Don’t you just love reading about food? I mean really love it. Search-out-the-most-delicious-descriptions-in-fiction love it. When I was a kid, and a complete bookworm, I loved to eat whatever the characters in my books were eating. I recall one summer day reading about some children in a now-forgotten story eating peas and butter. I marched right up to the freezer, microwaved me some peas and melted some butter (shudder–in those days it may have been margarine) on top. Food always tasted more real, almost four dimensional, when I let my lunch be decided by the stories I was reading. I could pretend to be the characters through the food. I was transported, even in a small way, into the story.
Which is, by the way, why I found your book so rapturous. It wasn’t the gripping tension or sex scenes (those were good too, though). It was the food. The tasty language. The edible imagery. Don’t we all love a good drool-worthy description? I think this is why Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks and writing about food make me a little hot under the collar. She seduces with her language about the simplest foods. Add gorgeous photos and I’m pretty much in Fork&Fiction heaven.
So the other day Little e was reading through her book collection and came upon the classic, your favourite and mine, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. We sat down to it together. I started reading this book more than a decade ago, when I taught preschool classes. It went on my mental list of books to stock my future children’s bookshelves with. [Having a long and established list of books you must have for your kids makes it a tad hard to not tell people which books to buy them for birthdays and Christmas. I end up buying all my favourite books for other people’s kids and hoping they will love them so much they’ll buy us a copy in turn!] I never get tired of reading it, especially the part where the caterpillar eats all that food. I mean, he’s a serious glutton. I can’t wait for Little e to be old enough to revel in his terrible eating habits with me.
But part of the charm of this book, surely, is the image of the food–a slice of Swiss cheese, a piece of cherry pie–that we can relate to, taste in our mind’s mouth. It connects us to the caterpillar. And isn’t that what happens, on it’s most basic level, with all food in books? My daughter is still too young to understand what she’s seeing (other than pointing out the “appu” and “orn”), but she knows it’s food. It’s colourful. It makes her, and the protagonist of the story, happy.
So I guess I’m hoping this book starts her on a lifelong love affair with reading about food. Not just in novels or stories, but in magazines, cookbooks, non-fiction, newspapers–wherever she finds it. As a good friend of mine says, food is love. And you can’t go wrong with that, can you?
What are your favourite books with memorable food in them?