Fictitious Dishes Dinah Fried

Fictitious Dishes

Why is reading about food just as satisfying as eating it? As Dinah Fried notes in Fictitious Dishes, in which she photographs literature’s most famous meals, the very language we use to talk about reading is about consumption. ”As a voracious reader,” she writes, ”I devour my books.” There’s a strong connection, then, between the reader and the subjects of the novels she excerpts here, from the clam chowder slurpers in Moby-Dick to Leopold Bloom’s kidney feast in Ulysses. Literature so often exists inside characters’ brains that it’s thrilling to be reminded that they have bodies, too, and that those bodies need to be fed. It makes imaginary people seem like real humans. And looking at Fried’s delicious photos — the salt crystals glistening atop the potatoes in the Secret Garden shoot — it’s clear why food porn is still so popular. With fast food on the rise and the average American spending less than 30 minutes a day making meals, we’re an instant-gratification culture that defines luxury in terms of time, not taste. It only takes a minute to digest, say, the scene from American Psycho where yuppie Patrick Bateman downs meat loaf triangles soaked in ”squiggles of thick tan quail stock.” Think of that image as fast food for your brain. But there’s also something deeper at work. It’s no accident that Fried works in still life, an art that trades in cut flowers, overripe fruit, and symbols of decay. (Her photo for The Metamorphosis shows rotting trash, which the cockroach narrator relishes.) The fact that these characters eat to live suggests that, even though their stories have survived for generations, they aren’t immortal themselves, which makes empathizing easier. Death will come for them eventually, just like the rest of us. Until then, let them eat quail stock. B+

Fictitious Dishes
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