A book club I participate in recently asked members what characters from fiction they would like to host for a dinner. I went with Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye), Ignatius J. Reilly (A Confederacy of Dunces), Isadora Zelda White Stollerman Wing (Fear of Flying), T.S. Garp (The World According to Garp), and Juliet Capulet (Romeo & Juliet) If they are allowed to bring a plus one it would be, in order, Phoebe, his mother, Adrian, Jenny, and Romeo Montague.
But what about the food? I’m not much of a chef and not very adventurous with menus. But how about a fictitious meal?
Fictitious Dishes is a bit of a cookbook without recipes, maybe a coffee table book that people page through, one they borrow from the library or give as a gift to a literary person who likes to cook. It is a pretty book. It has re-creations of meals from classic and contemporary literature with some excerpts from books, information about the food, author, their works, and the food itself.
I can see someone doing Mad hatter’s Tea Party from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Maybe you can read The Bell Jar while eating its crab-stuffed avocado. Not every selection is elegant. From The Catcher in the Rye, we get a cheese sandwich (on rye?) and drink a malted.
But how about an elegant jazz age party with Gatsby: “glistening Hors-d’oeuvre” and cocktails. Looking to be fancy? Boeuf en Daube from Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.
I love the novel Moby-Dick. I don’t love clams in or out of chowder. Ever since I dissected a clam in AP biology and discovered that people eat the part that filters junk out of the water I haven’t been a fan. I grew up with the Manhattan tomato-based version and the New Jersey variation which has Old Bay crab spices and asparagus and the less clam the better. I can live with the Moby addition of salted pork (Jersey Taylor ham or pork roll?), pounded sea biscuit, and lots of butter. Some good crusty bread and good coffee and I might just reread Melville again with a bowl of chowder in front of me the next cold November in my soul.
As I said, I’m not that adventurous when it comes to food. I tend to like the peasant foods from every culture – Italian, Mexican, French, Indian, German – take your pick. I’m going to go simple American with my meal from a favorite book – To Kill a Mockingbird‘s fried chicken, tomatoes (from my Jersey garden), beans, scuppernong (I had to look that up. They are a Southern big, white grape that is tart) and nice fresh-from-the-oven rolls. Dessert is some apple pie ala mode (coffee or cinnamon ice cream is my preference) from On the Road. Ala mode on the road. Sounds good.