With summer vacations happily around the corner, the sting is taken away from the scorching heat. Whilst dreaming about vacation days over a cup of tea and an indulgently evil, light as air, shiny sugar glazed, glistening doughnut, we couldn’t help but think back on those long gone by summer days of school years; of lounging around with piles of books, measured more by how much could be carried out of the library than by numbers. The food mentioned in those books was usually the unhealthy, sticky, sugary kind to appeal to the palate of ten year olds. The Enid Blyton’s were made more delicious by the food she wrote about in each book. Not that many people growing up in India knew the taste of half the things she mentioned but it all sounded ‘scrumptious’ in the situation and settings. The thrill of consuming pork pies, chocolate cake, tinned sardines and tinned pineapples during midnight feasts in Malory Towers or St. Clare’s was aspired to by eight year olds brought up on strict vegetarian diets! Even the mashed peas sounded better than the mutter paneer.
LL: Then there were the Famous Five books where the stories were always set during vacations and the five were never required to be at home. A vacation of wandering around the countryside, eating picnic food, swimming in the sea or in streams and solving mysteries, by the way, seemed the ultimate in holidays.
PS: The food which was largely sandwiches, potted meat, ginger beer and lemonade, would read the like the taste of freedom, to readers looking forward to two whole months without tests and homework. I also used to love the way that all picnics were always shared equally with Timmy the dog.
LL: My favourite series were the Faraway Tree with their magical food, like Google Buns, Pop Biscuits and Shock Toffees. Can you imagine lying down reading a book and fantasising what it would be like to pop a toffee in your mouth that suddenly starts growing and growing till it fills your mouth completely and then just as suddenly disintegrates into nothing!
PS: And it’s heart breaking to be faced with the regular dhal chawal that follows for lunch!
LL: This is the whole problem with food in books, it gives you unrealistic expectations. Like the kids these days who are fascinated by pumpkin juice in Harry Potter books, are unlikely to be as excited after a sip of it.
PS: I remember reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and imagining Turkish Delight to be much more fabulous than it actually was. The real stuff was quite a let down.
But magic is magic and books in themselves are magical, so even when they talk about mundane food, in our minds it transforms into the taste of adventure, fun and glorious summer days!
Our thanks to the very insightful and careful research into food of Enid Blyton books, carried out by the eleven year old on summer vacation.