By Martina Krénová
Are you a bookworm and a passionate baker? Have you ever wondered if the food in literary works carries a deeper meaning? If so, there is no one to stop you from exploring the world of adapting literature into meals, biscuits, cakes… You might discover hidden treasures you would not necessarily find otherwise, and in addition you will enjoy the fruits of your labor. If you need inspiration, creators of the Literary Kitchen blog, Nicoletta Asciutto and Amy Smith, provide you with great recipes and insightful analyses of literary works of different genres and periods from the fourteenth century onwards.
How is the blog organised? The blog posts are sorted by country, genre, and time period, so it is easy to search for posts that one finds most interesting. All posts are careful combinations of literary analyses and recipes intertwined with authors’ commentaries, which provide readers with insights not only about literature and delicious recipes, but also with warm and fuzzy feeling. If a reader’s social media is filled with constant wedding news, they might identify with Amy’s summer experience. In addition, readers can even try making a wedding cake following Amy’s recipe. Moreover, one learns that Miss Havisham’s wedding cake in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations might represent not only Miss Havisham’s rotted heart but it also may represent the whole society. Although recipes are a huge part of their blog, you can also find quizzes there. So, next time you are reading Shakespeare, be on the lookout for food in his works – however beware of meat pies when reading Titus Andronicus – if you wish to excel in Nicoletta’s and Amy’s quiz. Chocolate lovers can read about literary chocolate history and listen to Nicoletta’s and Amy’s podcast. Furthermore, Nicoletta Asciuto, who spent a week at Masaryk University giving lectures on Modernism earlier this semester, kindly spared a few minutes to answer questions on how their project came about.
What gave you the idea to start the blog? How long have you been doing it?
The idea was born out of the anticipated sense of void we felt would come after submitting our PhD theses. We knew it would not be easy to find a job immediately after, so both Amy and I felt we needed something to keep us busy, as well as something to make us go back to our love of literature, and re-discover other works which we didn’t necessarily have to write or teach on. The blog has been running for exactly two years now, as our first blog post went live on 5th November 2014.
How do you choose the work you are going to adapt and analyze? Do you take turns with Amy or do you bake and write whenever you find inspiration? How much time do you usually spend on each bake and article?
Normally, we write about a book we have been reading recently, and which has struck our fancy because of a recipe in it, or something we are going to teach… the possibilities are endless! We usually take turns now, especially since Amy and I don’t live in the same town anymore, so it is easier to coordinate. In the very beginning, we often prepared things together – which was a lot of fun!
As for time… it depends. We both choose our topics in advance (although Amy generally well before than I do!), so as to have time to do some research on the best recipe to use, try that recipe, take the pictures and write the blog post. I am not sure about Amy, but I would say it normally takes me a couple of weeks, from inception to the “full product”. We both have full-time jobs now, and so we have to do this in our spare time, and so blog work gets more spread out across various days/weeks.
Do your students know about it and do they use the blog? Do you encourage them to take such a creative approach to literature?
When we first started with the blog, we were both part-time teachers at Durham University and I remember we told our students, and also some members of staff in the English department there. The latter were especially supportive, as they advertised our blog to students (sometimes even during lectures!), as we often covered texts which were taught in some of the core modules at Durham. As for my current students, they don’t know and so far, no connections between the module content and food have come up, so I haven’t had an opportunity to direct them to the blog. I think if I were teaching on a module on Food in Literature, I would totally tell them, and maybe find ways to make them use it!
What are your plans for the future? Will you open a café one day?
We would love to! Maybe, one day when we are tired of our current jobs! I do think a café with recipes from books is still a great project, worth pursuing.
As for the next blog posts, you can expect an exotic twist…