“Golly! Pork-pie and chocolate cake, sardines and Nestlé’s milk, chocolate and peppermint creams, tinned pineapple and ginger-beer!” said Janet. Talk about a feast! I bet this beats the upper third’s feast hollow! Come on – let’s begin!”
What would Bruno Bettelheim, that old killjoy who saw oral fixation, oedipal attachments and the lure of the erotic everywhere in fairy-stories, make of this horrible concoction, and of the fact that the midnight feast is a forbidden night-time activity carried out in the utmost secrecy between girls with a possibly unnatural fondness for each other?
Gert, being of a less imaginative cast of mind, can only wonder at the terrible battles being fought out in their intestines and the jolly squads of bacteria in their teeth and gums.
And what of Billy Bunter, whose sweet, fatty, lardy diet represents, in Michael Flanagan’s words, “the demasculinisation of the obese figure” in an era of Muscular Christianity and the project of empire? Six sosses and four eggs – aren’t you having any, old chap?
We all love our characters to have a good tuck in, but some writers add a frisson of outrageousness to this simple pleasure. James Hamilton Paterson’s Gerald Samper takes pleasure in concocting deliberately revolting dishes like Otter with Lobster Sauce, Rabbit in Cep Custard and Alien Pie, a dish of “smoked cat, off the bone” finished with a single drop of household paraffin. Then there’s his Garlic and Fernet Branca Icecream. Fernet Branca’s “thick, bitter flavour and spices make it something of an acquired taste” as Gert can testify from experience.
What are your favourite literary feasts?
This paper by Michael Flanagan was first given as part of the inaugural Dublin Gastronomy Symposium and is the most downloaded paper from its archives.