My Favorite Food Moments in Children’s Literature

It’s no secret that I love books.

Books, writing and food are my first loves (sorry, Jake!). The books that I got lost in as a child have always stuck with me as an adult. I especially remember the books that involved food imagery. They fed my imagination and made me incredibly curious about foods such as salt pork and bread fruit.

Here are some of my favorite food moments from some of my favorite childhood books:

Pippi Goes on Board
,
 Astrid Lindgren

Pippi Longstocking lives in a dilapidated home by herself. Neighborhood children befriend Pippi and attempt to teach her how to be a “proper” young lady.

In this book, her distant, wealthy pirate father leaves her copious amounts of gold that she uses to buy 72 pounds of candy including chocolate cigarettes and licorice boats.

Then, in Pippi in the South Seas, the children roast breadfruit. I was stunned to learn this is a real fruit and have yet to try it.


Betsy-Tacy and Tib
, Maude Heart Lovelace
I treasured these books, re-reading them countless times. When Betsy, Tacy and Tib’s parents leave them home alone, they make everything pudding with cocoa, vinegar, oil, lard, onion, citron, rice, etc. My childhood friend and I once had a similar adventure in which we tried to make an everything bread. We cracked whole eggs, eggshell and all, into our batter and tried to eat it. Of course, it was terrible and we learned why nobody eats eggshell.

We also spent a morning making everything pancakes and emptied the contents of my mom’s spice cabinet into our batter including dried mustard, sugar, and curry. Our attempts were as nauseating as Betsy, Tacy, and Tib’s everything pudding.

The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
In this book, Edmund betrays his siblings for the White Witch’s Turkish Delight.

This is a real sweet and I bought my first box of Turkish Delight at Holy Land Deli in Minneapolis. I’ll admit that I was disappointed in my first taste. It’s not that I thought this confection tasted bad, but I didn’t like it so much that I’d consider betraying an allegorical Christ figure to get some.

Little House of the Prairie
series, Laura Ingalls Wilder
I loved Wilder’s descriptions of pioneer salt pork and maple syrup that solidified into candy when dripped onto fresh snow. Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate featured Bragg Family Farm in East Montpelier, VT where they serve “sugar on snow” with boiled-condensed maple syrup. You can also make your own.

Ramona Quimby, Age 8
, Beverly Cleary

I remember sympathizing with Ramona, when her mother sneaks tongue onto the dinner table. Ramona and Beezus are disgusted when they scrape the gravy off of their meat slices and notice taste buds described as “yucky, little, small and tiny bumps.”  As punishment, their parents assign them to cook dinner. Ramona and Beezus cook chicken thighs and cornbread, improvising with banana yogurt and chili powder.
The Phantom Tollbooth
, Norton Juster

Imagine my surprise when I found out this book was not just a fairy tale, but a tool to teach children wordplay and mathematical concepts. I love when Milo goes to the market’s and munches on letters from the “DO IT YOURSELF” letter vendor. A is “quite sweet and delicious.”  Z is “dry and sawdusty.”  C is crip and I is “icy and refreshing.”

Sideways Stories From Wayside School
, Louis Sachar

I have so many favorite food descriptions from this book. Joy steals classmate’s lovelier bagged lunches. Mrs. Jewels creates Maurecia-flavored ice cream. Miss Mush serves potato salad and mushroom surprise.

Ozma of Oz, L. Frank Baum
Did you know that there is an entire series devoted to the land of Oz? In this book, Dorothy finds a lunch-box tree. Baum describes the lunch boxes as “nicely wrapped in white papers was a ham sandwich, a piece of sponge-cake, a pickle, a slice of new cheese and an apple.”

Who wouldn’t love to grow a lunch box tree?

Magical Melons: More Stories About Caddie Woodlawn
,
Carolyn Ryrie Brink

Despite the title, Magical Melons don’t refer to anything smutty. They refer to the watermelons Caddie’s father buried in the hay loft for storage. Caddie and her cousins find the watermelons and eat them all, imagining they were left there by magical means.

I also remember enjoying the chapter in which Caddie and her sister spend an evening at Mrs. Nightengale’s house and eat cold chicken and ham for dinner. Caddie is a girl after my own heart.  If someone offers you two food options, you try a little of both.

Do you have any favorite food moments from your favorite childhood books? 

12 Comments

  1. Every single meal in Farmer Boy (Laura Ingalls Wilder’s story of Almanzo’s New York boyhood) makes me drool.

  2. I have to begin by stating that I’m giddy about the fact that I’m not the only one who has memories specific to food in my favorite books. Since you’ve struck another wonderful chord (favorite CHILDHOOD books), I spent a while thinking. I am admittedly sad that I only have time to list the first 2 that came to mind (and in an effort to keep from boring everyone on your amazing blog):
    Because it’s one of my all-time favorite books, “A Wrinkle In Time” has a very interesting food moment, which is also a poignant moment in the book. The children are fed “synthetic” food (a turkey dinner) but Charles Wallace only tastes sand. They are told by the Man with the Red Eyes that he had to believe in order to taste the food. At that point, the Man does something similar to hypnotism and Charles Wallace’s eyes physically change, as does his demeanor and he begins signing the praises of the delicious meal.
    Anne of Green Gables is another favorite book of mine, and there are a LOT of foods present in the books and many desserts mentioned. I have to admit that despite the dreaded mouse in the pudding, I have always craved plum pudding after reading that chapter (and still have yet to actually try a true plum pudding). I will also admit that the raspberry cordial always sounds so fun. And, in Anne of Avonlea, there is this, “Then I’ll have peas and beans and creamed potatoes and a lettuce salad, for vegetables,” resumed Anne, “and for dessert, lemon pie with whipped cream, and coffee and cheese and lady fingers.”

    • I love that this makes you giddy too!

      Those are such good examples. I haven’t thought about A Wrinkle in Time for Years and Anne of Green Gables is a book I’ve read so many times as well. I should try to find raspberry cordial just for fun. Have you heard of Fictitious Dishes? I just thought of this since I saw someone mention it on Facebook. I wonder if any of these are in the 50 dishes she photographed: http://dinahfried.com/Fictitious-Dishes

      • I’m so excited to look into that book. In fact, if I can find an affordable copy and treat myself, I’ll let you know if there are any AOGG dishes.
        Also, and this is why I was upset that I posted so quickly, I omitted a book that I LOVED mostly because the plot revolved around a boy and the food he encountered (with the underlying lesson of cliques and classes): “What’s For Lunch, Charley?” by Margaret Hodges. I longed for each and every meal described in this book when I was a kid, from the basic peanut-butter sandwich (why do books magically make something so simple sound so delightful?) to the foil-wrapped fried chicken drumstick.

  3. Such a wonderful post! I never would have dreamed up a post like this in a million years which is why I tip my hat to you for the wonderful book memories and the food in them! Awesomeness in a post, my friend. 🙂

  4. You are a girl after my own heart! The Little House books were (and may still be) my absolute favorite…you have to read Farmer Boy…Almanzo knew his food!

  5. I loved the Betsy-Tacy books and the Little House books. I remember some of the food from the Little House books, such as pouring syrup on snow, but I don’t think of any of these books for the food.

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