Iconic Literary Food Moments

To celebrate Richard Glover’s book, The Land Before Avocado, set in Australia in the 1970s, we have opted for another modern author, Sylvia Plath, as the subject of our iconic literary food moment.

Plath never experienced the 1970s, having committed suicide in 1963, not long after she published her novel The Bell Jar. But it is a fairly safe bet that she would have found the prospects for women in the 1970s just as dreary as for women in the 1950s and 1960s, a subject she canvassed extensively in her work. As Richard stresses in his book, we have come a long way.

Food featured heavily in Sylvia Plath’s life and work, and was one thing she could usually count on to provide great pleasure. As she points out in opening paragraphs of Chapter 3 of The Bell Jar:

“I’m not sure why it is, but I love food more than just about anything else.”

That’s pretty much the way we fell about food here at Word of Mouth TV. It’s a pleasure not just to eat, but can be a joy to prepare, particularly when done for its own pleasure and not part of the daily drudge.

The avocado moment we have chosen for this episode also hails from The Bell Jar, and comes from a scene at the Ladies’ Day banquet for girls fortunate enough to have won scholarships to work on New York magazines. The whole contingent of ladies fall prey to food poisoning from the crab meat in the avocado shells.

“Arrayed on the Ladie’s Day banquet table were yellow-green avocado pear halves stuffed with crabmeat and mayonnaise, and platters of rare roast beef and cold chicken, and every so often a cut-glass bowl heaped with black caviar …

“Avocados are my favourite fruit. Every Sunday my grandfather used to bring me an avocado pear hidden at the bottom of his briefcase under six soiled shirts and the Sunday comics. He taught me how to eat avocados by melting grape jelly and French dressing together in a saucepan and flling the cup of the pear with the garnet sauce. I felt homesick for that sauce.”

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