Feeling hungry? Then you are about to get ravenous!
While rereading the Harry Potter series this month, I became acutely aware of the vast number of scenes in the books that either feature food, talk about food or showcase characters whose hunger pangs rival my own (I’m talking about you Ron!). Now I should probably point out (if you haven’t noticed already) that I love a sumptuous dinner as much as I love an overflowing bookshelf and whenever I come across a food scene while I’m reading, my stomach starts to growl like my next door neighbour’s dog! So I decided to write a blog post that features some of my favourite books and the types of food that are mentioned in them. I think it’s incredible to read about the different kinds of cuisines across literature, and how much these scenes add such a unique taste to the story!
Purple Hibiscus — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Purple Hibiscus is set in Nigeria and it features different kinds of Nigerian cuisines throughout the story. Interestingly enough, Nigerian cuisine involves a great variety of colourful and aromatic dishes, using various herbs, spices, beans, meat and rice. Adichie’s writing conjured such vivid images of these luscious dishes that I was constantly hungry while I was reading it! To mention a few:
- Fufu: A Nigerian staple food that is mentioned quite a lot in the novel. It is a dough-like dish made of boiled or ground plantain, cassava or yam that is rolled into a ball to go with soups. In fact Kambili eats it by rolling it and dipping it in the Onugbu soup.
- Ofe Onugbu: Also known as the Bitterleaf soup, it is the most traditional Igbo soup. Apparently the name is quite misleading since the soup is not bitter at all. The leaves are washed and squeezed until all traces of bitterness is gone.
- Egusi Soup: It is a popular Nigerian dish made from ground egusi (melon) seeds.
- Nigerian Fried Rice: This is probably one of my favourite dishes mentioned in the book and it usually consists of rice, vegetable oil, chicken, curry with several vegetables and seasoning.
- Utazi: It is an African herb that has a characteristically sharp taste and is used in soups and herb teas to add a bitter taste.
The Grisha trilogy — Leigh Bardugo
In an interview with Wendy Darling (click this link for more info), Leigh Bardugo concurs that food forms an integral part in a story in the way it makes the fictional world more familiar and real. But authors also have the ability to twist the familiar into something extraordinary, so while you still feel at home within the fictional place, you also realise that you have been transported into a fantastical place.
If I could live on a carbs-only diet, I would! So when I read about Ravka’s Butterweek Sweet Bird-shaped Rolls, I couldn’t help imagining myself eating a whole basket! The bird-shaped rolls mentioned in Shadow and Bone are inspired by those that are still made today in Russia to celebrate the coming of Spring and the prosperity that it brings with it. These sweet buns, also called zhavoronki, are baked in the shape of larks, as a symbol of harbinger of Spring. They honestly look and sound delicious!
“‘I still have the roll,’ I offered lamely, pulling the squashed, lint-covered lump from my pocket. It had been baked into the shape of a bird to celebrate the spring flocks, but now it looked more like a rolled-up sock.
Mal dropped his head, covering it with his hands, his elbows resting on his knees. His shoulders began to shake, and for a horrible moment, I thought he might be crying, but then I realised he was laughing silently. His whole body rocked, his breath coming in hitches, tears starting to leak from his eyes. ‘That better be one hell of a roll,’ he gasped.”
Dinner at the Grand Palace in Os Alta doesn’t sound bad either!
“The food was less alien than I’d expected, the kind of food we’d eaten on feast days at Keramzin: sweet pea porridge, quail roasted in honey, and fresh figs. I found I was hungrier than I’d ever been and had to resist picking up my plate to lick it.”
The Night Circus — Erin Morgenstern
The Night Circus is one of my all-time favourite books. Le Cirque des Rêves for me embodies everything that I love: from the food, to the attractions, and the palpable magic in the air. I was constantly imagining myself wandering its paths and weaving around the tents the whole time I was reading it, smelling the cider in the air and licking chocolate off my fingers. Just picture yourself eating some of these:
Caramel apples, black and white striped paper bag of chocolate or caramel covered popcorn, chocolate mice with almond ears and liquorice tails, cinnamon rolls covered in icing, spiced cocoa and cider.
“Apples dipped in caramel so dark they appeared almost blackened but remained light and crisp and sweet.”
One also cannot fail from mentioning Chandresh Christophe Lefèvres’ famous Midnight Dinners. They were famous for having no menus just to add to the experience, and while some dishes were recognizable, others were more enigmatic, hidden beneath sweet sauces or inside pastries. Chandresh himself admits that not knowing all the ingredients gives the dish life and ‘makes it more than the sum of its parts’.
Just to mention a few: quail, rabbit or lamb served on banana leaves or baked in apples, garnished with brand-soaked cherries, berries bursting with creams and liquors, figs dripping with honey, sugar blown into curls and flowers and pastries lighter than air.
Harry Potter —J.K. Rowling
It wouldn’t be right to forget the very books that inspired this post! I guess we can all agree that J.K Rowling is a wordsmith goddess, able to infuse the mundane with a touch of her own kind of magic. So naturally, the food mentioned in the books are exquisite and bound to make you hungry just by reading about them. There’s also something comforting to read about all those overflowing and scrumptious dishes, maybe because they remind me of family gatherings, Christmas dinners or my mum’s cooking, with the mouth-watering smell permeating every room in the house.
So let’s start off with the infamous food trolley on the Hogwarts Express:
- Chocolate Frogs
- Liquorice Wands
- Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans
- Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum
- Pumpkin pasties
- Cauldron Cakes
The Hogwarts Feast is always bursting with the most delicious food imaginable:
“He had never seen so many thing he liked to eat on one table: roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, fries, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy, ketchup, and for some strange reason, peppermint humbugs.”
“Blocks of ice cream in every flavour you could think of, apple pies, treacle tarts, chocolate eclairs and jam doughnuts, trifle, strawberries, Jell-O, rice pudding—“
Nothing can rival the Start-of-Term Feast, except maybe…the Christmas Feast! It mainly consisted of hundreds of fat, roast turkeys, mounds of roasted and boiled potatoes, platters of fat chipolatas, tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick, rich gravy and cranberry sauce. And for dessert, flaming Christmas puddings with silver sickles hidden within.
I also cannot fail from mentioning Hagrid’s jaw-breaking rock cakes; shapeless lumps with raisins that often broke their teeth! Or his infamous birthday cake he made especially for Harry on his eleventh birthday.
It’s a personal dream of mine to one-day taste Mrs. Weasley’s cooking! If only I could receive her homemade fudge and toffee for Christmas! And I think we can all agree that there is no one able to whip up a delicious feast like Molly Weasley!
By seven o’clock, the two tables were groaning under dishes and dishes of Mrs Weasley’s excellent cooking, and the nine Weasleys, Harry and Hermione were settling themselves down to eat beneath a clear, deep-blue sky. To somebody who had been living on meals of increasingly stale cake all summer, this was paradise, and at first, Harry listened rather than talked, as he helped himself to chicken-and-ham pie, boiled potatoes and salad.
A trip to Hogsmeade will often lead you to Honeydukes, a store bursting with the most delectable sweets ever!
“There were shelves upon shelves of the most succulent-looking sweets imaginable. Creamy chunks of nougat, shimmering pink squares of coconut ice, fat, honey-coloured toffees; hundreds of different kinds of chocolate in neat rows; there was a large barrel of Every Flavour Beans, and another of Fizzing Whizzbees, the levitating sherbet balls that Ron had mentioned; along yet another wall were ‘Special Effects’ sweets: Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum (which filled a room with bluebell-coloured bubbles that refused to pop for days), the strange, splintery Toothflossing Stringmints, tiny black Pepper Imps (‘breathe fire for your friends!’), Ice Mice (‘hear your teeth chatter and squeak!’), peppermint creams shaped like toads (‘hop realistically in the stomach!’) , fragile sugar-spun quills and exploding bonbons.”
And if you’re feeling chilled to the bone, you can always visit Madam Rosmerta at the Three Broomsticks for a glass of Butterbeer, Firewhiskey, gillywater, mulled mead, red currant rum, or cherry syrup and soda with ice and an umbrella.
That’s it for today but I will definitely write another similar post soon! I’m just going to nip downstairs for a bite to eat now…because I’m starving!