The Beggars’ Banquet: Food-Book Pairings for Maximum Awesomeness

Though my local librarians might object when things get a little sloppy, I still maintain that nothing goes better together than a good book and a suitable meal. Most of the food is topical to the story it accompanies, but occasionally a personal memory of a first reading of a particular book trumps anything actually in the text. Here are some of my favorite food-book pairings that I’ve enjoyed over the years.

A Wrinkle in Time: Madeleine L’Engle’s classic begins with Charles Wallace eating bread and jam, heating milk on the stove for homemade cocoa, and that snack makes a wonderful companion to this book. If you’re feeling more invested in the project, you can always make soup over a bunsen burner, à la Charles Wallace’s mother, Dr. Murray’s, favorite cooking method.

The Dark is Rising: My pre-teen years were crammed full of re-readings of this sequence by Susan Cooper (as well as Tolkein’s The Hobbit, Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, and a really enjoyable but really terrible series about King Arthur by Stephen R. Lawhead), and while the only food item I can remember distinctly in the series is a sinister can of orange soda, I do remember many a day curled up under a thick, fluffy comforter, drinking peppermint tea and letting the tea dissolve a chocolate chip on my tongue one at a time. I’m fairly certain the characters in these books make a big deal out of having tea everyday anyway, so in my mind, it fits.

Little Women: Near the very beginning of the book (chapter two, I believe), the March girls selflessly give their Christmas breakfast to a poor family of German immigrants: buckwheat pancakes, muffins and cream. Any of the above make excellent snacking material to accompany this treat of a book by Louisa May Alcott.

Harriet the Spy: White bread, mayonnaise, thick-sliced tomatoes. Hey, I wouldn’t eat it, but it would be cheating to pretend anything else goes with this classic by Louise Fitzhugh.

The Bell Jar: Skip the food, go straight for the booze and cigarettes: a Manhattan with an iced tea chaser sets the mood. Light up a Pall Mall or seven and brood in your basement for a while over Sylvia Plath’s debut novel. Just… go easy on the liquor and keep your head on straight there.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter: This one, by Carson McCullers, doesn’t just require specific food: it requires specific food in a specific setting. Pick the worst diner you know. Order the crappy cheap coffee and something really greasy – chicken fried steak would do just fine. Make sure you leave room for the oldest pie they’ve got in the joint, and spend the whole time on your headphones, listening to Mozart. That’s M-O-Z-A-R-T, not Motes Art.

These are just a few of my favorites, but almost every book I’ve read and enjoyed brings to mind some kind of food or drink, too. What are some of your favorite book-food pairings? Let us know in the comments.

By Meghan Young Krogh

Meghan had a number of quality writing mentors over the course of her education, which just goes to show that you can't blame the teacher for the way the student turns out. Team Oxford Comma represent.

4 replies on “The Beggars’ Banquet: Food-Book Pairings for Maximum Awesomeness”

I couldn’t tell you why, but whenever I read or watch Lord of the Rings, I like to drink tea (strong black tea – preferably an English or Irish breakfast) and eat a nice thick crusty bread with a nice sharp cheddar. Mmm.

Although come to think of it, I’m fairly convinced that tea goes with any reading, so that could just be a me-thing, not a LoTR-thing.

I grew up reading The Dark is Rising books too. I tried to teach myself Welsh when I was 10. Got a book and everything.

I’ve never done a book/food pairing for a favorite book (and now I want to), but the boyfriend and I made a special dinner for the series premiere of Game of Thrones b/c there are always so many descriptions of food in the books. I’m veg, so that cut out a lot of possibilities though! We made corn fritters, a root veggie stew, and lemon cakes, and bought dark brown bread.

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