Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Just Finished: Literary Feasts: Recipes From the Classics of Literature

Barbara Scrofford's Literary Feasts:  Recipes From the Classics of Literature was my choice for the Cookery, Food, and Wine category of the Mixing It Up challenge.  It took me a long time to choose something for this category;  I think I'm fooded out.  I've read so much over the last few years on food-related subjects--nutrition, sustainable agriculture, clean eating, humane farming, all manner of cookbooks--that I'm somewhat tired of the subject.

So this book, if I must read one more about food, looked like a nice change from all that, and literature-related to boot.  And if I found it only slightly interesting, that wasn't the book's fault, and it was still a nice change. 

Literary Feasts looks at 25 classic novels through the prism of food.  Each novel gets a synopsis and a short discussion of the foods mentioned in it and how those foods are used in the novel--to symbolize sublimated feelings, to illuminate differences between social classes, to paint a picture of life in a particular time and place.  That was the interesting part for me;  I had only previously read about half of the books mentioned, so I enjoyed the synopses and food discussions.  And I had not thought of some of these books in terms of food, so even those I had read before appeared in a new light. 

Somewhat less interesting, surprisingly, were the recipes.  Maybe it's just that I'm not much of a cook, or maybe there weren't as many options in the past as we moderns are used to, but I got a little tired of reading recipes for various types of cake, pie, and boiled dinner.  Some recipes I looked for but didn't find--where was Mr. Woodhouse's gruel (Emma)?  I don't even know what gruel is, but I'd like to.  A few were bizarrely fascinating:  apparently in 1930s California (Cannery Row) you could get beer milkshakes in restaurants. 

So, a pleasant diversion:  a book about food that's really about literature. 

Mixing It Up


  1. I think that gruel is watered down oatmeal, but I'm not sure. Blech!

    1. Ha--thank you! I thought it must be either something like that, or maybe thin broth. Blech indeed. :)