Imagining Menus from Books

I have been thinking (again) about the place of food in books recently, and I thought it would be fun to make a post where I would try to imagine and devise culinary menus from books, and also come up with objects and particular atmosphere based on a number of books that I’ve read, trying to evoke the particular aesthetics of the books chosen. My selected books are Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book, Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries and Yasunari Kawabata’s The Old Capital.

I. The Black Book [1990/2005] by Orhan Pamuk

Atmosphere:

Snow-covered Istanbul of the 1990s and 1960s: lonely streets and cold apartments.

What to bring:

Childhood memories, unresolved issues, newspaper clippings, old photographs, a mirror & green boll-point pen.

MENU

Drink: Turkish coffee or cold ayran (a yogurt drink mixed with salt);

Starter: Tomato soup (domates çorbası) or a plate of grilled meatballs (koftas);

Main: Lamb with basmati rice flavoured with cinnamon, mint and apricot, and a carrot salad;

Dessert: Quince dessert (ayva tatlısı).

–//–//–//–//–//–

II. The Virgin Suicides [1993] by Jeffrey Eugenides

Atmosphere:

Sunny suburban USA of the 1970s: trimmed sidewalks and suffocating rooms.

What to bring:

Broken hearts, loneliness, sharp objects, travel magazines, hair scrunchies & strawberry bubble-gum.

MENU

Drink: Punch with cherry and pineapple, or a fruity green cocktail;

Starter: Green salad with “nice-looking” ham.

Main: Michigan pasty with buttery mashed potatoes and peas;

Dessert: Sanders Bumpy Cake with rich buttercream bumps.

–//–//–//–//–//–

III. Pachinko [2017] by Min Jin Lee

Atmosphere:

Japan of the early 1940s and 1960s: busy market stalls and pachinko parlours.

What to bring:

Hunger, despair mingled with hope, Japanese yen, identity papers & a white hanbok.

MENU

Drink: Omija-cha (magnolia berry tea) or Soju;

Starter: Hobak jeon or Korean zucchini (pan-fried) fritters;

Main: Kimchi fried rice with chopped carrots, onions and mushrooms, all topped with a runny egg;

Dessert: Yakgwa (deep-fried, wheat-based Korean confection made with honey, rice wine, sesame oil, and ginger juice).

–//–//–//–//–//–

IV. The Luminaries [2013] by Eleanor Catton

Atmosphere:

Hokitika, New Zealand (and its goldfields) of the 1860s: Muddy streets and starry skies.

What to bring:

A confession, a sense of mystery, The West Coast Times, a Hokitika map, a gold pan & a small bottle of smuggled laudanum.

MENU

Drink: Coffee or “Oil Rig” cocktail made with local whiskey;

Starter: Seaweed egg drop soup or creamy seafood chowder;

Main: Whitebait” dish with beaten egg, red onions and mozzarella;

Dessert: Kiwi pavlova (decorated with edible gold glitter).

–//–//–//–//–//–

V. The Old Capital [1962/87] by Yasunari Kawabata

Atmosphere:

Blooming Kyoto of the 1950s: cherry tree-lined path-walks and cool temples.

What to bring:

One’s sense of identity confusion, sisterly affection, a book by Osaragi Jiro, a festive kimono with a newly designed obi, & a scythe.

MENU

Drink: Green tea or sake;

Starter: Ojiya (rice) soup;

Main: Yudofu (hot tofu)-based meal made from dashi, chopped onions, mushrooms, etc., all prepared in a Kappo (open-kitchen) style;

Dessert: Traditional anmitsu, made from small cubes of agar jelly, topped with sweet adzuki bean paste, cherries and peach slices.

–//–//–//–//–//–

Do these books look interesting to you from either the atmosphere or the menu? Is there a menu/book you would like to try? Are you interested in doing something similar with other books?

9 thoughts on “Imagining Menus from Books

  1. I love this! I’ve never come up with a menu for adults based on a book but it would be fun to try. When my children were young we used to make “the beaver’s dinner” from the Narnia cookbook or a recipe inspired by the Mary Poppins books (gingerbread or tea and seed cake) on a winter’s afternoon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Making up dinners from Narnia or Mary Poppins must have been a lot of fun! I thought I would do adult books because these can be so evocative and I wanted to capture their “essence” through either food or objects.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s