The Best Food in Classic Literature
- Ernest Hemingway - A Moveable Feast
Oysters and white wine
"As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans."
If you’re not a fan of shellfish, this passage in Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast might just change your mind. Even if you’re not convinced, you will come away from this paragraph feeling like you were with Hemingway eating them! More than anything, he describes eating oysters is an experience. Oysters are one of a small category of food where the experience - the sensations (icy cold), the smell (brine-y), the location (hopefully close to the sea) makes it more than just a meal.
2. Lewis Carroll - Alice in Wonderland
"There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea at it: a Dormouse was sitting between them, fast asleep, and the other two were using it as a cushion, resting their elbows on it, and talking over its head."
In her pursuit of the white rabbit, Alice is invited to High Tea with the Mad Hatter, Dormouse and other guests. High Tea, or Elevenses are quintessentially British past-times. Elevenses, as you might have guessed, takes place at 11 a.m. In Alice’s High Tea, now otherwise known as Afternoon Tea takes place at approximately 3-4 p.m. You can still go to many hotels and restaurants and have a traditional Elevenses, or even a Alice-themed Afternoon Tea. Like oysters and white wine, Afternoon Tea is an experience, best shared with someone else. Hopefully in the surroundings of a beautiful hotel tea room, with a fine china tea set. You would likely have a beautiful tiered display brought to the table, likely containing small crust-less sandwiches and little cakes.
3. Louise May Alcott - Little Women
"That was a very happy breakfast, though they didn't get any of it; and when they went away, leaving comfort behind, I think there were not in all the city four merrier people than the hungry little girls who gave away their breakfasts, and contented themselves with bread and milk on Christmas morning."
One of the most memorable passages in Alcott’s Little Women takes place on Christmas. The family, while not rich, has laid on a modest yet delicious meal on Christmas Day for breakfast. While the March family is not rich - they are having to forgo presents this year - they do not go without food. Their charitable mother encourages the girls to take their breakfast meal to the sick and starving Hummel family. Their good deed does not go unnoticed, either by this poor family or their wealth neighbour Mr. Laurence. He in turn rewards their kindness with a magnificent Christmas feast: Turkey, plum pudding, cranberry sauce, as well as French bonbons and ice cream cake! These treats made all the sweeter by their charitable deed. It is a beautiful passage in the book, and reading it you can almost feel the warmth of the cozy house as the family peel off their winter layers, only to see in front of them the most lavish spread!
4. Anne of Green Gables -
These books contain numerous accounts of delicious, home-cooked food. One of the most memorable is when Anne prepares in a very grown up tea for her friend Diana…
Anne of Green Gables Book Page Print
“Marilla is a very generous woman. She said we could have fruit cake and cherry preserves for tea. But it isn’t good manners to tell your company what you are going to give them to eat, so I won’t tell you what she said we could have to drink. Only it begins with an R and a C and it’s bright red color. I love bright red drinks, don’t you? They taste twice as good as any other color.” Anne of Green Gables, Chapter XVI
Cordial, otherwise a homemade concoction of raspberries, sugar and lemon juice, diluted with water before serving. This one made by her mother Marilla. While this sounds delicious, and indeed Diana in the book also found it delicious, she was in fact drinking currant wine, and after imbibing three glasses became drunk!
If you were prefer not to have alcohol with your High Tea, you can easily make a raspberry cordial at home, even with frozen raspberries. This would even make a delicious alcohol-free mocktail with soda water and a slice of lime!
5. C.S. Lewis - The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
"“It is dull, Son of Adam, to drink without eating,” said the Queen presently. “What would you like best to eat?” “Turkish Delight, please, your Majesty,” said Edmund."
Food in books is often used to entice or tempt a character, especially in children’s books: think poor Bruce Bogtrotter in Matilda with the gooey chocolate cake. While that is not a particularly appetising passage, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe has a “delightful” scene at the beginning where one of the middle Pevensie children is enticed to stay in Narnia through the White Queen’s mysterious and delicious Turkish delights. Lewis’ novels were set in war time, when expensive treats would have been rare. This makes it even more enticing to poor Edmund?
Turkish delights is a strange sweet, and not everyone’s cup of tea. It is a jelly-like candy, often light pink or yellow in color, dusted in fine icing sugar. It dates from the 1700s and was traditionally given as a hospitality gift. Unlike Western candies, which are usually fruit-flavoured, Turkish delight is made with floral flavouring like rose water or orange blossom. It is deeply aromatic but also cloyingly sweet.
6. Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Fried Chicken and Rolls
Gracious alive, Cal, what’s all this?” He was staring at his breakfast plate.
Calpurnia said, “Tom Robinson’s daddy sent you along this chicken this morning. I fixed it.”
“You tell him I’m proud to get it—bet they don’t have chicken for breakfast at the White House. What are these?”
“Rolls,” said Calpurnia. “Estelle down at the hotel sent ‘em.”
Calpurnia is the heart of the Finch household in To Kill a Mockingbird. If you can read the passages about her cooking and your stomach doesn’t rumble, you might need to go a doctor - something’s wrong with you. Through the turbulent events that Scout observes and go through herself in the book, Calpurnia’s love remains steadfast.
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