Into the Woods" series, 40: The Folklore of Food
Tunes for a Monday Morning

Literary food

Once Upon a Time apple pie crust from the Food in Literature blog

A friend has ribbed me gently for writing about the magic of cooking when she knows I have a deep adversion to cooking myself (with a very few exceptions), and have been known to live on popcorn and coffee when left to my own devices. Mea culpa.

I love fine dining, I'm an adventurous eater, and I care about the ethical and ecological dimensions of the food that's on my plate...but I truly hate to cook, and do it as seldom as I can possibly get away with. (This is, er, not entirely unconnected with having nearly burned my grandmother's kitchen down when I was a kid.)

Fortunately I am married to very good cook, and our daughter is a professional chef & pastry chef in London, trained in a Michelin Star kitchen and deeply interested in food politics. Food is, as a result, a constant topic in our house -- and my love of fine cooking is not diminished by not being a practitioner of the art myself, just as my love of music is not lessened by the fact that I don't play an instrument. Some of us are musicians and some of us are the appreciative audience; some of us are wizards of the kitchen and some of us are happy eaters (and dish-washers).

Regency dish-washerThe dishwasher at work (after a Jane Austen themed dinner party).

Now, with that Full Disclosure aside, here's one last post on food to end the week: a look at blogs and websites combining literature and food in interesting ways. Here are a few of my favorites...and suggestions of others are very welcome.

* The Paper and Salt blog, by Nicole in New York City,  is "part historical discussion, part food and recipe blog, part literary fangirl attempts to recreate and reinterpret the dishes that iconic authors discuss in their letters, diaries, essays, and fiction." The Jane Austen Brown Pudding Tarts and L. Frank Baum Ginger Cake with Butterscotch Sauce below are two of the recipes on Paper and Salt, which has run for almost three years now, covering writers from the 18th to 21st centuries.

Jane Austen post on the Paper and Salt blog

L Frank Baum on the Paper and Salt blog

* In the "Fictitious Dishes" series, Brooklyn designer Dinah Fried has recreated food scenes from books ranging from Moby Dick and The Chronicles of Narnia to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Follow the link to see examples of her work, or seek out her book Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals, containing fifty such photographs.

Below, Fried composes place settings for Charles Dicken's Oliver Twist and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

Oliver Twist's meal by Dinah Fried

Alice in Wonderland by Dinah Fried

* Cara Nicoletti's Yummy Books started as a Brooklyn book club in 2008, turned into a supper club in 2009 and then a  "literary food" blog in 2010. Nicoletti (a butcher, former pastry-chef, and writer) explains her combined focus on food and books like this:

"There is nothing as engrossing as the eating of a truly great meal and nothing that nourishes my spirit quite like the reading of a good book. Hemingway himself once said 'I have discovered that there is romance in food when romance has disappeared from everywhere else.' Perhaps it is because of this symbiosis that, for me at least, some of the most romantic, most poignant scenes in literature are scenes of cooking and eating." 

Pictured below, Nicolleti's food-and-book pairing for Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.

Haruki Murakami food-and-book paiting on the Yummy Books blog

* Eat This Poem, by Nicole Gulatta in Los Angeles, is written in a similar vein but focuses more on poetry, and on literary city guides "for bookworms who love to eat."

Gulatta says that she launched her blog in 2012 "as a way to fuse two of my passions, food and writing. I hope you'll stay a while (preferably with a hot mug of tea or coffee in hand) as we explore how poetry moves from page to plate, and inspires our palates along the way."

Pictured below, an onion tart in homage to Pablo Neruda's poem "Ode to the Onion."

An Onion Tart inspired by a Pablo Neruda poem from the Eat This Poem blog

* The Black Letters, a lovely literary blog  by the "ravening bibliophiles" Emera and Kakaner, occassionally strays into "The Bibliophile's Kitchen," where you can sample Honey Oatmeal Scones inspired by Roald Dahl's Matilda, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell Black Forest Raven Cake and other delights. I was fortunate enough to meet this blog's talented young authors in London this summer, and can't wait to see what they "cook up" next.

Matilda Honey Oatmeal Scones from The Black Letters blog

Black Forest Raven Cake on the Black Letters blog

* On her Food in Literature blog, Bryton Taylor notes food reference in adult and children's fiction, gives advice for book-themed parties, and offers literary recipes -- including the Snow White Apple Pie pictured in process at the top of this post, Ogden’s Olde FireWhiskey from the Harry Potter series, and Twice Baked Honey Cake that might have been served in Tolkien's Hobbiton.

Twice Baked Honey Cake from the Food in Literature blog

* For a more scholarly approach to the subject, try the Literary Food Studies blog by Vivian N. Halloran, an associate professor at Indiana University. The blog is devoted, she explains, to "discussing food in multiple genres -- from blogs, to culinary memoirs (with and without recipes), chefographies, fiction, poetry, investigative journalism and cook books -- and from a variety of perspectives. My approach to food studies is interdisciplinary, but this blog focuses on literary criticism; I consider how the texts under discussion embody, challenge, or expand our assumptions about what makes for beautiful, thought-provoking, compelling, and/or moving writing about food."

Also, if you love good food blogs with dazzling photographs, try A Fantatical Foodie -- which isn't a literary blog per se, but the author is a friend of the family (formerly of Chagford, now living in Bristol) and her food is just incredibly good.

Bon appetit!

Howard's Vanilla Bean & Honey Panne Cotta with Bitter Chocolate GanacheHappily eating a scrumptious dessert of Howard's concoction: Vanilla Bean & Honey Panne Cotta with Bitter Chocolate Ganache


Once again you take the cake and eat it too. What a super swell post!

Oh, wow! I need to go and have breakfast after reading the above.

Enid Blyton made me fat! Well, a slight exaggeration perhaps. I was a lazy child and would always rather read than do anything even vaguely physical. But this coupled with Ms Blyton's wonderful
descriptions of food was enough to nudge me towards the corpulent.
In all reality I can blame no one but myself for my childhood rotundity, words like 'restraint' and 'moderation' were always driven bleating from my vocabulary by terms such as 'apple pie and custard' and 'go on have another huge slice; you're a growing boy' The Famous Five were always 'feasting on lettuce hearts' or were indulging in 'lashings of ginger beer and macaroons'. As a working class lad from the back streets of Leicester I had no idea what a macaroon was, and when I finally had access to a lettuce heart I was deeply disappointed. I'd sooner have had a bar of chocolate any fact I'd sooner have had several bars of chocolate every day! But even so, Enid's descriptions of food remain for me the most evocative of the pure joy of eating and all things culinary. She even managed to make pickled onions sound as though they would grace the plates of the Gods, nudging aside the ambrosia, their vinegary pungency delighting the immortals!
I have to go, in my new culinary regime I have to grate some raw carrot and warm a glass of water for breakfast.

For me, my favorite book as a kid in culinary terms was Johanna Spyri's Heidi. Growing up in the days of Wonder Bread, Velveeta cheese, and soggy canned vegetables, there was something about those simple, fresh meals Grandfather served in the clear air of the mountains that got me every time. That, and the warm, loving haven that Heidi found there.

I just love these food posts! That is all. <3

I'm ashamed to say that I don't actually know the story of Heidi very well, but many years ago there used to be a dramatised version that the BBC would repeat again and again. It was a foreign production with an English commentary and I seem to remember an odd scene where Heidi had stored 'black bread' in her wardrobe. I think she planned to send it to her grandmother or something like that. All very strange. Perhaps it was a variation on a theme of Tolkien's 'Cram' a twice baked bread taken by travellers on long journeys.

A Child's Cook Books

I do not just read,
I eat my books,
devour them actually,
from the gobsmackers
in Mr Wonka's factory,
to the piece of mushroom
where the caterpillar sits,
inveigling Alice
to take a bite.
I gobble cheese with Heidi
in the Alpine meadow,
take morning tea with Mr. Tumnus,
and afternoon tea by the river
with Rat and Mole.
I munch on Mr Potts
candy creations
while we fly off through cumulus
gathering rain
to make candy drops.
I disdain the White Witch's
Turkish Delight
until I find it
in a pantry somewhere
in The Thousand and One Nights.
And I invite all my friends
around for soup,
as long as they bring me
a single stone.

©2014 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

Oh, I'm so hungry now! (Also, great last picture, Terri.)

(I don't suppose Howard would share the recipe for that panna cotta . . . ?)

Popcorn was, is, and always will be, my favorite food--popped without oil in a cast iron pan over gas heat, dribbled with real butter, and lightly salted. Yum.

You and I have the dubious pleasure of being bean bellies, which tells you much about Leicester's culinary history. I think these days it is a better description of my shape.

Terri, I laughed out loud reading this tonight. Last Sunday I spent about 3/4 of an hour trying to find out what the pickled limes (eaten by Amy in Little Women) actually were. I love the use of food in writing. To this day I can still remember a description of Christmas dinner, written by one of my gifted year 6 girls, that made me want to invite myself to their house. She understood the connection between the cooking and the love her mother had for her family and the celebration.

Hi Charlotte, I think I'm more a beach-ball belly. Also Leicester's local beer brew, Everards, might have some responsibility.

I laughed out loud at your first few paragraphs--that's me! When I realized what a creative cook I'd moved in with, and how much joy he derived from cooking, I ceded the kitchen to him. A few times I tried to take it back, but only because I was flirting with some fad eating; always I retreated with gratitude. I do, however, make fabulous oatmeal, and can piece together wondrous salads. Blessed are the gifted cooks who love the process!

One of my favorite lines from Maskerade by Terry Pratchett

(Nanny Ogg gets a question a very recipe in her rather unusual cookbook)

- What about this one? Maids of Honor?
- Weeelll, they starts OUT as Maids of Honor...but they ends up Tarts.

I love this poem!!

A fabulous post that had me remembering stories from my childhood. Treacle tarts, bara brith, lembas bread, and kippers popped up in my favourite children's books, and to this day, I'll create entire meals inspired by books I've read.

Thank you, Terri.

Mmmmm, a tasty poem.

Thanks Catherine and Phyllis.


Delicious post, and I love your kitchen!

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