15 Sep 2009, 10:16pm

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Food in Children's Books


The most vivid memories I have of the books I read as a child usually center around the food. Maybe I was a foodie-in-training from a young age? But actually, even if I weren’t a foodie, I would still remember the food well, because good eats seem to feature quite prominently in a lot of children’s literature.

For instance: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Here was a story where a greedy little boy almost actually betrayed his family to the dark side in exchange for a heaping dish of sweets called Turkish delight. Of course, little girl me was dying to try this stuff, which was supposedly so heavenly that it was worth sacrificing everyone you loved. I had no idea what this Turkish delight was, but I wanted it! Had to have it! Then I grew up and discovered Turkish delight and was very disappointed to learn that it tasted like gooey, sticky soap. So much for the magic.

The Paddington Bear series was another great favorite of mine, and practically every other chapter featured food in some way or another. Even if it didn’t, Paddington always carried around a marmalade sandwich under his hat “for emergencies.” XD I was never a fan of marmalade, but his love for it was quite amusing to me, and I enjoyed all his escapades involving the stuff. My favorite episode was when he had the audacity to order a marmalade sandwich at the fanciest restaurant in town! I suppose it’s sort of akin to ordering a PB&J sandwich at Citronelle or French Laundry, lol.

Paddington had a standing date with his good friend Mr. Gruber for “elevenses” every day, when they’d share a hot cup of cocoa accompanied by what he’d call “buns.” I’m actually not sure what “buns” are in the British sense. (Breakfast rolls? English muffins?) Nevertheless, I always found it to be a charming tradition, and I remember wanting to have “elevenses” right there with them in Mr. Gruber’s antique shop. (^__^)


And who can forget Alice in Wonderland? There was a whole slew of food and drink, most of them quite unusual and every bit intriguing as the characters in the story. I was especially mystified by the liquids and food stuffs that demanded for Alice to “DRINK ME!” and “EAT ME!” The “DRINK ME” beverage is described in the book having a “sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast.” Hahaha! I’d love to give it a try.

The Little House on the Prairie books had food up the wazoo. You wouldn’t think it, but those pioneers ate well year-round, according to the account of Laura Ingalls Wilder! I have a worn-down copy of Little Town on the Prairie that I read backwards and forwards as a child. Even now, if I go back and read some of the chapters, it makes me drool. She just had a way of describing the food that made it sound SO good! Even the “blackbird pie” sounded delicious, even though when you stop to think about it, it’s kind of gross. (That was the year their crop of corn was devastated by the pesky blackbirds…so they shot down a bunch of the nasties and baked them up in a pie instead!)

The “New England Supper” chapter had me particularly starry eyed.

Those tables were loaded. There were heaped dishes of mashed potatoes and of mashed turnips, and of mashed yellow squash, all dribbling melted butter down their sides from little hollows in their peaks. There were large bowls of dried corn, soaked soft again and cooked with cream. There were plates piled high with golden squares of corn bread and slices of white bread and of brown, nutty-tasting graham bread. There were cucumber pickles and beet pickles and green tomato pickles, and glass bowls on tall glass stems were full of red tomato preserves and wild-chokecherry jelly.

Oooh my god….does that sound good or what? (*____*) (I think I could learn quite a bit of food writing from this book!) There was also a whole roasted pig on the table, which was what Laura (the main character) was craving most. X)

In the following chapter, Laura goes to a birthday party, and there’s even MORE food. There’s an oyster soup, steaming hot and delish. Then it’s followed by potato patties “fried a golden brown” and a “platter full of hot, creamy, brown codfish balls” in addition to hot biscuits. Each of the partygoers gets a special treat at the end: a whole orange. I suppose it was quite a rare treat for them back in the day. I love how she made even the simplest things sound fabulous.

I have a special place in my heart for my absolute favorite childhood book, Anne of Green Gables. This is by far the most tired looking book I’ve got on my shelf; I’ve loved it to death. Funny enough though…all my food memories from Anne involve her disasters.

Of course, there’s the part where Gilbert tugs her hair and calls her “carrots!” Not literally about food, but still quite amusing. (Love how she cracked her slate over his head for that!) Then there’s the time she accidentally intoxicated her friend Diana by giving her currant wine instead of raspberry cordial. (I’d like to try both drinks, actually…I’m not sure I’ve ever had any). And the time she inadvertently added anodyne liniment to her cake instead of baking powder, resulting in quite a revolting flavor! XD

I adored how she tried so hard in spite of her clumsy nature, throwing herself into everything (from hosting a tea to baking a cake) with heart…and with the genuine desire to serve great food to her friends.

So…what do you remember of food from your childhood books? (^O^)

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