Madeleines and tea from Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust. All photos from 10 Great Meals in Literature at the Telegraph.
Inevitably someone mentions that eating scene in Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, but the novel doesn’t go into detail about what they ate. Probably because they were really consuming each other.
In Babette’s Feast by Isak Dinesen, Babette the French maid prepares a spectacular dinner. The Dwarves dine rowdily at the house of their unwilling host Bilbo in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog is full of meals. In Light Years, James Salter declares that “Life is meals.” Though as prepared by Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, they require more death than usual. In the Jeeves books by P.G. Wodehouse, Bertie Wooster is always being lured to his Aunt Dahlia’s house by the promise of fabulous meals prepared by her French cook Anatole.
Then there are the terrible meals, such as that eventful dinner in Atonement by Ian McEwan.
Despite the late addition of chopped fresh mint to a blend of melted chocolate, egg yolk, coconut milk, rum, gin, crushed banana and icing sugar, the cocktail was not particularly refreshing. Appetites already cloyed by the night’s heat were further diminished. Nearly all the adults entering the airless dining room were nauseated by the prospect of a roast dinner, or even roast meat with salad, and would have been content with a glass of cool water. But water was available only to the children, while the rest were to revive themselves with a dessert wine at room temperature.
And Patrick’s breakfast in Bad News, the second book in the Patrick Melrose series by Edward St. Aubyn.
The smell of decaying food had filled the room surprisingly quickly. Patrick’s breakfast was devastated without being eaten. A dent in the grey paste of the porridge contained a half-eaten stewed pear; rashers of bacon hung on the edge of a plate smeared with egg yolk, and in the flooded saucer two cigarette butts lay sodden with coffee. A triangle of abandoned toast bore the semicircular imprint of his teeth, and spilled sugar glistened everywhere on the tablecloth. Only the orange juice and the tea were completely finished.
Of course there was a meal to, uh, celebrate the wedding of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey in A Storm of Swords from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, but we don’t remember what food was served. Just everything else.
What is your favorite meal in literature? Post the passage in Comments. There’s the tinola in Noli me tangere…