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Literary Lunch (or Dinner)


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#1 liuzhou

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 12:32 AM

Happy Bloomsday!

 

ulysses.jpg

James Joyce's masterpiece Ulysses was set entirely in June 16th, 1904, the day he had his first date with Nora Barnacle whom he eventually married (after 'living in sin' for many years). 

 

Among its myriad wonderfulnesses are its food descriptions You can almost taste and smell the food Mr Bloom eats during his peregrinations around Dublin.  

 

"Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods' roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine."

 

His visit to the butcher to buy his morning kidney gets all mixed up with some sexual fantasy about the neighbour's servant girl.

 

"A kidney oozed bloodgouts on the willowpatterned dish: the last. He stood by the nextdoor girl at the counter. Would she buy it too, calling the items from a slip in her hand? Chapped: washingsoda. And a pound and a half of Denny's sausages. His eyes rested on her vigorous hips. Woods his name is. Wonder what he does. Wife is oldish. New blood. No followers allowed. Strong pair of arms. Whacking a carpet on the clothesline. She does whack it, by George. The way her crooked skirt swings at each whack."

 

He buys his kidney, takes it home, and ends up half burning the kidney, but eating it anyway.

 

"...stubbing his toes against the broken commode, hurried out towards the smell, stepping hastily down the stairs with a flurried stork's legs. Pungent smoke shot up in an angry jet from a side of the pan. By prodding a prong of the fork under the kidney he detached it and turned it turtle on its back. Only a little burnt. He tossed it off the pan on to a plate and let the scanty brown gravy trickle over it.

Cup of tea now. He sat down, cut and buttered a slice of the loaf. He shore away the burnt flesh and flung it to the cat. Then he put a forkful into his mouth, chewing with discernment the toothsome pliant meat. Done to a turn. A mouthful of tea. Then he cut away dies of bread, sopped one in the gravy and put it in his mouth. What was that about some young student and a picnic? He creased out the letter at his side, reading it slowly as he chewed, sopping another die of bread in the gravy and raising it to his mouth.
"

 

Then his lunch in Davy Byrne's bar, there to this day.

 

"—Hello, Bloom, Nosey Flynn said from his nook.

—Hello, Flynn.

—How's things?

—Tiptop... Let me see. I'll take a glass of burgundy and... let me see.

Sardines on the shelves. Almost taste them by looking. Sandwich? Ham and his descendants musterred and bred there. Potted meats. What is home without Plumtree's potted meat? Incomplete. What a stupid ad! Under the obituary notices they stuck it. All up a plumtree. Dignam's potted meat. Cannibals would with lemon and rice. White missionary too salty. Like pickled pork. Expect the chief consumes the parts of honour.

 

...

 

Lord knows what concoction. Cauls mouldy tripes windpipes faked and minced up. Puzzle find the meat. Kosher. No meat and milk together. Hygiene that was what they call now. Yom Kippur fast spring cleaning of inside. Peace and war depend on some fellow's digestion. Religions. Christmas turkeys and geese. Slaughter of innocents. Eat drink and be merry. Then casual wards full after. Heads bandaged. Cheese digests all but itself. Mity cheese.

—Have you a cheese sandwich?

—Yes, sir.

Like a few olives too if they had them. Italian I prefer. Good glass of burgundy take away that. Lubricate. A nice salad, cool as a cucumber, Tom Kernan can dress. Puts gusto into it. Pure olive oil. Milly served me that cutlet with a sprig of parsley. Take one Spanish onion. God made food, the devil the cooks. Devilled crab.

...

 

Wine soaked and softened rolled pith of bread mustard a moment mawkish cheese. Nice wine it is. Taste it better because I'm not thirsty. Bath of course does that. Just a bite or two.

 

...

Mild fire of wine kindled his veins. I wanted that badly. Felt so off colour. His eyes unhungrily saw shelves of tins: sardines, gaudy lobsters' claws. All the odd things people pick up for food. Out of shells, periwinkles with a pin, off trees, snails out of the ground the French eat, out of the sea with bait on a hook. Silly fish learn nothing in a thousand years. If you didn't know risky putting anything into your mouth. Poisonous berries. Johnny Magories. Roundness you think good. Gaudy colour warns you off. One fellow told another and so on. Try it on the dog first. Led on by the smell or the look. Tempting fruit. Ice cones. Cream. Instinct. Orangegroves for instance. Need artificial irrigation. Bleibtreustrasse. Yes but what about oysters. Unsightly like a clot of phlegm. Filthy shells. Devil to open them too. Who found them out? Garbage, sewage they feed on. Fizz and Red bank oysters. Effect on the sexual. Aphrodis. He was in the Red Bank this morning. Was he oysters old fish at table perhaps he young flesh in bed no June has no ar no oysters. But there are people like things high. Tainted game. Jugged hare. First catch your hare. Chinese eating eggs fifty years old, blue and green again. Dinner of thirty courses. Each dish harmless might mix inside. Idea for a poison mystery. That archduke Leopold was it no yes or was it Otto one of those Habsburgs? Or who was it used to eat the scruff off his own head? Cheapest lunch in town. Of course aristocrats, then the others copy to be in the fashion. Milly too rock oil and flour. Raw pastry I like myself. Half the catch of oysters they throw back in the sea to keep up the price. Cheap no-one would buy. Caviare. Do the grand. Hock in green glasses. Swell blowout. Lady this. Powdered bosom pearls. The élite. Crème de la crème. They want special dishes to pretend they're. Hermit with a platter of pulse keep down the stings of the flesh. Know me come eat with me. Royal sturgeon high sheriff, Coffey, the butcher, right to venisons of the forest from his ex. Send him back the half of a cow. Spread I saw down in the Master of the Rolls' kitchen area. Whitehatted chef like a rabbi. Combustible duck. Curly cabbage à la duchesse de Parme. Just as well to write it on the bill of fare so you can know what you've eaten. Too many drugs spoil the broth. I know it myself. Dosing it with Edwards' desiccated soup. Geese stuffed silly for them. Lobsters boiled alive. Do ptake some ptarmigan. Wouldn't mind being a waiter in a swell hotel. Tips, evening dress, halfnaked ladies. "

 

 

And much, much more.

 

Any other literary food recommendations.

 

Please do not quote extensively from works still in copyright or you'll get us all run out of town. Ulysses is no longer in copyright.


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#2 SylviaLovegren

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 05:45 AM

Almost any of Dickens' works will have wonderful descriptions of food.  One of my favorites is in, I think, Great Expectations, where the young hero and an elderly gentleman are sitting at a fire making toast and there is nearly as much butter applied to the elderly gentleman as to the sizzling bread.

 

Christmas Carol, of course, has famous passages with food lovingly described.



#3 liuzhou

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 06:01 AM

 

One of my favorites is in, I think, Great Expectations, where the young hero and an elderly gentleman are sitting at a fire making toast and there is nearly as much butter applied to the elderly gentleman as to the sizzling bread.

 

Do you mean this?

 

'The responsible duty of making the toast was delegated to the Aged, and that excellent old gentleman was so intent upon it that he seemed to me in some danger of melting his eyes. It was no nominal meal that we were going to make, but a vigorous reality. The Aged prepared such a hay-stack of buttered toast, that I could scarcely see him over it as it simmered on an iron stand hooked on to the top-bar; while Miss Skiffins brewed such a jorum of tea, that the pig in the back premises became strongly excited, and repeatedly expressed his desire to participate in the entertainment.
...
We ate the whole of the toast, and drank tea in proportion, and it was delightful to see how warm and greasy we all got after it. The Aged especially, might have passed for some clean old chief of a savage tribe, just oiled. After a short pause of repose, Miss Skiffins—in the absence of the little servant who, it seemed, retired to the bosom of her family on Sunday afternoons—washed up the tea-things, in a trifling lady-like amateur manner that compromised none of us. Then, she put on her gloves again, and we drew round the fire, and Wemmick said, "Now, Aged Parent, tip us the paper."
'

 

Dickens - Great Expectations

 

Yes, Dickens is full of food.


Edited by liuzhou, 16 June 2014 - 06:03 AM.

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#4 Plantes Vertes

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 10:48 AM

The madeleines from Du côté de chez Swann by Proust must be among the most frequently invoked.

 

II y avait déjà bien des années que, de Combray, tout ce qui n'était pas le théâtre et le drame de mon coucher, n'existait plus pour moi, quand un jour d'hiver, comme je rentrais à la maison, ma mère, voyant que j'avais froid, me proposa de me faire prendre, contre mon habitude, un peu de thé. Je refusai d'abord et, je ne sais pourquoi, me ravisai. Elle envoya chercher un de ces gâteaux courts et dodus appelés Petites Madeleines qui semblent avoir été moulés dans la valve rainurée d'une coquille de Saint-Jacques. Et bientôt, machinalement, accablé par la morne journée et la perspective d'un triste lendemain, je portai à mes lèvres une cuillerée du thé où j'avais laissé s'amollir un morceau de madeleine. Mais à l'instant même où la gorgée mêlée des miettes du gâteau toucha mon palais, je tressaillis, attentif à ce qui se passait d'extraordinaire en moi. Un plaisir délicieux m'avait envahi, isolé, sans la notion de sa cause. II m'avait aussitôt rendu les vicissitudes de la vie indifférentes, ses désastres inoffensifs, sa brièveté illusoire, de la même façon qu'opère l'amour, en me remplissant d'une essence précieuse : ou plutôt cette essence n'était pas en moi, elle était moi. J'avais cessé de me sentir médiocre, contingent, mortel. D'où avait pu me venir cette puissante joie ? Je sentais qu'elle était liée au goût du thé et du gâteau, mais qu'elle le dépassait infiniment, ne devait pas être de même nature. D'où venait-elle ? Que signifiait-elle ? Où l'appréhender ? Je bois une seconde gorgée où je ne trouve rien de plus que dans la première, une troisième qui m'apporte un peu moins que la seconde. II est temps que je m'arrête, la vertu du breuvage semble diminuer. Il est clair que la vérité que je cherche n'est pas en lui, mais en moi. [...] Je pose la tasse et me tourne vers mon esprit. C'est à lui de trouver la vérité. Mais comment ? Grave incertitude, toutes les fois que l'esprit se sent dépassé par lui-même ; quand lui, le chercheur, est tout ensemble le pays obscur où il doit chercher et où tout son bagage ne lui sera de rien. Chercher ? pas seulement : créer. II est en face de quelque chose qui n'est pas encore et que seul il peut réaliser, puis faire entrer dans sa lumière. Et je recommence à me demander quel pouvait être cet état inconnu, qui n'apportait aucune preuve logique, mais l'évidence, de sa félicité, de sa réalité devant laquelle les autres s'évanouissaient. Je veux essayer de le faire réapparaître. Je rétrograde par la pensée au moment où je pris la première cuillerée de thé. Je retrouve le même état, sans une clarté nouvelle. Je demande à mon esprit un effort de plus, de ramener encore une fois la sensation qui s'enfuit. Et, pour que rien ne brise l'élan dont il va tâcher de la ressaisir, j'écarte tout obstacle, toute idée étrangère, j'abrite mes oreilles et mon attention contre les bruits de la chambre voisine. Mais sentant mon esprit qui se fatigue sans réussir, je le force au contraire à prendre cette distraction que je lui refusais, à penser à autre chose, à se refaire avant une tentative suprême. Puis une deuxième fois, je fais le vide devant lui, je remets en face de lui la saveur encore récente de cette première gorgée et je sens tressaillir en moi quelque chose qui se déplace, voudrait s'élever, quelque chose qu'on aurait désancré, à une grande profondeur ; je ne sais ce que c'est, mais cela monte lentement ; j'éprouve la résistance et j'entends la rumeur des distances traversées. Certes, ce qui palpite ainsi au fond de moi, ce doit être l'image, le souvenir visuel, qui, lié à cette saveur, tente de la suivre jusqu'à moi. Mais il se débat trop loin, trop confusément ; à peine si je perçois le reflet neutre où se confond l'insaisissable tourbillon des couleurs remuées ; mais je ne peux distinguer la forme, lui demander, comme au seul interprète possible, de me traduire le témoignage de sa contemporaine, de son inséparable compagne, la saveur, lui demander de m'apprendre de quelle circonstance particulière, de quelle époque du passé il s'agit. Arrivera-t-il jusqu'à la surface de ma claire conscience, ce souvenir, l'instant ancien que l'attraction d'un instant identique est venue de si loin solliciter, émouvoir, soulever tout au fond de moi ? Je ne sais. Maintenant je ne sens plus rien, il est arrêté, redescendu peut-être ; qui sait s'il remontera jamais de sa nuit ? Dix fois il me faut recommencer, me pencher vers lui. Et chaque fois la lâcheté qui nous détourne de toute tâche difficile, de toute oeuvre importante, m'a conseillé de laisser cela, de boire mon thé en pensant simplement à mes ennuis d'aujourd'hui, à mes désirs de demain qui se laissent remâcher sans peine. Et tout d'un coup le souvenir m'est apparu. Ce goût, c'était celui du petit morceau de madeleine que le dimanche matin à Combray (parce que ce jour-là je ne sortais pas avant l'heure de la messe), quand j'allais lui dire bonjour dans sa chambre, ma tante Léonie m'offrait après l'avoir trempé dans son infusion de thé ou de tilleul. La vue de la petite madeleine ne m'avait rien rappelé avant que je n'y eusse goûté ; peut-être parce que, en ayant souvent aperçu depuis, sans en manger, sur les tablettes des pâtissiers, leur image avait quitté ces jours de Combray pour se lier à d'autres plus récents ; peut-être parce que, de ces souvenirs abandonnés si longtemps hors de la mémoire, rien ne survivait, tout s'était désagrégé ; les formes - et celle aussi du petit coquillage de pâtisserie, si grassement sensuel sous son plissage sévère et dévot - s'étaient abolies, ou, ensommeillées, avaient perdu la force d'expansion qui leur eût permis de rejoindre la conscience. Mais, quand d'un passé ancien rien ne subsiste, après la mort des êtres, après la destruction des choses, seules, plus frêles mais plus vivaces, plus immatérielles, plus persistantes, plus fidèles, l'odeur et la saveur restent encore longtemps, comme des âmes, à se rappeler, à attendre, à espérer, sur la ruine de tout le reste, à porter sans fléchir, sur leur gouttelette presque impalpable, l'édifice immense du souvenir.

 

Here in English translation.

 

In this famous passage the narrator recounts the evocative power of the morning tea and cake he used to share with his aunt Léonie; when he tastes a madeleine in later life the full experience of his childhood with this relative is resurrected. This reveals his idea of involuntary (sensory) memory:

 

Mais, quand d'un passé ancien rien ne subsiste, après la mort des êtres, après la destruction des choses, seules, plus frêles mais plus vivaces, plus immatérielles, plus persistantes, plus fidèles, l'odeur et la saveur restent encore longtemps, comme des âmes, à se rappeler, à attendre, à espérer, sur la ruine de tout le reste, à porter sans fléchir, sur leur gouttelette presque impalpable, l'édifice immense du souvenir.

But when nothing remains of a far-off past, after its beings are dead, after its objects destroyed, alone and more delicate, yet more vivid, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, smell and taste remain long still, like souls, to remember, to wait, to hope, on the ruins of all the rest, to transport without relenting, on their almost impalpable droplets, the immense edifice of memory.

 

Throughout the work, food serves as a nexus of manners, etiquette and snobbery, social mores, sensuality and sensation, family life, ritual and habit, history, desire, disgust, aesthetic pleasure and many of Proust's other themes, and represents a route to different dimensions of experience. Gluttony and literary virtuousity seem to spring from the same impulse...

 

I wrote about Proust's food descriptions in relation to the classical concept of ekphrasis in my first-year exams at university. I was very strung-out during revision, so these passages have a rather hallucinatory quality in my memory, but at least I passed :biggrin:


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#5 fvandrog

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 11:33 AM

The madeleines from Du côté de chez Swann by Proust must be among the most frequently invoked.


I does definitely invoke a certain envie for those madeleines!!

#6 gfweb

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 11:40 AM

Hemingway's A Movable Feast has great stuff. Majorly ripped off by W Allen for Midnight in Paris.



#7 Duvel

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 12:19 PM

"Gourmet" by Lu Wenfu comes to mind ...

#8 Plantes Vertes

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 01:51 PM

George Orwell also wrote extensively about food in his essays and novels, in both loving and revolting vein. The description of oily gin from Nineteen Eighty-Four lodged in my mind and deterred me from drink for several years before peer pressure and an interest in intoxication overrode it.

 

In The Road to Wigan Pier he reflects:

A human being is primarily a bag for putting food into; the other functions and faculties may be more godlike, but in point of time they come afterwards. A man dies and is buried, and all his words and actions are forgotten, but the food he has eaten lives after him in the sound or rotten bones of his children. I think it could be plausibly argued that changes of diet are more important than changes of dynasty or even of religion....Yet it is curious how seldom the all-importance of food is recognized. You see statues everywhere to politicians, poets, bishops, but none to cooks or bacon-curers or market gardeners.

 

This essay, In Defence of English Cooking, marries the author's activism, his patriotism and his nostalgia; his views seem rather more attenuated in British Cookery, while he treats restaurant life and hunger in Down and Out in Paris and London after a stressful period of 'work experience' in French bistros. I particularly remember the part where he spends his last centimes on garlic to chew, to fool his mouth into believing he had eaten.


Edited by Plantes Vertes, 16 June 2014 - 01:52 PM.


#9 liuzhou

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 11:21 PM

One of my dearest friends, a lovely young Chinese woman in Nanning city here in Guangxi wrote her MA thesis on the topic "Food and Symbolism in Contemporary Afro-American Fiction"

 

She mainly based it on Alice Walker and Toni Morrison books I lent her (and later gave her).

 

I can't quote from the authors (copyright) but she has given me permission to reference some of her paper. 

 

I think it sufficient to list some of her chapter headings

 

"Food and Afro-American's history"

"Food and Afro-American's poverty trap"

"How Food reveals Racial Discrimination"

"Food and Survival"

"Food and Enlightenment"

"Food as a Description of Post-slavery Life"

"Food as an Emotional Bond through Shared Memory"

"Food and Resistance"

"Food and Womanism"

 

The paper was largely, but not exclusively,  based on Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" and Toni Morrison's "Beloved"

 

After reading her paper, I had to go back and re-read them. She is right. Both books (and others by the same authors) are jam-packed with food - either directly or metaphorically.

What is astonishing to me is that this young woman read the two books in the original - neither are in standard English - but also wrote her paper directly in English rather than most students' method of writing the paper in Chinese, then translating it. Or more often mistranslating it.

 

English is her third language. Her perception and erudition in a third language puts many of us to shame. But she is a food lover (if not a great cook - too impatient to eat).

 

Way back when she helped me write this.


Edited by liuzhou, 17 June 2014 - 11:25 PM.

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#10 liuzhou

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 10:32 PM

Cooking Poem: How Shall I Dine - Jonathan Swift

Gently blow and stir the fire,
Lay the mutton down to roast,
Dress it nicely I desire,
In the dripping put a toast,
That I hunger may remove:
Mutton is the meat I love.

On the dresser see it lie,
Oh! the charming white and red!
Finer meat ne’er met my eye,
On the sweetest grass it fed:
Let the jack go swiftly round,
Let me have it nicely browned.

On the table spread the cloth,
Let the knives be sharp and clean:
Pickles get and salad both,
Let them each be fresh and green:
With small beer, good ale, and wine,
O ye gods! how I shall dine.


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#11 JoNorvelleWalker

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 12:20 AM

I would have chosen A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick.

 

Yum.


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#12 liuzhou

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 12:44 AM


I would have chosen A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick.


Yum.

 

I deliberately didn't. There are unstable people around here who may have taken it seriously!



#13 SylviaLovegren

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 05:26 AM

Do you mean this?

 

'The responsible duty of making the toast was delegated to the Aged, and that excellent old gentleman was so intent upon it that he seemed to me in some danger of melting his eyes. It was no nominal meal that we were going to make, but a vigorous reality. The Aged prepared such a hay-stack of buttered toast, that I could scarcely see him over it as it simmered on an iron stand hooked on to the top-bar; while Miss Skiffins brewed such a jorum of tea, that the pig in the back premises became strongly excited, and repeatedly expressed his desire to participate in the entertainment.
...
We ate the whole of the toast, and drank tea in proportion, and it was delightful to see how warm and greasy we all got after it. The Aged especially, might have passed for some clean old chief of a savage tribe, just oiled. After a short pause of repose, Miss Skiffins—in the absence of the little servant who, it seemed, retired to the bosom of her family on Sunday afternoons—washed up the tea-things, in a trifling lady-like amateur manner that compromised none of us. Then, she put on her gloves again, and we drew round the fire, and Wemmick said, "Now, Aged Parent, tip us the paper."
'

 

Dickens - Great Expectations

 

Yes, Dickens is full of food.

 

 

Yes, that's it.  Dickens is so wonderful.  Thanks for finding it.