The results of our fictional food survey are in, and it’s clear that the place we’d all most like to picnic is J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
Earlier this month, we shared a series of posts on food and literature, including Our Books, Ourselves: What Fictional Food Says About Us and Want to Know an Author? Read Her Menu, where we waxed poetic about everything from Charles Dickens’ roast goose to young Francie Nolan’s stale bread in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Then we asked you to tell us your favorites. Hands down, most of you went with hobbits and friends.
From the Lord of the Rings trilogy, many readers chose lembas, the elves’ super-filling waybread, as their favorite fictional food. One nibble of lembas was said to be the equivalent of a full meal for a grown man. (I’d always imagined lembas as a sort of shortbread cookie; it was disappointing to discover that some Tolkien researchers believe that lembas was based on military hardtack.)
Other fictional food choices from the trilogy included Farmer Maggot’s dish of mushrooms and bacon and the mysterious drink served up by the tree-like Ents, the effect of which “began at the toes, and rose steadily through every limb, bringing refreshment and vigour as it coursed upwards, right to the tips of the hair.” (The hobbits, after a few bowls of it, grew noticeably taller.)
Second choice for fictional foods were the magical snacks from the wizard world of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts – and top of the list was Butterbeer, the scrumptious brew served up at The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. (Author J.K. Rowling, who made it up, said, “I imagine it to taste a little bit like less sickly butterscotch.”)
Other Potter picks included Chocolate Frogs, which are just what they sound like, and a couple of brave souls opted for Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, which come in every flavor, including spinach, liver, and tripe. Harry, at first try, got toast, coconut, baked bean, strawberry, curry, grass, coffee, sardine, and a “funny gray one” that turned out to be pepper.
C.S. Lewis’s Narnia has a lot of food followers too; and their first choice was Turkish delight, the delicious treat with which the White Witch convinced the hapless Edmund to turn traitor. Alternatives were the meal the children shared with the hospitable Beavers – fried fish, buttered potatoes, and marmalade roll – or the Christmas tea served up by Father Christmas. This consisted, quite simply, of a pot of tea, a bowl of lump sugar, and a jug of cream, but it also came with Christmas presents.
When it came to tea, however, more people – forget the presents – wanted to share the Mad Hatter’s tea party, at which Lewis Carroll’s Alice had a frustrating conversation and got nothing whatsoever to drink or eat.
A lot of poll participants found Roald Dahl’s fantastical candy irresistible: everlasting gobstoppers and lickable wallpaper from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were on their lists. Dr. Seuss fans touted green eggs and ham; and a lover of Tove Jansson’s Moomin tales (considered a national treasure in Finland) recommended raspberry juice, always drunk by the hippo-like residents of the Moominvalley “in sunshine on an adventure.”
Adventurous sci fi fans chose as their favorite fictional food the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, the infamous cocktail from Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series which reportedly tasted like “having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon, wrapped around a large gold brick.” (When someone orders it, the bartender pales and asks, “Are you sure?”)
Others wanted to try the fabled spice from Frank Herbert’s desert planet of Dune, a cinnamon-scented drug that gives users long lives, vitality, and psychic abilities. The drawback: it’s addictive and withdrawal kills you.
Trekkies bypassed Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s Earl Grey tea in favor of Klingon blood wine and gagh, a dish of live squirming serpent worms.
And romantics cited the wonderful wedding cake that Tita makes for her niece’s wedding in Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate. “This confection is the culmination of the love and hope and dreams she holds for the young woman she loves like her own daughter,” one fictional food lover writes. “This joy permeates the cake as it’s made. And the result? Love begets more love. It inspires romance and affection in the entire wedding party. It inspires making love in parked cars and in trees, consumed by the overwhelming emotions that went into making that cake…I want to know what that cake tasted like.”
So do I.