Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Make Me Hungry

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

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Books that make me hungry is a wonderful theme this week: in addition to reading and blogging about reading, baking is my other big pastime and only this week I have baked quiches, pizzas, cinnamon apple rolls, apple crumble and Nigella Lawson’s Molten Chocolate Babycakes… my biggest problem is eating the things I cook before they go off – and without totally ruining the diet! And, yes, I am the sort of chap who cooks things that I’ve read about in books.

And is not food wonderful – it bonds us together with characters who live in very different worlds, very different cultures, very different universes. And food is more than a core basic pleasure, it can be a wonderful temptation.

Paradise Lost, John Milton

The Garden of Eden is a critical image of divine largesse and nature’s bounty, bursting with fruit and vegetables almost begging to be eaten – not to mention the two trees of knowledge and that apple. But for me the bountiful meal offered by Eve to Raphael is gorgeous, cushioned in Milton’s sensual verse and tickles all the senses.

She turns, on hospitable thoughts intent
What choice to choose for delicacy best,
What order, so contrived as not to mix
Tastes, not well joined, inelegant, but bring
Taste after taste upheld with kindliest change;
Bestirs her then, and from each tender stalk
Whatever Earth, all-bearing mother, yields
In India East or West, or middle shore
In Pontus or the Punick coast, or where                                 
Alcinous reigned, fruit of all kinds, in coat
Rough, or smooth rind, or bearded husk, or shell,
She gathers, tribute large, and on the board
Heaps with unsparing hand; for drink the grape
She crushes, inoffensive must, and meaths
From many a berry, and from sweet kernels pressed
She tempers dulcet creams; nor these to hold
Wants her fit vessels pure; then strews the ground
With rose and odours from the shrub unfumed.

Goblin Market, Christina Rossetti

We all know the rules, don’t we? Never accept food or drink from the fairies or faeries and fae because gifts come with so many obligations and debts. Rossetti’s dodgy goblins calling to the maidens embodies these. I was tempted to go with C. S. Lewis’ Turkish Delight in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe but t felt too obvious somehow.

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;

Gingerbread, Helen Oyeymi

I mean, the book is literally called Gingerbread – which harks back to fairy tales in itself – and really dwells on the gingerbread itself.

Harriet Lee’s gingerbread is not comfort food. There’s no nostalgia baked into it, no hearkening back to innocent indulgences and jolly times at nursery. It is not humble, nor is it dusty in the crumb.

If Harriet is courting you or is worried that you hate her, she’ll hand you a battered biscuit tin full of gingerbread, and then she’ll back away, nodding and smiling and asking that you return the tin whenever convenient. She doesn’t say she hopes you’ll enjoy it; you will enjoy it.

Out came the precious ingredients, the warmth of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger, the best saved for last

A gingerbread addict once told Harriet that eating her gingerbread is like eating revenge. “It’s like noshing on the actual and anatomical heart of somebody who scarred your beloved and thought they’d got away with it,” the gingerbread addict said. “That heart, ground to ash and shot through with darts of heat, salt, spice, and sulfurous syrup, as if honey was measured out, set ablaze, and trickled through the dough along with the liquefied spoon. You are phenomenal. You’ve ruined my life forever. Thank you.”

“Thank you,” said Harriet.

White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi

Yup, a second entry for Oyeymi – recently discovered and I feel a much underrated writer – who does seem to love food. In White is for Witching, this moment is mouth wateringly good – and anyone who had attempted to woo me with peach tarts would have been successful!

Luc Dufresne is not tall. He is pale and the sun fails on his skin. He used to write restaurant reviews, plying a thesaurus for other facets to the words “juicy” and “rich.”

He wooed his wife with peach tarts he’d learnt from his pastry-maker father. The peaches fused into the dough with their skins intact, bittered and sweetened by burnt sugar. He won his wife with modern jazz clouded with cello and xylophone notes.

The Miniaturist, Jesse Burton

Sugar. Marzipan. Those rich sensual pleasures in the puritanical world of seventeenth century Amsterdam.

 she is taken by the desire for something sweet. “Do you have any marzipan?”

“No. Sugar is – not something we take much of. It makes people’s souls grow sick.”

“My mother used to roll it into shapes.” There was always marzipan in the pantry, the only predilection for indulgence in which Mrs Oortman echoed her husband. Mermaids, ships and necklaces of sugared jewels, that almond doughiness melting in their mouths.

The Mistress of Spices, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Wonderful descriptions of spice and flavour and sensuality abound in Divakaruni’s magical sensual novel, each spice containing magic and sacred to a day

Each spice has a special day to it. For turmeric it is Sunday, when light drips fat and butter-colored into the bins to be soaked up glowing, when you pray to the nine planets for love and luck.

Turmeric which is also named halud, meaning yellow, color of daybreak and conch-shell sound. Turmeric the preserver, keeping foods safe in a land of heat and hunger. Turmeric the auspicious spice, placed on the heads of newborns for luck, sprinkled over coconuts at pujas, rubbed into borders of wedding saris.

The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden

Set amidst the hardships of a medieval Russian village in wintertime, The Bear and the Nightingale feels unremittingly cold – not surprising as one of its main characters is Morozko, the Frost King and god of midwinter! But honey cakes were a tempting warming homely contrast to it.

Marina’s black-haired girl-child crept into the winter kitchen. She put her hands on the hearthstone and craned to see over the edge. Her eyes glistened. Dunya was scooping cakes from the ashes. The whole house smelled of honey. “Are the cakes ready, Dunyashka?” she said, poking her head into the oven.

There was a heap of them already cooling on the table, brown on the outside and flecked with ash. A corner of one cake crumbled as the child watched. Its insides were midsummer-gold and a little curl of steam rose up. Vasya swallowed. Her morning porridge seemed a year ago.

The Mercies, Kiran Millwood Hargrave

For another novel about hardship and scarcity, food was a wonderful part of Hargrave’s novel. And the moment where Maren teaches Ursa to make bread is beautiful – and erotically charged.

She scatters flour over the tabletop and Ursa passes her the heavy rolling pin. It is made from a different rock than the baking stone, cooler, to keep dough from sticking. She portions palmfuls of dough, sets one before Ursa.

“You want it thin as a biscuit.”

Ursa nods, but the moment she starts rolling, Maren knows she has not made biscuits before. The shape that forms is nothing like a circle. But when she looks to Maren for approval, a flourstain on her forehead near her hairline, Maren smiles encouragingly, watches as she carries it carefully to the baking stone and drops it on top.

They sit together at the floury table. Ursa takes her own attempt and cracks it, sending crumbs and flakes of seed scattering into her lap. “There is no blessing so complete as bread.”

Moby Dick, Herman Melville

After a long arduous voyage in icy waters, who wouldn’t want to wash into the Try Pots Inn to sample their chowder? Melville certainly seemed hungry when he dedicated and named an entire chapter after it!

“Queequeg,” said I, “do you think that we can make out a supper for us both on one clam?”

However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh! sweet friends, hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits, and salted pork cut up into little flakes! the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt.

Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word “cod” with great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savoury steam came forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us.

The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien

Fantasy seems to abound with food stuffs and breads and pies are as staple a parts of The Lord of the Rings as they are of A Song of Fire and Ice. I only wanted one of these iconic fantasy tomes on the list, and it had to be the Tolkien because of the hobbits’ love of food and mushrooms – even if the book makes no mention of second breakfast! And memories of Red Weddings and Joffrey’s death and horses’ hearts make the food in George R. R. Martin’s books unpalateable!

So in the interests of camaraderie and fellowship, I invite you to the Sign of the Prancing Pony.

They were washed and in the middle of good deep mugs of beer when Mr. Butterbur and Nob came in again. In a twinkling the table was laid. There was hot soup, cold meats, a blackberry tart, new loaves, slabs of butter, and half a ripe cheese: good plain food, as good as the Shire could show, and homelike enough to dispel the last of Sam’s misgivings (already much relieved by the excellence of the beer).


And now, I shall head off for a quick midnight snack!

Have a happy and hungry Top Ten Tuesday!

Forthcoming Top Ten Tuesday Topics

  • September 8: Books for My Younger Self (These could be books you wish you had read as a child, books younger you could have really learned something from, books that meshed with your hobbies/interests, books that could have helped you go through events/changes in your life, etc.)
  • September 15: Cover Freebie (choose your own topic, centered on book covers or cover art)
  • September 22: Books On My Fall 2020 TBR (or spring if you live in the southern hemisphere)
  • September 29: Favorite Book Quotes (these could be quotes from books you love, or bookish quotes in general)

11 comments

  1. Your quotes from “White is for Witching” and “Gingerbread” make me want to read the books more than I already did, and I just bought “The Bear and the Nightengale” but I think I want to wait till the winter to start reading that one.

    Such a fun topic this week, though I usually do my writing before breakfast- it was a challenge to do this on an empty stomach!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reading about all the things you baked this past week was already enough to make me hungry! All of this sounds so delicious 😀 I totally forgot about the honey cakes from TBATN but wow, reading the excerpt of it… My tummy is rumbling! LOL

    Liked by 1 person

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