Fictional Food

The first time my mouth truly watered when reading a book was silly. It wasn’t even about real, edible food. It was a brief, two sentence description of plastic food in The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter.

Tale of two bad mice

“There were two red lobsters and a ham, a fish, a pudding, and some pears and oranges. They would not come off the plates, but they were extremely beautiful.”

Something about the tiny plates bringing comfort and joy to two tiny mice made me feel warm and cosy. If you’ve read my other post, you know exactly how much weight I put on fantasy and food, especially during the all important adventure story. From then on, I delighted in the visual descriptions of food. Food can reveal a lot about a character, the descriptions themselves can arouse and disgust, and yet I’ve always wanted to taste what those characters did. To delight or dismay at the display before me. So when I discovered ‘Fictitious Dishes‘ by Dinah Fried (quite an appropriate name), my senses were set alight. In fact, I purchased the book straight away.

fictitious dishes dinah fried

“Reading and eating are natural companions, and they’ve got a lot in common.” Dinah writes in her Introduction. “Reading is consumption. Eating is consumption. Both are comforting, nourishing, restorative, relaxing and mostly enjoyable. They can energize you or put you to sleep.” She’s right. Reading is nourishment, just like food. It can comfort you when you’re all cried out and transport you when you’re feeling stuck in a rut. Dinah is a ‘designer, art director, and amateur table-setter’, who co-founded a business, has received an abundance of kind words written about her work and who also runs a pretty neat instagram account. She’s displayed a fervent love for food, design and the written word through this project and has probably won over those of us that have always wanted to touch the food those skillful authors crafted before us, and where our imaginations may have failed, Dinah has certainly succeeded.

Here are some of my favourites, pilfered from the website, though the book is filled with so many more facts, tidbits and glorious, glorious photographs. I’ve got the kindle version simply because I couldn’t wait, but I’ll be getting a real copy soon, because what could be better than pawing, sticky-fingered through my favourite works of fiction realised through the medium of food?


“When I’m out somewhere, I generally just eat a Swiss cheese sandwich and a malted milk. It isn’t much, but you get quite a lot of vitamins in the malted milk. H. V. Caulfield. Holden Vitamin Caulfield.”


“On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold.”


“One day in winter, as I came home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, suggested that, contrary to my habit, I have a little tea. I refused at first and then, I do not know why, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump cakes called petites madeleines…”


“The kettle soon began to boil, and meanwhile the old man held a large piece of cheese on a long iron fork over the fire, turning it round and round till it was toasted a nice golden yellow color on each side. Heidi watched all that was going on with eager curiosity.”


“Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favorite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition…”


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