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Mention Enid Blyton to practically any grown up and they will chime in with memories of midnight feasts, adventures and picnics with lashings and lashings of ginger beer ...

Lashings and lashings of jolly good stories!

Mention Enid Blyton to practically any grown up and they will chime in with memories of midnight feasts, adventures and picnics with lashings and lashings of ginger beer. However, it was, in fact, lashings and lashings of hard boiled eggs. This probably represented a feast for post war children and families coming out of rationing.

The Famous Five, regardless of what adventure was unfolding, what mystery needed to be solved or what villain needed to be locked up, strictly adhered to mealtimes. After all, what's an adventure without a picnic? Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy (the dog) never set off without breakfast. Meal times were strictly adhered to regardless of the setting. Whether in a lighthouse, stalking smugglers or camping, these resourceful children could be trusted to make their beds and dine on good sensible and delicious food. There was always new crusty bread accompanied by slabs of butter and jugs of creamy milk. This simple fare takes on wonderfully delicious qualities through Enid Blyton’s descriptions. And while we’re at it, let’s not forget the magical possibilities of the pop cakes ‘oozing with honey’ and ‘porridge drizzled with thick cream and golden syrup’ enjoyed by the children in The Magic Faraway Tree.

Nigel Slater writes, “Forget salt and pepper, garlic and lemon.The most successful seasoning for what we eat is a good pinch of nostalgia.” I wonder if this is also true of the books we loved as children?

I loved Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew books. The ‘almost’ familiar foods here, made exotic by the use of delicious sounding ingredients. There was hot chocolate - we had cocoa, Cherry Pie - ours was apple tart. I tried, unsuccessfully, to get my mother to add cinnamon to hers. I didn’t know what Angel Cake or Pecan Pie was but I was sure it was better than anything we had. Nancy serving lemonade she had made ‘from scratch’ puzzled me - our was red and came in bottles!

Growing up on a diet of adventures and midnight feasts - made us yearn for the exotic. Sweet potatoes sounded weird but the ‘smores we had read about sounded amazing. Graham crackers must be like Cream Crackers - Hershey’s sounded delicious. I will never forget the disappointment years later on discovering that it was far inferior to good old Cadbury’s!

This fascination with food in fiction continues into adulthood. In Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier makes frequent references to food and the decadence of the upper class, while only the second Mrs. De Winter seems aware that others are living in poverty. “Those dripping crumpets, I can see them now. Tiny crisp wedges of toast, and piping-hot, flaky scones. Sandwiches of unknown nature, mysteriously flavoured and quite delectable, and that very special gingerbread. Angel cake, that melted in the mouth, and his rather stodgier companion, bursting with peel and raisins. There was enough food there to keep a starving family for a week.”

Like Water For Chocolate by, Laura Esqivel tells the story of Tita De La Garza, the youngest daughter in a family living in Mexico at the turn of the twentieth century. Handed down recipes that also impart wisdom create the structure for this work of magic realism. Tears and rose petals mingle with chocolate and other ingredients with extraordinary effects on those who consume these lovingly prepared feasts.

In Toast : The Story of a Boy’s Hunger, Nigel Slater writes of his childhood and coming of age through a series of culinary encounters. His loving description of toast makes me want to run to the bread-bin

“It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you. People’s failings, even major ones such as when they make you wear short trousers to school, fall into insignificance as your teeth break through the rough, toasted crust and sink into the doughy cushion of white bread underneath. Once the warm, salty butter has hit your tongue, you are smitten. Putty in their hands.”

Food and books have a special effect on us as humans - they feed our bodies, our senses and our souls. During the past few months some people rediscovered a love for both and others may need to reconnect.

Do you have a favourite cookery book, a novel or a biography that comforts you or ignites your passions? Share them with us over on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Bernadette Larkin

Our City Our Books Project Manager

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