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Famous Authors’ Favorite Foods

November 21, 2013

You are what you eat. Okay. I can stomach that, but do we write as we eat?

Here’s a few prominent authors and the foods they loved. Have a taste for yourself.

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In his essay, “The First Step,” Leo Tolstoy comments upon his conversion to vegetarianism. It was part of a wholesale assault on pleasure, motivated by moral and spiritual interest. Tolstoy asserts that just as it is important to avoid the pleasures in sex so must we avoid gastronomic lust in tasty and spicy food. To that end, Tolstoy repeatedly advocated the eating of a trinity of blanditude–bread, kasha (cooked buckwheat), and rice. Yum! Sexless food.

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According to The Getaway Guide to Agatha Christie‘s England  by Judith Hurdle, Christie’s favorite food was apples– “after Devonshire cream, of course.” Russell H. Fitzgibbon in The Agatha Christie Companion paints a delightful picture of our esteemed novelist’s penchant for Eden’s red delicious–it seems she used to eat them in her bath: “an ancient Victorian affair with a wide mahogany ledge, on which she put her notebooks, cups of tea, pencils, and apple cores.”

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In letters, C.S. Lewis admitted to enjoying such truly English dishes as kidney pie, bacon and eggs, and sandwiches made with ham, bread and cheese. In his theological treatise The Four Loves, he confessed to love nothing more than eating his ham and eggs in front of a roaring fireplace.

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Roald Dahl was a fanatic for caviar. When he met his hero, Ernest Hemingway, in London, the two sparred under the supervision of boxing coach George Brown, and then retired to the Gladstone Hotel where Hemingway’s wife Martha Gellhorn met them with writerly provisions at the ready. According to Donald Sturrock’s biography, they spent the evening drinking champagne and eating caviar from a two-kilo tin.

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Are we surprised to find the Irish James Joyce pining for traditional home cuisine in a letter to his brother Stanislaus? He asks for “a slice of corned beef and cabbage, a sizeable beefsteak prepared on a gridiron, and (excuse the hierarchy) an intelligent supra-burgher like yourself to share the meal.”

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In her 1942 autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, Zora Neale Hurston itemized the foods she enjoyed in her childhood–chicken, home-cured meats, and all the eggs she could eat. These foods remained favorites with her along with lentils and the jerk spices she would later encounter in her ethnographic travels through Jamaica.

I could go on. Emily Dickinson loved lobster, but was an award-winning baker of bread. F. Scott Fitzgerald enjoyed an odd food called champagne for every meal, and Poe could not pass up a steaming plate of forgery with a side of stewed hoaxes. Mmmmm. What a bounteous Thanksgiving, that.

11 Comments
  1. My only wish is to have a chef prepare all of the above, while I enjoy an apple or two as an appetiser. Food should never be underestimated and don’t get me started on drinks… hot chocolate piled with marshmallows, extra cream and overflowing frothing strawberry milkshakes…two bubbling creative masterpieces.

  2. Michael Andreoni permalink

    ‘Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls–James Joyce, “Ulysses”

    Did the author enjoy these delicacies along with his character?

    • He may have. In my Ellman edition of the selected letters, he seems to be always selling others on the majesty of traditional Irish cuisine–especially to other Irish people.

  3. How do you come up with your ideas for posts. Another great read. Thank you.

    • For this one I was just hungry I think. Also, Emily Dickinson, a great favorite of mine, has communicated to later generations a whole host of recipes–especially for baking–and I always thought it was too bad that the world fails to notice these other dimensions of the lives of great writers and thinkers. Ben Franklin is another person who goes on an on about the pleasures of frugal eating in his autobiography–much in the same vein as his greatest admirer–Tolstoy (who also kept a little Franklin diary where he noted with little black Xs all the bad things he did that day).

      • You are quite right, these little details do seem to add another dimension – the human side as well as the creative side of the author.

  4. Loved this.

  5. Holy smokes! A post combining my two favoritest topics: food and literature (wait… do we get to lump booze into the food category? Yes? Okay, I’m good!)

    These were fun insights into writers I never knew much about. Of course, we knew Hemmingway was a lush, but what newfound respect I have for fist-and-mouth sparrer Roadl Dahl. All-night chat session with The Hem, caviar and champagne? Yes, please.

    I also had no idea that Hurston and I had so much in common, since eggs truly are one of the best and most versatile foods out there.

    Can we get a post dedicated to writers and their poison of choice?

    P.S. I stumbled upon this article while searching for images to help my students understand “Hills Like White Elephants.” Good times!!

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