Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Food for Thought: Fun Food Fiction

Note to readers: Sorry for the long delay in posting. Due to both budget and diet concerns, I have been in a cooking phase and haven't eaten out in nearly 2 weeks. I promise that I will have at least 2 restaurant reviews next week.

Foodies love to not only cook, smell, touch and taste food, but true foodies love to read about it. Everyone is familiar with the icons of nonfiction food literature: Mimi Sheraton, Jeffrey Steingarten, Ruth Reichl, Anthony Bourdain. But fiction authors haven't missed the culinary boat either. Here is some of my favorite fictional foodie reading.

I have read Gone With the Wind five times – more than any other book I’ve finished in my life – and my favorite part is just before the start of the Civil War, when the Wilkes throw a barbeque at Twelve Oaks. The descriptions of the meat turning on spits will drive any barbecue lover crazy. Another scene detailing the huge daily breakfasts is great too. Scarlett is one of my most beloved heroines of all time for many reasons, one of which is that she doesn’t adhere to the standards of her day which command ladies to “eat like birds,” especially in front of company. Mammy claims that Scarlett gobbles like a pig, which increases her worth in my eyes.

Another one of my top five favorite books, The Count of Monte Cristo, describes several lavish, bountiful feasts within its lengthy but extremely worthy text. The French are not only masters of cuisine, they are also masters at describing it. Page after page of over the top meals awaits you.

Emile Zola’s Nana provides her party guests with a meal of endlessly varied dishes and unbelievable proportions. Nana spares no expense in pleasing the palates of her many guests, creating smorgasbords that require multiple hours to consume.

Accounts of the days leading up to the sinking of the Titanic (either true stories from survivors or fictionalized) always include awed descriptions of the meals served in the dining rooms, including the first class menu which amazed the diners because it included fresh strawberries. Strawberries were out of season at the time. If this doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, please be aware that this was long before the days when food was raised in one country and transported thousands of miles to another year-round.

P.S. My favorite children’s book involving food is Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett. It’s set in the imaginary town of Chewandswallow, where meals rain down from the sky three times each day. It’s a delight for readers of all ages.

P.P.S. Warning – reading any of the above books may cause ravenous hunger on the part of the reader. Place a padlock on your refrigerator door and hide the key before reading. For good measure, throw your credit cards in the freezer beforehand.

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