July 20, 2012

Eating your way through the classics with Fictitious Dishes


This week Melville House celebrates the latest release in our series of Pepe Carvalho mysteries from Spanish author Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. In Off Side, the pressure is on Carvalho to find the source of a death threat made against the center forward of Barcelona’s world-famous soccer team, but that doesn’t stop the gourmand gumshoe from taking time out for frequent disquisitions on the subject of fine cooking:

“The shoulder of lamb … is from a medieval recipe collected by Eliane Thibaut i Comalade, who specializes in old Catalonian cookery…. You need a boned shoulder of lamb, well flattened. This is stuffed with minced lamb, pine kernels, raisins, garlic, parsley, bread soaked in almond milk, and salt. The other things you need for the stuffing are black pepper, cumin, fennel, chives, grated lemon skin, three eggs, a large onion, a piece of lard, olive oil, and thyme.”

It’s enough to stir even this staunch vegetarian’s appetite.

Montalbán’s far from the only author to write about food though, and a new project from Rhode Island School of Design MFA student Dinah Fried further explores the relationship between reading and eating. In Fictitious Dishes, she recreates and photographs famous meals from five literary classics, including The Catcher in the Rye, Alice in Wonderland, Moby-Dick, Oliver Twist, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (a classic of sorts, I suppose). The details are perfect, down to Holden Caulfield’s green plastic tumbler, Lisbeth Salander’s IKEA table, and the White Rabbit’s pocket watch.

They might not all be mouth-watering (I’ll take that grilled cheese and chocolate malt now though, thanks), but half the fun is trying to think of what fictional food you’d recreate. As it’s nearing lunchtime as I write this, my mind goes first to Beowulf’s feasts or Macbeth’s banquet (hold the ghost, please), but how about William Carlos Williams’s stolen plums or of course, Proust’s madeleine? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below.


Christopher King is the Art Director of Melville House.