian... just missing the intervening 500 year period? – Andrew Tice Feb 28 '16 at 10:38
  • @AndrewTice Well, and everything in-between too. Renaissance was more of a cultural and intellectual transformation, while peasants and commoners carried on living much as they did in medieval times. – Maksim Feb 29 '16 at 7:42
  • ...like the Agricultural Revolution! – Andrew Tice Feb 29 '16 at 7:51

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