Literary Food

The discussion on Moll Flanders and the Titanic and their relationship to food has me thinking . . .

A while back, I found (but unfortunately, did not purchase) a book called, The Sherlock Holmes Victorian Cookbook, by William Bonnell (1997), that tied together a few selected Holmes stories and discussions with what the author considered to be appropriate Victorian style dinners. The premise was interesting: Eat a meal that Holmes and Watson might have enjoyed all while savoring the stories themselves. Well, given my fascination with the idea of a recreated and historically sound meal, you’d think this would be the perfect addition to my library. Unfortunately, as I had so many other books under consideration, I left it on the shelf. I’m glad that I did, too. Did you know that there are quite a few books that duplicate this idea – a legitimate Victorian style meal to accompany Sherlock Holmes? I didn’t realize that Holmes and food were such an item. Now, if someone wrote a “Sherlock Holmes’ Guide to Pipes and Tobacco,” then I could see the connection. But Holmes and food?

Oddly, I can envision a Hercule Poirot Cookbook, because for some reason, M. Poirot seems to lend himself more towards the notion of a “detective and food” scheme than does Holmes.  But it’d also be a hectic situation, I suppose, especially if one tried to meet Poirot’s demanding nature regarding food.  When I recently included Murder on the Orient Express in a course, students routinely commented on his obscession with being served a pair of eggs that had to be the same size.  Couldn’t imagine being that meticulous for a whole meal!

I recognize the connection between “mystery” and food, or food and law enforcement. I mean, our most basic stereotypes about police officers have them squirreled away in some diner or squad car with a box of donuts and coffee. But Holmes never seems to eat – at least the connection is not as overt in the stories as his pipe smoking or cocaine use. It’s just an interesting premise for a line of books.  I wonder if it extends from the connection of food, companionship, and conversation . . .


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