Thursday, April 27, 2006

well read, well fed (installment one)

I was recently inspired to research and write a post about literature that involves food. Novels with recipes in them, memoirs revolving around tastes and food experiences...that sort of thing. I was a bit surprised to find how many books there are out there that are heavily influenced by food. I suppose it's natural. I mean food is part of everyday life. We have emotional as well as physical connections to it. What we reflects who we are and where we came from. So it works well in literature to humanize the subject, to tell the reader something about the characters and to draw the reader in with feelings they can identify with.

To get an idea of the amount of food-related books out there, check out this list. Just for starters! So, I abandoned the idea of one long involved post on the subject, and thought it would instead make a good regular feature.

Recently I read a book by Kurt Vonnegut, one of my most favorite-est writers, Deadeye Dick. It's about a boy with eccentric parents who accidentally shoots and kills a woman. It goes through his life until adulthood. Throughout the novel there are recipes. Rudy Waltz, the main character and narrator spent much of his boyhood in the kitchen with the family cook, and prided himself on being the only one in his family who could actually cook.

Here's an excerpt from pgs. 28 & 29:

“I myself am in one picture in the paper. It is of our entire family in the street in front of the studio, looking up at the Nazi flag. I am in the arms of Mary Hoobler, our cook. She would teach me everything she knew about cooking and baking, by and by.

Mary HooblerÂ’s corn bread: Mix together in a bowl half a cup of flour, one and a half cups of yellow cornmeal, a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of sugar, and three teaspoons of baking powder. Add three beaten eggs, a cup of milk, a half cup of cream, and a half cup of melted butter.
Pour it into a well-buttered pan and bake it at four hundred degrees for fifteen minutes.
Cut it into squares while it is still hot. Bring the squares to the table while they are still hot, and folded in a napkin.

When we all posed in the street for our picture in the paper, Father was forty-two. According to Mother, he had undergone a profound spiritual change in Germany. He had a new sense of purpose in life. It was no longer enough to be an artist. He would become a teacher and a political activist. He would become a spokesman in America for the new social order which was being born in Germany, but which in time would be the salvation of the world.
This was quite a mistake.

How to make Mary HooblerÂ’s barbecue sauce: Saute a cup of chopped onions and three chopped garlic cloves in a quarter of a pound of butter until tender. Add half a cup of catsup, a quarter cup of brown sugar, a teaspoon of salt, two teaspoons of freshly ground pepper, a dash of Tabasco, a tablespoon of lemon juice, a teaspoon of basil, and a tablespoon of chili powder.
Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes.”

It's a very good book, the heavier moments lightened up a bit with these recipes.

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