Tuesday, November 17, 2009

You can't trust a character who doesn't...

After the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Conference this past Saturday, a group of us went to the Salvadorian restaurant, La Union, for dinner where we devoured delicious, inexpensive, and homestyle food and talked writing, revision, and life. At one point, I commented that during our Twitter chat,  I'd asked my editor, Cheryl Klein, if she would ever acquire a manuscript that didn't mention food. Hmmmm. We paused in our eating and talking. We all considered the question, and more or less came up with the same answer Cheryl gave:

 A picture book, yes; a novel, no. You can't trust a character who doesn't think about eating at least once.

Then we were off and running, talking about our favorite meals in children's literature:

 The cozy meal Mrs. Beaver offers the cold and lost Pevensie children in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: "There was a jug of creamy milk for the children (Mr. Beaver stuck to beer) and a great big lump of deep yellow butter in the middle of the table from which everyone took as much as he wanted to go with his potatoes and all the children thought - and I agree with them - that there's nothing to beat good freshwater fish if you eat it when it has been alive half an hour ago and has come out of the pan half a minute ago."

The mysterious feast that appears in the attic in A Little Princess: "rich, hot, savory soup, which was a meal in itself, and sandwiches and toast and muffins enough for both of them"

The tasty letters of the alphabet in The Phantom Tollbooth: "crisp, crunchy C" "the I, which was icy and refreshing"

Practically ALL of Harry Potter...

Cornbread and molasses (except if Pa caught a rabbit) in the Little House series

So, what's your favorite meal in children's literature?

And how would you complete this sentence:  You can't trust a character who doesn't....


    1. Of course this post gets me right where I live. Favorite meal? Definitely the attic meal from A Little Princess, Farmer Boy (entire book), tea with Mr. Tumnus, ceiling tea party in Mary Poppins,Christmas dinner from A Christmas Carol. There are too many, but I certainly love thinking about them :).

    2. I read Farmer Boy aloud to the kids right after reading The Long Winter, when the Ingalls family lived on nothing but brown bread. How Laura must have relished writing the descriptions of the meals in Farmer Boy. Do you think she was recalling her own meager childhood meals?

      Yum, La Union!

      And, I don't trust a character who doesn't...read.

    3. Ooh! Ooh! Such fun questions. And I immediately thought of Jama -- but see she's already visited.

      Let's see...Max's hot supper. Just in theory, since we don't know what it is. Or how about that chicken meal when Coraline first meets her other mother. And the "digestive biscuits" she had with Miss Spink and Forcible always cracked me up.

      Hmm...How about: I can't trust a character who doesn't make mistakes of one kind or another.

    4. All I can think of is Bread and Jam for Francis - but I do remember well how she laid out her little lunch at school.

      I don't trust a character who says how funny she/he is. Being funny has to be proven by actually saying funny things, not be saying how funny one can be.

    5. Probably my all time favorite is Buddy and Sook's fruitcake in Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory. That story wrenches my heart every time. And it makes me long for really good fruitcake- a rare commodity. For emotional if not culinary appeal I vote for the watery cabbage soup- the Bucket's standard fare in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory... guess you won't want to come to dinner at my house!

    6. There are some great meals in Jane Austen's books.

      I ditto Harry Potter. We were reading about butterbeer this morning, and all I could think was how much I wanted some myself. I'm always wanting to eat whatever food I'm reading about.

    7. Yummy contributions, all!

      Maybe there should be an anthology of food scenes from children's literature.... Except of course, it's the context that makes these meals so delicious or so poignant. Juicy details + emotional resonance = meals that stick with us in real life and in books!


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