Picture from here.
I really, really loved to read as a kid. I remember being really frustrated that children could only borrow seven books at the time from the library. That only lasted me a couple of days, and the library was a bus ride and a good walk away from my home. I loved books: their comforting weight, the smell of the paper, the sound of the pages turning and the thought of the many people who had become enchanted by them before me. I would curl up on my bed to read, read while I was eating, on the toilet, while brushing my teeth. I dreamt of the day when someone would finally invent a type of paper that enabled me to read in the bath. I still did, but I just found having to hold the book up high and keep my fingers dry very annoying.
I still love to read, but nowadays I very rarely become so completely absorbed by a book as I did when I was younger (and I loveit when it does happen). I remember something close to physical hurt when I had to leave behind a world I had inhabited for those peaceful, glorious hours it took me to read a book. I felt real sorrow that I had to say goodbye to the characters, cut myself off from their lives. For me, reading wasn’t just about the adventures, the stories. I loved all the little things that made up that fictitious world; loved reading about food the characters ate and I had never tasted, trees I had never known existed and traditions that seemed really foreign to me.
Today, while working in the bookshop, I reread one of my beloved Astrid Lindgren’s stories. The book is called Madicken in Swedish, Madditt in Icelandic and Michievous Meg in English, Google tells me. Ever heard of it? It’s brilliant, like all her books. It amazes me that the Swedish Academy never awarded her the Nobel Prize, but that’s a whole other story. Michievous Meg takes place in Sweden during WWI (although that has little bearing on the story) and chronicles the adventures of the seven year old Meg, who has a knack for getting into trouble. It was just as great as I recalled. And as I read I kept smiling at the memories that sprang to life; me imagining the taste of the meatballs they ate on the roof, or the yellow plums Meg would stuff in her pockets, or the caramels they made for Christmas. Somehow, those things made the story come alive for me.
And there are so many other books, so many other foods, that I remember. In Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five series, they used to indulge in vanilla ice cream and ginger ale. I had never tasted ginger ale and I distinctly remember the first time I saw it in a store. I begged my father to buy it. I was so excited to finally know what it was, to get a little bit closer to the five I had shared my life with for so long. I read Laura Ingall’s books and could almost feel the maple syrup on my tongue, although the only syrup I had ever encountered was the green and golden can of Lyle’s in my grandmother’s kitchen cupboard. It’s really no surprise that later on I fell completely in love with Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate. Don’t even mention the famous fried green tomatoes from Fannie Flagg’s novel – I’m still dying to try them! Food and books are my weaknesses. Combine the two and I’m lost.
So, I loved Dinah Fried’s series. Oliver Twist made me laugh out loud, actually. Did you recognize any of them without reading the titles? Anyone have any other fictitious meals they’d like to contribute?
P.S. I found the photo on Flickr. It’s part of this series that’s right up my alley and perfectly in tune with this post, it seems. The photographer is sharing one photo a day from the heart of her home – the table. These often include both books and food. I’ll be checking back for sure!