My friend over at Incurable Logophilia ran a terrific meme the other day about food and fiction, so I thought I’d copy. It’s a great meme. It really makes you think about how food and fiction can be intertwined. Please add your associations at the end! I love to hear other people’s literary memories. …
Food from fiction that you’d like to sample:
Right away, I think of being a child and reading about the maple syrup concoctions Laura and Mary Ingalls made in Little House on the Prairie (and Little House in the Big Woods, I believe). (I guess that might actually fall under the “nonfiction” category, but I definitely remember reading that item in a book and wishing I could sample.) The girls would pour syrup onto the snow in swirling configurations, let them freeze, then eat them like a cookie. I always thought that sounded fun.
As an adult, though … hmmm … well, I still lean toward the sweets: In Chocolat, I remember the way they described the hot chocolate in the book – thick and foamy, with real milk and real chocolate – and I recall wanting to taste that so badly.
A fictional meal you would like to have attended:
For some reason, the first thing that comes to mind here is The Great Gatsby, and the characters all sitting out on the veranda, the first night Nick visits Daisy. I would like to have been there, drinking claret while the summer wind blew the curtains and Daisy questioned whether the candles should be lit. It was such a strange but romantic conversation, with so many secrets. I always wanted to help Nick sort through the lies.
A memorable work of fiction set in a restaurant or café:
The Sun Also Rises has several scenes with Lady Brett and Jake and all their friends languidly sharing meals and drinking gin throughout Europe, sitting in various bars and cafes in Paris and Pamplona, often out on the sidewalk. Those scenes were very vivid for me.
Food you’ve tried that didn’t live up to the expectations raised by a fictional account:
A few people mentioned the “Turkish delight” mentioned in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I didn’t read that book, but I read have a Turkish delight at one of our book clubs after we read something set in or near Turkey (can’t remember which book??) and I remember I was similarly disappointed in it! It sounds much better than it is.
An unappetizing food description from fiction:
The food that the young Clare makes Henry in The Time Traveler’s Wife always sounded so disappointing for Henry. (Didn’t she put something strange in the sandwiches, like pretzels or something?)
Also, the recipe that Gogol’s mother craves when she’s pregnant with Gogol in The Namesake sounded terrible – Rice Krispies, peanuts, red onion, lemon juice and slices of green chili pepper. However, for fun, Barbara brought this concoction to the book club, and we were surprised that it was quite tasty. We all had seconds!
A recipe you’ve tried or a meal you’ve recreated from fiction:
We do this all the time at the book club. We tried the above-mentioned Rice Krispie and onion concoction from The Namesake, the Lane cake from To Kill a Mockingbird, the honey butter from Secret Life of Bees, and drank Jack Burden’s “wis-kee” from All the Kings Men. We shared Native American cuisine when we read Ceremony, a Russian-Jewish menu when we read The Fixer, and enjoyed chocolate biscuits, port and assam tea with milk to discuss Brideshead Revisited. It really makes the book come to life for us, and trying the recipes is half the fun of the book club!
Food you associate with reading:
Pistachios and iced tea. This is what I always ate as a child, when I’d sit in the back yard under the grapefruit tree and read all summer long. Every time I smell pistachios now I think of those gloriously lazy summers.
Your favorite food-focused book/writer:
Several romance writers do a wonderful job of incorporating food into the themes of their books. (Shirley Jump is known for this, incorporating the recipes, and Jenny Crusie does a good job of weaving people’s perceptions about food into her themes.) Food stands for so many things in real life – a way of giving love, a way of keeping (or losing) control, a tie to regions, a tie to traditions, an emblem of an era, basic substance, a baby’s life, a woman’s body image, etc. Many writers who have strong female protagonists use it well, I think, to portray all these important themes.
So what about you? What are some of your fiction-food associations? Any food that didn’t live up to expectations by a fictional account? Do you remember any food from a book you really wanted to try?
I guess I always gloss over the meals in anything I read, not sure why; maybe it makes me too hungry. I do have a couple of inputs though.
A meal setting I would like to have been in on is King Arthur’s round table. What male hasn’t fantasized about being a knight at King Arthur’s round table and tearing apart the fowl with his hands and drinking wine and, well you get my point…
A memorable cafe or restaurant setting has to be from the Godfather when Michael goes into that Italian restaurant to get Solozzo to not try to kill the Godfather. Michael is sitting there not even listening to the negotiations because he knows he has to go into the bathroom, get the gun from the back of the toilet and come out and kill Solozzo and a police captain, and remember to drop the gun! One of the best all-time movie scenes, plus the Italian food looked real good before it got all splattered with brains and blood!
I think it’s wonderful your book group always incorporates some food item from the book you’re reading – what a neat idea.
And I remember those maple syrup ice cone thingys as well. I would have loved to sample one when I was a kid.
As someone who always notices the food in books, this post made me hungry! I was actually just blogging about Laura Ingalls Wilder and the related cookbook today. I used to salivate over the detailed descriptions of pioneer meals as a kid. My sister and I once tried to replicate the maple syrup on snow candies, using ice cubes and Mrs. Butterworth. We were very disappointed.
I’ve always wanted to try Turkish Delight, but everyone I know who’s done it regretted it. Some things work better in fiction!
Chris — oooh, that Godfather scene is an outstanding one. I never read it in Puzo’s book, but we studied it extensively in a film class at UCLA, and it’s considered one of the greats. In fact, speaking of food, they use an absurd number of oranges in The Godfather movies. Count how many you see next time you watch!
Verbivore — yes, the food element in fiction has always been important to our book club, so your meme was especially fun for me. Thanks again for introducing me to it!
Marcella — I read your Laura Ingalls Wilder post and loved it! I can so relate to everything you wrote about loving Laura’s wildness. And I guess we can start a club now of all the little girls who tried the maple-syrup-on-snow/ice. She was magical for us all. Enjoyed your blog. I’ll be visiting. … (P.S. Yes, skip over the Turkish delight …)
Interesting…everytime I read a book that takes place in Britain, I have to have tea. I remember reading a series of books where the protagonist made great molasses cookies. I made a batch every time I read a book!
I just read a book called “Bet Me” by Jennifer Cruise and she had an interesting scene with crispy cream donuts – it’s towards the end of the book where “the guy gets the girl” (if you know what I mean). I have tried them before, but never like that! I also remember the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and the maple syrup. I remember trying to “tap” the trees in our back yard…they were’nt maple trees 🙁 Unfortunately the most vivid food related memory from those books for me was when they slaughtered the pig and Laura played catch with the organs. I remember asking my mom why and what that was all about and she explained that that is where “tossing the old pigskin” came from. I was so grossed out that I became a vegetarian (for a day)!
Jersey Girl — Oooh, I love the idea of having tea with a book that takes place in England. Like “Brideshead Revisited” was great, but would be even better with Earl Grey and milk. : )
Debi — Oh my gosh, I LUUUUURVE Jenny Crusie, and “Bet Me” was one of my faves! And yes, I know exactly what you mean about the Krispy Kremes … can’t quite look at them in the same way now! ; ) As for Laura Ingalls Wilder, I’m surprised that so many of us remember those silly maple-ice treats! How funny. Maybe I’ll have to try to make them for a party some day. (But I’ll skip the bacon…) Thanks for cool tidbit about “tossing the pigskin.” Didn’t know that.