Recipes in Books (not recipe books!)


One of my earliest food-book-memories is Enid Blyton’s description of the children in her book enjoying anchovies on toast. Fish on toast? I couldn’t quite understand why this would be such a treat, I preferred my fish in a curry, but I promised myself that I would try it out one day.

While I never got around to that, Valerie Stivers, in this immensely enjoyable series, does just that: cooks up recipes from the books of different authors. What caught my attention first was her piece on Iris Murdoch’s “The Sea, The Sea”. My father recommended this book to me when I was in college. I read it, and then everything else by Iris Murdoch that I could find. The meals described here, I remember dimly, as somewhat weird, because they involved food in cans. Canned food was not common in India at that time. While it did not sound appetizing to me, it turns out that is exactly how Ms. Murdoch and her husband actually ate! Ms. Stiver recreates it with interesting results.

While most cookbooks weave a story around the recipes, I am more intrigued by the foods that are mentioned, sometimes just in passing , as part of a story.  Lembas bread in “The Lord of the Rings” seems to evoke a lot of questions among readers I have met, and online as well.

The book I am reading at the moment, “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee describes  a beautiful moment between a mom and her daughter, herself a mom worrying about her sons. The daughter cannot sleep and gets up in the middle of the night to make the candy she will sell the next day. Her mother joins her, they share their thoughts as the black sugar candy cooks and cools. I wonder what black sugar is, turns out it is sugar containing molasses, sounds like it would be a great recipe to try….


(Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash)


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