The chapter I was asked to read was when Bruce Bogtrotter was accused by Miss Trunchbull and is forced to eat a whole cake before the school assembly as punishment. Since reading this chapter I have been thinking about the role of food in the books that we read as kids. First though, here is the chapter that I read as it was portrayed in the movie adaptation of Matilda.
Roald Dahl was not averse to using food in his books. The most famous example of this would probably be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but there was also James and the Giant Peach. I am sure if I was to read all of the Roald Dahl books I would find lots of other examples of food in them.
For now though, I thought I would look at some other examples.
For very young children, the book that came instantly to mind was Eric Carle's Very Hungry Caterpillar, a book that is definitely standing up well even more than 40 years after it was originally published. I am sure it is a story that you will know, but just in case, here is a video of Eric Carle reading the book.
When I think back to my own childhood favourites, one author comes to mind and that is British author Enid Blyton. I know that she isn't that well known in places like America and Canada, but she was certainly a mainstay of British and Australian childhoods. I even bought new editions of some of my favourite books for my son who is now 15 so those books are still available even now. Blyton wrote a number of different series. There were the Famous Five Books which were a mystery series featuring a group of children who try to solve each mystery. My favourites though were the more magical books, in particular the books set in the Enchanted Wood where there was a magical Faraway Tree where there was new world at the top of the tree every few days.
From a food perspective, the world that Blyton portray was a world of picnics, of cakes, of toffee and lemonade. The first book of the Enchanted Woods series was published in 1939 and Magic Faraway Tree published in 1943. Just flicking through the books to see some of the land names such as Do-As-You-Please land you have to wonder how much of what Blyton was writing was directly influenced by wartime life and providing kids with a make believe world that was far away from the austerity that was reality.
When I was thinking about the food, there were a couple of things that I remembered so I went and grabbed a couple of the books off of my son's bookshelf (not that he has read them or will do so now) and thought I would share a couple of examples with you. Firstly, here are the children's first taste of Pop Cakes.
Silky was pleased. She sat there brushing her beautiful golden hair and ate sandwiches with them. She brought out a tin of Pop cakes, which were lovely. As soon as you bit into them they went pop! an you suddenly found your mouth filled with new honey from the middle of the little cakes. Frannie took seven, one after another, for she was rather greedy.And the very interesting sounding Toffee Shock
Beth stopped her. "You'll go pop if you eat any more!"
Moon-Face was pleased. He poured lemonade for everyone, then handed round a little box full of what looked like all sorts of toffee.Then again maybe you don't have to be going without, or even really young, to appreciate the Land of Birthdays or the Land of Tea Parties (which we read about in The Folk of the Faraway Tree) even though some options in the latter land seem a bit odd. Would anyone like dewdrop and honey sandwiches, tunafish and strawberry sandwiches or oranges and lemon sandwiches. Or perhaps pineapple and cucumber sandwiches are more your style? Anyone?
"I don't feel as if I ever want to see what land is at the top of the Faraway Tree again," said Joe, as he munched a peculiar piece of toffee which seemed to get bigger in his mouth instead of smaller.
"Neither do I," said Beth.
"I certainly never will!" said Frannie. "It seems as if there are never any lands there worth visiting. They are all most uncomfortable.
"Except my little land," said the Saucepan Man, rather mournfully." I was always very comfortable there."
Joe's toffee was now so big that he couldn't say a word. Then it suddenly exploded in his mouth, went to nothing, and left him feeling most astonished.
"Oh dear - did you take a Toffee Shock?" said Moon-Face, noticing Joe's surprised face. "I'm so sorry. Take a different one."
"No, thank you," said Joe, feeling that one Toffee Shock was quite enough.
This book was published in 1918, and I think that it is possibly showing it's age in some ways with some racist attitudes and other non PC aspects, which is a shame in some ways. Even though I haven't read it since I was a kid I do have fond memories of it. Some of Enid Blyton's books have been republished over the years taking out the non politically correct parts which I am torn about. Should they be edited to reflect changing attitudes or should they be left as a historical reflection of the time when they were written and published.
Do you have some favourite food related children's stories, or even just particular items that you would love to be able to eat just once, no matter how wild and wacky it may be?
Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.