There’s no greater pleasure than reading a good book. And being foodies, while reading we can’t help but take special notice of the food scenes in our favourite classic and modern tales, scenes that include some of the most delicious seafood dishes.
Here are some of those seafood scenes from books that have our caught our attention:
1. Enid Blyton’s Children’s Literature
Enid Blyton had the ability to transport you through her books to magical lands that were full of adventure and delicious food. Her characters turned to food while they were solving a mystery, exploring the outdoors, when they were at home or in school – pretty much at every opportunity that the plot provided them. The food is as famous as the characters featured in her stories: The Magic Faraway Tree, Famous Five, Secret Seven, Malory Towers, and The Twins at St Claire’s.
Sardine sandwiches, anchovy toast, tinned sardines in tomato sauce,and prawns are some examples of the seafood that’s featured in her books.
“Go and look at my fishing line, Mike, and see if there are any fish on it,”said Jack. There was a fine trout, and Mike brought it back to cook. Soon the smell of frying rose on the air, and the children sniffed hungrily. Fish, potatoes, bread, beans, cherries, and cocoa with milk from one of Jack’s tins. What a meal! – Enid Blyton, The Secret Island
2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
This classic tale by Dickens never gets old. First published in 1843, this book has never been out of print. This is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation from a miser to a compassionate and generous person.
When Scrooge meets the second of the three spirits, the Ghost of Christmas Present, he finds him by the fireplace surrounded by lots of delicious food which includes barrels of oysters.
Be it Christmas or some other festival, a seafood dish adds a celebratory touch to your feast.
“Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam.” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
3. Asterix Comic Series
The loveable Gauls from these Franco-Belgian comic series enjoy their feasts as much as they enjoy fighting the Romans. They are serious about their food, and this includes their fish, hence, instead of using his fishing boat to catch fish, their village’s resident fishmonger, Unhygienix, insists on transporting his fish from Lutetia (present-day Paris) as they’re of a better quality.
Of course, back in the day they didn’t have the technology that we do today for preserving freshness of seafood so, although Unhygienix’s intentions are good as he wants to only sell the best quality fish to the villagers- just like we do – his fish is imported from pretty far away and gets stale by the time it arrives the village. This causes him to get into fights with the blacksmith Fulliautomatix. These fights often involve the entire village.
Fish fight (pun intended)
4. To Kill A Mocking Bird – Harper Lee
The story of this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, set against the backdrop of a southern town in the United States, deals with issues of justice, prejudice, ethics, morals, compassion and racial discrimination.
In chapter 16, we are told that both the communities have come to witness Tom’s trial, that the county people have gathered for the trial in and around the courthouse as if it were a picnic. In one corner of the courthouse square, African-American groups are described to be sitting in the sun, “dining on sardines, crackers, and the more vivid flavors of Nehi Cola.”
Sardines with crackers or toast makes for a scrumptious appetiser.
5. Babette’s Feast by Karen Christenze Dinesen (pen name Isak Dinesen)
The story revolves around two sisters in a Norwegian village and a French refugee woman called Babette who comes to stay with them to escape the political unrest caused by France’s civil war.
Close to the end of the story, Babette wins a lottery and wants to use that money to help the sisters celebrate their father’s hundredth anniversary. She plans on making a French gourmet meal for the sisters and their guests. Despite their initial reservations, the sisters agree.
Babette then procures the best produce to create a feast worthy of the occasion, “Over the next few weeks after her return, the residents of the village were treated to one amazing sight after another as boats docked to unload provisions for Babette’s kitchen. Workmen pushed wheelbarrows loaded with crates of small birds. Cases of champagne and wine soon followed. The entire head of a cow, fresh vegetables, truffles, pheasants, ham, strange creatures that lived in the sea, a huge tortoise still alive and moving his snakelike head from side to side — all these ended up in the sisters’ kitchen now firmly ruled by Babette.”
The villagers enjoying the gourmet meal cooked by Babette in the movie adaptation of the book.
6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
A story set in England must feature fish and chips. Neil Gaiman does that with this fantasy tale for all ages about an orphaned boy who is brought up in a graveyard by its supernatural residents.
In Chapter 7, “Every Man Jack”, the orphaned boy’s friend Scarlett is treated to fish and chips by a historian called Mr Frost that she has befriended.
“Scarlett helped Mr Frost with his grave-rubbings until midday, when they stopped for lunch. He offered to buy her fish and chips as a thank-you, and they walked down to the fish and chip shop at the bottom of the road, and as they walked back up the hill, they ate their steaming fish and chips, drenched in vinegar and glittering with salt, out of paper bags.” – Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
7. Tea by H. H. Munro (pen name Saki)
Saki, a master of the short story format, was well-known for writing stories that had a satirical take on Edwardian norms. ‘Tea’ is one such story by him which is full humour and irony. The plot of the story is centres around the afternoon tea-time routine followed by the British during the Edwardian times.
”I’m having a picnic meal,” she announced. “There’s caviare in that jar at your elbow. Begin on that brown bread-and-butter while I cut some more. Find yourself a cup; the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things.”
– Saki, Tea
8. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
As the title of the novel suggests, this is a story about a time traveller, Henry, and his wife, Clare. It looks at how their love for each other faces challenges posed by time and distance.
“I made you some pretty weird meals over the years. Peanut butter and anchovy sandwiches. Pate and beets on Ritz crackers. I think partly I wanted to see if there was anything you wouldn’t eat and partly I was trying to impress you with my culinary wizardry.” – Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife
We haven’t tried peanut butter with anchovy, but, what we can recommend is this delicious combination of eggs on toast with anchovy.
Seafood is an integral part of our lives and, hence, it is only natural that writers feature it in their fictional meals. Why not replicate some of the these seafood dishes in real life and enjoy them the next time you curl up with a good book.