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7 Delicious Quotes About Food in World Literature

Alex Chams By Alex Chams Published on June 29, 2017
This article was updated on November 27, 2017

Food writing is a genre on its own, bringing together passion, history, culture and general lusciousness. From the 19th and early 20th century Frenchmen, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, or Auguste Escoffier to M.F.K Fisher in the 1940s and 50s, to James Beard or Ruth Reichl, the books are countless and the writing mouth watering. But there are infinite descriptions of meals and food in literature too, as illustrated in Mark Kurlansky's compendium, Choice Cuts, a miscellany of food writing, which includes quotes from authors as varied as Wole Soyinka, John Steinbeck, Pliny the elder, and Virginia Woolf. He ends his book, of course, with Marcel Proust's unforgettable description of eating a madeleine, which is now a firmly established wonder. As the holidays roll around, here is a short collection of quotes from world literature, from the French author Sidonie Gabrielle Colette, to the contemporary Cameroonian author Imbolo Mbue. 

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Inside the curl of a leaf of lettuce is a single poached oyster. Underneath this dollop of ocean fog is a soft pallet of potatoes. A shaving of black truffle covers all. The potatoes are there for heft and texture, but the truffle, ah, the truffle is a gift for the nose.

Monique Truong, The Book of Salt

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All afternoon she stayed in the kitchen, making egusi stew with smoked turkey, garri and okra soup, fried ripe plantains and beans, jollof rice with chicken gizzard, and ekwang, which took two hours to make because she had to peel the cocoyams, grate them, tightly and painstakingly wrap teaspoons of the grated cocoyam into spinach leaves, then simmer in a pot with palm oil, dried fish, crayfish, salt, pepper, maggi, and bush onions, for an hour.

Imbolo Mbue, Behold the Dreamers

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A fruit cake should have an inch of almond paste spread over the top before frosting the entire cake. This is not gilding the lily, it is only bringing its perfume more pronouncedly to your attention.

Liberation Fruit Cake recipe from The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook

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Having passed the grain stalls they came to the fritangueríasthe fried food stalls—where sweaty, plump women dropped thick pieces of fish into enormous frying pans. Laid out on the wooden trays that served as counters, the fillets of fried fish immediately cooled to take on an almost mineral appearance while thick slices of fried plantain—patacones—were heaped around them. 

Tomás González, In the Beginning was the Sea

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Then she told us about the Syrian soldier who fell in love with her… 'He loved you for your stuffed zucchini in yogurt,' interrupted Ruhiyya.

Hanan Al-Shaykh, Beirut Blues

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She had already placed before us pale girdle-cakes soaked in sugared butter and sprinkled with almonds; pigeons bathed in succulent juice with green olives; chickpeas melting in flour, sweet onions; chickens buried under fresh beans with wrinkled skins; and lemon cooked and recooked and reduced to a savory puree…

A Moroccan luncheon by Colette

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That evening, the fragrance of crocodile stewed in tchobi sauce and mashed mangoes on toast were the heady stuff of which African legends are made…

Calixthe Beyala, How to Cook Your Husband the African Way

vintage images courtesy of thegraphicsfairy.com


Journalist, globe trotter and food lover


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