Memory between Food and Literature

Sometimes, I get a craving for a fancy cup of hot chocolate and it’s all Marie Antoinette’s fault.

Sure, this might seem a little trivial compared to all the other blames heaped at her feet, and since she died almost two centuries before I was even born, it’s obviously a fairly indirect connection. But in my research for The Wardobe Mistress, I found that it was Marie Antoinette’s daily routine to start off her day with either a cup of coffee or chocolate, the latter often infused with orange blossom water.

I thought that sounded very luxurious. Imagine having a rich cup of hot chocolate, delicately flavoured with a hint of orange, brought to you while you lounged in bed or the bath, instead of rushing around at the crack of dawn, trying to get to your day job on time. I’d definitely prefer the first option.

Hot chocolate fit for a queen

When I found a dainty gold teacup and saucer at an antique shop shortly after, I couldn’t resist buying it. Now when I’m feeling fancy, I can sip hot chocolate (usually not with orange though, it turns out orange blossom water is not that easy to find) and it always reminds me of Marie Antoinette.

My example is quite specific to me, I think, but it’s not uncommon for a strong link between certain foods and works of literature. I’m sure I can’t be the only one who thinks of Narnia when Turkish delight is mentioned, or recalls the horror of Mrs. Havisham’s wedding cake when someone mentions Great Expectations.

Sometimes it’s the other way around, when a food inspires a literary work. Marcel Proust’s masterpiece In Search of Lost Time (also translated as Remembrance of Things Past), was inspired by the taste of a madeleine with tea, which awakened his memories and transported him back to recollections of his childhood in a French provincial town. If not for that madeleine, In Search of Lost Time might never have been written.

Beautifully scalloped madeleines

Speaking of madeleines, I’ve always imagined that lembas bread from The Lord of the Rings had a similar airy texture and light flavour, albeit with more nourishment. I was a bit disappointed when the movie depiction of them seemed a lot harder and crunchier.

I’d forgotten about them until now, when I was brainstorming food and book combinations, but on the exceedingly rare occasion something reminds me of pickled limes, it makes me think of Little Women, because Amy longed to have a pickled lime because all the other girls had them. I have no idea what a pickled lime is, though. It’s certainly not the cool treat that all the kids covet anymore!

Does anyone else have a memory connection between a food and a book? There are enough fabulous meals in literature that someone once ate only foods from books for dinner for a week. Now there’s an adventure for foodies and literature buffs!




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2 thoughts on “Memory between Food and Literature

  1. Not quite the same, but Delia Cabe has a book coming out in June called The Storied Bars of New York and it’s about all the places that writers used to drink!

    And this guy, Binging with Babish, does recreations of food in movies and television. Things like the timbale in Big Night and Breakfast Dessert Pasta from Elf. Maybe we should convince him to make some bookish food.

    And this blog…does the foods of Game of Thrones!

    • I’m so glad you shared these! I definitely want to read The Storied Bars of New York. And I’m going to be watching Binging with Babish videos for a while now…how fun would it be to see bookish food included?

      Inn at the Crossroads is really inspiring – I’m getting so many cooking ideas now!

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