Fab food in books

By Kirstin Buick
24 September 2013

There are some books that just make readers think of food, and I’m not talking about recipe books here – fictional tales you don’t expect to be about food. Our book blogger takes a gastronomical tour through the book world and picks five favourites, starting with Harriet the Spy.

 

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

I started thinking about food and books because right now I’m craving a tomato sandwich. I want it so badly I can just about taste it and it’s Harriet the Spy’s fault. This is one of my favourite childhood books. I read it over and over and over when I was at primary school, taking it out from the library repeatedly because I adored 11-year-old Harriet M Welsch. Harriet spied on the other kids at school, making observations and keeping notes until her notebook falls into the wrong hands. She also only ate tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches. So because of Harriet, at age 10, I made my first tomato sandwich, and she was onto something because it was absolutely delicious.

Now I’m rereading this book and at the first mention of that tomato sandwich I’m wandering off to the kitchen to make one.

Buy the book here.

 The Dave Robicheaux series by James Lee Burke

I tried to make po’boy sandwiches after it was mentioned for the umpteenth time that Dave Robicheaux, a sheriff’s deputy in New Iberia, Louisiana, and his sidekick, private detective Cletus Purcel, were ordering these sandwiches stuffed with fried oysters and shrimp. These wonderful crime thriller books, which started in the late ’80s and are still going strong, are dark and filled with New Orleans life. Former alcoholic Dave can’t stay out of trouble and seems to have a thing for food too; I mean the guy runs a fishing camp with a barbecue pit at his home, and loves gumbo, deep-fried crawfish and other fabulous new Orleans dishes. Not surprisingly, author James Lee Burke once told Esquire magazine, “There’s no such thing as bad food in south Louisiana. It’s on a level with heroin.”

Oh, by the way, my po’ boy sandwiches were a disaster; frying oysters is not as simple as it sounds.

 

The Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot books by Agatha Christie

Quite fitting for Miss Marple, a very proper British character, she liked scones and dainty sandwiches, especially in a quaint tearoom. And lunch would be roast beef or mutton and roast potatoes followed by plum tarts or apple meringue tarts. This lady detective loved to eat! Often crimes were solved over afternoon tea. But poison was also administered through food and drink. And then there was Agatha Christie’s other famous character, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who always started his day with a cup of chocolate, and I suspect it wasn’t made with low-fat milk.

 

The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling plus The Famous Five, Malory Towers and St Claire’s series by Enid Blyton

One mug of butterbeer, that’s all I want; one mug so I can taste this amazing drink. Wait, I also want to taste pumpkin juice. And Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (but not snot flavour). The kids in the Harry Potter books are always eating, whether it’s great feasts at Hogwarts, wonderful snacks on the train to school or crumpets toasted in the fires in the dormitories. It’s a good thing these kids were having so many adventures and on the go all the time as they needed to work off all those kilojoules. The food in the Harry Potter books remind me of The Famous Five’s many picnics and the fabulous midnight feasts that were part of life for the girls at Malory Towers and St Clare’s boarding schools in the Enid Blyton books. The Famous Five’s Dick, Julian, Anne, George and their dog, Timmy, would have these amazing picnics. I still have moments of confusion when I see bottles of ginger beer or lemonade paired with jam tarts, wondering if it’s a memory from MY childhood or that of the Enid Blyton characters. No other author has made hardboiled eggs, tins of pineapple chunks and sardines sound as appealing.

 

The Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell

It’s gourmet all the way for Dr Kay Scarpetta who loves to whip up decadent Italian dishes or eat out at top restaurants to relax after a day bringing down baddies. True the forensic examiner in these crime novels deals with some gross stuff but every now and then you find yourself lost in her food descriptions. Good food is so important to author Patricia Cornwell she’s produced two cookbooks, Food to Die For: Secrets from Kay Scarpetta’s Kitchen and Scarpetta’s Winter Table, both with recipes the character has made or had at restaurants, such has Jack Daniel's Chocolate Pecan Pie featured in The Body Farm. Yum!

-Natalie Cavernelis

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