Is it the approach of Thanksgiving with its traditional foods and festivities celebrating the fall harvest that turns the mind to food, or is it nature’s way of encouraging us to prepare for the approach of winter and the long, dark sense of hibernation it brings? Whatever the reason, this is the season we tend to fixate on food.
We pour over cookbooks, gazing with lip-smacking anticipation at the glossy photos of perfectly prepared foods. We craft and re-craft menus for holiday dinners. We scour the Internet seeking the perfect recipe that combines just the right ingredients with the least amount of preparation time. We fret over choices of side dishes. Should we prepare Aunt Helen’s Broccoli Cauliflower Cheesy Delight as enjoyed by generations of family members or venture into unknown territory with a new recipe from Rachel Ray? Food is constantly in our thoughts.
Preparing and eating food is a fundamental human activity, an activity that is both necessary for our survival and inextricably connected with our social and emotional well-being. It’s a universal experience that connects all of us, so it’s not surprising to find food in literature. Themes related to food are common among all types of writing from novels and plays to poetry and prose. It’s often used as a literary device for both visual and emotional impact. Think of Scrooge’s miserable dinner of gruel in A Christmas Carol as a symbol of both his miserliness and emotional emptiness.
Food is often so well described in fiction that your mouth will start to water. Ernest Hemingway’s classic description of eating oysters in A Moveable Feast will have you dashing to the nearest seafood restaurant for an order on the half shell. Fannie Flagg will inspire you to whip-up a batch of fried tomatoes after reading Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, although you may not be in a rush to scramble Green Eggs and Ham. Food in literature delights and inspires us.
We’re featuring Food in Fiction this month at the library. Browse the display for a mouth-watering read. Here are a few of the selections: Peaches for Father Francis, by Joanne Harris, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquirrel, The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard Morais, Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin, and The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister.