Tuck into a book

Tuck into a book
It is quite hazardous these days to open Facebook or Instagram when you are even remotely hungry.

People have taken it upon themselves to upload pictures of every dish that they cross paths with — right from their experiments in the kitchen to midnight snacks at a roadside stall (that too with hashtags like ‘bestfood’ and ‘thuglife’) to fancy complex fare they try in expensive restaurants.

But long before social media popularised the concept of writing about food, literature was replete with references to food and its cultural significance.

Right from Western picnic spreads to delicious Indian lunches, books teased our palates with their imaginative descriptions.

“My favourite book that way would be ‘Rosalia’s Bittersweet Pastry Shop’ which is about a woman who suffers a great loss and takes to making pastries during her process of healing,” says Piyusha Vir, a writer.

“The portrayals of food in the book were heavenly.”

Her tryst with food on paper extended to the real life as well.

“Once I chanced upon the term ‘Cheesy fries’ in a book. It was a time when it wasn’t readily available here. Finally during a visit to Dubai I chanced upon this item in a menu and I was like ‘I have to try it’. It was just cheese poured over fries but I was so happy.”

“Books serve as a gateway into the food habits and culture of different places,” adds C Madhusree, a graduate of  English Literature.

“I still remember reading about Blancmange in Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’ and marvelling at how heavenly it sounded. I am yet to taste it though.” For many, it was Enid Blyton who opened the door to an English larder. She talked about luscious strawberries and cream cheese, fruit cake and buttered scones, tinned sardines, jam tarts and hard-boiled eggs, bringing the countryside right into our abodes. In a way, Blyton was the food blogger of her times with a special focus on the fresh and the wholesome.

“Enid Blyton was definitely the one who introduced me to Western food. To a certain extent, Murakami also made me curious about Japanese cuisine — miso soup, soba, udon, sashimi and so on. And works by authors like Jhumpa Lahiri and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni have made me hungry for Indian food,” says Neeti Rajagopalan.

Even the humble cousins in literature, comic books, deserve a special mention in this regard, say some.
“For me the main memory I have to do with food goes back to the Asterix comics and their regular consumption of wild boar. Part of it has to do with Obelix and how he loved and adored both hunting and eating boars, and part has to do with the feasts they used to hold towards the end, with boar and wine and merriness all around. I really wanted to attend one of those,” says Madhav Mohan, an undergraduate student. Anyone feel like a snack? We certainly do!

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