Review: Fictitious Dishes, Dinah Fried

Well, this is the best. Photographer Dinah Fried has excerpted descriptions of meals from a wonderful range of literature — everything from Bread and Jam for Frances to A Confederacy of Dunces — and recreated those meals in gorgeous, lush photographs. I recently acquired a work iPad and discovered that one of the best uses of an iPad is to look at beautiful things. I borrowed Fictitious Dishes as an ebook from my library and tediously spent several days forcing everyone near me to look at all the pretty pictures. And now it is your turn.

Here’s the one from 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.”

Nearly as wonderful as the photographs of the actual food are the details Fried includes to evoke the atmosphere of the books in question. In one of my favorites from the book, the photograph of The Great Gatsby, you can see a monogrammed napkin of Gatsby’s, and some pearls and a cigarette holder to suggest the time period.

“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.”

Dinah Fried makes me want to love books that I know I don’t love, like 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.”

I mean, how much do you love these photos? I want to buy the book, cut all the pictures out, and paper my dining room walls with them. The only thing holding me back is the fear that guests would then have unrealistic expectations of my cooking.

Thanks to the wondrous Maria Popova of Brain Pickings for bringing this book to my attention a little earlier this year.

  • Good lord this is brilliant! (and now i’m hungry)

    • Gin Jenny

      Hahaha, I’m perpetually hungry! But these pictures aren’t helping. :p

  • An awesome idea and a visual treat! My favorite is the one for The Secret Garden, but maybe that has more to do with affection for the book.

    • Gin Jenny

      Really? Is that the one with the potatoes? I liked it, but it didn’t make me as hungry as some of the others (like Moby Dick) did.

  • I like the idea of putting these photos on a dining room wall. I think my guests would then expect literary meals, and we could oblige. One of our favorite winter doldrum-relievers when the kids were young was to make the Beaver’s dinner from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe–pan fried trout, boiled potatoes, and a marvelously sticky marmalade roll.

    • Gin Jenny

      I am in no way capable of making a literary meal, so — I don’t want my dining room to be writing checks my kitchen can’t cash. I can make red beans and rice. That’s it. :p

  • aartichapati

    Oh, I love this! I think there was a blog (it probably still exists) that did this with the food of the Song of Ice & Fire series, which I think is brilliant. Are the recipes included in the book, too?

    • Gin Jenny

      Hahaha, I saw that blog! None of the food appealed to me, but I appreciated the endeavor. There aren’t any recipes included in this book, I fear — it’s all beautiful photos all the time.

  • Those are SERIOUSLY gorgeous. I hope my ‘brary has this one for me to borrow. Print or e-book…I don’t care!

    • Gin Jenny

      As long as you have a tablet of some kind, ebook will be just as beautiful!

  • So pretty!!!

    • Gin Jenny

      I know!! I loved them!

  • This sounds like my uber-book, and my library doesn’t have it. Whyyyyyyyyyyyy.

    • Gin Jenny

      Awww! Poor you! Can you ask them to order it? You love books and foods!

  • So fun! I love when characters eat tasty-sounding things and I like to look at cookbooks partly for the pictures. I am the exact target market for this.

    • Gin Jenny

      Me too! It’s so gorgeous.

  • Ahh! I find this type of book with lots of pictures to be so much more enjoyable than the cookbooks based on literature. I can just drool over the pictures instead of having to *cook* to enjoy the book.

    • Gin Jenny

      Agreed! Feeling obligated to cook actually would probably reduce my enjoyment of the book substantially. I fear cooking!

  • Wow what a clever idea. I’d love to devour that book. I wonder- are some of the dishes things that no one has ever actually made? entirely invented things? Did someone really cook all the dishes, to create the photographs? What a shame my library doesn’t have it either.

    • Gin Jenny

      I guess someone must’ve cooked all the things, right? Maybe she has a friend who is a caterer who did it. That would be sad though — by the time you got the photographs taken to your satisfaction, everything would be cold. 🙁

  • This is an absolute genius idea! And my library has it! I hope no one checks it out before I get to work on Monday morning.

    • Gin Jenny

      Yay! I hope so too! Enjoy it!

  • I can’t decide if this is something to be read with or without food. On the one hand, you are going to end up hungry. On the other, I imagine looking at the sad plate in front of me and despising whatever I’m eating for being too boring and nonliterary.

    • Gin Jenny

      Hahaha, I can’t say. I can tell you that I read it without food, and I enjoyed it tremendously.

  • Wow, those pictures are just gorgeous! And hunger-enhancing. Especially at lunch time. I don’t remember some of those books, but it would be interesting to read the relevant passages in the referred book and then read the food mentioned in this book.

    • Gin Jenny

      Yeah, it’s pretty neat. Dinah Fried is so cool for coming up with this.

  • Lovely.

    • Gin Jenny

      Isn’t it? It makes me wish I were a photographer myself!

  • That sounds awesome!