Roald Dahl understood the power of food, and not just of the purely sugary sort (i.e. chocolate churned by waterfall, edible blades of grass, Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delights). The whole plot of The Fantastic Mr. Fox basically builds up to the magnificent subterranean feast of chickens, ducks, smoked hams and bacon. In the BFG, the “disgusterous” snozzcumbers — filthing, coarse, knobbly and tasting of frogskins — are so vividy described you can practically smell their fishy stench. And in Matilda, when Miss Honey serves Matilda tea, brown bread and margarine on an upturned box, that does it; the two are bonded for life.
In all of Dahl’s books, the food moment that made its biggest impression on me comes in chapter 10 of Danny the Champion of the World. After a long and harrowing night involving a rescue of his father from a pit surrounded by armed guards, a kind local doctor gives Danny a package wrapped in wax paper.
I began to unwrap the waxed paper from around the doctor’s present, and when I had finished, I saw before me the most enormous and beautiful pie in the world. It was covered all over, top, sides, and bottom, with rich golden pastry. I took a knife from beside the sink and cut out a wedge. I started to eat it in my fingers, standing up. It was a cold meat pie. The meat was pink and tender with no fat or gristle in it, and there were hard-boiled eggs buried like treasures in several different places. The taste was absolutely fabulous. When I had finished the first slide I cut another and ate that, too. God bless Doctor Spencer, I thought.”
A cold meat pie — with hard-boiled eggs inside, buried like treasures! The image haunts me to this day, even though I realize that it probably sat in your stomach like a giant brick of Spam. Continue reading