It’s no secret that I love books.
Books, writing and food are my first loves. 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?