Food. Can there be anything more intrinsic to the human condition? Sex, perhaps. But eating, is one of the fundamental features of human life. It’s linked directly to survival and also inextricably entwined with our social selves. So much can be based off, and therefore derived from, our food culture; Our choice of company to dine with, where we eat, what and when. Food is so engrained in our lives that it’s part of our self-identity, and helps in defining social constructs like class, gender, and ethnicity.
Oliver Twist – “Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity: ‘Please, sir, I want some more.’”
As such, food is wielded as a powerful source of imagery in theater, film, and of course literature. From the moment quills first met with paper, food has been used to convey a message, been a plot device, used as a method of revealing an environment and even a character, and all in all bring a reader in, and help represent the different manifestations of depth, and human complexity. Food is not only sensory, but sensual. From Hemingway to James Joyce, authors have used food to paint a picture. Designer and photographer Dinah Fried took their descriptions and actually made the pictures.
Fictitious Dishes: An Album Of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals is the book materialized as an evolution of her design project. It’s 50 pictures dense of meals from celebrated pieces of literature, and the imagery is diverse as the works.
Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas – “‘You goddamn honkies are all the same.’ By this time he’d opened a new bottle of tequila and was quaffing it down….He sliced the grapefruit into quarters…then into eighths…then sixteenths…then he began slashing aimlessly at the residue.”
The Secret Garden – “Roasted eggs were a previously unknown luxury and very hot potatoes with salt and fresh butter in them were fit for a woodland king—besides being deliciously satisfying.”
Dinah, now featured by outlets like Huffintong Post, NPR, The New Yorker, began the series as part of a design project at the Rhode Island School of Design. It’s simmered and risen to the book available now. The photos, shot on a Nikon D40 are all meticulously arranged, mood lit, with not a detail left to chance, and each photo is accompanied by the text from which it drew inspiration. It’s an homage, in the most delectable of fashions.
Moby Dick – “Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favorite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition…”
The Bell Jar – “Then I tackled the avocado and crabmeat salad…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 comic.”
The Great Gatsby – “On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold.”
The Catcher In the Rye – “When I’m out somewhere, I generally just eat a Swiss cheese sandwich and a malted milk.
It isn’t much, but you get quite a lot of vitamins in the malted milk. H. V. Caulfield. Holden Vitamin Caulfield.”
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – “She improvised bandages and covered the wound with a makeshift compress. Then she poured the coffee and handed him a sandwich. ‘I’m really not hungry,’ he said. ‘I don’t give a damn if you’re hungry. Just eat,’ Salander commanded, taking a big bite of her own cheese sandwich.”
Swann’s Way – “One day in winter, as I came home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, suggested that, contrary
to my habit, I have a little tea. I refused at first and then, I do not know why, changed my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump cakes called petites madeleines…”
On The Road – “But I had to get going and stop moaning, so I picked up my bag, said so long to the old hotelkeeper sitting by his spittoon, and went to eat. I ate apple pie and ice cream — it was getting better as I got deeper into Iowa, the pie bigger, the ice cream richer.”
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland – “‘Have some wine,’ the March Hare said in an encouraging tone. Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea.”
It’s such a fantastic idea. Food and literature brought together in a photograph that sort of envelops you into time’s great stories. It breathes new life into old text, and leaves you hungrier for more. Perhaps hungrier more for photos than for more food. Dinah’s execution of the decadence of Gatsby, impoverished Oliver Twist, and peculiar Alice In Wonderland, is really key to the success of the series. Had it been less thought through, less meticulous, it wouldn’t have worked. But it does, and it’s utterly charming. It’s also hot off the press…or oven, as it were.
Find more from Dinah and get the book here on her site, with access to more photos, the blog, and background, and follow her on Twitter here!
CREDITS: All photographs shared by Dinah Fried are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.
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