Meals inspired by literature
Reading a book is often described as consuming information. Regardless of that book’s contents, be it an educational text for culinary arts programs online or a young adult vampire novel, we learn by digesting what’s printed on the pages. Descriptions of reading are often similar to those used to describe eating, and these similarities are not just coincidence. Information feeds our brains in the same way that food nourishes our bodies. The designer, writer and photographer Dinah Fried was intrigued by the connection between food and fiction and set out to bring the famous dishes described in 50 classic novels to life.
A tasty read
Fried’s book “Fictitious Dishes” contains a photo journal of her exploration. Each page of the book features a quote about food from a particular work, and above that quote is a stylized photo of the food described. Fried went even further than taking pictures of traditional meals by cooking each one herself. This is not the first book dedicated to fictional food. Other cookbooks and memoirs have been published with recipes of famous authors’ dishes from Jane Austen all the way to Barbara Pym.
“Fictitious Dishes” sets itself apart not only because it is a collection of photographs rather than recipes, but because Fried attempts to do more than recreate a particular dish. Her table arrangements, lighting, serving utensils and side dishes all resemble the mood that reading each particular book creates. Her recreation of Holden Caulfield’s grilled cheese sandwich from “Catcher in the Rye” is so sparse and cold that it emits angst.
“Many of my most vivid memories from books are of the meals the characters eat,” Field said of her fictional food interest. “I read Heidi more than 20 years ago, but I can still taste the golden, cheesy toast that her grandfather serves her, and I can still feel the anticipation and comfort she experiences as she watches him prepare it over the open fire.”
Field has taken to exploring the food in books, but her project makes it clear that food holds a place of importance in both literature and the greater culture. Because food requires us to use multiple sensory organs to consume it, we have a greater chance of retaining the memory of that meal. When reading, we often get the same multi-sensory response by being able to taste a skillfully described bowl of soup. Food is both a physical and emotional balm, and Field’s book displays just that.