Let's all just come out and say it: the holidays are about eating. Yes, there are a few other elements involved, like wrapping presents, or lighting candles, or putting a pine tree in your living room. But when you get down to it, all holidays are really just about hanging out with people you like and eating food with them while wearing sweaters.
Thanksgiving is just the kick-off feast for more than a month of mainlining sugar cookies and fried potato pancakes. It doesn't matter if you're eating a Dickensian turkey for Christmas, latkes and gelt for Hanukkah, köttbullar for Saint Lucia's Day, sweet potatoes for Kwanzaa, or sacrificing a pig for Saturnalia, every tradition has something delicious to binge on. It's all about overeating and putting up lots of twinkly lights so everyone will forget that the coldest part of winter is coming.
And reading about a sumptuous literary feast is almost as good as pigging out on actual holiday foods. Or at least, it's great inspiration for your real world meal planning. Because who can make it through a Harry Potter book without lusting over pumpkin juice and treacle tart? Or read a high fantasy novel without wanting to eat cheese and stew and thick bread at an inn? If you need to whet your appetite for those last few weeks of heavy December eating, check out these delectable meals from literature:
1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
She'd take a loaf of stale bread, pour boiling water over it, work it up into a paste, flavor it with salt, pepper, thyme, minced onion and an egg (if eggs were cheap), and bake it in the oven. When it was good and brown, she made a sauce from half a cup of ketchup, two cups of boiling water, seasoning, a dash of strong coffee, thickened it with flour, and poured it over the baked stuff. It was good, hot, tasty and staying. What was left over was sliced thin the next day and fried in hot bacon fat.
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Harry and Ron met up with Hermione in the common room, and they went down to breakfast together. They spent most of the morning in Gryffindor Tower, where everyone was enjoying their presents, then returned to the Great Hall for a magnificent lunch, which included at least a hundred turkeys and Christmas puddings, and large piles of Cribbage's Wizarding Crackers.
3. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Along about three in the afternoon, after an apple pie and ice cream in a roadside stand, a woman stopped for me in a little coupe.
I ate apple pie and ice cream—it was getting better as I got deeper into Iowa, the pie bigger, the ice cream richer.
I ate another apple pie and ice cream; that's practically all I ate all the way across the country, I knew it was nutritious and it was delicious, of course.
4. Heidi by Johanna Spyri
Meanwhile, the old man held a large piece of cheese on a long iron fork over the fire, turning it round and round till it was toasted a nice golden yellow color on each side ... the old man filled her bowl again to the brim and set it before the child, who was now hungrily beginning her bread having first spread it with the cheese, which after being toasted was soft as butter.
5. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
I was not too fond of crab, ever since I saw my birthday crab boiled alive, but I knew I could not refuse. That’s the way Chinese mothers show they love their children, not through hugs and kisses but with stern offerings of steamed dumplings, duck’s gizzards, and crab.
6. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The girls had never been called angel children before, and thought it very agreeable, especially Jo, who had been considered "Sancho" ever since she was born. That was a very happy breakfast, though they didn't get any of it. And when they went away, leaving comfort behind, I think there were not in all the city four merrier people than the hungry little girls who gave away their breakfasts and contented themselves with bread and milk on Christmas morning.
7. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
At suppertime the light shone through the clear glass onto the red-checked tablecloth and the white biscuits, the warmed up potatoes, and the platter of fried salt pork. ... "The table looks some different from what it did a few days ago," Pa said as he heaped Mrs. Boast's plate with turkey and stuffing and potatoes and a large spoonful of cranberries.
8. A Christmas Dinner by Charles Dickens
Uncle George tells stories, and carves poultry, and takes wine, and jokes with the children at the side-table, and winks at the cousins that are making love, or being made love to, and exhilarates everybody with his good humour and hospitality; and when, at last, a stout servant staggers in with a gigantic pudding, with a sprig of holly in the top, there is such a laughing, and shouting, and clapping of little chubby hands, and kicking up of fat dumpy legs, as can only be equaled by the applause with which the astonishing feat of pouring lighted brandy into mince-pies, is received by the younger visitors. Then the dessert! — and the wine! — and the fun!
9. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
We drank hot cocoa as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars.
Images: Warner Brothers