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Photo Series ‘Fictitious Dishes’ Brings to Life Storied Meals from Almost 200 Years of Celebrated Fiction

alice in wonderland

Alice 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.”

Literature and food has always had a special connection, and this link is made manifest visually and beguilingly in Fictitious Dishes, a clever project by designer and writer Dinah Fried. Fried multi-tasks as she cooks, art-directs, and photographs meals from almost 200 years of celebrated fiction.

To Kill a Mockingbird “‘Gracious alive, Cal, what’s all this?’ He was staring at his breakfast plate. Calpurnia said, ‘Tom Robinson’s daddy sent you along this chicken this morning. I fixed it.’ ‘You tell him I’m proud to get it—bet they don’t have chicken for breakfast at the White House.’”

To Kill a Mockingbird
“‘Gracious alive, Cal, what’s all this?’ He was staring at his breakfast plate. Calpurnia said, ‘Tom Robinson’s daddy sent you along this chicken this morning. I fixed it.’ ‘You tell him I’m proud to get it—bet they don’t have chicken for breakfast at the White House.’”

Every image is text accompanied by specific passages from the works themselves where the recipes appeared, in addition to a few brief factoids about the respective novel, author or dish.

Fictitious Dishes started as a simple design project while Fried was attending the Rhode Island School of Design a few years ago. Before she knew it, the concept overwhelmed Fried with enthusiasm. As she continued to immerse herself with both the cooking and the reading, she soon found herself with a much bigger project than previously intended.

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 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.”

Fried recently reflected on her lifelong love affair with the gastronomic instances found in celebrated fiction. For her these passages carry with them a one-of-a-kind ability to impress on many sensory levels, bringing the reader into a particular world and imparting the effect of extraordinarily vibrant recollections:

“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 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.”

“Many of my most vivid memories from books are of the meals the characters eat. I read Heidi more than twenty years ago, but I can still taste the golden, cheesy toast that her grandfather serves her, and I can still feel the anticipation and comfort she experiences as she watches him prepare it over the open fire. I remember some meals for the moment they signify within a story: the minty cupcakes that Melissa gives to Chip in The Corrections — a marker of their love affair, which causes Chip’s professional downfall and general unraveling.

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.’”

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.’”

Other meals have stayed with me for the atmosphere they help convey. Recently, a friend told me that after reading Lolita, he began to drink gin and pineapple juice, a favorite combination of the novel’s narrator, Humbert Humbert. I read Lolita when I was barely older than Lolita herself and was amazed that my friend’s description of the cocktail catapulted me back to the distinct world that Nabokov had created: a sticky New England summer when an intoxicated, lust-lorn Humbert Humbert mows the unruly lawn in the hot sun, pining for Dolores, who is away at camp.

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...”

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…”

Likewise, Melville’s description of steaming chowder in Moby-Dick evokes a vision of Ishmael’s seafaring life: salty, damp ocean air on a dark evening; finding solace in a cozy, warmly lit inn with a toasty dining room filled with good cheer and the rich smell of fresh seafood.”

Fried’s images have a common feature: they are enormously detailed and sensitive, and many have a distinctive undercurrent of cultural satire.  See the cleverly composed Fictitious Dishes here.

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Patricia Ramos the author

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.

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