Books to Devour

You can’t lay eyes on a madeleine without someone yammering on about Proust, but there are plenty of scenes in classic books that’ll make you crave a little snackerel.

Apartment Therapy blog the Kitchn has had an interest in the intersection between books and food of late, first asking about readers’ favorite food-themed children’s picture books and next focusing on food scenes in classic novels. The post on picture books nabbed a couple of my personal favorites, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but curiously left out all of Amy Wilson Sanger’s “World Snacks” books, ubiquitous in the homes of food-loving parents.

The Kitchn’s literary picks are a tad meatier: Oliver Twist begging for porridge; Jane Eyre sharing a seed cake with a friendly teacher. But the Kitchn’s list is shrimpy compared to the Chowhound thread “Childhood literary chow memories.” Says thread originator chowmeow:

I think that I became a chowhound because of food cravings inspired by books I read as a child.

For example, after reading Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I wanted to try boiled maple syrup cooling thickly on a plate of fresh, white snow. I also wanted to take a piece of Hubbard Squash, spread it with butter and scoop it into my mouth like Laura did. I longed to taste the ambrosial turkish delight described in the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Even mundane, store-bought apples seemed more appetizing after reading how Tom Sawyer would steal them from under his aunt’s nose.

Readers responded with a flood of food-and-reading memories, wistfully recalling everything from the toasted cheese sandwiches eaten by mountain mama Heidi to the gorgeous-sounding chocolates of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Hungry for more? CHOW’s own Meredith Arthur delved into this topic in her story “A Feast of Words.” She helpfully points out that there are so many food scenes in Charles Dickens’s first novel, The Pickwick Papers, “that an actual medical condition, Pickwickian syndrome, was named after one of the characters called ‘the fat boy’ who falls asleep after consuming massive amounts of food. Delicacies included pigeon pie, broiled ham, oysters, cheese, teas and coffees, and all manner of sundries.”

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