Food as Writerly Inspiration (or not)

What foods inspire the literary muse? Below, find six writers' favorite alimentary stimuli:

In an article for the New York Times called "O Muse! You Do Make Things Difficult!" (November 12, 1989) Diane Ackerman wrote that the poet Schiller . . .
. . . used to keep rotten apples under the lid of his desk and inhale their pungent bouquet when he needed to find the right word. Then he would close the drawer, but the fragrance remained in his head. In 1985 researchers at Yale University found that the smell of spiced apple has a powerful elevating effect on people and can even stave off a panic attack. Schiller sensed this all along. Something in the sweet, rancid mustiness of those apples jolted his brain into activity.
(Full article here.)

Luciana Rondolini, Rotting Fruit (from the Tiffany Project),

Agatha Christie, according to Nicole Villeneuve at The Daily Beast. . .
. . . was so partial to cream that she regularly kept some by her typewriter, to sip while she wrote. As her grandson Matthew remembered, “She used to drink cream from a huge cup with ‘Don’t be greedy’ written on the side.” 
 (Full article here.)

Will Cotton, Persistence of Desire, 3, 2014

Elizabeth Bishop, in an interview with Elizabeth Spires in the Paris Review (The Art of Poetry no.27), talks about her years at Vassar and tells the story of her youthful habit of eating cheese in hopes of inspiring the poetic impulse:
I had a theory at that time that one should write down all one’s dreams. That that was the way to write poetry. So I kept a notebook of my dreams and thought if you ate a lot of awful cheese at bedtime you’d have interesting dreams. I went to Vassar with a pot about this big—it did have a cover!—of Roquefort cheese that I kept in the bottom of my bookcase . . .
(Full interview here.)

Roy Lichtenstein, Untitled (Swiss Cheese Elevator Doors), c1985

Joan Didion, in an interview with Linda Kuel in the Paris Review (The Art of Fiction No. 71), spoke of her habit of reviewing her daily output while having a drink, right before dinner:
I need an hour alone before dinner, with a drink, to go over what I've done that day. I can't do it late in the afternoon because I'm too close to it. Also, the drink helps. It removes me from the pages. So I spend this hour taking things out and putting other things in. Then I start the next day by redoing all of what I did the day before, following these evening notes.
(Full interview here.)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Hangover, 1889

As Jared Young describes in this story, Michael Crichton did an interview with 60 Minutes in the mid-1990's during which led the camera crew into his kitchen "where he opened the refrigerator door to reveal, neatly organized, a dozen cans of Coke and a shelf of pre-made ham and cheese sandwiches." Crichton then confessed that while working on a book, ham and cheese sandwiches were what he ate for lunch, every day. 

Luis Melendenz, Still Life with Bread, Ham, Cheese, and Vegetables, about 1772

On the other hand, Don Delillo, in an interview with Adam Begley in the Paris Review (The Art of Fiction No. 135), claims to take inspiration not from food but from the lack of it (and all sensory input):
. . . book time . . . is transparent—you don’t know it’s passing. No snack food or coffee. No cigarettes—I stopped smoking a long time ago. The space is clear, the house is quiet.
(Full interview here.)

Wayne Thiebaud, pen drawing

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.