Food makes everything better. Using it as a motif, or repetitive symbol, in literature makes reading all the more delicious. Who would not wish to take a bite out of Madame Bovary’s ultra-chav wedding’s Savoy cake, or know for themselves exactly how bad that gruel was in Oliver Twist. Check these ten famous literature munchies and see why they make great food…for thought!
10. Cucumber Sandwiches- The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde’s 1895 play The Importance of Being Earnest opens in a glamorous West London bachelor’s pad belonging to the dandy Algernon Moncrieff. “Algy” asks his butler to prepare cucumber sandwiches for his aristocratic aunt, Lady Bracknell. Algy’s best friend Ernest asks, “Why cucumber sandwiches? Why such reckless extravagance in one so young?” The issue concludes with Algy’s mindless eating of all of his aunt’s sandwiches prior to her arrival, only to claim to her later that there were no cucumbers in the market “even for ready money.”
So why are cucumber sandwiches considered extravagant? Although cucumbers originated in India over 4,000 years ago it was not until Queen Victoria’s appointment as Empress of India in 1877 that the influence of the national products, such as the cucumber, fully entered the British culture. Once the sandwiches hit the royal table for the first time, the upper and middle classes caught wind of it and made them their signature afternoon tea snack. Following the very Victorian tradition of imitating everything that the Queen did, these once-dubbed “beautiful” people solidified the connection between the cucumber sandwich and “poshness.”
9. Eggs- Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
In Frank McCourt’s 1987 Nobel prize-winning memoir Angela’s Ashes, the egg symbolizes hope, wishes, and indulgence. This guileless motif is juxtaposed to the dire living conditions of the Irish Catholic McCourt family. Young Frank tells us in chapter IX that he has plans for “that egg” that he would get the Sunday after his father gets the first paycheck from his new job. The plan: To “tap it around the top, gently crack the shell, lift with a spoon, a dab of butter down into the yolk, salt, take my time, a dip of the spoon, scoop, more salt, more butter, [and] into the mouth”. Yummo! Eggs are described with particular candor, as they represent a luxury that the McCourts, with their never-ending financial woes, could hardly afford.
Sadly, no one gets any eggs. Malachy, Frank’s father, ends up squandering all of his paychecks, leaving his family to fall deeper into their cavernous money hole. But lady luck helps Frank once he leaves Ireland and reaches America: he gets to work at a restaurant, and hunger is no longer an issue for him! After hunger is satiated in the novel, food becomes a motif for American excesses, complete with dreams of a jumbo shrimp chasing Mrs. Angela McCourt down the street. The novel is not about food, but you get the idea.
Halloween is just around the corner! If you’re looking for a costume idea, we’ve collected our top 10 literature-inspired outfits here by level of difficulty, so you can look bookishly awesome no matter how much time you have on your hands.
1. Ishmael, from Moby Dick
You’re just one name tag away from “Call me Ishmael.”
2. Fifty Shades of Grey
Witty and racy. Head to your local hardware store for some free color sheets and you’re done! Read the rest of this entry »
Hear more about the latest update on The Boy Who Lived, published on Rowling’s Pottermore website yesterday.
HP superfans will be delighted to hear that author JK Rowling, despite insisting that she won’t return to write another addition to her popular series, has released a short update on the adult lives of her beloved characters. The 1,500 word story appears in the form of a gossip column on Rowling’s Pottermore website, written from the perspective of her tabloid journalist character Rita Skeeter.
In it Skeeter reports from the grounds of the current Quidditch World Cup in Patagonia. As usual, nobody is safe from the sharp-quilled busybody, as Skeeter kicks up dirt on Dumbledore’s Army members Harry and Ginny, Ron and Hermione, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, and more. Among the most scandalous “discoveries” Skeeter shares with her Daily Prophet readers are the Longbottoms’ penchant for a tad too much firewhisky and Teddy Lupin and Victoire Weasley’s steamy snog sessions (“The good news is both of them seem to have invented a method of breathing through their ears”).
If you, too, are nostalgic for a time when we could all look forward to another Harry Potter adventure, read Rowling’s latest tidbit, “Dumbledore’s Army Reunites at Quidditch World Cup Final” here, and let us know what you think!
…and the reviewers who actually read them.
1. People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It
There are actually quite a few Goodreads reviews of this one, and it seems to generate love-hate (but mostly hate) reactions:
Anita Dalton rated it 1 of 5 stars
Unusual beliefs make the world more interesting. But there are times when bad, bad writing combine with bad, dangerous information, and I am left with nothing but snark. If Penn Jillette read this book, he would s#@* blood.
Heather rated it 5 of 5 starsAnyone with an open mind should explore the pages of this non-fiction journey. It’ll make you think about things that you wouldn’t naturally consider. I loaned this to a co-worker and haven’t seen it since!
Maybe the spirits took it?
2. How to Avoid Huge Ships
The kicker with this one is that it’s labeled as the “Second Edition.” It’s hard to imagine what the first edition might have left out. Unsurprisingly, Poets & Writers hailed it as the “worst book ever” back in 2011, despite its $131 price tag and huge underground following. They also rounded up some of its snarkiest Amazon reviews, which are well worth a read:
I bought How to Avoid Huge Ships as a companion to Captain Trimmer’s other excellent books: How to Avoid a Train, and How to Avoid the Empire State Building. These books are fast paced, well written and the hard won knowledge found in them is as inspirational as it is informational. After reading them I haven’t been hit by anything bigger than a diesel bus. Thanks, captain!
Read this book before going on vacation and I couldn’t find my cruise liner in the port. Vacation ruined.