For some reason, I’ve always had an emotional connection to food. I’m sentimental about eating fried bread with tomatoes or sugar on Christmas and always make sure we get to my grandma’s house in time to eat that meal. I’m sentimental about Oreos because my mom bought Dexter and I a giant box of Oreos packaged in tubes when we first got married, so we spent several evenings splitting a tube of Oreos and watching Ace of Cakes on Food Network. I’m sentimental about Creme de Menthe cake because that’s what my dad had for his birthday a lot when I was a kid and I thought the greenish coolwhip looked really cool.
But I’m not just emotional about food I’ve experienced or eaten. My favorite books and movies have food related parts that become the focal point of my memories about the story. Now, it seems like my favorite books are cookbooks.
In Bread and Jam for Frances, after Frances begins to weary of eating bread and jam at every meal, she asks her friend Albert what he had in his lunch. “‘I have a cream cheese-cucumber-and-tomato sandwich,’ said Albert. ‘And a boiled egg and salt shaker. And a thermos of milk. And a bunch of grapes. And a tangerine and a cup custard.'” At the end of the book, Frances shows off her lunch fare to Albert, “‘I have tomato soup,’ Frances said. ‘And a lobster-salad sandwich. I have celery, carrot sticks, and black olives. And plums, and cherries, and vanilla pudding.'” There is no way I would have eaten tomatoes, custard, lobster, or plums as a child. But I always had a sense of excitement as I imagined Frances unpacking her lunchpail with so many different things inside. Maybe I was learning the moral of the story that Albert iterated, “I think it’s nice that there are all different kinds of lunches and breakfasts and dinners and snacks.”
Fast forward a few years to The Boxcar Children. My favorite parts of the book are when Henry thins the vegetable garden at the doctor’s house and takes the tiny vegetables home so Jessie can make a stew, when they collect blueberries and have them with milk, and when they pick cherries at the doctor’s house. (I also like the part when Henry organizes the doctor’s garage, but that appeals to my OCD side, not my hungry side.)
In Little Women, one of the parts I remember most is when the sisters are astounded by a feast on Christmas morning despite slim rations because of the war, and their decision to take it to the poor family that lives nearby. And how Mr. Laurence sees what they did for the neighbors and sends over another feast. (Reminds me of Matt. 19:29).
In the movie The Shop Around the Corner, the shopkeeper who has just found out about his wife’s unfaithfulness invites the hungry, poor messenger boy, who has moved to the city to earn money to send back to his family, to dinner. I cry at this part every single time.
And in Desk Set, it is over lunch on the roof with tough roast beef sandwiches that Mr. Sumner finds out how complex and brilliant Bunny’s mind is.
I’m not sure why I like these parts of these stories, but I do. If I ever become a famous, amazing writer, I’ve decided I’ll be a food writer.