Rivkah Writes…

May 17, 2009

Of Food, Fairytales, and Other Delights

Filed under: On My Mind — rivkahwrites @ 11:34 am

As a child, my favorite stories carried elements of make-believe, and all of them, whatever the element of magic involved, were about food. For as much as I disdained my puppy fat and tried to control my food intake, budding teenage anorexic-to-be that I was, I still derived a comforting, vicarious satisfaction from reading about food – its abundance, smell, texture, taste, and my beloved fictional characters’ unapologetic enjoyment thereof. Was the magical aura a subconscious rationalization of my inappropriate preoccupation with food? I’ll get back to you on that one. At any rate, my food stories were glazed with the hallowed aura of childhood, which turned them into a mythology of longing for the past, for a carefree existence when I would play and read for hours, eat at will, and feel blissfully free of the demon guilt. Back in the day, food was food, not some furious ledger demanding accountability for every calorie consumed, every temptation indulged.

Even now, thinking back to those stories fills me up – as though the stories in and of themselves were – are – enough to stave off imminent hunger pangs. Once upon a time Teddy decides to have a tea party. He isn’t quite sure how to go about it, so Mouse and Dolly (don’t quote me on their names) offer to help him out. In the end, everyone in Toyland is invited and feasts on egg sandwiches and lemonade. Never in my life up to that point (I was 10 years old) had I eaten an egg sandwich, but from Enid Blyton’s evocative description, you would have thought they were a gourmand’s delight. Funny thing is, I was too young to even be anorexic at the time, and yet I can still taste those egg sandwiches, still remember them as the highlight of that story. Perhaps, even then, those innocent sandwiches carried the crumbs (pardon the pun, folks) of my adolescent struggle.

And what about the weird and wonderful lands to be found on top of The Magic Faraway Tree, another Blyton classic? Each time these lucky characters climb the MJT, they find another land to explore and enjoy. Predictably (duh!), my favorite was the one where everything was made out of food. Reality is sweetly juxtaposed with fantasy in good children’s books, so when one child is arrested and jailed in this edible paradise, he’s able to eat his way out of his cell’s chocolate walls – bliss!

My all-time favorite, though, has to be a story whose provenance, I regret to say, completely escapes me. In this magical tale, a wise Queen has a silly husband. The King’s counselors are in despair over his silliness, so they seek the Queen’s advice. The Queen, knowing her husband’s weakness for confections, knowing how wistful he gets after a particularly luscious dessert – “how I wish I could eat that all over again!” – buys a spell from a witch and slips it into a cake made especially for the King’s birthday. The cake is calculatedly designed to be so tempting, that it would melt even the most hardened of diet freaks. Predictably, the King is overjoyed with his gift, and after polishing off every last morsel, sits back, sighs, folds his hands over his tummy, and says “how I wish I could eat that all over again!” Lo and behold, the cake reappears, and with a cry of joy, the King sets to with renewed gusto. This state of affairs continues into perpetuity, the Queen is free to rule the country while her silly husband luxuriates in epicurean Nirvana, the counselors are happy, and everyone lives happily ever after. Luckily, the King never has a problem with indigestion, and the AMA’s warnings over the dangers of diabetes and a sedentary cake-eating lifestyle are centuries – nay galaxies – away (this is, after all, the age of innocence in every sense).

If could tell you how many times the child in me can still finish a massive slice of cake, sit back, sigh, strategically fold my hands over my dangerously distended gut, and say – or think – “how I wish I could eat that all over again!” you’d be astounded. That I can still recall the tale in such vivid detail would give any budding psychotherapist a month’s worth of neuroses to unravel.

Growing up, let me admit, has done nothing to destroy my vicarious preoccupation with food. The obsessions still come wrapped in fantasy and make-believe, and despite the fact that I am now self-aware to a fault, their pull on my gastronomic imagination is as strong as ever. In vain do I chuckle over my rapture at JK Rowling’s description of Hogwart’s groaning tables – the truth is, I haven’t traveled so very far from the edible delights of The Magic Faraway Tree.

Have I mentioned that my parents were born in Hungary?

Bottom line, food fetishism is probably encoded in my DNA. I may as well make my piece – I mean peace – with it.

 Bon appétit!


  1. I loved this article as I was a superfan of The Magic Faraway Tree and the Enid Blyton colleciton – those were books I could read over and over again – and if you give it to me today I would still read it. Your work is both entertaining and superbly written.

    Comment by Rikki — June 1, 2009 @ 12:00 am | Reply

  2. Rikki – thank you so much!

    Comment by rivkahwrites — June 1, 2009 @ 1:33 am | Reply

  3. […] the past I’ve mentioned my passion for fairy tales – Hogwarts, Narnia, Hobbits, Mordor – oh, and of course, vampire tales. Long before Stephenie […]

    Pingback by Twilight Zone « Rivkah Writes… Blog — June 22, 2009 @ 1:55 pm | Reply

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