BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Fictional Foods, Part Two

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For part one and an explanation of the series, click here.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen:

Melissa raised the plate on upturned palms. “Cupcakes,” she said. “Thought you might be needing some cupcakes in your life right around now.”

Not being theatrical, Chip felt disadvantaged around people who were. “Why are you bringing me cupcakes?” he said.

Melissa knelt and set the plate on this doormat among the pulverized remains of ivy and dead tulips. “I’ll just leave them here,’” she said, “and you can do whatever you want with them. Goodbye!’ She spread her arms and pirouetted off the doorstep and ran up the flagstone path on tiptoe.

The cupcakes were full of butter and frosted with a butter frosting. After he’d washed his hands and opened a bottle of Chardonnay he ate four of them and put the uncooked fish in the refrigerator. The skins of the overbaked squash were like inner-tube rubber…He lowered the blinds and drank the wine and ate two more cupcakes, detecting peppermint in them, a faint buttery peppermint, before he slept.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway:

I took out my knife, opened it, wiped off the blade and pared off the dirty outside surface of the cheese. Gavuzzi handed me the basin of macaroni.

“Start in to eat, Tenente.”

“No,” I said. “Put it on the floor. We’ll all eat.”

“There are no forks.”

“What the hell,” I said in English.

I cut the cheese into pieces and laid them on the macaroni.

“Sit down to it,” I said. They sat down and waited. I put thumb and fingers into the macaroni and lifted. The mass loosened.

“Lift it high, Tenente.”

I lifted it to arm’s length and the strands cleared. I lowered it into the mouth, sucked and snapped in the ends, and chewed, then took a bite of cheese, chewed, and then a drink of the wine. It tasted of rusty metal.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck:

And Tom brought him chicken soup until he wanted to kill him. The lore has not died out of the world, and you will still find people who believe that soup will cure any hurt or illness and is no bad thing to have for the funeral either.

Eat, Love, Pray by Elizabeth Gilbert:

Giovanni and Dario, my Tandem Exchange twins, are originally from Naples. I cannot picture it. I cannot imagine shy, studious, sympathetic Giovanni as a young boy amongst this—and I don’t use the word lightly — mob. But he is Neapolitan, no question about it, because before I left Rome he gave me the name of a pizzeria in Naples that I had to try, because, Giovanni informed me, it sold the best pizza in Naples. I found this a wildly exciting prospect, given that the best pizza in Italy is from Naples, and the best pizza in the world is from Italy, which means that this pizzeria must offer … I’m almost too superstitious to say it … the best pizza in the world? Giovanni passed along the name of the place with such seriousness and intensity, I almost felt I was being inducted into a secret society. He pressed the address into the palm of my hand and said, in gravest confidence, “Please go to this pizzeria. Order the Margherita pizza with double mozzarella. If you do not eat this pizza when you are in Naples, please lie to me later and tell me that you did.”

So Sofie and I have come to Pizzeria da Michele, and these pies we have just ordered — one for each of us — are making us lose our minds. I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair. Meanwhile, Sofie is practically in tears over hers, she’s having a metaphysical crisis about it, she’s begging me, “Why do they even bother trying to make pizza in Stockholm? Why did we even bother eating food at all in Stockholm?

Pizzeria da Michele is a small place with only two rooms and one nonstop oven. It’s about a fifteen-minute walk from the train station in the rain, don’t even worry about it, just go. You need to get there fairly early in the day because sometimes they run out of dough, which will break your heart. By 1 p.m., the streets outside the pizzeria have become jammed with Neapolitans trying to get into the place, shoving for access like they’re trying to get space on a lifeboat. There’s not a menu. They have only two varieties of pizza here — regular and extra cheese. None of this new age southern California olives-and-sun-dried-tomato wannabe pizza twaddle. The dough, it takes me half my meal to figure out, tastes more like Indian nan than like any pizza dough I ever tired. It’s soft and chewy and yielding, but incredibly thin. I always thought we only had two choices in our lives when it came to pizza crust — thin and crispy, or thick and doughy. How was I to have known there could be a crust in this world that was thin and doughy? Holy of holies! Thin, doughy, strong, gummy, yummy, chewy, salty pizza paradise. On top, there is a sweet tomato sauce that foams up all bubbly and creamy when it melts the fresh buffalo mozzarella, and the one sprig of basil in the middle of the whole deal somehow infuses the entire pizza with herbal radiance, much the same way one shimmering movie star in the middle of a party brings a contact high of glamour to everyone around her. It’s technically impossible to eat this thing, of course. You try to take a bite off your slice and the gummy crust folds, and the hot cheese runs away like topsoil in a landslide, makes a mess of you and your surroundings, but just deal with it.

Remembering Blue by Connie May Fowler:

Nick was never a picky eater but after suffering through so many of my culinary failures he was well within his rights when later that same day he poked at his food with a fork and asked tremulously, “What is it?”

“Tomato pie.”

Lillian had given me the recipe and I followed it to a T. Four to five tomatoes, blanched for easy removal of the skins. Three quarters of a cup mayonnaise (feel free to use light but not fat-free). Pillsbury refrigerated crusts (bake the bottom crust for ten minutes in a moderate oven, otherwise you’ll have a juicy mess). As much garlic as pleases you (Nick, as you must know by now, loves garlic). At least one and a quarter cup cheese (I use feta). Plus fresh basil. Put it all together and bake at three hundred and fifty degrees for about thirty minutes.

I served it with a green salad and sweet tea. I watched out of the corner of my eye as Nick balanced a bite-sized morsel on his fork, lifted it to his lips, and discreetly sniffed. His face betrayed neither surprise nor disgust. Having gotten this far- even if the savory smell had offended him- he had little choice but to go ahead and eat. He popped it in his mouth and chewed tentatively but within seconds his eyes widened gratefully and his face relaxed in that way men have- you know, when they are suddenly and unexpectedly content (I have noticed that this phenomenon almost always revolves around food).

“This is really good!” he said.

“Thank you,” I said, ignoring the note of amazement in his voice.

That night, he chewed heartily. He ate two more pieces and I wrapped up what was left and handed it to him as he walked out the door.

Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi:

The winner of the race would receive a prize made by the last one to cross the finish line: an enormous pastilla, the most delicious of all of Allah’s varied foods. At once a pastry and a meal, pastilla is sweet and salty, made of pigeon meat and nuts, sugar, and cinnamon. Oh! Pastilla crunches when you munch on it, and you have to eat it with delicate gestures, no rushing please, or else you will get sugar and cinnamon all over your face. Pastilla takes days to prepare because it is made of layers of sheer, almost transparent, crust, stuffed with roasted and slightly crushed almonds, along with a lot of other surprises.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carol:

Soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table: she opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words “EAT ME” were beautifully marked in currants. “Well, I’ll eat it,” said Alice, “and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door: so either way I’ll get into the garden, and I don’t care which happens!”

She ate a little bit, and said anxiously to herself, “Which way? Which way?” holding her hand on the top of her head to feel which way it was growing; and she was quite surprised to find that she remained the same size. To be sure, this is what generally happens when one eats cake; but Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.

So she set to work, and very soon finished off the cake.

Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence:

When they had run and danced themselves dry, the girls quickly dressed and sat down to the fragrant tea. They sat on the northern side of the grove, in the yellow sunshine facing the slope of the grassy hill, alone in a little world of their own. The tea was hot and aromatic, there were delicious little sandwiches of cucumber and of caviare, and winy cakes.

“Are you happy, Prune?” cried Ursula in delight, looking at her sister.

“Ursula, I’m perfectly happy,” replied Gudrun gravely, looking at the westering sun.

“So am I.”

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Author: Hannah (BitterSweet)

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

32 thoughts on “Fictional Foods, Part Two

  1. These are really nice pictures! I enjoyed reading this.

  2. Oh, the pastilla looks fabulous! I make it about every three or four years, as it does take days to make! I guess it’s time to make it again, but I will have to make adjustments, as the recipe I have uses egg, which I no longer eat. Any suggestions? Is that a vegan version in your photo?

    • Yes indeed, totally vegan and mine is pretty quick and easy to make, compared to the “authentic” version at least. I’m hoping to share that recipe sooner or later, so stay tuned!

      • I am looking forward to your version! Lately I have been experimenting, with excellent results, with different combinations of soaked nuts pureed with beans and spices as an egg replacement. Bastilla seems like the perfect dish to make it work.

  3. i love this series so much! and the photos are gorgeous! i now have a very storng desire to make tomato pie! and the alice in wonderland cake is beyond adorable and perfectly lovely.

  4. I love the food and story excerpt pairings!

  5. Great photos. I’m dying for those cupcakes.

  6. I love this series! So creative and reminds me to re-read some of my favorite books. The pizza picture is my favorite!

  7. I can’t tell you how much I love these pairings of food and literature, words fail me! Especially the Steinbeck, because I am one of those people who believes that soup cures all ills.

  8. Such a creative way of admiring food my friend :D

    Cheers
    CCU

  9. I love this series! I’ve only read 3 of the featured books this time (I can’t remember on a fourth, but it’s possible I’ve read 4). I especially liked the tomato pie segment due to the recipe being in the text!

    • Ah, but I did take some liberties there… Homemade crust instead of store-bought (naturally), vegan cream cheese instead of mayo, and Daiya mozzarella instead of feta. Definitely don’t skimp on that basil. :)

  10. So creative Hannah! I love this series and I had to go check amazon about some of the books you quoted :)

  11. I loved the first fictional foods post you did and this one is even better! Super creative and your photos are absolutely stunning.

  12. What a lovely post….now, I need someone to bring me a few cupcakes! LOL

  13. Glad to see you continue the series – so cool and fun! :-) Love the tomato pie!

  14. Oh, I love this theme so much! Books and food are like my favorite things. I am especially digging the Alice in Wonderland Cake. I remember reading the book and wanting to eat that tiny cake so badly. Now I can!

  15. i love that tomato pie and those cucumber sandwiches. gorgeous and fun pictures!

  16. That is one of my most favourite passages from Alice in Wonderland :)

  17. Hannah, I love this series!
    I’ve been thinking about what fictional food I’d make. Alice themed food is definitelly on my list! Maybe I’ll manage to do some Herman Hesse inspired food. Goethe or Poe. Oh, and Dickens, for sure!
    And there are so many more I’m thinking of right now…

  18. Hannah, I don’t know what to say except that you are Amazeballs. English majors [like myself] everywhere are turning cartwheels.

  19. What a highly enjoyable read!

  20. Oh yes the Alice in Wonderland cake is a work of art. Tomato pie, now that’s interesting, I love fresh tomato and will try, even if it makes a mess :)

  21. I’m so very impressed with this post, too! (Just followed the link back to and commented on Part One…) I also love that you were able to find so many rich and varied descriptions of food, and none of them really from a food or cooking-focused memoir, even though those would provide some nice material to work with, too!

  22. I love the Eat me cake! I certainly would! This is such a fun series. (Also I loved The Corrections)

  23. This is a treat for those who love both literature and food !

  24. Beautiful as always, Hannah! It’s funny, I just finished re-reading The Corrections and as soon as I saw the cupcakes I knew which part you were using!

  25. I think you are so clever Hannah. I just loved how you brought the fictional descriptions to life. This post reminded me of The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. I read that book in high school and he describes a baked sweet potato you can buy from a street vendor. The description is so colorful and detailed that I’ve always thought about trying to recreate it. Maybe you could have a go at it…

  26. The photos, the recipes, the books! Your fictional foods are incredible! I am teaching Classic Novels, the cooking class at my school next year, and I will definitely be siting your article as one of my major influences! Thank you so much! We’ll be creating a recipe booklet for them, and I will definitely make sure your name is in it!

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