Literature and food.


At the risk of sounding unlady-like, I will state for the record that I do love my food.

I also like trying out new and unusual dishes (except if it sounds too gross). I will also admit that I am somewhat impressionable when it comes to food, especially if I’m reading about it. What I mean is, if I’m reading a novel and the characters are eating something, I will suddenly have a craving for it or if it’s something strange I will want to try it out.

The constant mention of ‘gruel’ in many old Classics (think: Dickens) has frequently had me cooking up some oats even though it’s never given the most flattering of descriptions.

Now there have been some stranger concoctions that I’ve read and whether these are common where the author is from or whether they are made up, I can’t be certain exactly.

There is one favourite of mine that has raised a few eyebrows.

A few posts back I mentioned Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. The main character travels with her father through Europe. In one country(I can’t remember which) they purchased freshly baked rolls and stopped for a picnic/lunch were they ate the rolls with pieces of dark chocolate in them.
Chocolate on bread? Might sound weird but it is very tasty, people. The reason for Nutella’s existence- although there is a difference, in terms of taste, between choc spread and actual chocolate pieces. I prefer real chocolate pieces so if I have a slab of dark or milk choccie on hand and if I just bought some fresh white rolls, then you know exactly what I’m having for dinner. 🙂

Apples and cheese? Yeah, why not.

For the more health-conscious amongst us, I did come across a new dishy idea after reading the Hunger Games. In the arena, Katniss makes a meal with goats’ cheese and apple slices in a roll. True to my curiosity I decided to try this combination out.
I didn’t have goats’ cheese and since it’s not very common in the supermarkets in my hometown, I used Camembert instead. It was surprisingly good on wholewheat brown bread. I later read that Feta was very similar to goats’ cheese so I tried that as well. I didn’t like it very much, the apple and Camembert made a far better match so lo and behold! I’ve found a new favourite sandwich filling!
As a gourmand, nothing frustrates me more than completely made-up foods that the author makes sound so mouth-wateringly delicious, yet you will never truly know what it tastes like. One example for me was, the Island Of Purple Fruits by Terry Jones(yes, him of Monty Python fame) which describes the said fruits as being the tastiest thing that the main character had ever eaten. As a kid (and even now) I ached to know what those fruits tasted like that. And the same goes for Rowling’s Butterbeer.

Weird dishes/foods mentioned in works of fiction: have you ever been tempted to try them yourself? If you’re a writer have you ever created unique delicacies in your stories? Or what’s the tastiest-sounding foodstuff you ever read about in a novel? Your thoughts are always welcomed.

NM 🙂

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20 thoughts on “Literature and food.

  1. Widdershins says:

    I think butterbeer tastes like caramel gingerbeer with a big frothy head on it.

  2. We are foodies galore here – as I’m sitting here thinking about food in novels, I can’t actually think of one which made me want to eat the food although I know that when I nod off later novels and food will take over my thoughts. However, the first thing which springs to mind are the Iris Murdoch novels because she used to have characters eating strange combinations which strangely appealed at the time. I haven’t read the novels for years, I’ll have to route them out. Going onto goat’s cheese. I used to go to a restaurant which did warm goat’s cheese in filo pastry with cobs of freshly baked wholemeal bread – slosh it down with a nice red wine and a good time is had by all. Yummy!

    • Nisha says:

      I’ve never read Iris Murdoch. Would love to hear about those strange combinations 😉 Oooh that goats cheese in filo sounds yum! Not sure if you ever tasted deep fried coated brie/camembert with cranberry jam…it’s one of my favourites! 😀

      • I haven’t read Iris Murdoch for about 12 years and I am now at the point of returning to her – there are flaws in some of her novels but she is one of my all time favourites, in the fact, that I have read every one of hers and been totally lost in her murdochian world and characters – I have also found her very inspirational. I’d start with “The Sea, The Sea” if you are thinking of reading any. I know people who have been put off because they think her books will be too philosophical and then when I have given them the book to read they have been shocked at how much they have enjoyed them. Love the camembert with cranberry also – I’ve posted you a Hallowe’en card on Facebook.

  3. beckyday6 says:

    Ha! That is so cool that you get cravings for the food you read about in books. 🙂 I wish I could say the same but I don’t think descriptions of yummy or random food has ever prompted me to go and get some. But then, I’m not that big on food or cooking in general lol. Besides, usually when I’m reading a book I’m so into it that I won’t stop for anything, not even food. 😛

    I’m kind of with Widdershins, the only food I really remember thinking I wish I could try were the feasts in Harry Potter, the butterbeer, and well, a few bertie botts every flavour beans or some chocolate frogs wouldn’t go amis either. 😉

    • Nisha says:

      Is that why you’re so slim? Hmm, I think I need to go on a Becky-diet 😀

      Of course, Bertie Botts! Although the snot and earwax flavoured ones make me glad that they are fictious, LOL! And you wont believe the overwhelming craving I would get for chocolate everytime Harry fainted because of a Dementor, ha ha! 😀

  4. Barb says:

    The goat cheese, I can do without. Probably the food in the Redfern children’s books makes me run to the fridge or pantry whenever I read them.

  5. nelle says:

    I’ve not tackled any foods too unusual in storytelling. Sharp cheddar with a super sour Granny Smith and horseradish sauce go well in a turkey sandwich. Then again, there is the Grinch’s (in the song) arsenic sauce.

  6. Martin Shone says:

    You’d better not read my novel if you get cravings for what you read 🙂 The mother of the one character makes some very er.. unusual meals indeed! They are edible as I had them all cooked and eaten and photographed too 🙂 I’m on the final edit of it now (is there ever a final edit?) and am looking to self publish.

    • Nisha says:

      Never realised you were working on a novel! How awesome, method-writing, (like method acting) cooking all the meals, sounds like a lot of fun. Will we get to see any of the photos on your blog???
      Ps. No such thing as a final edit my friend 😛

      • Martin Shone says:

        The novel is finished and has been for about ten years now ha ha and has been rejected sooo many times and I’m idle when it comes to editing, although I have printed it out now and it is sitting the chair waiting for me 🙂 Hmm putting pics up, never thought of that 🙂 I might dig them out if I can remember where I put them!

  7. trixfred30 says:

    The Famous Five – bags of lettuce, potted meat and ginger beer – Enid Blyton knew how to write up a good picnic!

  8. Lois says:

    We’re reading Hunger Games for our book club choice this month… I’ll look out for goat’s chees (my favourite by the way!) Great post!

    • Nisha says:

      Goats’cheese is not easily available in our local supermarkets, we usually have to get it at the Farmers’markets. Hunger Games is great, I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

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