Photographing Literature's Famous Food Scenes

"The kitchen table was loaded with enough food to bury the family: hunks of salt pork, tomatoes, beans, even scuppernongs." (<em>To Kill a Mockingbird</em>)
"The kitchen table was loaded with enough food to bury the family: hunks of salt pork, tomatoes, beans, even scuppernongs." (To Kill a Mockingbird)

A confession: I've read Jack Kerouac's On the Road, but I can't tell you much about it. Yes, I know he's on a road trip. But beyond that, I don't recall any of the characters or anything they do or what the point was. What I do remember is that he described some truly great food. In fact, I liked those sections of the book so much that when I read them, I apparently felt the need to scribble them down, word for word, in a notebook.

On the Road isn't the only example of this. I remember the hoecakes and the maple snow candy from Laura Ingalls Wilder's books. My favorite scene from Roald Dahl's Boy is in the candy shop. The details of meals and food and eating always stay with me long after the plotlines have faded.

So when I saw a series of photographs by Dinah Fried being passed around Tumblr, I knew I'd found a kindred spirit. Her "Fictitious Dishes" re-create the food scenes from a range of books, largely classics like Moby Dick and The Bell Jar.

"For me as a reader, and in life as well, I remember the eating scenes in books," Fried says on the phone. "They really bring me to an emotional place in the character and the book."

Fried has 10 photos in her collection so far, five of which she's sharing here on The Picture Show for the first time. Some of the scenes are of iconic literary meals — the gruel from Oliver Twist and the tea party from Alice in Wonderland.

Others, like the scene in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, are a bit less literal. The open-faced sandwiches pictured aren't actually described in the book. But, says Fried, that type of sandwich was mentioned so many times that she felt she had to re-create them somehow.

She does take some liberties with her photos. The layouts are of her own design, and not all of the details are 100 percent true to the text. Take, for instance, the cheese sandwich from The Catcher in the Rye. "I know it's a Swiss cheese sandwich," she says. "But I didn't use Swiss cheese because I wanted the color to pop. The designer in me wanted the cheese to be more orange."

The designer in her is also always on the hunt for the right props. Most of them are snagged from people's kitchens and found on visits to flea markets and thrift stores. Sometimes Fried has the food scene in mind but can't proceed until she has the right prop. That was the case with Moby Dick. She knew her dad had a pewter beer stein that she absolutely had to have. He'd long forgotten about it, but, until they found it, she couldn't take the photo.

Sometimes a particularly good find will spark her creativity. The discovery of a three-pronged toasting fork reminded Fried of a scene in Heidi, and she felt compelled to re-create the meal of toasted cheese eaten by Heidi and her grandfather. And there are a few things in her collection that she hasn't yet used, like a 1960s coffee carafe with gold star bursts.

Often, the literary passages that Fried draws on don't have a description of a specific place or setting, so the goal with her photos is to create the atmosphere of a particular scene.

"I'm interested in creating something that evokes an emotional feeling for myself and others," she explains. "I wanted to see how other people who had read the books would connect on that level."

Photos: Fictitious Dishes

"I ate apple pie and ice cream — it was getting better as I got deeper into Iowa, the pie bigger, the ice cream richer." (On the Road)
"Then I tackled the avocado and crabmeat salad. Avocados are my favorite fruit. Every Sunday my grandfather used to bring me an avocado pear hidden at the bottom of his briefcase under six soiled shirts and the Sunday comics." (The Bell Jar)
"The gruel disappeared; the boys whispered each other, and winked at Oliver; while his next neighbors nudged him. Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery." (Oliver Twist)
"There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea at it ..." (Alice in Wonderland)
"Then he made himself lunch, which consisted of coffee and open sandwiches, and sat in the garden, where he was typing up the notes of his conversation with Pastor Falk." (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)
"After I had left the skating rink I went to a drugstore and had a Swiss cheese sandwich and a malted milk." (The Catcher in the Rye)
"The kettle soon began to boil, and 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." (Heidi)
"It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt." (Moby Dick)
"The kitchen table was loaded with enough food to bury the family: hunks of salt pork, tomatoes, beans, even scuppernongs." (To Kill a Mockingbird)
"She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim's shell." (Swann's Way)

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