Sunday, 28 December 2008

Hiatus

I hope that everyone has had a lovely Christmas, and any other festival that you happen to celebrate, and that you all have an equally happy New Year.

This blog will be back in mid-January, due to traveling and other personal reasons.

See you then!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring), JRR Tolkien

A door opened and in came Tom Bombadil. He had now no hat and his thick brown hair was crowned with autumn leaves. He laughed, and going to Goldberry, took her hand.

'Here's my pretty lady! he said, bowing to the hobbits. 'Here's my Goldberry clothed all in silver-green with flowers in her girdle! Is the table laden? I see yellow cream and honeycomb, and white bread, and butter; milk, cheese and green herbs and ripe berries gathered. Is that enough for us? Is the supper ready?'

... Before long, washed and refreshed, the hobbits were seated at the table, two on each side, while at either end sat Goldberry and the Master. It was a long and merry meal. Though the hobbits ate, as only famished hobbits can eat, there was no lack. The drink in their drinking-bowls seemed to be clear cold water, yet it went to their hearts like wine and set free their voices. The guests became suddenly aware that they were singing merrily, as if it was easier and more natural than talking.

Monday, 22 December 2008

The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

My apologies everyone. I've been away from the blog due to a mixture of travel + some other personal reasons. But, I'm back. My absence has also meant that I haven't had time to harvest delicious moments from books, so, today, I provide you with a book we've already covered but a passage we haven't. Hopefully this mountain of food will make up for it all.

Beneath the candelabra, beneath the five tiers bearing towards the distant ceiling pyramids of home-made cakes that were never touched, spread the monotonous opulence of buffets at big balls: coraline lobsters boiled alive, waxy chaud-froids of veal, steely-lined fish immersed in sauce, turkeys gilded by the oven's heat, rosy foie-gras under gelatine armour, boned woodcocks reclining on amber toast decorated with their own chopped guts, dawn-tinted galantine, and a dozen other cruel, coloured delights. At the end of the table two monumental silver tureens held limpid soup, the tint of burnt amber. To prepare this supper the cooks must have sweated away in the vast kitchens from the night before.

'Dear me, what an amount! Donna Margherita knows how to do things well. But it's not for me!'

Scorning the table of drinks, glittering with crystal and silver on the right, he moved left towards that of the sweetmeats. Huge sorrel babas, Mont Blancs snowy with whipped cream, cakes speckled with white almonds and green pistachio nuts, hillocks of chocolate-covered pastry, brown and rich as the top soil of the Catanian plain from which, in fact, through many a twist and turn they had come, pink ices, champagne ices, coffee ices, all parfaits and falling apart with the squelch of a knife cleft; a melody in major of crystallised cherries, acid notes of yellow pineapple, and green pistachio paste of those cakes called 'Triumphs of Gluttony', shameless 'Virgins' cakes' shaped like breasts. Don Fabrizio asked for some of these, and as he held them on his plate looked like a profane caricature of Saint Agatha claiming her own sliced-off breasts. 'Why didn't ever the Holy Office forbid these puddings when it had the chance? 'Triumphs of Gluttony' indeed! (Gluttony, mortal sin!) Saint Agatha's sliced-off teats sold by convents, devoured at dances! Well! Well!'

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Ode to Tomatoes, Pablo Neruda

I am now convinced that the tomato is the best of all fruits (or vegetables, depending on how you feel).

The street
filled with tomatoes
midday,
summer,
light is
halved
like
a
tomato,
its juice
runs
through the streets.
In December,
unabated,
the tomato
invades
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
takes
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
sinks
into living flesh,
red
viscera,
a cool
sun,
profound,
inexhausible,
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
we
pour
oil,
essential
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
pepper
adds
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
parsley
hoists
its flag,
potatoes
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
knocks
at the door,
it's time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth,
recurrent
and fertile
star,
displays
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.
(Translation by Margaret Sayers Peden, original here.)

Three blog recommendations

I was just shown this blog by a friend - Daily Routines - which is a collection of the various daily working routines of artists, writers, architects, etc. It's fascinating and I can say goodbye to at least 45 mins of my own work this afternoon reading it.

Another blog that is great, and I'm not just mentioning her because she mentioned me, is Queenie Takes Manhattan - as someone who regularly goes between London and the US, and is always trying to figure out which places to eat in New York, her reviews which are coherent (unlike so many), interesting and imbued with a genuine but unpretentious love of food and exploring different places are amongst the most helpful I've found. I now have a big list of restaurants I must go to thanks to her, and perhaps shamefully it was her blog, and not my friend's insistence, that has finally convinced me to take a few days off that I don't have to go to Paris to visit my best friend who's just moved there.

Finally, Forgotten Bookmarks. I buy a good proportion of my books from secondhand bookshops, and am always excited when I find something forgotten lodged between the pages. I've found baby pictures, postcards (the earliest from 1919), grocery lists, decorative ribbons and bills. Strangely, I can't ever throw them away. So this blog, which collects a wide assortment of items, is strange and intriguing - I think I like the photographs the best.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

Since there was no post yesterday, here are two from the same book to make up for it. The first which I've seen many people refer to as their favourite food scene from a book, and the second a more entertaining one.

They saw the robin carry food to his mate two or three times, and it was so suggestive of afternoon tea that Colin felt they must have some.

"Go and make one of the men servants bring some in a basket to the rhododendron walk," he said. "And then you and Dickon can bring it here."

It was an agreeable idea, easily carried out, and when the white cloth was spread upon the grass, with hot tea and buttered toast and crumpets, a delightfully hungry meal was eaten, and several birds on domestic errands paused to inquire what was going on and were led into investigating crumbs with great activity. Nut and Shell whisked up trees with pieces of cake and Soot took the entire half of a buttered crumpet into a corner and pecked at and examined and turned it over and made hoarse remarks about it until he decided to swallow it all joyfully in one gulp.


***


It became possible for both Colin and Mary to do more of them each time they tried, and such appetites were the results that but for the basket Dickon put down behind the bush each morning when he arrived they would have been lost. But the little oven in the hollow and Mrs. Sowerby's bounties were so satisfying that Mrs. Medlock and the nurse and Dr. Craven became mystified again. You can trifle with your breakfast and seem to disdain your dinner if you are full to the brim with roasted eggs and potatoes and richly frothed new milk and oatcakes and buns and heather honey and clotted cream.

"They are eating next to nothing," said the nurse. "They'll die of starvation if they can't be persuaded to take some nourishment. And yet see how they look."

"Look!" exclaimed Mrs. Medlock indignantly. "Eh! I'm moithered to death with them. They're a pair of young Satans. Bursting their jackets one day and the next turning up their noses at the best meals Cook can tempt them with. Not a mouthful of that lovely young fowl and bread sauce did they set a fork into yesterday--and the poor woman fair invented a pudding for them--and back it's sent. She almost cried. She's afraid she'll be blamed if they starve themselves into their graves."

Dr. Craven came and looked at Colin long and carefully, He wore an extremely worried expression when the nurse talked with him and showed him the almost untouched tray of breakfast she had saved for him to look at--but it was even more worried when he sat down by Colin's sofa and examined him. He had been called to London on business and had not seen the boy for nearly two weeks. When young things begin to gain health they gain it rapidly. The waxen tinge had left, Colins skin and a warm rose showed through it; his beautiful eyes were clear and the hollows under them and in his cheeks and temples had filled out. His once dark, heavy locks had begun to look as if they sprang healthily from his forehead and were soft and warm with life. His lips were fuller and of a normal color. In fact as an imitation of a boy who was a confirmed invalid he was a disgraceful sight. Dr. Craven held his chin in his hand and thought him over.

"I am sorry to hear that you do not eat any- thing," he said. "That will not do. You will lose all you have gained --and you have gained amazingly. You ate so well a short time ago."

"I told you it was an unnatural appetite," answered Colin.

Mary was sitting on her stool nearby and she suddenly made a very queer sound which she tried so violently to repress that she ended by almost choking.

"What is the matter?" said Dr. Craven, turning to look at her.

Mary became quite severe in her manner.

"It was something between a sneeze and a cough," she replied with reproachful dignity, "and it got into my throat."

"But," she said afterward to Colin, "I couldn't stop myself. It just burst out because all at once I couldn't help remembering that last big potato you ate and the way your mouth stretched when you bit through that thick lovely crust with jam and clotted cream on it."

"Is there any way in which those children can get food secretly?" Dr. Craven inquired of Mrs. Medlock.

"There's no way unless they dig it out of the earth or pick it off the trees," Mrs. Medlock answered. "They stay out in the grounds all day and see no one but each other. And if they want anything different to eat from what's sent up to them they need only ask for it."

"Well," said Dr. Craven, "so long as going without food agrees with them we need not disturb ourselves. The boy is a new creature."

"So is the girl," said Mrs. Medlock. "She's begun to be downright pretty since she's filled out and lost her ugly little sour look. Her hair's grown thick and healthy looking and she's got a bright color. The glummest, ill-natured little thing she used to be and now her and Master Colin laugh together like a pair of crazy young ones. Perhaps they're growing fat on that."

"Perhaps they are," said Dr. Craven. "Let them laugh."



Sunday, 7 December 2008

Recipe for The Leopard's macaroni pie


Picture from Cris at leocarre.com

A little while ago I posted the passage from The Leopard where an amazing macaroni pie is described. Wandering around the internet, I came across this recipe, which is apparently the pie described, and is indeed very pretty and looks like it would taste great.

I now am minded to replicate it at some point...

If anyone does try, please let me know how it went.

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

This one is a bit long, but it's worth it - rather than one delicious meal, you get two disastrous (though well-meaning) ones instead!

Meg ran upstairs and soon came back again, looking relieved but rather bewildered, and a little ashamed.

"Mother isn't sick, only very tired, and she says she is going to stay quietly in her room all day and let us do the best we can. It's a very queer thing for her to do, she doesn't act
a bit like herself. But she says it has been a hard week for her, so we mustn't grumble but take care of ourselves."

"That's easy enough, and I like the idea, I'm aching for something to do, that is, some new amusement, you know," added Jo quickly.

In fact it was an immense relief to them all to have a little work, and they took hold with a will, but soon realized the truth of Hannah's saying, "Housekeeping ain't no joke." There was plenty of food in the larder, and while Beth and Amy set the table, Meg and Jo got breakfast, wondering as they did why servants ever talked about hard work.

"I shall take some up to Mother, though she said we were not to think of her, for she'd take care of herself," said Meg, who presided and felt quite matronly behind the teapot.

So a tray was fitted out before anyone began, and taken up with the cook's compliments. The boiled tea was very bitter, the omelet scorched, and the biscuits speckled with saleratus, but Mrs. March received her repast with thanks and laughed heartily over it after Jo was gone.

"Poor little souls, they will have a hard time, I'm afraid, but they won't suffer, and it will do them good," she said, producing the more palatable viands with which she had provided herself, and disposing of the bad breakfast, so that their feelings might not be hurt, a motherly little deception for which they were grateful.

Many were the complaints below, and great the chagrin of the head cook at her failures. "Never mind, I'll get the dinner and be servant, you be mistress, keep your hands nice, see company, and give orders," said Jo, who knew still less than Meg, about culinary affairs.

This obliging offer was gladly accepted, and Margaret retiredto the parlor, which she hastily put in order by whisking the litter under the sofa and shutting the blinds to save the trouble of dusting. Jo, with perfect faith in her own powers and a friendly desire to make up the quarrel, immediately put a note in the office, inviting Laurie to dinner.

"You'd better see what you have got before you think of having company," said Meg, when informed of the hospitable but rash act.

"Oh, there's corned beef and plenty of potatoes, and I shall get some asparagus and a lobster, `for a relish', as Hannah says. We'll have lettuce and make a salad. I don't know how, but the book tells. I'll have blancmange and strawberries for dessert, and coffee too, if you want to be elegant."

"Don't try too many messes, Jo, for you can't make anything but gingerbread and molasses candy fit to eat. I wash my hands of the dinner party, and since you have asked Laurie on your own responsibility, you may just take care of him."

...Having rekindled the fire, she thought she would go to market while the water heated. The walk revived her spirits, and flattering herself that she had made good bargins, she trudged home again, after buying a very young lobster, some very old asparagus, and two boxes of acid strawberries. By the time she got cleared up, the dinner arrived and the stove was red-hot. Hannah had left a pan of bread to rise, Meg had worked it up early, set it on the hearth for a second rising, and forgotten it. Meg was entertaining Sallie Gardiner in the parlor, when the door flew open and a floury, crocky, flushed, and disheveled figure appeared, demanding tartly...

"I say, isn't bread `riz' enough when it runs over the pans?"

Sallie began to laugh, but Meg nodded and lifted her eyebrows as high as they would go, which caused the apparition to vanish and put the sour bread into the oven without further delay. Mrs. March went out, after peeping here and there to see how matters went, also saying a word of comfort to Beth, who sat making a winding sheet, while the dear departed lay in state in the domino box. A strange sense of helplessness fell upon the girls as the gray bonnet vanished round the corner, and despair seized them when a few minutes later Miss Crocker appeared, and said she'd come to dinner. Now this lady was a thin, yellow spinster, with a sharp nose and inquisitive eyes, who saw everything and gossiped about all she saw. They disliked her, but had been taught to be kind to her, simply because she was old and poor and had few friends. So Meg gave her the easy chair and tried to entertain her, while she asked questions, critisized everything, and told stories of the people whom she knew.

Language cannot describe the anxieties, experiences, and exertions which Jo underwent that morning, and the dinner she served up became a standing joke. Fearing to ask any more advice, she did her best alone, and discovered that something more than energy and good will is necessary to make a cook. She boiled the asparagus for an hour and was grieved to find the heads cooked off and the stalks harder than ever. The bread burned black, for the salad dressing so aggravated her that she could not make it fit to eat. The lobster was a scarlet mystery to her, but she hammered and poked till it was unshelled and its meagre proportions concealed in a grove of lettuce leaves. The potatoes had to be hurried, not to keep the asparagus waiting, and were not done at the last. The blancmange was lumpy, and the strawberries not as ripe as they looked, having been skilfully `deaconed'.

"Well, they can eat beef and bread and butter, if they are hungry, only it's mortifying to have to spend your whole morning for nothing," thought Jo, as she rang the bell half an hour later than usual, and stood, hot, tired, and dispirited, surveying the feast spread before Laurie, accustomed to all sorts of elegance, and Miss Crocker, whose tattling tongue would report them far and wide.

Poor Jo would gladly have gone under the table, as one thing after another was tasted and left, while Amy giggled, Meg looked distressed, Miss Crocker pursed her lips, and Laurie talked and laughed with all his might to give a cheerful tone to the festive scene. Jo's one strong point was the fruit, for she had sugared it well, and had a pitcher of rich cream to eat with it. Her hot cheeks cooled a trifle, and she drew a long breath as the pretty glass plates went round, and everyone looked graciously at the little rosy islands floating in a sea of cream. Miss Crocker tasted first, made a wry face, and drank some water hastily. Jo, who refused, thinking there might not be enough, for they dwindled sadly after the picking over, glanced at Laurie, but he was eating away manfully, though there was a slight pucker about his mouth and he kept his eye fixed on his plate. Amy, who was fond of delicate fare, took a heaping spoonful, choked, hid her face in her napkin, and left the table precipitately.

"Oh, what is it?" exclaimed Jo, trembling.

"Salt instead of sugar, and the cream is sour," replied Meg with a tragic gesture.

Jo uttered a groan and fell back in her chair, remembering that she had given a last hasty powdering to the berries out of one of the two boxes on the kitchen table, and had neglected to put the milk in the refrigerator. She turned scarlet and was on the verge of crying, when she met Laurie's eyes, which would look merry in spite of his heroic efforts. The comical side of the affair suddenly struck her, and she laughed till the tears ran down her cheeks. So did everyone else, even `Croaker' as the girls called the old lady, and the unfortunate dinner ended gaily, with bread and butter, olives and fun.

"I haven't strength of mind enough to clear up now, so we will sober ourselves with a funeral," said Jo, as they rose, and Miss Crocker made ready to go, being eager to tell the new story at another friend's dinner table.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens

There are many food scenes in this book, but this one has the special distinction of being both disgusting and delicious...

'That's the place where we are to lunch; and, by Jove, there's
the boy with the basket, punctual as clockwork!'

'So he is,' said Mr. Pickwick, brightening up. 'Good boy, that.
I'll give him a shilling, presently. Now, then, Sam, wheel away.'

'Hold on, sir,' said Mr. Weller, invigorated with the prospect of
refreshments. 'Out of the vay, young leathers. If you walley my
precious life don't upset me, as the gen'l'm'n said to the driver
when they was a-carryin' him to Tyburn.' And quickening his
pace to a sharp run, Mr. Weller wheeled his master nimbly to the
green hill, shot him dexterously out by the very side of the basket,
and proceeded to unpack it with the utmost despatch.

'Weal pie,' said Mr. Weller, soliloquising, as he arranged the
eatables on the grass. 'Wery good thing is weal pie, when you
know the lady as made it, and is quite sure it ain't kittens; and
arter all though, where's the odds, when they're so like weal that
the wery piemen themselves don't know the difference?'

'Don't they, Sam?' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Not they, sir,' replied Mr. Weller, touching his hat. 'I lodged
in the same house vith a pieman once, sir, and a wery nice man
he was--reg'lar clever chap, too--make pies out o' anything, he
could. "What a number o' cats you keep, Mr. Brooks," says I,
when I'd got intimate with him. "Ah," says he, "I do--a good
many," says he, "You must be wery fond o' cats," says I. "Other
people is," says he, a-winkin' at me; "they ain't in season till the
winter though," says he. "Not in season!" says I. "No," says he,
"fruits is in, cats is out." "Why, what do you mean?" says I.
"Mean!" says he. "That I'll never be a party to the combination
o' the butchers, to keep up the price o' meat," says he. "Mr.
Weller," says he, a-squeezing my hand wery hard, and vispering
in my ear--"don't mention this here agin--but it's the seasonin'
as does it. They're all made o' them noble animals," says he,
a-pointin' to a wery nice little tabby kitten, "and I seasons 'em
for beefsteak, weal or kidney, 'cording to the demand. And more
than that," says he, "I can make a weal a beef-steak, or a beef-
steak a kidney, or any one on 'em a mutton, at a minute's notice,
just as the market changes, and appetites wary!"'

'He must have been a very ingenious young man, that, Sam,'
said Mr. Pickwick, with a slight shudder.

'Just was, sir,' replied Mr. Weller, continuing his occupation of
emptying the basket, 'and the pies was beautiful. Tongue--, well
that's a wery good thing when it ain't a woman's. Bread--
knuckle o' ham, reg'lar picter--cold beef in slices, wery good.
What's in them stone jars, young touch-and-go?'

'Beer in this one,' replied the boy, taking from his shoulder a
couple of large stone bottles, fastened together by a leathern
strap--'cold punch in t'other.'

'And a wery good notion of a lunch it is, take it altogether,'
said Mr. Weller, surveying his arrangement of the repast with
great satisfaction. 'Now, gen'l'm'n, "fall on," as the English said
to the French when they fixed bagginets.'

It needed no second invitation to induce the party to yield full
justice to the meal; and as little pressing did it require to induce
Mr. Weller, the long gamekeeper, and the two boys, to station
themselves on the grass, at a little distance, and do good execution
upon a decent proportion of the viands. An old oak afforded a
pleasant shelter to the group, and a rich prospect of arable and
meadow land, intersected with luxuriant hedges, and richly
ornamented with wood, lay spread out before them.

'This is delightful--thoroughly delightful!' said Mr. Pickwick;
the skin of whose expressive countenance was rapidly peeling off,
with exposure to the sun.

'So it is--so it is, old fellow,' replied Wardle. 'Come; a
glass of punch!'

'With great pleasure,' said Mr. Pickwick; the satisfaction of
whose countenance, after drinking it, bore testimony to the
sincerity of the reply.

'Good,' said Mr. Pickwick, smacking his lips. 'Very good. I'll
take another. Cool; very cool. Come, gentlemen,' continued
Mr. Pickwick, still retaining his hold upon the jar, 'a toast. Our
friends at Dingley Dell.'

Friday, 5 December 2008

Carol/The Price of Salt, Patricia Highsmith

If you've read this book - which is, again, one of my favourites - you'll know that shortly after this moment comes Therese's first open admission that she is attracted to Carol. This whole scene and the early part of this novel is filled with that sexual and romantic tension, and their eating of the food is more bittersweet knowing that Therese's earnest but unexciting boyfriend, who hopes to marry her, has had his mother pack them the picnic lunch. Highsmith has lots of small food scenes in her books - none are particularly pornographic in the style of The Leopard, but all lend a kind of endearing ordinariness to the characters. Reading about them make a sandwich, grill a steak or pick out sausages is oddly absorbing.
When they stopped for gas, Therese tried to buy some stout, which Carol liked sometimes, at a grocery store next to the gas station, but they had only beer. She bought one can, because Carol didn't care for beer. Then they drove into a little road off the highway and stopped, and opened the box of sandwiches Richard's mother had put up. There was also a dill pickle, a mozzarella cheese, and a couple of hard-boiled eggs. Therese had forgotten to ask for an opener, so she couldn't open the beer, but there was coffee in a thermos. She put the beer on the floor in the back of the car.
'Caviar. How very, very nice of them,' Carol said, looking inside a sandwich. 'Do you like caviar?'
'No. I wish I did.'
'Why?'
Therese watched Carol take a small bite of the sandwich from which she had removed the top slice of bread, a bite where most of the caviar was. 'Because people always like caviar so much when they do like it,' Therese said.
Carol smiled, and went on nibbling, slowly. 'It's an acquired taste. Acquired tastes are always more pleasant - and so much harder to get rid of'.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Christie Malry's Own Double Entry, B.S. Johnson

Eels are the one thing I can't bring myself to eat, but Christie's meal sounds quite good.

So Headlam and Christie had lunch in the Eel and Pie Shop on the curve by the Hammersmith flyover, and very cheaply and nourishingly too. Headlam had eels, carefully sucking the clinging flesh from the awkward bone and genteelly removing it afterwards. Christie could not fancy the eels, but had double pie, double mash and double liquor instead. The thick parsleyed liquor he sharpened with plenty of vinegar, and savoured the blend thus made with the crude pastry and tasty meat contained in it. I must bring the Shrike here, thought Christie, since I enjoy it I am sure she would, too.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

Like all of this book, the scene below is more amusing than delicious. But I've always wondered what a wine cake is (and longed to eat one) based on it; I've always imagined it to be like a canelé, though I'm sure that's wrong. Does anyone know?

'Ignatius, we gotta go now,' Mrs. Reilly said, 'I'm hungry.'
She turned toward him and knocked her beer bottle to the floor where it broke in a spray of jagged, brown glass.
'Mother, are you making a scene?' Ignatirus asked irritably, 'Can't you see that Miss Darlene and I are speaking? You have some cakes with you. Eat those. You're always complaining that you never go anywhere. I would have imagined that you would be enjoying your night on the town.'
Ignatius was back on radar, so Mrs. Reilly reached into her boxes and ate a brownie.
'Like one?' she asked the bartender, 'They nice. I got some nice wine cakes, too.'
The bartender pretended to be looking for something on his shelves.
'I smell wine cakes,' Darlene cried, looking past Ignatius.
'Have one, honey,' Mrs. Reilly said.
'I think that I shall have one, too,' Ignatius said, 'I imagine that they taste rather good with brandy.'
Mrs. Reilly spread the box out on the bar. Even the man with the racing form agreed to take a macaroon.
'Where you bought these nice wine cakes, lady?' Darlene asked Mrs. Reilly, 'They're nice and juicy.'
'Over by Holmes, sugar. They got a good selection. Plenty of variety.'
'They are rather tasty,' Ignatius conceded, sending out his flabby pink tongue over his moustache to hunt for crumbs. 'I think that I shall have a macaroon or two. I have always found coconut to be good roughage.'

Monday, 1 December 2008

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

I know the Turkish Delight scene is famous, but as a child it was this scene that was most exciting to me - I could almost taste and smell the fish and the marmalade roll while reading it - and it made me feel warm, cosy and content. Other scenes from the book will follow in due course, but this is my favourite. In fact, reading this again, I know what I am going to have for dinner tomorrow night.

'So you've come at last!" she said, holding out both her wrinkled old paws. 'At last! To think that ever I should live to see this day! The potatoes are boiling and the kettle's singing and I daresay, Mr Beaver, you'll get us some fish.'
'That I will,' said Mr Beaver, and he went out of the house (Peter went with him), and across the ice of the deep pool to where he had a little hole in the ice which he kept open every day with his hatchet. They took a pail with them. Mr Beaver sat down quietly at the edge of the hole (he didn't seem to mind it being so chilly), looked hard into it, then suddenly shot in his paw, and before you could say Jack Robinson had whisked out a beautiful trout.
Then he did it all over again until they had a fine catch.
Meanwhile the girls were helping Mrs Beaver to fill the kettle and lay the table and cut the bread and put the plates in the oven to heat and draw a huge jug of beer for Mr Beaver from a barrel which stood in one corner of the house...
Just as the frying pan was nicely hissing, Peter and Mr Beaver came in with the fish which Mr Beaver had already opened with his knife and cleaned out in the open air. You can think how good the new-caught fish smelled while they were frying and how the hungry children longed for them to be done and how very much hungrier still they had become before Mr Beaver said, 'Now we're ready.' Susan drained the potatoes and then put them all back into the empty pot to dry on the side of the range while Lucy was helping Mrs Beaver to dish up the trout, so that in a very few minutes everyone was drawing up their stools (it was all three-legged stools in the Beavers' house except for Mrs Beaver's own special rocking-chair beside the fire) and preparing to enjoy themselves. There was a jug of creamy milk for the children (Mr Beaver stuck to beer) and a great big lump of deep yellow butter in the middle of the table from which everyone took as much as he wanted to go with his potatoes, and all the children thought - and I agree with them - that there's nothing to beat good freshwater fish if you eat it when it has been alive half an hour ago and has come out of the pan half a minute ago. And when they had finished the fish Mrs Beaver brought unexpectedly out of the oven a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot, and at the same time moved the kettle onto the fire, so that when they finished the marmalade roll the tea was made and ready to be poured out. And when each person had got his (or her) cup of tea, each person shoved his (or her) stool so as to be able to lean against the wall, and gave a long sigh of contentment.

Goblin Market, Christina Rossetti

This poem is sexual, grotesque, beautiful and disturbingly childlike all at once. It's hard to post just a snippet, but here it is. Even if you've read it many times before, let this be a reason to read the whole thing again.

MORNING and evening

Maids heard the goblins cry:

"Come buy our orchard fruits,

Come buy, come buy:

Apples and quinces,

Lemons and oranges,

Plump unpecked cherries-

Melons and raspberries,

Bloom-down-cheeked peaches,

Swart-headed mulberries,

Wild free-born cranberries,

Crab-apples, dewberries,

Pine-apples, blackberries,

Apricots, strawberries--

All ripe together
In summer weather--
Morns that pass by,

Fair eves that fly;

Come buy, come buy;

Our grapes fresh from the vine,

Pomegranates full and fine,

Dates and sharp bullaces,

Rare pears and greengages,

Damsons and bilberries,

Taste them and try:

Currants and gooseberries,

Bright-fire-like barberries,

Figs to fill your mouth,

Citrons from the South,

Sweet to tongue and sound to eye,

Come buy, come buy.