“In Flea Bottom we called them ‘bowls of brown’. We’d pretend that the meat in them was chicken – we knew it wasn’t chicken.”
— Gendry to Melisandre
From Kings Landing, we find ourselves in Flea Bottom – a rough slum filled with cheap brothels and even cheaper food with questionable ingredients. If you aren’t caught up on the most recent season of Game of Thrones, there may be mild spoilers in this post. You’ve been warned!
Gendry is the last living Baratheon bastard, though his location has been a mystery since season three in the show. Many hopefuls (myself included) wish to see his return to the Seven Kingdoms sometime in the seventh season. While living in Flea Bottom, Gendry and the other poor folk of Kings Landing dined on what was known as “bowls of brown” which contained cat meat or pigeon meat and very rarely actual chicken or beef. A meager soup that was stewed for extremely long amounts of time – sometimes being added to and served, and added to and served again for years before the pot ran out.
Fortunately in the real world, we don’t need to rely on catching cats and pigeons in order to make a hearty stew. A bowl of brown is an excellent way to clean out your kitchen of ingredients that are almost at the end of their shelf life or about to spoil.
I cleaned out my freezer to find some strips of beef that I quickly seared before removing from the pot again. Had this been a kitchen in Flea Bottom, that meat would have surely disappeared before I could add it back to the pot – likely by hungry children or rats.
The vegetables consisted mostly of the root variety, including soft potatoes, wrinkled carrots and onions. Once cooked and softened, remove the vegetables from the pot.
If there’s one ingredient that was a surplus in King’s Landing, it would be alcohol. Wine or mead can be used to deglaze the pot.
I raided my own pantry to find barley and a variety of herbs and spices to improve the flavor of the soup.
I let my stew simmer for about an hour, until the barley was nice and soft, before ladeling it into wooden bowls and serving alongside a portion of crusty bread. I’d like to believe if I were a merchant in King’s Landing that people would flock to my stand for some delicious and filling stew.