Eating and Reading

Eating and reading are two activities that can bring us comfort and joy, which can go hand-in-hand and foster a new appreciation for the other.

Novels and Food

My journeys into books that are both good reads and culinary delights, though fairly limited, began at an early age:

• Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar that sees a newly hatched caterpillar eating its way through all kinds of food as it grows towards its transformation.
• Mem Fox’s Possum Magic tells the story of Grandma Poss searching for the right kind of magic food to make Hush visible again.
• Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Match Girl is a tragic tale of a poor girl selling matches on the streets over the Christmas period and sees her peeking through the windows of the rich at tables laden with delicious foods and egg nog.
• Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tells the fantastical story of Charlie’s tour of Willy Wonka’s amazing chocolate factory.
• Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland has an array of food related scenes from the eat me/drink me size altering food and drink, to the Mad Hatter’s tea parties and the Queen of Hearts tarts.
• J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Fellowship of the Ring gave us all the second breakfast and elevenses, something I have grown rather fond of!
• Laura Esquirel’s Like Water for Chocolate tells how Tita expresses love for Pedro through her food, and how he falls in love with her by eating it. It is a story of forbidden love and culinary emotion.
• Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love is split into three sections, the first of which takes place in Italy and revolves around the pleasures of eating.
• Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion tells the story of Henri whose life has recently changed when he joined Napoleon’s troops as a chef catering to Napoleon’s passion for chicken.

Eating and reading, books and food, have many things in common – they can both be bitter or sweet, satiating or unsatisfactory, leave a lingering aftertaste that you can savour long after you are finished, and can be consumed slowly or devoured ravenously. Books I have more recently wolfed down include:

• Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch: a collection of three stories, the first of which centres on the dangers of eating goblin fruit.
• Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller: a story of war, love, betrayal and forgiveness focusing around, amongst other things, the baking of bread.
• Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girl tells the story of Dortchen Wild, one of the Grimm brothers’ storytellers. This is a story of lack of food, of being resourceful, and making feasts from nothing while feeding the soul on fairy tales.
• Katherine Marsh’s Jepp, Who Defied the Stars tells the story of Jepp, a court dwarf in servitude to the Spanish Infanta, who is forced to, among other things, spring out from a baked pie.

There are so many fabulous novels relating to food. Which have you been eating and reading? Which books have you devoured or have left you feeling famished?

Image: front cover of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar

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