Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Food for Thought

There's definitely a relationship between what I read and what I feel like eating. A good 25 years ago, I vividly remember sitting in a pizza parlor in upstate New York, reading Jane's House. Every time I've packed that book for a move, unpacked it at my new home, or just seen it on my library bookshelves, I find myself thinking about pepperoni pizza, and longing for a New York slice.

I was reminded of that today. After seeing the film Julie & Julia with friends last year, of course I read Julie Powell's book (I really must read My Life in France, also). I then promptly requested both the DVD of the movie, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Christmas. My husband, possibly the best Santa Claus ever, made sure they were both under the tree for me. He even watched the DVD, and loved it. He also wondered when I would start serving him meals from the cookbook. He's out of town on business right now, but I decided to start right in, and experimented with a terrific omelette a la Julia for brunch this morning. I'd never have strayed from my ordinary omelets if not for these books.

Inspiration for food often comes from my reading. When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out, I eagerly attended a midnight release party and enthusiastically swapped theories for hours with friends (and total strangers) in the bookstore. I got my copy at 12:02 and raced home to start reading. At some point it occurred to me that it had been a long time since I'd last eaten. As Harry, Ron and Hermione were on the run at the time, camping out and eating lean, that's probably not too surprising. But they were reduced to eating toadstools - not too appetizing. I read on. Then Hermione found eggs and bread at a lonely farm and made scrambled eggs on toast. Yes! I set the book aside long enough to scramble some eggs and toast some bread, and got back to reading. There are probably still a few crumbs in the middle of Chapter 15, The Goblin's Revenge.

Memorable books provide food for thought in more ways than one.


  1. My husband always thinks of the 101 Dalmatians when he has buttered toast.

    There are foods you only encounter in books. Porrige sounds delicious; gruel sounds awful. They're both oatmeal; only porrige is cooked with milk and sugar and gruel is cooked with water. I'm still not clear on what treacle is. I always picture it as molasses. Scones are biscuits but biscuits are cookies; and apparently the British will bake scones fresh but only get biscuits out of tins.

    Are you ever reading along and can suddenly smell the cookies a character is baking, or the peaches he's picking in the warm sun? I can never smell flowers in books. Only food.

  2. We also received Julie & Julia for Christmas and loved it; the script and acting were outstanding, and we enjoyed the way the two books and their authors' lives were interwoven and correlated. How sad, at the end, that Julia didn't "get" what Julie was doing. One of my favorite cookbooks is based on foods mentioned in the Lord Peter Wimsey books. Treacle makes me think of the Dormouse (it is a lighter syrup than molasses, and we always ate the Brer Rabbit brand). I also forget to eat when in the clutches of a really good book (just finished Brandon Sanderson's Elantris and Mistborn, two full days of riveting fantasy). Wonder if I could market reading as a new weight-loss plan?

  3. Like you, Peni, I can smell food in books - I've never thought about smelling flowers, so I probably don't smell them. Of course, I can also taste food in books, which isn't really a desirable option with flowers...

    I love your idea of reading as a weight-loss plan, Kate (and I'm so glad you liked J&J - though I, too, thought it was sad that Julia didn't understand what Julie was doing). Since I tend to eat what I'm reading about, I don't know if it would help me lose any pounds. What's that cookbook based on the Lord Peter Wimsey books??

  4. Since I love research, I did some digging around on to answer your question. I found an entry for The Lord Peter Wimsey Cookbook. Published in 1981, it was written by William J. Eakins, and Elizabeth Bond Ryan. I hope that helps your interest.

    On another note, I too enjoyed Julie & Julia when it came out in movie theatres. If I wasn't a vegetarian, I'm sure some of Julia's recipes that appeared in the film would have set my mouth watering. I'm that sensitive to food descriptions in all kinds of fiction. Especially, if its spicey foods, or sweet desserts.

  5. Thanks so much, Eliza - sorry it took me so long to reply to your comment. I've been laid up with torn ligaments and haven't felt much like blogging for a while. But my knee is healing, so I'm back to my computer. And I just checked, and see that I can buy it from's resellers!