Posted by: jeannineatkins | October 28, 2008

Eating our Way Through Narnia

I think there’s better food in Narnia than Turkish Delight. Just go the cave of the faun, Mr. Tumnus, for toast with honey and boiled brown eggs. Or to Mrs. Beaver’s snug home for orange marmalade rolls fresh from her little oven. C. S. Lewis isn’t stingy with his food description, and when asked if he put this in children’s books because he couldn’t write about grown up sex, he said, no, he put it in because he likes food. Anyway, it’s the Turkish Delight that Edmund loves perhaps more than his siblings at one point and causes his all important downfall, and people want to know what is is. Jello-like, often rose flavored, sticky, slightly slimy.

But why should they take my word for it? I found a recipe for Turkish Delight, but it involved a candy thermometer, which I don’t have, and the idea of standing over a hot stove stirring something I’d be pretty sure would end up disgusting didn’t appeal to me. I ordered some off the web and brought it in. One student said the Turkish Delight was like gourmet gummy bears. Which sounds better than my description.

We read Lewis’s essay “Three Ways of Writing for Children.” The one bad way is to write to impart a message to inferior beings. The second way is to write with a specific child in mind, the way Tolkien began The Hobbit for his children, or Lewis Carroll started his classic as a story for his neighbor, Alice, or Beatrix Potter began Peter Rabbit as a tale for her former governess’s ill boy. The third way is his, and that’s to write what he calls a fairy tale because that’s the only tale he can tell, coming partly from the child in him still and from the grownup.

He also mentions how his writing begins in pictures. I’ve read elsewhere about how he and his brother used to play in a wardrobe when they were children in Ireland. At age sixteen, Lewis had a dream about a faun holding an umbrella in a snowy forest. As an adult, Lewis began a story called “The Lion,” which fizzled out. During WWII, some children escaping the bombing in London took refuge in his big old house, and the pieces started to come together. Eight years after he penned the first page, he had the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

I told my students that Lewis’s original wardrobe is now in a collection at Wheaton College in Illinois.
“Oh, can you go in it?” one asked.
“Um, I’m not sure. I guess you’d have to research.”
But I don’t think she will. And neither will I. It’s nicer to think that maybe you can climb in.

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Responses

  1. I’m hungry! I think I like Turkish Delight. I am not sure when I had it though, but I recall the “rose” flavor.

  2. Oh, man, my sister lives in Illinois! I’m going to have to find out how far she lives from the wardrobe (boy, there’s a metaphor in there somewhere).
    Turkish Delight has a semi-addictive quality to it, I think, except for the rose flavor, which is like eating hand lotion. Blech.
    I grew up on English kids’ books and there is FOOD everywhere. Arthur Ransome’s Swallows & Amazons picnic and camp and get baskets of food from parents; the same in Enid Blyton’s five books. I always wondered if it had something to do with war/post-war rationing (but I may have the dates totally wrong) and craving a time where there were no limits? Everything always sounded so good, EXCEPT the tongue sandwiches!

  3. You don’t remember that little adventure in Narnia, Debbi? Well I guess those memories must fade…
    Those Brits make other stuff with rose flavoring, too. One of my students said she liked the scent, but wasn’t sure about eating it. Like eating flowers.

  4. Yes, find out how far from the wardrobe. I have to admit, it would be something to see even if you’re dissuaded from crawling in.
    Mmm, hand lotion. It is a bit bizarre, which is either part of its charm or not. I think you can get lemon. And there was one with chocolate glaze, but that doesn’t seem fair. I always thought chocolate would be more understandable as a downfall.
    Well, maybe your theory works. There’s nothing like a word picnic in any era though. But I’m with you. No sandwiches with body parts please.

  5. I always thought Turkish Delight had chocolate in it–must’ve been my own fantasy…
    I think I’d much rather have toast and honey with Mr. Tumnus. 🙂

  6. Yes, it would be more plausible with chocolate. And I’m with you. Some of my students found the candy tasty, but I’d rather stick with Mr. Tumnus or Mrs. Beaver’s rolls.


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