“When you learn to use your voice in the kitchen with the servants and the minstrels and the bard, then you learn the truth your friends know in the kitchen–that the voice that speaks the truth will travel far.” – Wren Birdsong, JourneyQuest season 3, episode 5.
Welcome fans and soon to be fans of JourneyQuest!
JourneyQuest is a web series that follows (as creator Matt Vancil puts it): “a group of dysfunctional adventurers on a quest to discover and destroy the mythical Sword of Fighting. JOURNEYQUEST is a comedic adventure through the fantasy world of Fartherall, where intellectual orcs, incompetent wizards, and holy zombies form the living (and not-so-living) backdrop to an epic story of unrequited love, burning passions, and severely reluctant heroism. And running away. Lots of running away …”
This show plays out like an epic Dungeons & Dragons game come to life, which comes as no surprise considering that its’ producers, Dead Gentlemen Productions and Zombie Orpheus Entertainment are also the creative forces behind The Gamers and The Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising. If you are familiar with these films, you may also recognize a few faces among JourneyQuest’s cast of adventurers.
While I’ll cover one of those adventurers in a later post, this post I want to feature the first character in your path as you watch the series, Wren Birdsong, in a recipe for her favorite Pineapple Tarts.
Click here for the recipe for Wren Birdsong’s Pineapple Tarts
Wren Birdsong, the Grad Student Bard
Wren Birdsong is the motley-clad, dragon-doodling, puppet-waving bard tasked to research and record an epic about this dysfunctional party of adventurers, all the while not getting seen by or involved with the principal actors of the story. You can see the paradox here.
Born a daughter of nobles, Wren grew up sheltered under similarly strict rules of court. She would find solace with servants and passing bards in her manor’s kitchen – from whom she would also learn to sing and craft stories. Realizing that she can never connect with anyone or anything real in court, she seeks to become a bard.
For four years she tails them and does well following the grand tenants of her order until she meets this guy.
This is Rilk. He leads a band of orcs determined to mount the party’s ignorantly-murderous orc-slaying fighter on the business end of a pike. He also gains an awkward/adorable crush on Wren on first meeting that inadvertently elevates the Bard from pen-wielder to protagonist. That shift loses her epic and official status as a bard but eventually confirms her belief that the grand tenants are garbage when it comes to a bard’s real purpose — to bring people together through story and song.
I find the following conversation between Wren and Silver Tom (the bard who takes her badge and epic) interesting because of just how contradictory to the truth that it is.
“Well, I thought you would care a little bit more about your own protagonist.”
“It’s not my ROLE to care. It’s to record, to craft him and them into deep studies of the human condition. You can’t think of them as people.”
“Have you no empathy?”
“You want to affect history, pick up a sword. You chose a harp, or a flute, what did you choose? I don’t actually know which instrument you play.”
The purpose of the grand tenants is preventing the bard from influencing the events they record, but as a result bards of the highest order believe nothing else matters beyond their works. While Silver Tom learns about the people in his epic for the sake of telling their story, he doesn’t care enough beyond the fame the epic will bring him. He writes real people in whatever direction he thinks will resonate all the while dismissing their individuality.
Wren cannot help but care, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The hands of fate in JourneyQuest seek to point out everything wrong with traditional attitudes and storytelling tropes. Wren’s ability to empathize allows her to recognize the individual outside of the trope — whether it’s a reluctant wizard who seriously prefer to be a bard, an orc deserving to be called by his name, or even a giant who has every right to be angry with a herd of cows ruining his crops.
Singing in the Kitchen
“Wait, where did you get fresh pineapple on the top of a mountain?”
“You’re out of questions” – Wren and The Oracle
Today’s recipe post references episode 9 in the third season of JourneyQuest where Wren Birdsong visits the Oracle. The Oracle first gives Wren a plate of pineapple tarts, her favorite, baked like the ones in her mother’s kitchen.
Wren also shares one of these tarts with Rilk. I’m not sure if the showrunners intended it, but I feel that this is symbolic of her desire to share herself with him, and just how irrevocably intertwined they are that they both defy their duties to help each other.
The show portrays the tarts as graham crackers with jam and pineapple. The oracle said that she sweetened them with honey and spiked them with brownie dust. However, I wanted to create something that better encompasses Wren and Rilk’s relationship. Also, I decided to take some liberties and make mini cheesecake tarts because like Wren Birdsong’s craft, it’s evolved since its inception in the kitchen.
The orcish word for food is “wafflen“– obviously this is a reference to The Gamers 2′ running jokes with waffles. That’s why I decided to use frozen waffles as my crust and garnish, and incorporate maple syrup in the glaze.
Since I don’t have much to go off of Rilk or his background except that smoldering gaze (I’m married, not dead), I mixed red pepper jelly with the pineapple and maple syrup to give it just the right amount of heat. It, like he and Wren, are an unusual pairing — strange on the surface, but so right when brought together. I also spiked the top with a dark chocolate “brownie dust” garnish.
So here it is, something sweet, spicy, and perfect for snacking on while binging the JourneyQuest series. This recipe, like Wren Birdsong, “starts in a bright, warm kitchen, with light that’s shifting gold.”
Start watching JourneyQuest on Youtube, or on Zombie Orpheus Entertainment’s website.
It Starts in a Bright, Warm Kitchen…
Wren Birdsong's Pineapple Tarts
Equipment: Oven, 12-cup cupcake pan, 12 cupcake liners, 1.5-inch biscuit cutter, hand or stand mixer, baking sheet, small saucepan, pastry brush, and a vegetable peeler.
- 6 frozen waffles, thawed
- 12 oz. can of pineapple chunks in heavy syrup
- 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 cup sour cream, room temperature
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/4 red pepper jelly
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1-2 squares of dark baking chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Line the cupcake tin with cupcake liners. Cut two circles out of each of the waffles using the biscuit cutter and place them in the cupcake tin.
- Whisk the egg, vanilla extract, honey, cornstarch, and 1/4 cup of the pineapple syrup in a small mixing bowl and set to the side.
- Whip the cream cheese and sour cream with the hand or stand mixer until fluffy. Pour in the egg mixture and beat it the mixer again until fully incorporated. Scoop one and a half tablespoons of filling into each cup of the tin and bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes.
- Slice the remaining waffle pieces into triangles while the tarts bake then place the pieces on the baking sheet.
- Remove the cheesecakes from the oven and raise the heat to 425° F. Toast the remaining waffle pieces 3-5 minutes when it comes to temperature. Allow the cheesecake and waffle pieces to cool completely. Then chill everything in the refrigerator for at least three hours.
- About an hour before serving, bring 1/2 cup of pineapple syrup, the red jelly, and the maple syrup to a boil over medium heat and let cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the glaze cool for five minutes.
- Remove the cupcake tin and waffle pieces from the refrigerator. Carefully peel the liners from the tarts and discard. Arrange the tarts on a serving tray. Distribute two chunks of pineapple and a waffle triangle on each serving.
- Use the pastry brush to paint each finished tart with glaze and refrigerate at least 15 minutes. Shave chocolate with the vegetable peeler to garnish the tarts before serving.