How Game of Thrones Can Make You A Better Cook

This is a guest post from my friend Darrin over at TheGuyCanCook.com.  I asked Darrin to write a guest post on getting started with cooking, and he asked if he could draw inspiration from Game of Thrones.  My response was, “duh.”  Whether you’ve only seen the show or you’ve read the books, there’s much to learn from the people of Westeros.  Haven’t seen or read them? Shame on you! Go check out this awesome story, then come back.  Take it away Darrin!

“Winter is coming.”

The motto of House Stark – and it’s really more of a warning – sets the tone for everyone in a Game of Thrones.  The epic series, A Song of Ice and Fire, focuses on the struggle for power between the great families of the seven kingdoms.

But mysterious forces threaten the entire world as well, and the daughter of an overthrown king plots her return from exile…and she’s bringing dragons with her.

This legend is much like what you will experience when you start to learn how to cook healthy food for yourself:

  • Like the war between the royal families, it can feel like a brutal struggle for power.
  • You will face what feels like other worldly forces that will try to hold you back from what you want.
  • But, if you take action, you can rise up from the ashes and win the throne for yourself.

Allow me to explain…

Slay Your Fear

Arya Stark Eyes

“The man who fears losing has already lost. Fear cuts deeper than swords.”
-Arya Stark

In Game of Thrones, many characters face their fears over and over again. As a result, they change. They get better. They live more epic lives.

And you want your life to be an epic story, right?

Most people don’t cook because of one thing: they are scared of it:

  • We are afraid of spending money on kitchen gear we don’t know how to use.
  • We are afraid of trying new foods.
  • We are afraid of ruining a meal.

We are terrified of trying something new and failing.

Where cooking was once an essential skill that was passed on from generation to generation, the success of the prepackaged food industry means that expertise in food preparation is now as rare as knowing how to wield a sword.

Fear is a good thing. It is a sign that you are getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new.

And it is only by trying new things that you will truly develop and get what you want in life.

You may be afraid of learning how to cook, but you’ll never be able to learn and grow while it is holding you back. And the “failures” you have along the way will only help to increase the speed that you learn to cook.

Here’s a step-by-step method to conquering any fear:

  1. Acknowledge that you are feeling fear.
  2. Ask yourself if that fear is holding you back from something you want.
  3. If the answer is yes, use your 20 seconds of courage and roll the dice.

If you are dedicated to learning a new skill, you will conquer your fear only when you decide to confront it head-on. It will never go away on its own.

If Sam Tarly can kill a White Walker, then you can certainly suck it up and cook a meal!

Eat Like a Medieval Warrior

fire

“The eight soon-to-be brothers feasted on rack of lamb baked in a crust of garlic and herbs, garnished with sprigs of mint, and surrounded by mashed yellow turnips swimming in butter… There were salads of spinach and chickpeas and turnip greens, and afterward bowls of iced blueberries and sweet cream.”

In the novels, food plays a starring role.

From great feasts to humble breakfasts, every meal is described in rich detail.

So we can see that the warriors of the Seven Kingdoms eat a lot of plants and animals, but no ultra-processed foods.  Believe it or not, there weren’t many vending machines in King’s Landing.

Although Game of Thrones is set in a fictional world, it is based on historical human civilizations, and the characters eat the same foods humans did 800 years ago.

Up until recently, eating unhealthy was impossible. Healthy food was literally the only stuff that was available!

But these days, our food system has moved away from fields and farms and to factories and laboratories. We are now getting a massive amount of our energy from things like sugar, white flour, and seed oils, things our Medieval ancestors wouldn’t have had the opportunity to consume.

While the debate rages on over what specific diet is ideal for everyone, one fact remains: switching from heavily-processed “food products” to fresh REAL FOOD is the most important change you can make with the way you eat.

Here’s a quick Real Food primer:

  • Vegetables and protein should make up a big portion of your diet.
  • Fruit, eggs, nuts, and seeds are all solid sidekicks.
  • Grains, beans, and dairy are optional, but you might want to experiment to see if a Paleo-type diet without them works best for you.
  • Natural herbs, spices, sauces, and even sweeteners are best used in moderation, enhancing your food rather than taking over.
  • Signs that your food isn’t Real Food include: it makes bold health claims (seriously!), it contains unrecognizable ingredients, and it contains a dozen ingredients or more. Eat at your own risk!

Now, if you’re going to eat like a Medieval warrior…you’re gonna need to learn how to cook a few good meals.

Be the Sword and the Fire

Jon Snow

“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”
-Oath of the Night’s Watch

The Night’s Watch is the society of men whose job is to defend a massive wall protecting all seven kingdoms from northern invaders.

Learning how to cook means becoming two things, both of which can be found in the oath of the Night’s Watch:

  • The Sword in the Darkness – knowing how to cut up meat, vegetables, and other fresh food (without losing a finger)
  • The Fire That Burns Against the Cold – knowing how to heat ingredients up until they are edible (and tasty!)

That’s it.

For all of the fear surrounding learning how to cook healthy food, it boils down to just these two basic skills.

To be the sword in the darkness, you must learn these five basic knife skills:

  1. Peeling–Removing the outer layer of a vegetable (carrots, potatoes).
  2. Slicing–Creating thin pieces of veggies (celery, carrots, onions, peppers).
  3. Dicing–Creating large cubes or squares (onions, peppers, potatoes).t
  4. Chopping–Roughly cutting (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage).
  5. Mincing–Like chopping, but ending up with smaller pieces (garlic).

To be the fire that burns in the darkness, you must learn how to use heat in the four basic cooking methods:

  1. Roasting–Heating food slowly in a closed environment.
  2. Frying–Heating food quickly in an open environment.
  3. Boiling–Heating food in boiling liquid.
  4. Steaming–Heating food in the steam of boiling liquid.

Once you have learned the five knife skills and the four heating skills, you can literally cook up a tasty and healthy meal no matter what ingredients you have on hand.

“But how can I learn them?”

The best way to learn these skills is by learning how to cook your favorite meals from scratch.

I’m a big believer in learning things slowly as you need them. Choose JUST ONE healthy meal that you could eat over and over again. Google the directions, buy the necessary ingredients, and then make it as often as you can. Learn from your mistakes. Get better. Get faster.

Then learn how to make another meal.

Master your knife and cooking skills by making the kinds of foods you like to eat anyway.

Here are some examples of good meals for beginners to learn:

Start with one thing – just learn that one thing!

Play the Game of Thrones to Win

kings landing map

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
-Cersei Lannister

In Westeros, many people are warring over who is to be king. And this is to say nothing of the forces growing both north and across the seas to strike against the Seven Kingdoms.

Ultimately, everyone is fighting so that they can rule themselves, rather than serving someone else.

This skill something you must work hard to win and constantly be on guard to keep. It means you have earned the right to live the life you want, on your own terms.

Most of the food you find in a box, a bag, or a can is garbage, and the manufacturers are battling for the prize of getting you hooked on stuff that will make you unhealthy and out of shape (while making them rich).

When you play the game of thrones, play it to win.

Put yourself and your health first. Not the bottom line of food and supplement companies.

Commit to learning how to cook healthy food.

Do it despite your fears. Learn how to prepare and cook meals from scratch. Eventually it will become second nature. And instead of opting for a microwave dinner or going through the drive thru, it will be easier to just reheat some leftover pot roast or quickly whip up some baked chicken and asparagus.

Over time, you will notice that you start looking better, feeling better, and living better.

And all this without the pain of trying to starve yourself, the agony of tracking calories, or the horror of a diet of protein shakes, egg white omelettes, and unseasoned oatmeal.

Winter is coming…

Darrin Carlson is runs TheGuyCanCook.com where he teaches normal people like you and me to stop being afraid of the kitchen. Check out his Kitchen Hacking Manifesto for more tips.  

PS from Steve – This Thursday starting at 7pm CST, I’ll be doing a free Q&A LIVE here. Come back at 7 PM and you’ll see a “NOW LIVE” video. Bring your diet fitness questions and anything else you want to talk about!
PS #2 – This Sunday morning Nerd Fitness will be down for maintenance. Check back on Facebook or Twitter later for more information.

###

Today’s Rebel Hero: Bronwyn who has gone from overweight and unhappy to powerlifting supermom in a matter of months:

Brownwyn 110kg

From Bronwyn: “I went in my third powerlifting competition yesterday, at PTC Brisbane, and got 2nd place trophy. That’s two trophies now for my shiny new collection! (The other was the deadlift comp.) Who would’ve thought I’d ever get trophies for a sports competition of any kind? I was always the short asthmatic who got picked last for any given sports team in school.

Attached are some photos of my 110kg deadlift, and here’s me with my shiny new trophy. All in my NF t-shirt! Shiggles from NF forum took the photos, and CruellaT’Kill from the forum also went in the competition, her first one ever, and she had a blast!

You know what I like? My trophy photo. Take a close look. There’s muscles!

Congrats Bronwyn!!

Want to be the next Rebel Hero? Take a photo of you doing something epic in your Nerd Fitness gear and send it to [email protected] so we can feature you on the site!

Photo: winterfell map, Arya Stark, Jon Snow, Flame, Kings Landing, Tyrion

Get The Rebel Starter Kit

Enter your email and we’ll send it right over.

  • The 15 mistakes you don’t want to make.
  • The most effective diet and why it works.
  • Complete your first workout today, no gym required.
  • These are the tools you need to start your quest.
  • FaceAK

    Ermergerd, first comment! Anyway, I remember deciding a little over a year ago to stop eating crap, which forced me to cook more. I was TERRIBLE at it at first. But after a while, I got the hang of things, and even cooked some braised lamb the other night (it was amazing, btw). Don’t be afraid! Cooking is a huge stress reliever for me now, and I actually look forward to doing it.

  • Benny

    I knew it was a matter of time this show was referenced on NerdFitness. This show is amazing!

  • Raincloak

    Steve, you are aware there are at least two published, in print cookbooks (an “official” and an “unofficial”) for Game of Thrones food, right?

  • Healthybodysickmind

    My paleo cooking inspiration: Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series. I will so cook in my own ground oven one day. Too far?

  • A

    I’d add “braising” (slow cooking in liquid) to the list of basic techniques, it’s the way you get brisket, chuck, pulled pork, stews, etc. to taste good. Super easy.

    Also, screw mincing and dicing. All you really need is slice, chop, and smaller chop. Mincing is just for bitsy stuff like herbs and decorations, it’s not needed for kitchen noobs.

    finally, you need SEASONING. No meal, however nutritious, is gonna taste like much without dressing or spices. (That’s the secret to tasty junk food; you can make the secret work for you, too!)

  • Ellie S

    I really enjoyed this article. I’m horrible HORRIBLE at cooking. I rather just not eat than eat something I made. Lol.
    But I’m going to try some of the recipes up there. I love Game of Thrones (and Redwall was big on feasts too. Lol) So maybe I can find something simple to do and pretend I’m a king. :)

  • http://www.twoseoulmates.com/ Nate

    Hey! I just wanted to say thanks Darrin. I thought I was a good cook, but man, I’ve got a long way to go.
    Also, Bronwyn, HIGH FIVE!!! You’ve just given me the kick in the butt to go out and meet my pull-ups goal over the next couple of months.
    Everyone, I just want to say thanks. I’ve lost 25 pounds in the last 9 months (slow and steady) and I’m going for 10 more by the end of 2013. NF has been the second biggest inspiration and push (just a hair behind my wife). Just wanted to say thanks.

  • Caroline Cherry

    This is a great article but honestly I was just lolling on the inside after reading; “In Game of Thrones, many characters face their fears over and over again. As a result, they change. They get better. They live more epic lives.”

    Because yes, some of them do. The rest are dead :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000428434851 Bronwyn Johnson

    Thanks Nate! :D *high fives you back*

  • http://twitter.com/Darrin_Carlson Darrin Carlson

    There’s definitely a learning curve to cooking, but if you can push through the inevitable “failures” you’ll learn super fast and quickly become the envy of everyone nuking up Easy Mac for dinner! :)

  • http://twitter.com/Darrin_Carlson Darrin Carlson

    Congrats! (And glad you enjoyed the article.) You may think you have a long way to go, but you’d be surprised how much you can do with just the basics of cooking!

  • http://twitter.com/Darrin_Carlson Darrin Carlson

    Touché! :)

  • http://twitter.com/actuallycallie Callie

    I love Game of Thrones and they are seriously always eating… GRRM loves describing his characters’ food! And it sounds good, too. Though I admit those lemoncakes Sansa loves do sound good…

  • Kelekona

    It boggles my mind at anyone who can’t do basic cooking. Well, steaks intimidate me, but I can handle burgers and roasts, porkchops, and anything chicken except frying.

    Also, depending on the quality of the local thrift stores, you can get some nice cookware and gadgets for not-much. Not to mention how much multi-tasking some kitchen items can do.

  • Jaime Kerns

    One word.
    Amazing.
    That a person can utilize one the best fantasy stories written in the last 20 or so years and can create metaphors for improving one’s life AND ability to cook or look @ food.
    Amazing.
    Plain and simple.

  • Jaime Kerns

    PS, one more thing.
    Keep ‘em coming!
    (articles about challenging yourself and your perception or even travel)
    This semester I began mandating they read certain articles and connecting them to what I teach-Spanish. It’s far-fetched but the results have been good, really good. Many of my students have become more self-aware (why are they eating what they’re eating, why are they afraid, creating new goals personally and academically) and they claim it’s because of the posts I’ve had them read and relate to.
    GRACIAS!

  • theredwriter

    This is a really cool article, I’ve already referred it to some friends who want to do more cooking. Thanks for sharing!

  • Kristin

    Such a good article!! Most people are scared of change. We get comfortable in our ways and it is really hard to change and start a new routine. If you want it bad enough you can accomplish anything!

  • chacha1

    You can pry my spices from my cold dead hands.

  • Pingback: Weekend Reads // ed. 7 |

  • Jill

    I liked the way you have adopted in the writing. Game of thrones! I Really liked that

    Bootcamp Nottingham

  • Pingback: Become a Better Cleaner With These TV Shows |

  • Pingback: Healthy Eating | How to Increase Fitness & Lose the Ability to Breathe

  • Katia Monasterio

    You could link to nomeatathlete’s wonderful page on rice and beans variations for low meat/no meat rebels!http://www.nomeatathlete.com/rice-and-beans/