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Apr 22, 2006 06:44 PM

Childhood literary chow memories

  • c

I think that I became a chowhound because of food cravings inspired by books I read as a child.
For example, after reading Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, I wanted to try boiled maple syrup cooling thickly on a plate of fresh, white snow. I also wanted to take a piece of Hubbard Squash, spread it with butter and scoop it into my mouth like Laura did. I longed to taste the ambrosial turkish delight described in the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Even mundane, store-bought apples seemed more appetizing after reading how Tom Sawyer would steal them from under his aunt's nose.

What are your memories of food from childhood reading?

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  1. b

    For me, as a child, it was also maple syrup on snow, venison (which just sounded good - I didn't know where the meat came from), and the pork cracklins from Little House On the Prairie as well as the Turkish Delight from The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe.

    As an adult it has been all the Japanese food from Murakami's books.

    2 Replies
    1. re: brooklynmasala

      Murakami !! What about the simple tomato spaghetti Murakami's characters are always
      whipping up. Think of "The Wind up Bird..." guy. One of my all time favorite books. ( I once gave a copy to a man I was wildly in love with, he soon dumped me and started dating a beautiful Asian girl, was that stupid or what, but back to the chow... )
      I have developed a comfort food habit of simple onion, tomato and add just a bit of sugar, on spaghetti noodles. But I don't drink beer with it.

      1. re: ciaolette

        I love the way he describes the simple foods his characters enjoy. In one he makes a woman tea and brings out hard boiled eggs to munch on. Or how a character has potato salad for lunch. Last one I read I had to boil some eggs and get some potato salad, pronto.

    2. yours were beautiful and poetic.. mine -- from nursery rhymes-- 'little miss muffett'..and her 'curds and wheys'..didnt know what they were but i wanted some..also 'little jack horner'..sat in that corner..'stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum'....... yum! ..also 'simple simon met a pie man'..(i hope it was cherry!)...'pattycakes pattycakes..bakers man..bake a cake as fast as you can'...what a sweet topic this is....

      1. There were a couple of books about a Brooklyn Jewish family, I remember the first book as being All Of A Kind Family and in it was discussed buying cones of hot peas with lots of black pepper. I now surmise that the peas were chick peas but as a 5th or 6th grader it made me want to try those, but at the time having been raised pretty much in the south and southwest the only peas I knew were green or black eyed unless it was pea season and the rest of the time they were canned. The full sized grey green peas with lots of butter and freshly ground black pepper tasted pretty good to me.

        Being brought up with a southern/southwestern background the Miss Minerva and William Green Hill books and some Little Colonel always were something I could relate to when it came to food discriptions. I don't remember Nancy Drew having many gastronomic depictions but I did pick up the "Nancy Drew Cookbook" at a garage sale. It is a treasure in my collection but I have yet to cook anything from it.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Candy

          i loved the all-of-a-kind family books as a kid! i desperately wanted to buy a hot sweet potato or a pickle from a street vendor (oddly, not so available in south florida. even at the mall.)

          1. re: funkymonkey

            I adored those books. I remember the oldest sister's name was Ella, and one of the others was named, I think, Hennie. I used to love the descriptions of them buying a cone of broken crackers from the vendor. I figured at the time (I was maybe, 8) that their old-fashioned crackers were a true taste treat and must be more like cookies. I read the same sort of descriptives in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," from Frannie's recollections.

            My Gramma had a slew of really old-fashioned "young ladies' books," with titles like. "Girl of the Limberlost", "An Old-Fashioned Girl," etc. and I just tore through those, loving the scenes about the midnight parties and "frolics" the girls had, with things like sliced tongue, jelly, cake and cream. "Anne of Green Gables" comes to mind with some great examples of early-20th-century Canadian specialties; especially wines and jellies and jams. The Little House series educated me about cooking on the prairie, especially: Jackrabbits, prairie hens, salt-rising doughs baked in a spider or dutch oven......particularly the book "Farmer Boy," which was very food-centered and always made me hungry. In later fiction, Harriet the Spy's Tomato sandwiches always got me; and there was a small series, the "Ginny and Geneva" series about two best friends, and in one of the books one of the girls enters a cooking contest and made a chicken lunch loaf with whipping cream, olive and almonds, and a dessert of babas au rhum, which sounded like the epitome of elegance at the time. Everything MFK Fisher wrote had a huge impression on me. She was the first person to instill in me the idea that food can be a sacrament, in a non-religious way; that one can be a guest to oneself. Her sensibilities turned me onto a whole new world of food. And lately, I've enjoyed these three books that were food centered:

            Stealing Buddha's Dinner - Bich Minh Nguyen

            Crescent, by Diana Abu-Jaber

            Death by Pad Thai - Douglas Bauer (a compilation of food stories and essays; wonderful)

            Trail of Crumbs - Kim Sunee

            And would recommend any of them. But have something around to eat while you do.

        2. How about "Stone Soup?"

          4 Replies
          1. re: Kirk

            Yes! Stone Soup, definitely. I am currently reading Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs to my toddler, which is a great book.

            1. re: brooklynmasala

              cloudy with a chance of meatballs use to be my favorite book as a kid... i use to wish donuts would fall from the sky...

              1. re: Ashley

                That was my favorite book too! (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) I also had a kids cookbook with stone soup, banana smoothies, bird nest clusters and other recipes that got me into cooking.

                I still wish donuts would fall from the sky every now and then, like snowflakes.

            2. re: Kirk

              Yes! Stone Soup, definitely. I am currently reading Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs to my toddler, which is a great book.

            3. As a twelve year old, I read " A tree grows in Brooklyn" so many times, I had ripped it into separate different sections. The family in that story was very poor, and the main character tells the reader how she spent a total of about 20 cents to buy food for her family throughout the week. Even though I never had to consider food in those terms, many of the decriptions the author uses made it sound so appetitzing (sp). They always had an extra five cents to buy a crushed pie for dessert on Saturday nights.

              Frannie always borrowed the same books from the library each week and spent her allowance on wafers to munch on while reading those books along with a glass of ice water.

              I need to read it again very soon.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Zaheen

                I tried it a few years back, after about a 40-year hiatus. It didn't hold up well at all, I thought - some awfully clumsy, even mawkishly sentimental writing. Too bad, because I really loved that book when I was eleven or twelve.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  oh man that sounds terrible..wonder if I should let it remain a perfect memory or try to relive it.

                  1. re: Zaheen

                    I have re-read it every couple of years since I was 10 years old (28 now). It's one of my favorites and it always makes me feel good. But I will say this - it is like a Lifetime movie. Pure comfort and not a lot of stress in the reading. Keeping on topic - I will always appreciate a nice dill pickle after reading about Francies Dill Pickle Days and her savoring it after days of blandness.

                    1. re: lbs

                      haha what a memory you have brought back. I don't even like pickles, but after reading it, I bought a jar of pickles and actually enjoyed them.

                      Thanks to all for reminding me of how much I love this book and how it has influenced me.