Blog Archive

Thursday, 20 March 2014

We'll Meet Again...

I started this blog as a response to a course on my English Literature degree called Literature of Food. I’ve found it really very interesting investigating my own thoughts and experiences with food literature as a child and have just as equally enjoyed reading your reactions to my writing and hearing about your own experiences. My course (along with my entire degree – eek!) is now coming to its conclusion, leaving me with the decision of whether to continue with the blog or to abandon it. Part of me is inclined to leave this blog as it is so that I can dedicate myself more fully to my travel blog.  However, I feel that I have put so much effort into this blog, and got so much enjoyment out of it, that I am loathe to let it go. If people are enjoying my writing then it’s a definite incentive to carry on with it, and so I would be really interested to hear your thoughts on the matter as the reader. I don’t know if this post is going to be a “goodbye” or a “see you later”, but I know that, either way, I’ve had a blast writing it and I’ll be sad to leave it. Signing out for now, Mia x

Hot Buttered Crumpets

As a child I was in love with the film The Secret Garden and have lost count of the number of times that I’ve watched it. However, it was not until I was about twelve years old that I discovered that the film is an adaptation from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel of the same name. As soon as I found out, I was straight over to the library to check out the book and see if it was as good as the film. Immediately it was obvious that ‘good’ was an understatement. Although I still had a soft spot for the film adaptation, it was clear that the novel far surpassed it. One of the main things that I noticed was missing from the film is all the food. When Mary arrives at Misselthwaite Manor, she is described as “the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It was true, too. She had a little thin face and a little thin body, tin light hair and a sour expression” (13). Her disagreeable expression and demeanor are directly linked to her thinness, suggesting that her temper and unhappiness might be eased through food. Food aids Mary’s recovery from her bad moods and selfishness as she is constantly fed an array of treats by the Sowerbys in order to fatten her up: crumpets, muffins, porridge, hot milk. Although a happy child, I was naturally rather skinny and had a yellowy complexion. Having read The Secret Garden, I decided that I must therefore be unhealthy like Mary is at the beginning of the novel. I began to stuff myself with cakes and bready foods in an attempt to fatten myself up and whenever we went to visit our family up in Yorkshire I’d spend my days roaming the countryside in an attempt to achieve that rosey glow that Mary develops! My efforts were in vain and I finally gave up when my mother sat me down and reminded me that I was skinny because both her and my father had been when they were younger, and that I have a yellowish complexion due to my Chinese, Iranian and Portuguese mixed blood! As much as I had enjoyed gorging myself on hot, buttered crumpets and thick slices of Victoria Sponge cake, I decided to return to a slightly healthier diet and embrace my natural appearance!
Burnett, Frances, Hodgson. The Secret Garden. London: Kingfisher, 2005.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

My Favourite Cookbook

As I child I was extremely close to my mother (as indeed I still am today!) and one of my most treasured memories of my childhood is the time we spent baking together. We baked all sorts of things, mostly simple things like bread and sponge cake, but whatever we made I remember again and again opening up the same old cookbook to look up the recipes: Good Housekeeping's Look and Cook (1953) compiled by The Good Housekeeping Institute.

 This big old cookbook has been part of the fixtures and fittings of our kitchen for as long as I can remember, indeed the front cover is inscribed with my grandmother's name: M. Robey (which is rather conveniently also my mother's as well as my name!). It's a vast book full of a huge array of classic British, kitsch cuisine, including Bramble Jelly, Jam Roly-Poly, Coddled Eggs, Haggis, Steamed Fish Mould, Seafood Cocktail and, my mother's personal favourite, Gooseberry Fool
      Despite the variety of rich and sometimes rather bizarre dishes, there was only one section that I was ever interested in: 'The Children's Cookbook', which is positioned, rather strangely, right in the middle of the book, between 'Store Cupboard Meals' and 'More Homemade Sweets'. 
Even when I had no intention of cooking anything, I would drag a stool across the kitchen so I could climb up on a stool to get the heavy cookbook down from the high kitchen shelf. I'd then proceed to spend hours going over the recipes in the children's section.  Some of my favourite pages to read were the sections at the beginning which explained vital things such as how to use the book, how to get ready to cook, how to use a knife and how to turn on an oven:

You will have to excuse me for including so many pictures but there is just so much that I love about this book that I want to share with you and sometimes, in this case at least, pictures say it better than words.
      I knew all of these basics already and so I didn't keep going back to these sections to learn.  I'm not entirely sure why I enjoyed reading these pages so much, all I know is that I was drawn back to them again and againPerhaps I was drawn to the nostalgia of an era where 'Mother' was always in the kitchen and young girls were taught how to be the good housewives of the future. A time of gender inequality where women were expected to have dinner on the table ready for their husbands to return from work, and yet a time that has, despite this, always appealed to me in some way. For those children who wanted "to give Mother a hand in the kitchen" (350) and who were coming to cooking as a complete first timer, the book lays out exactly what you should do in precise detail, leaving virtually no room for error: "
The simplest method of collecting the ingredients is to weigh out the required amount on to pieces of greaseproof paper; having finished with an ingredient, put the packet or jar away - this will keep your table tidy, and at the same time save a lot of clearing up at the end." (367). 
      Various recipes are given, from very simple things like boiled potatoes, fried eggs and scones, to slightly more complicated dishes such as roast beef and potatoes and a fully iced birthday cake.

My favourites to read were always the most basic of recipes such toast, which is somehow dragged out through four stages, and a tea tray, which tells you to cut slices of various things you have learnt to make in other recipes and to place them neatly on a tray before using "both your hands to carry the tray, and make sure there is somewhere by Mother's bed to put it down" (463).

      As I mentioned earlier, this was always the book that we would use to remind ourselves of the quantities for basic recipes like Victoria Sponge cake and Yorkshire Puddings.
It's easy to flick through and find those recipes when I look them up today as they are the pages that are creased and covered in little splatters of batter and grease; it's like looking back through history at all the treats have been made and enjoyed over the years. And I still do use those recipes even today. Those things that I used to make with my mother when I was a child just wouldn't be the same if I used a different recipe.

The Good Housekeeping Institute.  Good Housekeeping's Look and Cook.  London: Everybody's Publications Ltd, 1962.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Banoffi Pie Recipe

As promised, here is my recipe for banoffi pie created from Philip Ridley’s Kasper in the Glitter. I have searched through the entire book, piecing together the recipe for the pie out of the text, so that you can have a banoffi pie just like the one Kasper makes, which is, after all, “the best Banoffi pie in the whole world” (60). 

         Kasper’s Famous Banoffi Pie.


Whether you need a tasty treat to cheer up your dear, over-emotional mother or need a way of appeasing an intimidating, gold-clad, teenage, self-proclaimed king of the underworld, Kasper’s Famous Banoffi pie is the answer to all your problems! “Now - just in case you don’t know - Banoffi is one of the most delicious pies ever invented. It’s made with sliced bananas, gooey toffee, and topped off with coffee-flavoured cream, chocolate granules, and a large dollop of marmalade.” (7).

200g digestive biscuits

80g unsalted butter, melted

1 tin of caramel

2 ripe bananas

150ml double cream

1 teaspoon coffee essence

chocolate granules / grated chocolate

1 tablespoon marmalade


Finely crush the digestive biscuits and place in a bowl with the melted butter. Mix well. Turn out the mixture into a pie dish and press it firmly into the bottom and sides of the dish. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.

Once the base has hardened, remove from fridge. Thinly slice the bananas and spread the pieces evenly over the base.

Empty the contents from the tin of caramel and pour evenly over the bananas, making sure they are entirely covered.

Place the cream in a mixing bowl and add the coffee essence (add more or less depending on your own taste. Children may find coffee too strong a flavour in which case the essence may be left out entirely - although I'm sure Kasper would argue that the coffee cream is essential to the pie). Whisk the cream until it stands in soft peaks. Spread the coffee cream on top on the toffee.

Sprinkle a generous amount of chocolate over the cream and place the pie back in the fridge until 5 minutes before you are ready to serve.

Just before serving add a large dollop of marmalade onto the top of the pie. Eat immediately and enjoy!

Ridley, Philip. Kasper in the Glitter. London: Penguin, 1995.

Children's Novels as Recipes

As I got a bit older and found myself outgrowing Roald Dahl, I went in search for books that still held onto the magic of childhood but that also depicted the grittier side of life that my eyes were now being opened to. I discovered Philip Ridley. I was instantly won over and quickly worked my way through almost all of his books, but the first one that I read and was completely mesmerised by was Kasper in the Glitter (1994). For those of you who have not yet experienced the delights of this book, Kasper in the Glitter is a tale of young Kasper, a peculiarly dressed boy who lives alone with his sparkle-obsessed mother who won't let him so much as step foot beyond the front garden on his own. When Kasper discovers a boy stealing the roses from his front garden, he gets dragged into a world he has never before experienced; a world of intrigue, excitement and danger where Kasper must survive on his one and only skill: his ability to make the most delicious banoffi pies in the world!

Kasper has perfected his banoffi pie making skills after having made hundreds over the years in order to cheer up his rather emotionally unstable mother, but it is in The Glitter that he finds himself really under pressure to keep recreating these scrumptious pies, as he must continue to do so in order to prevent the terrifying King Streetwise from giving him and his new friends black eyes.

       This is the first time I had ever come across banoffi pie and after all the talk of it throughout the book I was eager to get my chops around some. For those of you who may somehow have got thus far in life without ever having encountered a banoffi pie: 
Banoffi is one of the most delicious pies ever invented. It’s made with sliced bananas, gooey toffee, and topped off with coffee-flavoured cream, chocolate granules, and a large dollop of marmalade. The marmalade, to be honest, is Kasper’s own particular addition to the recipe. He says it gives the dish a much needed tang, And he should know. (7).

      To fulfil my dream of tasting a real-life banoffi pie, my sister went about helping me to make one. Rather than searching through cook books to try and find a recipe, we used descriptions from Kasper in the Glitter, piecing together various descriptions of Kasper making the pie to create our own recipe.
The book had been the place I’d first discovered the pie and so any other recipe simply wouldn’t have had the same effect in my eyes; it had to be exactly the same, down to the dollop of marmalade on the top (the fact I didn’t actually like marmalade was beyond the point!). This time I was not disappointed as I had been with peaches after having read Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach.   How could I be?  Banana’s, toffee, cream: what’s not to like?  From then on banoffi was my firm favourite dessert and on the rare occasion that my sister took me out for dinner and we found banoffi pie on the menu, that’s what we would both order, comparing the taste of each one to the original recipe we had created from the book like banoffi connoisseurs.  Even today, some twenty years on, I still think of Kasper in the Glitter when ever I come across banoffi pie.

      Keep an eye out for my next blog post in which I will be recreating the very same banoffi pie from the book, along with a recipe so that you can sample the delights at home too!

Ridley, Philip.  Kasper in the Glitter.  London: Penguin, 1995.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

James Impregnates His Own Mother?!

Following on from my last post on Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach, I decided to do a little research on what others have made of the food in the novel.   I came across a particularly interesting piece by Karlie E. Hendon titled 'Food and Power in Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach and Neil Gaiman's Coraline'.  Hendon's main argument regarding James and the Giant Peach is that "Dahl uses food as a vehicle for an exchange of social and sexual power in the novel" (16), focusing particularly on "the importance of eating in the development of children's social selves" (17).  Hendon claims that by refusing to allow James to join in at meal times, feeding him only scraps such as fish heads and crumbs, his aunts "refuse to grant him status and identify as a human" (18).   By tasting the peach, therefore, James is not only gaining vital nutrition necessary for his survival, but regaining a human identity and an individual self
Hendon links this tasting of the fruit and gain of human identity with the biblical story of Adam and Eve, who only become truly human through the knowledge that they gain after tasting the apple.   If a link is to be made between James eating the peach and Adam and Eve eating the apple, then it may also be argued that by eating the peach, James also gains knowledge.   Hendon claims that this knowledge that James gains is of himself, and allows him to gain confidence enough to make new friends, overcome his fears and, ultimately, to gain independence, living alone in New York. 

     Another socializing effect that Hendon claims food has in James and the Giant Peach is that of creating families.   Whilst James is living with his family, his cruel aunts, he is never allowed to eat with them and is almost starved.   The family dynamics are clearly broken as James aunts appear to detest the very sight of him and James is in turn terrified of them.   It is not until he finds his way into the peach and has a peach feast with his fellow travellers that James finds himself amongst a true family, strange as they may be.   By sharing the meal together an unbreakable bond is created between the unlikely friends and James finds himself in the protective arms of a new family dynamic.

      Hendon does not stop here in regards to the symbolism of the giant peach, but goes even further, claiming that the peach is indeed a mother to James.   She claims that from the outset of its very existence, the peach is "saturated...with imagery connecting it to birth and fertility" (24), having renewed the productiveness and growth of the barren fruit tree.   James is drawn by an invisible force towards the peach and finds himself reaching out and caressing it which, Hendon asserts, is a sign that James feels a deep affection towards it: "He is gentle with it, finding it soft and warm, like a baby and mother.  He even goes so far as to nuzzle the peach with his face, a gesture commonly seen between infants and mothers, as well as lovers." (24).   Hednon goes even further, suggesting that James entering the peach is a reversal of the birthing process.   James is returning to the protective comfort of the womb in attempt to rekindle the feeling of love and security supplied by his mother before she died.   Hendon claims that James could "be viewed as a sort of phallus, impregnating the peach and becoming the pregnancy at the same time" (24).    

It is interesting then that James and his new friends later go on to consume the entire peach.   On one level James is simply breaking out of the womb, no longer needing it's protection as he is able to stand on his own two feet at last.   However, by eating the peach, James is also consuming his own mother, destroying her.   James no longer needs to cling on to the peach that will eventually rot away and so decides it might as well be eaten, just as James realises there is no need to cling to his dead mother any longer, understanding that clinging to her memory so tightly will not bring her back and that he is at last able to live happily without her.

Hendon, Karlie. 'Food and Power in Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach and Neil Gaiman's Coraline'. <> 11th February 2014.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Not So Peachy Keen!

When I was a child one of my favourite authors was Roald Dahl.   His fantastical, wacky stories often had fascinating descriptions of food in them that caught my imagination (as well as many other children I'm sure), from utterly revolting snozzcumbers in The BFG, to nonsensical square sweets that look round in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.   The book that really got my mouth watering though was James and the Giant Peach.   I can remember being mesmerised by the scene where James, starving and frightened, crawls inside the enormous great peach for the first time, hungrily consuming bits of it on his way:

The tunnel was damp and murky, and all around him there was the curious bittersweet smell of fresh peach.   The floor was soggy under his knees, the walls were wet and sticky, and peach juice was dripping from the ceiling.   James opened his mouth and caught some of it on his tongue.  It tasted delicious.  He was crawling uphill now, as though the tunnel were leading straight towards the very centre of the gigantic fruit.  Every few seconds he paused and took a bite out of the wall.  The peach flesh was sweet and juicy, and marvellously refreshing. (31).

      This scrumptious, delectable, lip-smacking fruit got me far more excited than any of the fantastic, sweet, goodies in Charlie in the Chocolate factory. Fizzy lifting drinks, eatable marshmallow pillows, chocolate waterfalls, lickable wallpaper: none of these even came close to James's giant peach as far as I was concerned.   Looking back at this scene as an adult, it's easy to see why it had such an effect on me as a child.   The idea that a hungry child could suddenly find himself inside a peach, completely surrounded, floor, ceiling and walls, by sweet, nourishing food, taps into the reader's instincts for survival.   Food, particularly natural food like fruit, is a life giver.  We all need food to live, and, just as he needs it most, James finds himself utterly encased in it.   Sweets like those in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are of course attractive to children but they are considered a luxury, not a life-giving necessity.
      The only problem with James and the Giant Peach is that real peaches just didn't live up to my expectations!   I remember pestering my mother to buy some peaches, only to discover that as nice as they were, they weren't nearly as scrumptious as Roald Dahl had me think.   I was disappointed.   The Ladybird describes the "great chunks of juicy, golden-coloured peach flesh" (64) as " 'a heavenly taste!' " (64) and the Centipede exclaims: " 'It's terrific!   There's nothing like it!   There never has been!' " (65).   This made me even more disappointed in my unripe, slightly bitter, supermarket bought peach and I decided to add delicious peaches to the list of other foods that only really existed in the world of fantasy, such as candy floss clouds and big, red, poisoned apples!

Dahl, Roald.  James and the Giant Peach.  London: Penguin, 2013.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Greetings! I shake you warmly by the hand!

I'd like to take a moment to introduce you to my brand-spanking-new blog.   I've been keeping another blog for some time now but felt like starting something new.   My other blog (queue shameless advertising: is on travel and so, because I have neither the time nor the money to be constantly jetting off to far flung places (despite my best efforts) there are often times when I have nothing to write about at all.   So I have decided that a new blog is in order.   One that I can enjoy writing without waiting for my next holiday and pay cheque! 

Apart from travelling, two of my main passions in life are children’s literature and food.   As an aspiring children’s writer I spend many an hour with my head in some children’s book or other attempting to immerse myself in worlds full of magic, fantasy, adventure and pure down-right silliness.  
And when my head is not stuck in a book I’ll usually be found either making food, talking about food, shovelling food into my mouth or staring into space, drooling slightly as I think about food.  The point being, I love food... or rather, I love eating foodIt seemed common sense therefore that my new blog should be about either children’s literature or food.  Or, even better, children’s literature AND food.   

      This blog will take the form, partly, of a memoir.  I will be looking back at some of my favourite children’s books, both fiction and non-fiction, and looking at the descriptions of food that stuck in my mind, shaping the foodie that I have become today.  As well as writing I also love reading and so as I post up blogs please do leave me messages in the comments section as I love to hear about other people’s thoughts and experiences too, rather than just rattling on about myself.  Right, all this talk of food has made my hungry and so I must sign off for now and go and rummage through the kitchen cupboards.
More posts will be coming your way very soon so keep an eye out!
Mia x