Food, Children’s Books, and Does Anyone Have Any Yellow Cake?

I'm trying to remember how I got here. Part of it was—sob!—no doubt due to the news that Mary Berry is following suit with Mel and Sue and The Great British Bake-Off is no more.

And then I was thinking about Adopted Jane, in which a 12-year-old orphan is asked to visit two different families over one summer, and then has to choose which one to stay with. And (it could have been just me) but a large part of the experience seemed to revolve around the different foods at each home. With the lonely widow, she had a yellow cake mixed up in a bowl! And a floating island! With the farm-friendly family, she had biscuits and fried chicken!

And then theres the sausages Lucy has with Mr. Tumnus, as part of the very lovely tea. Or the hamper full of food that the beavers pack. Or, dear god, the Turkish delight!

I guess it's not just children's books, I mean Hemingway and his onion sandwiches are very compelling. But I feel like there is a particular and special connection children's books have with food, and I am not sure why that is. It's not just the candy, right—not all Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Surely adults love food just as much. And yet…. For some reason right now it is making me both hungry and wistful.

Do you have a favorite children's book meal? I keep thinking of the box of chocolates in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, the one that's tied up with the wide lavender ribbon. And if I could only taste that yellow cake, I feel sure I would know why Jane chose her.

7 thoughts on “Food, Children’s Books, and Does Anyone Have Any Yellow Cake?

  1. I always love reading about the elaborate lunches Frances and her good friend Albert take to school in Bread and Jam for Frances. In fact, a good friend sent me a birthday gift with that theme one year, complete with a “tiny vase for violets.”

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  2. For me, it was the tea in the attic with Sara Crewe and Becky in A LITTLE PRINCESS.
    Oh! And there are so many foods in ALL OF A KIND FAMILY which to my young eyes seemed terribly exotic. Except the soup that was served to Sarah five or six times before she finally ate it…

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  3. I’m visiting with my mum and she immediately thought of the tea with Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins: “A large cheerful room lay before them. At one end of it a fire was burning brightly and in the center stood an enormous table laid for tea – four cups and saucers, piles of bread and butter, crumpets, coconut cakes and a large plum cake with pink icing.”

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  4. I second Sara Crewe and Becky in A Little Princess, but also the camping meals in Swallows and Amazons and sequels, and my favourite, the fabulous raised meat pie in Danny the Champion of the World!

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  5. The food in the charming but way too pious Little White Horse by Eileen Goudge all sounds fantastic:
    ‘There was homemade crusty bread, hot onion soup, delicious rabbit stew, baked apples in a silver dish, honey, butter the colour of marigolds, a big blue jug of warm mulled claret, and hot roasted chestnuts folded in a napkin.’
    ‘Digweed brought in as well a huge home-cured ham, brown boiled eggs, coffee, tea, new-baked bread, honey, cream with a thick yellow crust on the top of it, freshly churned butter, and milk so new that it was still warm and frothing.’
    Pink iced fairy cakes, foaming mug of milk, candied cherries
    Tea at Lovedays: tea, bread, butter, honey, cream, golden brown parkin
    Pork chops, onions, baked apples, custard
    Roasted pigeon, apple dumpling, pot of cream
    Pink iced fairy cakes, foaming mug of milk, candied cherries
    Tea at Loveday’s: tea, bread, butter, honey, cream, golden brown parkin
    Pork chops, onions, baked apples, custard
    Roasted pigeon, apple dumpling, pot of cream
    This was written in Britain in 1946 so there was probably rationing. British children’s written during rationing allowed the adult authors to daydream about food!

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