Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Eating Up For Lost Time

When I was a child, I was the world's pickiest eater. I was one of those cartoon children who want plain meat and mashed potatoes and, if possible, dessert, but nothing else. I was one of those children who never wanted to try anything new or differently prepared or certainly not anything green.

Oddly, I was willing and eager to eat squirrel and mushrooms, because my mother and I stayed with someone (grandparents? aunt and uncle? I remember the stay, but only the food details--shut up!) and I helped hunt mushrooms and the man of the couple went out before breakfast and shot the squirrels. See, even as a picky eater, I was into fresh and local and personal.

Anyway, picky though I was in my personal diet, I was always interested in what people in books ate. The most memorable scene to me in THE FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS AND HOW THEY GREW was the one in which they made a cake for their mother and it came out with a depression in the top layer, and they filled it with fresh flowers.

SOUTH SEA ADVENTURE was one of the books I loved, and I'd delighted to say I found a copy at a library book sale. I loved (and still love) books about survival in circumstances that city folks, like I was, consider primitive. I read books about people lost in the desert or stranded in the woods or about prehistoric cave dwellers or American Indians before the white man or... you get the idea.

As I've grown (like the five little Peppers), I haven't lost that taste (taste--get it?--taste?) for food in literature. Part of the pleasure of volunteering in the Children's Room of the library is finding new childhood favorites for myself, especially ones with interesting food experiences.

In the early Boxcar Children books, they children made a home in an abandoned boxcar and fashioned an oven out of stones and ate the baby vegetables they thinned out of their patron's garden in the spring.

In the first book of The Series of Unfortunate Events series, the children make pasta puttanesca (recipe and instructions included in the text), which inspired many, many people (including children) to try something they'd never heard of before.

Best of all, there was Gary Paulsen's HATCHET, exactly the kind of book I liked best as a child, in which a young person is stranded in an unfamiliar environment and makes a livable place for himself in it. Probably appealed to me because we seemed to move a lot when I was a kid. It was probably, you know, metaphorical and whatnot.

And now I have stacks and stacks of foodie mysteries to delight me. Is it any wonder I'm so fat?--I mean, happy?

Marian Allen

1 comment:

Gayle said...

I remember listing to an Unfortunate Events book on tape as we traveled on vacation one year. I had no idea what pasta puttanesca was. Of course, being a pasta lover, I wanted to find out!And, you're right, it's good that it makes kids (and adults) think and try new things. :)