Eleanor quotes this bit of dialogue in Julia’s Magic, showing that it had a significance to her. And in Lucy Boston’s The Children at Green Knowe, another of Eleanor's favorite books, the following description is found: “There were egg sandwiches and chicken sandwiches and iced orange cake and jelly and chocolate finger biscuits.” (p13)
Below, in order of appearance, are some of Eleanor’s most mouth-watering food descriptions.
“I do not enjoy cooking. I do not snip and hoard recipes against the time when they will ‘come in handy.’ I cannot imagine laboring the day long over pies, odd gelatinous salads with God-knows what suspended inside them, or casserole dishes with everything but the kitchen sink steaming together.” — Eleanor’s journal, January 7, 1940
One can’t read through Eleanor’s books in succession without noticing the sensual way she describes food. This may have been a subconscious emulation of a couple of her favorite books. In Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, the following occurs:
“There’s cold chicken inside it,” replied the Rat briefly, ‘coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscresssandwichesspottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater—’
Eleanor on Food
The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet
“Then he got a loaf of bread and put it in, and also two boxes of cookies. Next he opened the refrigerator door and got out some tomatoes (but put them back because they might get squashy), a head of celery, some carrots, a head of lettuce, five wienerwursts, a package of sliced ham, a package of sliced cheese, and some oranges. Then he opened the drawer under the refrigerator and got out four bananas and six apples.
He looked in the bag but his heart sank, for it didn’t seem nearly enough for a voyage into space. So he opened the cooler and found a package of dates, a box of raisins, a cellophane bag of shelled nuts, another box of cookies, a bar of cooking chocolate, some candy, and a jar of peanut butter.” (p76)
Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet
“They had made their own dinner: a can of beans heated up, pickles, fried eggs, bread and jam, and some rather melted ice cream. And they agreed it was the best dinner they’d ever had.” (p4)
Mr. Bass’s Planetoid
“...and you are to understand that while he was talking, he was putting away enormous amounts of cheese omelet and crisp bacon and hot buttered biscuits with plum jam and five or six cups of coffee.” (p202)
The Terrible Churnadryne
“But HOW could they choose? There were lemon boats and raspberry boats. There were fly cemeteries (Tom loved to call them that, just to see Jennifer’s face, but they were really only raisin pastries), and pale, rich fingers of shortbread. There were Forfar bridies, which are flat and filled with fruit, and round Abernethies and plain Wully Muckles. There were empire biscuits, puffed cracknels and rhubarb tarts and little almond cakes with jam inside, called “maids of honor.” There were ginger biscuits called “parleys,” and bannocks and oatcakes; and treacle scones, which Grandmother served warm with butter melting all over the top. There were sultana cakes with nuts all through them that were iced with thick almond icing (which is called marzipan), and seedcakes and jelly fingers and meringues like two halves of eggshells, very delicate and airy, put together with whipped cream oozing between. HOW could they choose?” (p12)
A Mystery for Mr. Bass
“You see those slices of pale pink mushroom? You will find they taste deliciously like ripe avocado, and the deeper pink just a little like roast chicken. The pale green will seem to you like the most heavenly cheesecake you’ve ever had in your lives, and the brown almost like pineapple sherbet.” (p150)
“But just then, in came Mrs. Topman with a casserole of cheese soufflé, all puffed up and dark golden. There was a bowl of mushrooms browned in butter to go with it, for those who liked mushrooms. There was crisp bacon (Ta had five slices), and hot muffins of a melting lightness (six of these, well spread with butter and strawberry jam, disappeared from his plate).” (p171)
The Mysterious Christmas Shell
“There was chicken noodle soup of Nip’s making, and toasted cheese sandwiches all buttery and oozing — two of them if you could manage.” (p16)
The Beast with the Magical Horn
“There were enormous partridge pies and basins of jugged hare, vast platters of pork and beef and venison, every sort of roll and bread and pasty one could think of, as well as bowls of thick, rich, tangy sauces to dip one’s bread and meat in. In front of each King stood a nef, which was a jeweled ship containing spices, and a huge salt-cellar, wonderfully wrought, with smaller ones for the other guests. But most amazing of all were the roast peacocks adorned with all their feathers.” (p69)
A Spell is Cast
“And all this time the beef pie was disappearing, the crust of which was as rich and melting as it had smelled, oozing with brown gravy and covering chunks of tender, succulent beef of such a flavor that Cory had to have two large helpings and Peter three...and there were creamed onions and coleslaw and a green salad with thick slices of tomato, and homemade bread with plenty of butter, and also damson plum jam to spread on as thick as you pleased. As for the pungent fragrance that had made Cory’s mouth water, it was mince pie, which they had hot with a choice of hard sauce or lemon sauce.”
“‘In Scotland,’ said Fergie, ‘the great company desert is trifle.’ And the way you made it, Cory found, was this: you cut up a pound cake into slices and spread the slices with raspberry jam, then you arranged the slices three layers deep in an enormous cut-glass bowl and you soaked the layers with sherry ‘ — or berry juice, p’raps,’ said Fergie, ‘if yer family doesn’t approve of wine.’ After this you poured on plenty of cooled custard, spread whipped cream on tip, and decorated the whole concoction with walnuts and maraschino cherries and little round macaroons, and with pieces of candied angelica cut in the shape of leaves.” (p148)
“The Meteor that Couldn’t Stay”
“…David and Clem built up a fire. And over it Clem concocted bitter scalding coffee into which he broke some bread and some horribly strong-smelling cheese. Prewytt took one swallow and looked as if he were going to die.” This is called Basko soup, a concoction eaten by Basque sheep herders. Sometime sugar and canned milk is added.
“Jewels from the Moon”
“She put aside all other plans and began packing a lunch of everything that everybody liked best: thick chicken sandwiches and big thick beef sandwiches, pickle (three kinds), any number of deviled eggs, packages of potato chips, and little sweet tart tomatoes that burst in spurts of tongue-curling flavor when you pop them in your mouth whole, and bananas and oranges and large chunks of chocolate cake with deep creamy fudge frosting.” (p3)
Miss Bronwen’s cream of mushroom soup is “the most delectable soup David had ever tasted in his life.” And “was it the cream, possibly from some heavenly cow who had fed in Elysian pastures?” (p12)
Time and Mr. Bass
“From the stove there was commencing to be a sputtering and the rich, deep, spicy smell of sausages frying.” (p39)
“And there were three kinds of homemade bread and mounds of yellow butter and six different kinds of Morfa’s preserved fruits and jams.” (p206)
A Room Made of Windows
“Mrs. Duncan’s bread and tarts are fit for the gods. She makes, of course, as well as tarts and cakes and pies and jam, all her own bread, which is what that incomparable fragrance is that’s floating around her just now.” (p130)
The Court of the Stone Children
“She buttered the thick slice of Auguste’s bread, then cut lots of cheese and put the slices neatly over and helped herself to salad.” (p52)
“Auguste and Mam’zelle had prepared the meal — a meal, Dr. Patrick declared, fit for gourmets: the onion soup for which Auguste had been making the stock for days, his tossed salad, his flaky croissants, five legs of lamb rubbed with garlic, lemon juice, mustard, curry and marjoram, and basted with wine and currant jelly, and then the desert of fruit compote with Mam’zelle’s special sauce poured over.”
To the Green Mountains
“She sank her teeth into the club sandwich, taking as big a bite as she could possibly manage, then chewed with her eyes closed in order to savor more deeply the delectable flavors of moist thick slices of turkey, crisp bacon, tart tomato, and soft white bread generously spread with butter.” (p5)
Julia and the Hand of God
“...Hulda’s cakes, her pies with their melting pastry, bombes glaces (‘Make glassy bombs, Hulda,’ Julia would beg), baked Alaskas, meringues with ice cream inside and sugared berries dripped all over, and chocolate mousse...” (p43)
“...scones I’d bought in the village where I’d eaten lunch, a slice of cheese, a couple of small mutton pies, some little sweet-tart Scottish tomatoes, and a thick piece of Dundee cake, full of almonds and raisins and currants.” (p176)
That Julia Redfern
“However, Greg was allowed to help Hulda bring in the dessert, which was his and Julia’s favorite — sweet, crusty, thin shells stuffed with ice cream and heaped up all over with strawberries and a big dollop of whipped cream on top.” (p27)
“Then Hulda handed around big linen napkins and got out an enormous platter of hot, golden fried chicken, so enormous that there was loads of chicken for everybody, and then a casserole of spoon bread with a big spoon stuck in the side.
Now Hulda handed them a big bowl of gravy to go on the spoon bread, and next a big basket of hot, buttered biscuits, and after that a dish of fruit salad.
The men and women ate and ate and ate, gazing at each other with eyes of astonishment, and letting out moans of satisfaction every now and then.
Hulda...drew out a plate much, much bigger than the dinner plates, with a big mound of something white and glossy on it. The smooth white glossy stuff was golden brown on all its little waves and swirls, and that was because, Hulda told Julia, she had baked it in the oven. Julia saw that there was pink ice cream inside sitting on white cake.
’But how can you bake ice cream, Hulda?’
’That’s what you do, Julia,’ said Hulda. ‘You put the ice cream on the cake, then you put the meringue all over it...and then you pop it in a hot, hot oven for four or five minutes — and that’s it.’” (p147)
The Private Worlds of Julia Redfern
“There were thin chicken sandwiches and fruitcake with thick lemon butter icing.” (p10)
“It was on of Mrs. Winter’s famous chocolate cakes, with a firm filling and icing a quarter of an inch thick.” (p128)
Jewels from the Moon (unpublished)
“...cutting the three cakes into slices, one lemon cake, one fudge, and one mocha-walnut and all with nice thick fillings and icing and plenty for everybody to have seconds.” (ch 3)
“Annabelle Topman’s 5-bean casserole with her special onion and tomato sauce and with lots of cheese on top, and she’d tried a new kind of angel food cake with some kind of thin orange icing that sank in all through it, and that she served with chocolate ice cream.” (ch 13)