Pleasures of the Table
Wonderful illustrations accompany my collection of food writing. It has delectable scenes of cooking and feasting in novels and stories, poems that use food to tempt and seduce, and fine writing by and about great cooks. Napoleon famously declared that an army marched on its stomach; less familiar is the idea that great authors were as eager to feed their stomachs as their imaginations. Far-ranging in both time and place, this exploration of literary eating and great writing about food will amuse, surprise, and make the mouth water. The anthology begins with examples of hospitality, ranging from Chaucer’s convivial Franklin to Walter Scott’s bountiful breakfasts and dinner with Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Ramsay. Next comes eating to impress – dazzling banquets from Flaubert to F. Scott Fitzgerald – and some great fictional love feasts (there is no doubt that in literature food and love go together rather better than love and marriage). Many of our most vivid memories of food in literature were laid down in childhood, and nostalgia is to the fore in such classic scenes as Pinocchio aching with hunger, Ratty and Mole picnicking, enchanted Turkish delight in Narnia, and a seaside picnic from Enid Blyton. A section on distant times and places ranges from seethed tortoise in ancient China to seal’s liver fried in penguin blubber as a treat for Captain Scott. Those who relish simplicity rather than excess will enjoy Sydney Smith’s delicate salad dressing and Hemingway’s appreciation of oysters.
A splendid new collection … Reads like a fresh treat, thanks to Hardyment s keen eye for pleasures of many kinds. She allows us to stare, unobserved, at many an intimate breakfast and ad-hoc luncheon. –Bee Wilson, New Yorker
This delightful anthology … blends the intriguingly unfamiliar with delicious reminders. –House and Garden
Hardyment ranges from Petronius and Pliny on to Rilke and Rossetti. Some of her choices are wonderfully arcane … Rich and rewarding … Drawing on the British Library’s abundance, it is very well illustrated, its design and binding are exemplary and its chapters are well conceived. –Country Life