Link Buffet: Cooking the Books

Dinah Fried is shortly releasing a book called Fictitious Dishes, which features photographs of meals she has styled after notable meals from literary classics: a pretty tea set from Alice in Wonderland, a bowl of chowder from Moby Dick, the iconic tea and madeleines of Swann’s Way.

At The Millions, Stephanie Bernhard had a go at cooking the meals that Hemingway describes in “Big Two-Hearted River,” which she says is like an instruction guide for camping and fishing. It was not a successful venture.

If you’re into trying out recipes based on food eaten by fictional characters, though, there are a couple of blogs that do it full-time: Paper and Salt and Bryton Taylor: Food in Literature.

At Eat This Poem, Nicole Gulotta has been hosting a series of literary city guides “for bookworms who love to eat.” I’ve enjoyed scrolling through gorgeous photos of bookshops and cafes in cities I’ve never been to, and I can’t really argue with any of the suggestions made in the Philadelphia city guide. My only complaint is that South Philly is tragically underrepresented: we have great cafes for writing, a few hidden gem shops for food and books, and the best brunch game in town.

Via Tangerine and Cinnamon, I am reminded that artist Lee Miller was a chef as well as a photographer, journalist, and muse. The descriptions of her meals in the Telegraph’s brief snapshot remind me of The Futurist Cookbook, highlighting vivid or unexpected sensory experiences. I have no doubt that Miller’s cooking was as adventurous and surreal as her life and art, but I also keep thinking of the way I saw her late-life kitchen labor depicted in Behind the Eye, a play by Carson Kreitzer which follows Miller from her life as a model to her post-war move to an English farmhouse. Miller suffered from PTSD–unsurprising, considering she had her camera pointed right at the horrors of WW2–and depression, and the kitchen offered both respite and restraint. Kreitzer shows Miller restless and relaxed by turns in her farmhouse kitchen, sometimes soothed by the repetitive motions of cooking and sometimes triggered by its violence.

Also via T&C, on the subject of food prepared by artistic legends: want to learn to cook like Frida Kahlo?
I have very mixed feelings of both of these articles. I  like to see cooking valued as an art as well as a craft; I like hearing about the lives of these women; their lives in the kitchen may also remind us of the double shifts women artists so often put in–do you see anyone trying to market Diego Rivera’s recipes? At the same time, and perhaps it’s just the flip brevity of the “style news” format, focusing on the cookery of lady artists almost seems to diminish or overshadow the valuation of their artistic work, as though by focusing on the home rather than the global impact of their work we might domesticate these goddesses.

Frida Kahlo, Fruits of the Earth

Frida Kahlo, Fruits of the Earth

2 responses to “Link Buffet: Cooking the Books

  1. Hi – thanks for the links. I agree entirely with your comments about transforming women artists into domestic goddesses. There was a fantastic exhibition on the work and life of Lee Miller at the V&A in London a few years ago, which managed to position her interest in cooking in relation to her photography and other creative work. -Sarah

    • I love the V&A. That exhibit sounds wonderful! I have a particular fondness of the undersung stories of woman artists in the early 20th century–not that women aren’t still undersung 100 years later, but there is something particularly compelling in recovering the details of the lives of women who have sometimes been left out of our narratives of that extremely innovative period of artmaking.

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