RENDER

feminist food + culture zine

BOOK REVIEW | Eating with Your Eyes: Review of Fictitious Dishes

Book ReviewsGabi DeLeon
image courtesy of FictitiousDishes.com/The-Book

image courtesy of FictitiousDishes.com/The-Book

You’ve likely seen The Grand Budapest Hotel by now. And even if you haven’t seen the film yet, you’ve probably seen images of the irresistible stack of pastel pastry from the film dubbed the "courtesan au chocolat."  As I sat in the theater, staring at the giant pastries on screen, my mouth watered as I indulged with my eyes, enjoying the dessert vicariously through the characters.

Well, nothing’s cooler than when fictitious delicacies become reality. After The Grand Budapest Hotel debuted, Portland’s St. Honoré Bakery made the courtesan au chocolat in REAL LIFE and sold it in their bakeries. Could it get any better than that?

YES. Turns out, it could.

Fictitious Dishes, by Dinah Fried, hit the shelves this month on April 15th. Published by Harper Design, this wonderful little coffee table (dinner table? kitchen counter?) book is a collection of photographs of memorable meals from classic novels. That’s right–the meals we’ve devoured in our imaginations, vicariously, through the characters of our favorite books, have finally taken visible form.

Catcher in the Rye | image courtesy of fictitiousdishes.com/The-Book

Catcher in the Rye | image courtesy of fictitiousdishes.com/The-Book

Included in the book are photographs of clam chowder from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick: Or the Whale; a Swiss cheese sandwich with malted milk from J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye; and chicken, peas, and mashed potatoes from Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona, just to name a choice few of the fictional meals featured in the book.

Each photo is accompanied by an excerpt from the book that provides some context for the photo. The pairing of prose and photography is almost as satisfying as actually eating the meal pictured. Each of the photographs bear a richness that fittingly supplements the literary excerpts, and vice versa.

What is most refreshing about Fictitious Dishes is that the photos are so down to earth. That is to say, even though Dinah Fried styled each dish, the photos don’t appear over-styled like a great deal of contemporary food photography in many of today’s food magazines and cookbooks. There are no unattainable shimmers, overly-particular plating arrangements, or ritzy, idealized place settings to be found in the book. These meals look like everyday fare–and they still look delicious.  Dinah Fried’s Fictitious Dishes are accessible enough to readers that they certainly don’t have to remain only in our imaginations!

-GAB