May 5, 2014

Click to purchase

An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals

This is a most unusual and intriguing little gem of a book. I would call it a coffee table book, for that is where it belongs in any sort of book-lovers home, but it is small, a mere 6 x 8.4 inches. Nevertheless, it packs a big punch and is sure to be a terrific conversation starter. It was in my house.


Fictitious Dishes: Swann’s Way © 2014 Dinah Fried


Fried started this project while earning her MFA in graphic design at the Rhode Island School of Design. In her introduction, she talks about how food in books has always been so memorable for her, so she decided to create and photograph some of the most memorable meals in literature.

I loved how she compares eating and reading; both are consumed, both can transport you, or this: “Heavy books and heavy meals both require a period of intense digestion.” There’s more, and it’s funny and illuminating.

But the meat of the book, if you will, are the photos. Each page has a photo of the meal on one side, and the opposing page has information about the book. Fried really excels at parsing literature down to one bite. She includes a quote from the book that inspired the meal, some fun facts about the book or the author or the food, like Hemingway’s favorite drink was the martini, or from The Namesake, that Rice Krispie Treats first appeared a decade after the cereal debuted in 1928. Also included is a book summary, an annotated list of the titles used.


Fictitious Dishes: The Metamorphosis © 2014 Dinah Fried

Some are obvious, like the Madeleines from Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way or the bucket of blueberries from Robert McCloskey’s children’s classic, Blueberries for Sal. All are imaginative, whether she is drawing on contemporary literature (The Corrections, Motherless Brooklyn) or a classic (Ulysses, Oliver Twist.) One of the most inspired probably has to be The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. Fried says she collected food and let it rot for weeks to create this photo.


There are several children’s books represented as well, like The Secret Garden, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland and more.

Fictitious Dishes: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Fictitious Dishes: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland © 2014 Dinah Fried

All told there are fifty books imagined and pictured. I really enjoyed this book – it would make a fine gift for the reader in your life.

5/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

FICTITIOUS DISHES by Dinah Fried. Harper Design (April 15, 2014). ISBN 978-0062279835. 128p.

FROM SCRATCH: Inside the Food Network by Allen Salkin

February 19, 2014

As a long time Food Network fan, I couldn’t resist picking up this book. Unfortunately, the first two hundred pages had me putting it down repeatedly. It was just the facts, all the facts in all their statistical glory but I wanted more. I finally got more in the second half of the book.

To be fair, the book wouldn’t have worked if Salkin hadn’t included all the money and machinations that went into creating the Food Network. The parade of presidents, the turnover of corporate suits, and the complete lack of interest in food beyond what sort of profits it could bring in was the story of the first several years of the company. Eventually, the Scripps network came on board, coughed up some real money and things started to change. And so did the book.

The second half was way more interesting and entertaining. Here is where we learned how Bobby Flay, streetwise and smart, worked his way into the corporate culture and why Mario Batali finally left. The Paula Deen story, including the mess she made in 2013, was included, and I would guess the paperback release will include her inevitable comeback. Rachael Ray, Guy Fieri, Robert Irvine, Anne Burrell and the rest have their moments in the sun.

Salkin is a freelance food journalist who has written for the New York Times among other publications, and he didn’t set out to write a sensationalistic type book, but rather a corporate overview of one of cable’s behemoths. He succeeded, and ultimately, I was glad I stayed with it.

2/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

FROM SCRATCH: Inside the Food Network by Allen Salkin. Putnam Adult (October 1, 2013). ISBN 978-0399159329. 448p.