Thursday, February 21, 2013

Random Thoughts - February 21st

Have you ever noticed how well food and books go together? 

Pick up almost any book, and it's bound to have food included in it somewhere.  Whether it's in a travelogue or memoir describing the delicious and exotic foods the author experienced, or a fantasy novel with its own unique fruits and vegetables and dishes that are unlike anything in the real world, food is an integral part of our lives, and therefore, it has invaded even our reading.  Just look at the title of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love.  It's the first part of her story.  Or Marlena de Blasi's A Thousand Days in Tuscany.  That book is both a food-lover's and a book-lover's dream.  Besides telling the story of Marlena and her husband's move to a new place and the friends they make there, it also includes enticing descriptions of the food they ate, along with the recipes.  And venturing outside of non-fiction, there's the lembas waybread of The Lord of the Rings, the lamb stew in the Hunger Games, J.K. Rowling's butterbeer.  The food in these novels (and TV shows) have inspired their own unofficial cookbooks.

I think part of the reason why food is such an integral part of many stories is because it's a universal common denominator.  Every culture has its own unique traditions and history, and while the flavors might be different, food is one of the few aspects that crosses culture divides.  When reading Chocolat by Joanna Harris, some people might not connect to the culture of the gypsies or the rural French villagers, but they all understand the chocolate and cravings and sumptuous meals, whether they actually like the sweet or not.

Another way that food and books combine well is simply through enjoying a meal or snack while reading.  How amazingly comfortable is it to curl up with a good book and some delicious food?  In the winter, I love to read books about warmer climates or seasons while sipping some hot cocoa.

Eating while reading can also help us experience a story in an entirely different way.  When I'm reading Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer novels, I just have to have a cup of tea beside me, and sometimes even some tea cookies.  It provides another layer of depth to the connection I feel with the characters and settings.  I'm obviously not the only person who's felt this way, or the book Tea With Jane Austen wouldn't exist.

If you share these feelings about reading and eating, or if you simply like books, then there's a restaurant you need to check out.  Traveler Food and Books in Union, Connecticut is a small cafe/travel stop that caters to book-lovers.  While the food hasn't been called spectacular (it's your typical diner fare), the atmosphere and free books more than make up for it.  That's right; I said "free books."  The restaurant is filled with books; bookshelves line the walls and separate the tables.  Diners are encouraged to browse for a book they'd like to read while enjoying their meal.  And when the meal is over, you can take up to three free books home with you.  Any more than three, and there's a charge of course.  And if you can't find anything in the dining room upstairs, there's a small bookstore downstairs that you're welcome to peruse.

So these are my random thoughts for the day.  Part of what inspired it is that I was thinking of what to make for dinner and to bake for work tomorrow, while also trying to figure out when I'd have the time to finish Promised and read The Return of the King to Siobhan (both books actually make me thirsty).  And the other half of my inspiration was the totally awesome picture below, which I found when researching the 2013 Food Book Fair in NYC.

1 comment:

  1. Hm, no mention of Brian Jacques books? The man couldn't write a book without a feast in it. Actually, just thinking about it makes me hungry.

    I can honestly say I don't make a habit of eating while reading - though the same cannot be said for watching things. Something about Discovery Channel shows makes me want to eat.


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