Archive for the ‘bad food’ Category

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Moore fictional food from Lorrie

June 20, 2009

like life lorrieAnother taste of food-in-fiction from the superlative Lorrie Moore, still from this old collection Like Life.

This from a story called Joy, where Jane works in a midwestern shopping mall, in a cheese shop called Swedish Isle. Her job is to proffer samples of cheese spreads and dips on crackers out in front of the shop.

She liked the customer contact. “Care to try our chive-dill today?” she would ask brightly. She felt like Molly Malone, only friendlier and no cockles or mussels; no real seafood for miles. This was the deep Midwest. Meat sections in the grocery stores read: BEEF, PORK, and FISH STICKS.

“Free?” people would ask and pick up a cracker or a bread square from her plastic tray.

“Sure is.” She would smile and watch their faces as they chewed. If it was a man she thought was handsome, she’d say, “No. A million dollars,” and then giggle in the smallest, happiest way. Sometimes the beggars – lost old hippies and mall musicians- would come in and line up, and she would feed them all, like Dorothy Day in a soup kitchen.

Jane runs into an old high school friend in the mall.

“Bridey, you look great. What have you been up to?” It seemed a ridiculous question to ask of someone you hadn’t seen since high school, but there it was.

“Well, last year I fell madly in love,” Bridey said with great pride. This clearly was on the top of her list, and her voice suggested it was a long list. “And we got married, and we moved back to town after roughing it on the South Side of Chicago since forever. It’s great to be back here, I can tell you.” Bridey helped herself to a cheddar sample and then another one. The cheese in her mouth stuck between her front teeth in a pasty, yellowish mortar, and when she swallowed and smiled back at Jane, well, again, there it was, like something unfortunate but necessary.

At the end, Jane’s colleague Heffie quits work at the shop, “but the day she did she brought in a bottle of champagne, and she and Jane drank it right there on the job”.

They poured it into Styrofoam cups and sipped it, crouching behind the deli case, craning their necks occasionally to make sure no customers had wandered in.

“To our little lives,” toasted Heffie.

“On the prairie,” added Jane. The champagne fizzed against the roof of her mouth. She warmed it there, washing it around, until it flattened, gliding down her throat, a heated, sweet water.

She and Heffie opened a jar of herring in a cream sauce, which had a messily torn label. They dug their fingers in and ate. They sang a couple of Christmas carols they both knew, and sang them badly.

Inside the deli case, the dry moons of the cheeses and the mucky spreads usual plastic tags: HELLO MY NAME IS. Jane reached in and plucked out one that said, HELLO MY NAME IS Swiss Almond Whip.

Here,” she said to Heffie. “This is for you.” Heffie laughed, gravelly and loud, then took the tag and stuck it in one of her barrettes, up near the front, where the hair was vanishing, and the deforested scalp shone back in surprise, pale but constant, beneath.

Long extract, I know, but I couldn’t resist.

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Rice is (gulp) nice?

June 9, 2009

stephricepuddingThe Empress  and her Three-of-a-Kind column today made me gag, I’m afraid.

I’m sure all of you will love it, but childhood memory makes me distinctly bilious at the mention of rice pudding.

If it weren’t for this (literally) gut-level aversion of mine, Steph’s column would be interesting for the cultural combo of what different folks do with rice pud, but sadly since the age of twelve I have not been able look, smell, hear of the stuff.

(That, and much worse, bread-and-butter pudding. Ugh, even typing that made my reverse-peristalsis-muscles twitch. Nobody in my whole family can go there, thanks to a visiting stand-in mother while our mum was in hospital for some procedure or other, probably either another baby or varicose vein surgery – no wonder she died young! – and this woman must have done something godawful with B&BP; none of us know what the problem was, but we all knew even then it was horrific and have never eaten it since).

Anyhoo for some reason – probably the combination of five whining children, hungry husband, no money and the sedative effect of seven stomachfuls of stodgy carbohydrate – our mum was a big fan of the rice pud. Too big a fan. But I ate every bowl, of course. Read the rest of this entry ?

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When your fingers do the baulking

May 26, 2009
  

Finger food fiasco - the kind of creation that ends with an olive in the cleavage (& a toothpick in the chef's eye).

Finger food fiasco - the kind of creation that ends with an olive in the cleavage (& a toothpick in the chef's eye).

Note to party caterers: when finger food can’t be eaten with the fingers, it’s not finger food.

 

Very enjoyable couple of hours at the A&U publishing party the other night, at which NSW Premier Nathan Rees gave a short and very welcome speech about his support for territorial copyright and opposition to parallel importation of books, and then enthusiastically nattered to writers. Imagine – a politician who likes to speak publicly about how much he enjoys fiction, and then wants to talk at length to the kinds of people who write it. All a bit of a shock.

Anyhoo, twas a great party all round, except the finger food was rather too frequently impossible to eat with the fingers – so that when a young woman appeared with a huge tray of food, a gaggle of starving people gathered round her and stared down at this big platter of something scattered with a wet-looking salad and what appeared to be lentils. Then everyone simply looked confused, then disappointed, said ‘ah, no thanks’ and stuck their noses back in their glasses.

It was the image of how one should eat it that put one off: just scoop up the bits in two hands, perhaps? Or tilt one’s face to the platter and bite it off the surface, like bobbing for apples? Bizarre. 

Then there is the mix-of-things-on-an-Asian-flat-spoon approach, which I have no qualms about, provided the mound of stuff is able to be got into the gob in one go. Having a big gob, I managed better than many more delicate guests who nibbled  round the edges of a high pyramid of squiddy-salady stuff, neck extended turtle-style to avoid getting food on themselves when bits of it inevitably began falling. Read the rest of this entry ?

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More bad literary food

May 5, 2009

bookplateI have found a fellow bad-food-in-fiction-admirer in Geoff Nicholson, with his nice piece on literary food in the New York Times this month.  In his mini-essay, Go Ahead. Spoil My Appetite he says:

I’ve realized that the moments of literary eating I like best are the ones in which the characters suffer because of their food. In “Gravity’s Rainbow,” for instance, there’s an early scene in which the wartime inhabitants of a London maisonette enjoy bananas served in myriad forms, including mashed bananas “molded in the shape of a British lion rampant.” This is good stuff, but the truly magnificent scene in the book has Tyrone Slothrop sampling various hideous English candies, flavored with the likes of quinine, pepsin, eucalyptus, tapioca, until, choking, he’s offered a Meggezone, “the least believable of English coughdrops.” This is a real product, a nasty little black lozenge, still available, and if my childhood memory is reliable, Pynchon’s description of its effects — “Polar bears seek toenail-holds up the freezing frosty-grape alveolar clusters in his lungs” — gets it about right.

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Give me a freakin break dept.

March 13, 2009

kidcookAs a schoolfriend’s mother used to say when exasperated, JesusMaryandJoseph, I wish I was in heaven.

This article from the excellent Slate magazine had me retching over my breakfast. Apparently, in the States, there is a new food fad – small children as restaurant critics, chefs and food columnists. The New York freakin Times Magazine, for God’s sake,

has pledged one-quarter of its monthly food real estate to the kitchen exploits of a 4-year-old, Dexter Wells, who just happens to be the firstborn of the newspaper’s food editor, Pete Wells. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Adriatic Salad and other fictional foods

March 4, 2009

adriaticsalad1When my novel The Children came out I received several very gratifying emails from readers who particularly liked the family barney in the fictional country town of Rundle’s RSL Club restaurant, which featured an escalating  argument between two adult siblings, Mandy and Stephen, sparked by a dish on the menu described thus: ‘Adriatic Salad: Cajun prawns, sweet potato, snow peas and lime mayonnaise.’

For some reason, lots of people liked the sound of this dish. A couple of people even wanted the recipe. That salad actually exists, in a motel restaurant in a country town that will remain nameless, where I did a bit of research for the book – it seemed too good to be true, so I pinched it.  I quite enjoyed writing that scene actually – and now I find myself scanning menus hopefully at all times now for fictional fodder. Tricky though –  it would be so easy to repeat oneself, but there’s such a wealth of material out there I’m not sure I will be able to resist bad menu items for the book I’m writing now (I’ve got three words to say to you, Kimmy: Gourmet Pizza Kitchen).

On the topic of food in fiction, here is a wonderful New Yorker article by Adam Gopnik about cooking real dishes after  their fictional appearances in books, with varying results. He says, for example, of the eponymous dish from Gunter Grass‘s Nobel-provoking novel The Flounder:

Eating Günter Grass’s flounder was actually like reading one of his novels: nutritious, but a little pale and starchy.

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Airline ‘food’

March 4, 2009

At the risk of this letter’s over-exposure, I am linking here to that fantastic complaint letter to Richard Branson about Virgin Airlines food which did the rounds on blogs & email lately. It has such a lovely playful tone (if bad spelling makes you retch, stop here).

Airline food is, as we all know, disgusting in almost all its forms. On a recent trip to the UK I found myself, by the end of the  journey, unable to distinguish the smell of the food from the smell of the passengers. All those bodily aromas mingling with the revolting farty smell of the food – errrughh.

Here is quite a nice piece on airline food by Fred Ferretti in an old New York Times article.