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Guest Post: Memorable Food in YA Literature by Elissa Sussman

Today we are pleased to welcome Elissa Sussman, author of the debut fantasy STRAY (Greenwillow/HarperCollins) which is out tomorrow! She is here to share a guest post on the importance of food in YA lit, with lots of inspiring examples. Enjoy!

MEMORABLE YA FOODS by Elissa Sussman

Food plays an important part in many fairy tales. From apples to breadcrumbs, they can both help and impede a character on their journey. While writing STRAY, I drew a lot of inspiration, not just from fairy tales, but other delicious YA stories. Here are some of my favorite foodie moments in YA fiction.

Butterbeer (Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling)

Ron came back five minutes later, carrying three foaming tankards of hot butterbeer.
“Merry Christmas!” he said happily, raising his tankard.
Harry drank deeply. It was the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted and seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside. –Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

There are tons of memorable foods in JK Rowling’s magical world, but it’s hard to top butterbeer. After all, there’s nothing better than a drink that will warm you up on a cold day. Especially if you’re near Hogwarts.

Cherries Jubliee (Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede)

"Who would want an improper princess?"

“I would,” said Kazul.

“You can’t be serious, Kazul,” 
Woraug said irritably. “Why?”

“I like cherries jubilee.”

There are so many wonderful things about THE ENCHANTED FOREST CHRONICLES, but my favorite is the relationship between Cimorene and Kazul, firmly cemented by Kazul’s appreciation of Cimorene’s cherries jubilee. After all, what dragon wouldn’t love a desert they can light on fire?

Half Baked Ideas (The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Jester)

“What’s a half-baked idea?” asked Milo again…
“They’re very tasty,” explained the Humbug. “But they don’t always agree with you. Here’s one that’s very good.” He handed it to Milo and, through the icing and nuts, Milo saw that it said, “THE EARTH IS FLAT.”
“People swallowed that one for years…”

There is no end to the cleverness of THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH. The wonderfully named characters, the fantastical lands and the strange situations Milo and his friends get into make for one very fun book. But it’s the meal of half-baked ideas that I always remember, mostly because I never before imagined words as so sweet and tasty.

Maple Sugar Candy (Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

Grandma stood by the brass kettle and with a big wooden spoon she poured hot syrup on each plate of snow.  It cooled into a soft candy, and as fast as it cooled they ate it. They could eat all they wanted, for maple sugar never hurt anybody

There’s something to be said for the ingenuity of the Ingalls family and others living out on the prairie. It’s part of the fun of reading the series, watching them survive (and thrive) against all odds. Their ability to make something out of almost nothing is astonishing, and by the looks of this recipe, delicious.

Turkish Delight (The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis)

“It is dull, Son of Adam, to drink without eating,” said the Queen presently. “What would you like best to eat?”
“Turkish Delight, please, your Majesty,” said Edmund.
The Queen let another drop fall form her bottle onto the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious.”

Ok, so the Turkish Delight is essentially Narnia’s version of Eden’s apple, a treat so tempting that Edmund finds himself in the debt of the Snow Queen. And ok, in real life Turkish Delight is a bit sticky and overly sweet. But as far as memorable food moments in literature, it’s hard to beat this one.

EVERYTHING (The Redwall series by Brian Jacques)

“After all, who could resist roast chestnuts served in cream and honey, or clover oatcakes dipped in hot redcurrant sauce, celery and herb cheese on acorn bread with chopped radishes, or a huge home-baked seed and sweet barley cake with mint icing, all washed down with either October ale, pear cordial, strawberry juice or good fresh milk.” --Mossflower

“Tender freshwater shrimp garnished with cream and rose leaves, devilled barely pearls in acorn puree, apple and carrot chews, marinated cabbage stalks steeped in creamed white turnip with nutmeg.” –Redwall

No one wrote food like Brian Jacques. Anyone who read his books knew that it was a bad idea to open those pages on an empty stomach. His warrior animals loved their feasts. And for those who really want to immerse themselves in the world of Redwall, there’s a cookbook of several of the more popular recipes. And as the moles might say, hurr hurr tat tasten gurrd!

Elissa Sussman is a writer, a reader and a pumpkin pie eater.

Her debut novel, STRAY (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins), is a YA fantasy about fairy godmothers, magic and food. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and in a previous life managed animators and organized spreadsheets at some of the best animation studios in the world, including Nickelodeon, Disney, Dreamworks and Sony Imageworks. You can see her name in the credits of THE CROODS, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG and TANGLED.

She currently lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend and their rescue mutt, Basil.


The opinions expressed in guest posts are the views of the designated authors and do not necessarily reflect those of YA Highway members.

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Stephanie Kuehn

Stephanie is the William C. Morris award-winning author of Charm & Strange, Complicit, Delicate Monsters, and The Smaller Evil.

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  1. Such an interesting post! I'd never thought about this before, but I ALWAYS think of Turkish delight and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe together. Same with lane cake and To Kill a Mockingbird. Food really does help create a memorable setting!

  2. Tamora Pierce is also excellent with the food pr0n. Every time they sit down to eat... reader, beware. Your stomach will growl.


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