Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and there will be many an American feasting on far more turkey and pie than is good for anyone. But it is just one day a year, so we’re allowed to go a bit overboard (we tell ourselves while conveniently forgetting the leftovers that will haunt our refrigerators for days). Some time ago, I wrote a post on food that included all sorts of spastic ramblings about books that involve food. It seems like an appropriate subject to revisit, particularly the beloved subject of the feast.
As I said in my last post, my favorite book descriptions of food belong to the fantasy world created by Brian Jacques in his Redwall series. While his characters are mice, moles, badgers, hares, and squirrels and their fare sometimes involves ingredients that we would not normally reach for in the back of our pantry when baking a pie (dandelions, acorns, and rose petals, anyone?), somehow, the food all sounds magically delicious, especially when Redwall Abbey has one of its famous feasts.
From the otter’s spicy soup to the deep, earthy Deeper’n’Ever Turnip’n’Tater’nBeetroot pies presented by the moles to the fruit-studded scones and and honey-covered hotcakes and colorful salads, reading about a Redwall feast was like being trapped on the wrong side of a window watching someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner celebration. You desperately want to get inside, but can’t figure out how to magically transport yourself into the pages so that you can try everything just to see if it could possibly be as good as Jacques made it sound:
Tender freshwater shrimp garnished with cream and rose leaves, devilled barley pearls in acorn puree, apple and carrot chews, marinated cabbage stalks steeped in creamed white turnip with nutmeg… crusty country pasties, and these were being served with melted yellow cheese and rough hazelnut bread.~
But the meals in these stories aren’t just a way to make readers wish that they were smaller, fuzzier, and wielding swords for the good of all creaturekind. The feasts are a coming-together, often at the start or the end of an adventure. Friends and family from all over the Mossflower forest are invited into the abbey. Stories are told beside roaring fires while the adults sip October Ale and the little ones enjoy cups of strawberry fizz or dandelion cordial. Long-dead heroes visit young warriors-to-be in their sleep and inspire them to set out at dawn. And once the questing is through and the heroes return home, a feast will be assembled to welcome them again. Food, feasting, fellowship: the coming together of characters is significant enough to deserve detail. Rather than leaving it at “and then they ate together,” Jacques satisfies us with extensive description so that we, too, can attend (at least in part – I have yet to receive a slice of deeper’n’ever pie from an obliging mole).
As we think about gathering around a table loaded with good things (and all the baking required to make the good things happen!) we might also think about the meaning of both the food and the fellowshipping, and how, really, they have to go together for proper feasting to succeed. Without fellowship, it’s just a very big dinner.
So happy feasting this Thanksgiving and, once you have recovered from the terrifying amount of food you will likely consume and have decided that the vow to Never Eat Again was a little hasty in the making, you might consider picking up a copy of Redwall and enjoy another world’s idea of feasting. Perhaps you will get some notions for your next feast. If you need ideas, there is actually a website of Redwall recipes!