Katniss Everdeen is a teenage girl, drafted to compete in The Hunger Games, a televised, fight-to-the-death bloodbath in the country of Panem. The Hunger Games are the epitome of reality television in this world where the oppressed are many and the privileged are few. In case you haven’t caught on yet, I’m referring to The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, possibly the hottest and most controversial young adult series being read today.
The story features real teens living in a dystopian United States of America who don’t have supernatural powers, but who do rely on exceptional skills to help them survive the arena. The winner of the Hunger Games gets to live a life of ease. And the losers?…Well, they die. The tributes kill each other off until the last man or woman is standing.
How does this relate to food? Actually, the food references are one of the strongest motifs in the text. When Katniss first visits the Capital (where they prepare tributes for battle), she is astounded by the exquisite flavors and un-ending quantities of food. In her district, she’s lucky if she gets squirrel meat with burnt bread, so she takes advantage of gorging herself on the elaborate meals every chance she gets. When she’s interviewed by Caesar Flickerman, the Ryan Seacrest of the games, she tells him her favorite thing about the Capital is the lamb stew. She’s embarrassed by her quick response, but her response is believable because we know she’s never had much to eat.
This recipe for Lamb Stew with Dried Plums is directly inspired by Katniss’ favorite dish. Her stew also featured dried plums (prunes).
Lamb Stew with Dried Plums
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 lbs lamb stew meat or lamb shoulder on the bone
1 onion, sliced
1 can, 14 oz, chopped or diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 cup stock
1 1/2 cups pitted prunes
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 strip of orange zest (optional)
1 third cup of toasted almond slivers (optional)
How to Prepare:
Heat the olive oil on high in a dutch oven or non-stick saucepan with a lid. When it’s heated (after a minute or two), add the meat and sizzle until it’s browned all over.
Remove the meat and set aside.
Add the onions to the pot and cook them until they are soft (3-5 minutes).
Return the meat to the pot, and add the wine, stock and diced tomatoes.
Bring everything to a boil
After it begins to boil, reduce the heat (low), and cover the pot. Let simmer for 45 minutes.
Add the prunes and simmer for another 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender and prunes are soft. When ready to serve, stir in the vinegar, and heat through 15-20 minutes.
Serve over wild rice.