More Great Food Moments in Literature

Photo: flickr/Troy Holden

Flavorpill has a round-up of mouth-watering food moments in literature. In Moby Dick, for instance, Melville dedicates pages on the perfect clam chowder: “It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits and salted pork cut up into little flakes! the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt.”

And who can forget Willy Wonka’s sweets? “Marshmallows that taste of violets, and rich caramels that change colour every ten seconds as you suck them, and little feathery sweets that melt away deliciously the moment you put them between your lips.”

Of course, Flavorpill’s list doesn’t begin to encompass all the great food scenes in literature, and if it was an attempt at the top ten, it didn’t quite make it. Here are a few more scenes that are worthy of consideration:

  • The Book of Salt, by Monique Truong: “Quinces are ripe, GertrudeStein, when they are yellow of canary wings in midflight. They are ripe when their scent teases you with the snap of green apples and the perfumed embrace of coral roses. But even then quinces remain fruit, hard and obstinate–useless, GertrudeStein, until they are simmered, coddled for hours above a low, steady flame. Add honey and water and watch their dry, bone-colored flesh soak up the heat, coating itself in an opulent orange, not of the sunrises that you never see by of the insides of tree-ripened papayas, a color you can taste. To answer your question, GertrudeStein, love is not a bowl of quinces yellowing in a blue and white china bowl, seen but untouched.”
  • Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie: “On the thali of victory: samosas, pakoras, rice, dal, puris; and green chutney. Yes, a little aluminum bowl of chutney, green, my God, green as grasshoppers…and before long the puri was in my hand; and chutney was on the puri; and then I had tasted it, and almost imitated the fainting act of Picture Singh, because it had carried me back to a day when I emerged nine-fingered from a hospital and went into exile at the home of Hanif Aziz, and was given the best chutney in the world…the taste of chutney was more than just an echo of that long-ago taste–it was the old taste itself, the very same, with the power of bringing back the past as if it had never been away…in a frenzy of excitement, I grabbed the blind waitress by the arm, scarcely able to contain myself, I blurted out: ‘The chutney! Who made it?”
  • Feast scenes in Redwall, by Brian Jacques: “The table linen was spread upon the orchard grass, with pretty blossom arrangements decking the fruit trees. Lanterns hung, ready to be lit by evening. Casks of strawberry fizz, October Ale, dandelion and burdock cordial and jugs of mint tea or pennycloud brew were placed in the tree shade. Scones, tarts, pies and pasties were there in abundance, alongside trifles, broths, oven-baked breads and delicate almond wafers.”

Oh, and the chocolate cake scene in Matilda? Makes you want to go find a rich chocolate torte to bury your head in.

What are your favorite food scenes in literature? Post as a comment.

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Ode to the Beet

My apologies for not writing in so long! Stay tuned for a “Mother/Daughter Mustard” installment soon…

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.

Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets.

The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze the blood out of a turnip

The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.

The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.

In Europe there is grown widely a large beet they call the mangel-wurzel. Perhaps it is a mangel-wurzel that we see in Rasputin. Certainly there is mangel-wurzel in the music of Wagner, although it is another composer whose name begins, B-e-e-t–.

Of course, there are white beets, beets that ooze sugar water instead of blood, but it is the red beet with which we are concerned; the variety that blushes and swells like a hemorrhoid, a hemorrhoid for which there is no cure. (Actually, there is one remedy: commission a potter to make you a ceramic asshole–and when you aren’t sitting on it, you can use it as a bowl for borscht.)

An old Ukrainian proverb warns, “A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil.”

This is a risk we have to take.”

– Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume