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Literary food moments in young adult books

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Don’t even think about packing that suitcase. Cancel that hotel reservation, tear up that boarding pass, and put away your passport. Who needs to pay for airfare, luggage, and hospitality? Not you. You have a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. With a simple book, you will find your world opening up before your very eyes, allowing you to travel beyond your homelands. Before you start arguing that reading isn’t exactly like traveling, let us assure you that you can find the best of foreign cultures within the pages of a good book. Yes, you can’t exactly jet off to Paris and nibble on a croissant at a French bistro. However, that doesn’t mean you can't enjoy the culinary dishes of faraway lands. In fact, authors often incorporate dishes and dietary habits while establishing setting, plot, and developing characters in their books.

As we flip through the pages of Twilight, The Hardy Boys, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, we tag along while the characters explore their surroundings and embark on extraordinary adventures. While we read, the words on the pages transform and become a portrait of some faraway planet, some parallel universe, or some alternate life in our mind. Authors utilize various literary techniques to accomplish this — imagery, characterization, metaphors, for example. Often, food serves as an inspiration, a plot device, and a method of revealing character.

Sometimes the food scenes are subtle, in the way that our oatmeal breakfast slips into the back of our minds by the times our stomachs growl for lunch. Other times the food moments are far more memorable, as they provide a reason for people to gather and further the plot. While the instances when food is present in books range in importance, their function remains a vital part of literary techniques. Food plays a major role in all of our day-to-day lives, why wouldn’t the characters of a novel need the same sustenance? Even if a character is a wizard who must defend the entire wizarding world from dark and evil forces. Even if a character is a gawky high school student who discovers she is in line to the Genovian throne. Even if a character must fight for his survival in a post-apocalyptic world. All of these characters must sustain themselves in some ways, and their choices in cuisine hint at their personalities, environment, and circumstances in life.

Harry Potter's England
It is nearly impossible to forget that Hermione, Ron, and Harry Potter are British once you pay attention to all of the cuisine featured at Hogwarts pork chops, Shepherd's pie, Cornish pasties, steak and kidney pudding, mashed potatoes, chips, Yorkshire pudding, spotted dick, porridge, trifle, etc.

Harry Potter's Wizarding World
But don’t get caught up in all of that heavy, British cuisine. There are plenty of foods eaten in Harry Potter that don’t even exist in the British muggle world. The lunch trolley on the Hogwarts Express offers Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum, Liquorice Wands, Jelly Slugs, and Chocolate Frogs. Meanwhile, students can sip on some Butterbeer at Hogsmeade.

The Hardy Boys' Chet
The Hardy brothers’ friend has a weak spot for food, that’s for sure. His love for food is often mocked throughout the series, as he is referred to as chubby, and called a "big boy." In The Secret of the Lost Tunnel, Chet was late because he had to stop off for a triple-decker sandwich. In Dungeon of Doom, Chet stopped by a police station with his arms full of food raided from the vending machines. His love of food somehow explains his reluctance to join the boys in their detective work.

The Princess Diaries' Mia
The Princess of Genovia avoids meat at all costs, opting to nibble on Tofurky burgers and falafel during lunch. Her strong loyalty to vegetarianism doesn’t fade throughout the entire series, and comes to define Mia as a character. However, the princess threatens to abandon her vegetarian principles, after hearing the news that her boyfriend was moving to Japan — she joked, "If ever there’d been a day I could have used some spicy beef, it seemed like today."

Twilight's Bella Can Cook
As Bella chops and dices chicken in the kitchen, she proves that she has some culinary skills. Eventually, her father begins trusting her abilities in the kitchen, even when he walks into the house one day and smells green peppers — a surefire sign that she is whipping up some Mexican food for him. He may have seemed suspicious, but Bella understood that was because "the closest edible Mexican food was probably in Southern California." She even equated his willingness to try the dish to the braveness required to do his police duties. After Charlie comes home from a fishing excursion, Bella makes a mental note to pick up a cookbook filled with seafood recipes.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants' Beginning
Every summer, Lena, Bridget, Tibby, and Carmen, who have been friends since their mothers attended classes during their pregnancies, sneak into the studio where their mothers met to hang out. However, the night isn’t complete without snack foods. Fortunately Tibby was on the job, bringing along "raw cookie dough from a refrigerated tube, strawberry Pop-Tars with pink icing, hard, deformed cheese puffs, sour Gummi Worms, and a few bottles of Odwalla" to share with everyone.

The Baby-Sitter's Club's Claudia Kishi
Hungry? You’ll be sure to find some snacks in Claudia Kishi’s bedroom. The Vice President of the Baby-Sitter’s Club is addicted to junk food, and hides the unhealthy treats from her disapproving parents. She even acquires a hollow book to hide the unhealthy treats in. When the meetings are held in Claudia’s bedroom, she provides everyone with snacks.

The Hunger Games' Wealth in the Capitol
Wealth is mostly concentrated in the hands of those residing in the Capitol. While the wealthy can afford to eat luxurious, satiating foods, the poor are fighting to survive. The residents of the Capitol are definitive consumers; any kind of food is available to them with the simple press of a button. Food symbolizes wealth, plenty, and comfort, a convenience that the wealthy take for granted.

The Hunger Games' Peeta
Have you ever noticed that Peeta sounds like pita? That’s because he is the son of a baker. However, Peeta’s kindness inhibits his baking abilities. Once, he purposefully burnt two loaves of bread in order for his father to throw them out, so that Peeta could give them to Katniss, who had been struggling with starvation.

Check out all of the literary foods moments in young adult books here

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