Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Bookish Tuesday: Food, Glorious Food

by Jeanette O'Hagan

But seriously, everyone in Akrad’s Children eats it and it sounds delicious.  

I had to chuckle when I saw this review on Akrad's Children - not because seeing new reviews brings a smile of pure happiness to my face (mostly); okay not only because I love seeing new reviews, but because it was such a great way to start a review. And it got me thinking about memorable mentions of food in books I love.

After all, food tells us so much about the characters, the setting, the occasion. It grounds us in the story, gives us warm feelings and makes our mouth water (or our stomach curdle).

One of my short stories starts this way:
Dana snatched a food packet and shoved it into the rehydrator, keying in the sequence.
Not a mouth-watering meal perhaps, but in one sentence we've learnt something about Dana, about where she is likely to be, about the genre of the story.

Are you surprised to learn the title is Space Junk* and that this is a science-fiction story?

So what are some memorable food moments in literature that you remember?  Here are some of mine.

Blueberries in The Palace Thief, Ruhanna's Flight and other stories

Oliver Twist 

Who can forget in the book and the film, when Oliver draws the short straw.
"Please, sir, I want some more."

With only three small bowlfuls of oatmeal gruel per day, an onion twice a week and a bread roll on Sunday, the boys in the workhouse are ravenous. The empty bowl; Oliver's pale, wane face; the outrage on the well-fed master's face says it all. We feel Oliver's hungry and wonder how anyone could treat children this way. (Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens) 

Anne of Green Gables

Do you remember Marilla's famous raspberry cordial which poor Anne (unaware that it's alcoholic) gives to her best friend Diane in a wonderful tea party full of cake and cherry preserves. The results are catastrophic. Diane greedily guzzles three glasses and goes home tipsy. Her mother is rightly incensed and bans her daughter from ever seeing Anne again. Anne learns a hard lesson, but luckily for the bosom friends, Mrs Barry eventually relents. (Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery)

Lucy Pevensie in Narnia

Two food scenes stays with me in C S Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe  - one is Lucy's brother Edmond gobbling down the wicked White Witch's enchanted Turkish Delight. Her flattering words, false promises, his own jealousies, and the addictive sweetmeat all lure him into betraying Aslan, his siblings and all of Narnia.

In contrast, there is the cosy meal Tumnus the fawn offers Lucy- lightly boiled eggs, sardines of toast, honey on toast, sugar-topped cake. While this did seem a bit ordinary to my seven-year old self (but probably not to war-torn rationed Brits), I loved the homeliness of the meal. For sure, Tumnus was attempting to lull Lucy to sleep so he could hand her over to the White Witch, but he repents and he risks his life to save hers.

Two meals, two temptations, two different outcomes.

Hobbits and Elves

As a teen devouring J R R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, I loved the idea of Lembas - the Elven waybread (a gift to Frodo and his companions from the Lady of Lothlorien). It was wrapped in leaves, nutritious, long-lasting, and delicious - and sustained Frodo and Sam on their epic journey into the horrors of Mordor in their quest to save the world. The gifts of friendship and fellowship make their heroic deeds possible.

And then there is the feast Bilbo unwillingly provided to his unexpected guests of twelve dwarves and Gandalf at the start of The Hobbit. Bilbo's pantry seemed endless, full of cakes, and cold meats, and tasty delights, though by the end of the night, it was pretty much empty - and Bilbo found himself going on an adventure into the unknown. The hilarious scenes tells us a lot about dwarves - and hobbits - and the need at times to let go of our familiar comforts.

Mina Improvises

In Stephen Lawhead's Skin Map (Bright Empire series), Mina is separated from Kit Livingstone and is lost in an alternative earth, in seventeenth century Bohemia. Fortunate for her, she meets up with a baker and together they create the best (and only) coffee shop in Prague with delectable pasties. While her talents languish in the ordinary world, the new situation brings out her ingenuity and grit.

Ruhanna's Flight

And before I leave, I'd love to share another food scenes from my recent release Ruhanna's Flight and other stories.

In the first story Ruhanna's Flight* - Ruhanna prepares for her father's homecoming with a gift - and a special meal.

From the little kitchen came tantalising smells fit for the palace in Silantis. Mariam had surpassed herself with Baba’s favourite dishes—turtle and seaweed soup, baked fish, baby tomatoes and sea-sage, oysters and rock crays with a creamy dill sauce, stuffed quails and fresh wave-berries with yarma cheese to finish off. Everything was ready by late morning.

Ruhanna sank down on a cushion in the reception room, stroking the carved albatross on Baba’s box, and waited.
I have fun thinking up food appropriate for the different people and places in my fiction.

What meals do you remember in your favourite books? I'd love you to share them in the comments.

* Space Junk - first published in Mixed Blessings: Genre-lly Speaking (Breath of Fresh Air Press, 2016), also included in Ruhanna's Flight and other stories.
* Ruhanna's Flight first published in Glimpes of Light (edited by Jeanette O'Hagan and Nola Passmore: By the Light Books, 2015), and also included in Ruhanna's Flight and other stories.

Giveaway  Ruhanna's Flight and other stories

Ruhanna's Flight and other stories by Jeanette O'Hagan (By the Light Books, 6 March 2018)

Tales of wonder, romance, adventure - dip into the world of Nardva with this exciting collection of stories. It includes Ruhanna's Flight,  Before the Wind, Heart of the Mountain, The Herbalist's Daughter, Moonflame, Rendezvous at Alexgaia and many other stories. A delightful introduction to Jeanette O'Hagan's fantasy world of engaging characters and stirring adventures.

Available from amazon.com

Jeanette O'Hagan is giving away a e-book copy of Ruhanna's Flight and other stories. To enter the giveaway, on this post and/or ICFW's March New Releases post on March 19. Receive two entries in the drawing by commenting on both posts. I'll draw a winner from the comments on Saturday, March 30.

Jeanette recently published a collection of fantasy and sci-fi Nardvan stories, Ruhanna's Flight and other stories. She started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing.

Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic users. She has published numerous short stories, poems, two novellas and her debut novel, Akrad's Children.

Connect with her: website | facebook | pinterest | twitter


  1. I hadn't connected Narnia's boiled eggs with rationing, but you're right. I think people got one fresh egg a month, so even the concept of more than one egg would have been foreign and fascinating!

    I loved the feast scene at the beginning of The Hobbit movie. Just the thought Bilbo had so much food in the house to begin with! As an aside, The Shire's Rest Cafe at Hobbiton sells Second Breakfast and Elevenses, but not Lembas bread :)

    And I definitely want to be at the table with Ruhanna and Baba. I don't know what all that food is, but it sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Iola. Yes, it was amazing how much one hobbit had in his pantry. I'd love to go to Hobbiton one day and will definitely try out Second Breakfast :) Glad you enjoyed Baba's feast.

  2. Anne, Lucy & All things Tolkien are still my favourites among all the other new favourites to come across my desk. They were the first ones to turn up on my Kindle! Food is one of those things that is so ordinary, it's easy to forget it can be a crucial part of creating and holding a scene. Such a great challenge, and so satisfying for your story!

    1. Thanks, Anita. I found it interesting how the childhood favourites often overshadow our more recent reads. And, yes, food is such an essential part of life - not just to keep us alive, but part of culture and our connection with other people. I chuckle sometimes at stories in which the heroes rush from one disaster to another another and never ever seem to eat - or maybe a Mars here or there. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Thanks for those foody moments, Jenny. I was going to mention Anne's raspberry cordial, but you beat me to it. I've been fortunate to go to Prince Edward Island a couple of times, and they sell Anne's raspberry cordial there :)

    Two other foodie moments are all the delectable chocolate creations in 'Chocolat' by Joanna Harris, though the book is a lot darker than the movie. 'Babette's Feast', the longish short story by Karen Blixen is also a treat. And much as I loved your book 'Heart of the Mountain', I don't think I'll be eating cave food any time soon :)

    1. Hi Nola,

      Agreed, the food selections under the mountain are more of the 'stomach curdling time' though really, snails and mushrooms can be tasty ;) And, yes, both Chocolat and Babette's Feast are famous examples of food. I did like the movie of Chocolat (released during Lent, I remember). Babette's Feast is on my to-read list :)

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  5. Actually, it was Marilla's red currant wine that Anne accidentally gave to Diana, instead of the raspberry cordial.
    I do love the mention of food in literature! Sometimes it can be gross, sometimes intriguing.

    1. Hi Lynne - I believe you are right - Anne thought it was the raspberry cordial, but it was the red currant wine.

  6. Yes--what characters eat is really important, but an often over-looked aspect. Thank you for bringing it to our attention in such a fun way! My personal favorite is Christmas cake--an appetite I gave to Felicity in my Monastery Murders.

    1. Thanks, Donna. I love Christmas cake so I can understand Felicity's appetite for it :)

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  8. As a child i remember watching movies with stars around a restaurant or kitchen table and asking my mum why they didn't eat the food in front of them. (Too busy saying their lines.) But most of the historicals I read always seem to mention the variety of foods they ate in Victorian times. To me it adds authenticity and interest, just as in futuristic films they need to create their strange diets.

    1. Love your line about why the actors didn't eat the food - it probably had been sitting there hours after multiple takes. So not so yummy :) And, yes, food surely has that ability to transport us in time and place. As you say, it adds 'authenticity and interest.' Thanks for your comment Rita :)

  9. Thanks everyone for commenting on the Food Glorious Food Post (and entering the giveaway). And congratulations on Donna Fletcher Crow for winning a e-book copy of Ruhanna's Flight and other stories.