The Gourmand’s Guide to Gluttony: Literary meals



Books. Books, books, books. Here at Oxford we spend far too long staring into the occasionally overwhelming abyss of black on white, especially those of us whose arts degrees rely upon it. But every so often they surprise you, breaking the uniformity for just long enough to deliver a sumptuous morsel of wisdom from their pages to your waiting eyes, sparking a titillating thought, an inspired idea, a…well, a much-needed snack break. So sit back and drink in the Gourmand’s perfect day of nourishment as provided by great works of literature; it’s better than doing your essay, isn’t it?

In Search of Lost Time – Marcel Proust
A light way to start the day, Proust’s combination of obscurely-flavoured lime-blossom tea and a delightfully buttery ‘petite madeleine’ is sure to give you delusions of refinement enough to last until lunchtime.

“…a piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me…”

Second Breakfast
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
If Proust’s delicate offerings haven’t quite satisfied your first primal pangs of hunger of the day, may I suggest that you follow them with the veritable smorgasbord that is a hobbit’s second breakfast? Truly a stroke of genius, the second breakfast is an unabashed mélange of all kinds of foods to fill you with all you need, social norms be damned!

“A little red wine, I think, for me. … And raspberry jam and apple-tart. … And mince-pies and cheese. … And pork-pie and salad. … And more cakes-and ale-and coffee. … Put on a few eggs, there’s a good fellow! … And just bring out the cold chicken and pickles!”

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – JK Rowling
It’s been a long day, hasn’t it? That 9am lecture, the last minute essay, the mysterious half-giant whisking you away on an impromptu visit to Diagon Alley…needless to say, you’re in need of a meal to match your magically inflated appetite, which can only be found in one place: the Great Hall. The Great Hall at Hogwarts, that is; not the Christ Church version, which is disappointingly pedestrian.

“The dishes in front of him were now piled with food. He had never seen so many things he liked to eat on one table: roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, fries, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy, ketchup, and, for some strange reason, peppermint humbugs.”

The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde
Tea is a rather daintier affair than the preceding monstrosities, occupying a place in high society’s social calendar as well as responding to one’s yearnings for a pre-dinner nibble, to be taken upon the veranda in the company of rakish gentlemen like dear old Algie and such coy young ladies as Cecily.

“How can you sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out.”
“Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.”

The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
Prepare for a change of pace as we move from quaint Hertfordshire to the Roaring Twenties atmosphere of West Egg. Gatsby’s throwing one of his famed soirées and you’re invited; the yellow cocktail music makes girls swathed in colour swirl around you and all of a sudden, a thing of true beauty catches your eye: Gatsby’s catered buffet. Oh my, old sport.

“On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another.”

Midnight snack
Waiting for Godot – Samuel Beckett
Midnight rolls around and your stomach grumbles. Unfortunately, fate has left you stranded by the side of a somewhat deserted road and so your snacking options are somewhat limited. This is getting really absurd…

V: “I might have some turnips.”
E: “Give me a carrot. (Vladimir rummages in his pockets, takes out a turnip and gives it to Estragon who takes a bite out of it. Angrily.) It’s a turnip!”
V: “Oh pardon! I could have sworn it was a carrot.”