“Just as reading great novels can transport you to another time and place, meals – good and bad ones alike – can conjure scenes very far away from the table,” writes graphic designer Dinah Fried in the introduction to her new book, Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature's Most Memorable Meals. In the book, just out from Harper Design, Fried recreates and photographs culinary moments from 50 well-known books, from Ramona Quimby’s inspired pairing of mashed potatoes and jelly in Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona to a grapefruit slashed to pieces with a hunting knife in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
The project began as a design project (now greatly expanded) when Fried attended the Rhode Island School of Design. Each of her carefully arranged table settings, photographed from above in the way a diner looks down at his or her plate, is accompanied by a corresponding excerpt from its book and bits of background information about the authors and their work.
Here we share five images and excerpts from the book.
“Oh, sweet friends! Hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favorite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it great expedition... while plying our spoons in the bowl, thinks I to myself, I wonder now if this here has any effect on the head? What’s that stultifying saying about chowder-headed people?”
—Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or the Whale
“Dickon made the stimulating discovery that in the wood in the park outside the garden where Mary had first found him piping to the wild creatures there was a deep little hollow where you could build a sort of tiny oven with stones and roast potatoes and eggs in it. Roasted eggs were a previously unknown luxury and very hot potatoes with salt and fresh butter in them were fit for a woodland king—besides being deliciously satisfying. You could buy both potatoes and eggs and eat as many as you liked without feeling as if you were taking food out of the mouths of fourteen people.”
—Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden.
“I’m a very light eater. I really am. That’s why I’m so damn skinny. I was supposed to be on this diet where you eat a lot of starches and crap, to gain weight and all, but I didn’t ever do it. When I’m out somewhere, I generally just eat a Swiss cheese sandwich and a malted milk. It isn’t much, but you get quite a lot of vitamins in the malted milk. H. V. Caulfield. Holden Vitamin Caulfield.”
—J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
“In order to test his taste, she brought him a whole selection of things, all spread out on an old newspaper. There were old, half-rotten vegetables; bones from the evening meal, covered in white sauce that had gone hard; a few raisins and almonds; some cheese that Gregor had declared inedible two days before; a dry roll and some bread spread with butter and salt.... Then, out of consideration for Gregor’s feelings, as she knew that he would not eat in front of her, she hurried out again and even turned the key in the lock so that Gregor would know he could make things as comfortable for himself as he liked. Gregor’s little legs whirred, at last he could eat.... Quickly one after another, his eyes watering with pleasure, he consumed the cheese, the vegetables and the sauce; the fresh foods, on the other hand, he didn’t like at all, and even dragged the things he did want to eat a little way away from them because he couldn’t stand the smell.”
—Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
“Then I tackled the avocado and crabmeat salad. Avocados are my favorite fruit. Every Sunday my grandfather used to bring me an avocado pear hidden at the bottom of his briefcase under six soiled shirts and the Sunday comics. He taught me how to eat avocados by melting grape jelly and french dressing together in a saucepan and filling the cup of the pear with the garnet sauce. I felt homesick for that sauce. The crabmeat tasted bland in comparison.”
—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
What literary food moments have whet your appetite (or turned your stomach)? Share them below in the comments.
Reprinted with permission from FICTITIOUS DISHES by Dinah Fried. Copyright 2014. Published by Harper Collins. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.