If art imitates life, it's a wonder that the bulk of book scenes aren't set at diners or dinner tables. Still, a number of classics tie the sensuousness of eating in with their themes of memory (Proust's famous madeleine), anxiety (Holden's birdlike diet in The Catcher in the Rye) and tradition (the family business in Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides).
Paying homage to the role of food in fiction, Dinah Fried began a project for which she photographed meals from classic novels. The result, Fictitious Dishes [Harper Design, $19.99], is a photo album of memorable meals and the text from their accompanying scenes. Fried's photos recreate the mood of the books -- carelessly strewn orange peels and cigarette butts adorn her depiction of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and cucumbers arranged on a dainty plate make up her image for The Bell Jar.
Check out these five meals from classic books, and click here for more fictitious dishes:
From the book:
“You goddamn honkies are all the same.” By this time he’d opened a new bottle of tequila and was quaffing it down. Then he grabbed a grapefruit and sliced it in half with a Gerber Mini-Magnum—a stainless-steel hunting knife with a blade like a fresh-honed straight razor.
“Where’d you get that knife?” I asked.
“Room service sent it up,” he said. “I wanted something to cut the limes.”
“They didn’t have any,” he said. “They don’t grow out here in the desert.” He sliced the grapefruit into quarters . . . then into eighths... then sixteenths... then he began slashing aimlessly at the residue.
From the book: Then I tackled the avocado and crabmeat salad. Avocados are my favorite fruit. Every Sunday my grandfather used to bring me an avocado pear hidden at the bottom of his briefcase under six soiled shirts and the Sunday comics. He taught me how to eat avocados by melting grape jelly and french dressing together in a saucepan and filling the cup of the pear with the garnet sauce. I felt homesick for that sauce. The crabmeat tasted bland in comparison.
From the book: At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another.
From the book: In order to test his taste, she brought him a whole selection of things, all spread out on an old newspaper. There were old, half-rotten vegetables; bones from the evening meal, covered in white sauce that had gone hard; a few raisins and almonds; some cheese that Gregor had declared inedible two days before; a dry roll and some bread spread with butter and salt. . . . Then, out of consideration for Gregor’s feelings, as she knew that he would not eat in front of her, she hurried out again and even turned the key in the lock so that Gregor would know he could make things as comfortable for himself as he liked. Gregor’s little legs whirred, at last he could eat. . . . Quickly one after another, his eyes watering with pleasure, he consumed the cheese, the vegetables and the sauce; the fresh foods, on the other hand, he didn’t like at all, and even dragged the things he did want to eat a little way away from them because he couldn’t stand the smell.
From the book: “We’re not through yet. There’ll be an appeal, you can count on that. Gracious alive, Cal, what’s all this?” [Atticus] was staring at his breakfast plate.
Calpurnia said, “Tom Robinson’s daddy sent you along this chicken this morning. I fixed it.”
“You tell him I’m proud to get it—bet they don’t have chicken for breakfast at the White
House. What are these?”
“Rolls,” said Calpurnia. “Estelle down at the hotel sent ’em.”
Atticus looked up at her, puzzled, and she said, “You better step out here and see what’s in the kitchen, Mr. Finch.”
We followed him. The kitchen table was loaded with enough food to bury the family: hunks of salt pork, tomatoes, beans, even scuppernongs. Atticus grinned when he found a jar of pickled pigs’ knuckles. “Reckon Aunty’ll let me eat these in the dining room?”