Friday, August 29, 2014

Fictitious Dishes, by Dinah Fried

Fictitious Dishes is an interesting little book that grew out of a design class project and became something of an obsession for the author. Always interested in the role food plays in novels, Fried has selected passages from literature describing meals and recreated those meals and the "place settings" in which they might have been served; thus, the food eaten by characters in Robinson Crusoe is pictured sitting in the sand. On each set of facing pages, the verso page presents the literary passage and a few pieces of trivia about the author of the passage, the food described, or another somewhat related topic. On the recto page is the photo of the author's recreation of the meal.

For me, the most beautiful of the photos depict outdoor settings--strawberries picked by Emma and her friends, potatoes and eggs in The Secret Garden, and a bucket of the title fruit in Blueberries for Sal. Some of the other photos are quite evocative--Moby-Dick and Lolita are two examples that spoke to me. The photo accompanying Maurice Sendak's Chicken Soup with Rice is marvelously unexpected. Although American Psycho was written in 1991, that photo beautifully depicts the artiness of modern cuisine. I found other photos rather bland--for example, while it may have been authentic, the picture of Proust's madeleines lacked visual interest, conveying none of the "precious essence" he found in their taste.

Fictitious Dishes is pretty much a gimmick--but I found looking through it fun.

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