My goal in this Eatdrink column has been to present various topics from the food industry that have been represented in titles across the global bookshelf. In her new book, A Literary Tea Party: Blends and Treats for Alice, Bilbo, Dorothy, Jo, and Book Lovers Everywhere (Skyhorse Publishing, 2018), Alison Walsh, a food blogger and lifelong reader, has taken a different approach by searching for what food can be drawn out of books. Starting with classic titles, she concocts tea and treat recipes inspired by the books’ meals, characters, or storylines.
Certain recipes are born out of a character’s food preferences. Piglet’s love of “haycorns” in Winnie-the-Pooh led to Walsh’s interpretation of edible acorns by combining Asiago and Swiss cheese with crushed almonds. They are simple to make, look adorable on a platter, and taste delicious. These tiny savoury cheeseballs are paired with Hundred Acre tea (black tea featuring hazelnut, vanilla, and honeybush). Some recipes come from foods directly mentioned in a book, like the “muffs” (sweet potato and bacon puff pastries) made by Hannah in Little Women, or the Turkish delight and hot chocolate consumed by Edmund in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Others are conjured from a book’s theme, such as Star-crossed Focaccia, which has nothing to do with Romeo and Juliet except for the stars cut out of the dough to symbolize the lovers’ relationship in Shakespeare’s play.
Most of the 45 recipes are paired with one of the 23 tea blends or five alternative beverages, such as the Raspberry Cordial made famous in Anne of Green Gables. One pairing that honours The Wizard of Oz is that of Cyclone cookies with Emerald City tea (green-tinged herbal tea with peppermint, spearmint, and lemon grass). And there are Fairy Dust Star cookies paired with Second Star to the Right tea (Earl Grey tea with vanilla and lavender) to be served as “an in-flight snack while on your way to Neverland” while reading Peter Pan.
Not everyone likes themed parties, but tea drinkers tend to love them a lot. A good deal of that attraction might stem from the Mad Hatter tea party scene in Alice in Wonderland. This iconic tea party has an obvious place in this book with a delightful menu, including Bread and Butterflies (dainty cucumber sandwiches shaped like butterflies) and Drink Me tea (white peony tea with pear). Walsh suggests six other tea party ideas with appropriate menus, such as Aslan’s Feast featuring recipes specific to The Chronicles of Narnia or a Murder Most Delicious tea party with recipes based on Sherlock Holmes stories and Agatha Christie mysteries, including Blood Orange Scones and London Fog Lattes.
Throughout the book, Walsh provides helpful tips she has stumbled upon in her recipe testing. For instance, when preparing Swiss roll type sandwiches, using oatmeal or potato bread allows for easier rolling because these have a higher moisture content and are less likely to dry out. When she gets into candy making with Peppermint Humbugs, to pay tribute to the word used by the curmudgeonly Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, she suggests coating your gloved hands and kitchen scissors with cooking spray to make it easier to work with the hot, sticky, melted sugar.
As Sara Letourneau writes in the book’s introduction: “If literature is meant to reflect life, then why not use food, a part of our everyday lives, to make that reflection truly believable?” By drawing on her knowledge of literature and inserting quotes alongside her recipes, Walsh has invented tea party gems in her own kitchen and passed them on to all book lovers through A Literary Tea Party, proving that dishes inspired by fiction can become reality, because food is real, even in make-believe worlds.
The Raven Cocktail
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore —
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven”
3–5 mint leaves (plus 2 extra sprigs for garnish)
1 ½ oz white rum
½ cup pomegranate juice, chilled
Makes 1 cocktail
Use a muddler to crush the blackberries and 3–5 mint leaves in the bottom of a cocktail shaker (I used 3 mint leaves).
Pour in the rum and pomegranate juice. Secure the lid onto the shaker and shake to combine.
Pour into a wine glass. Strain out the berry pulp and leaves or, if you prefer, leave them in. I like the visual effect and extra flavour they add, so I leave them in.
Top with a sprig of mint and serve to a gloomy feathered friend.
Recipe excerpted from Alison’s Wonderland Recipes: Recipes Inspired by Classic Literature (wonderlandrecipes.com) by Alison Walsh. All rights reserved.