I am beginning to suspect that the greater part of my aesthetic framework is constructed from images and scenes in the Chronicles of Narnia, which were read to me when I was a wee lad away off in Pakistan. My brother Adrian says that because of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he longed for snow long before he had ever seen it. Lewis, I think, would be pleased, as he often articulated that there is as much joy, and perhaps more, in the anticipation of the arrival of a thing as in the having of it. Moreover, I think such longings and his ability to convey them so viscerally is one reason why his writings on heaven are so effective.
My ideals of food and fellowship come from the Chronicles. In fact, there are things, such as sardines, that I have more or less willed myself to like because they are delightly presented in a book. Sardines are on the menu when Tumnus invites Lucy to tea. As an adolescent, I provided repeated amusement for my family when I would order some manner of seafood on our, relative to now, few trips to restaurants, almost always finding that I did not like it.
But now, when the weather is dreary and blustery and cold, I stop by the store on the way home and pick up sardines and clam chowder (which is even more fantastic with a pad of butter and a bit or garlic and pepper) and go home to tea, which really just serves as the British word for supper. But tea is generally involved too, which for me comes in the form of a lovely large mug and consists of strong tea, evaporated milk, and sugar. If am feeling swanky, I substitute kippers for the sardines, which I wanted to like from reading the Scottish comics Oor Wullie and The Broons.
No, but Narnia is the source for my elemental longings. When Jill and Eustace and Puddleglum and Rilian come out of their long sojourn in darkness, they come out into the delightful winter night’s festival of the Great Snow Dance of Narnia, with Fauns and Dryads dancing in a circle, which Dwarfs carefully punctuate with snowballs. When the weary travellers are noticed, they are taken to a dry cave and…
“She had vague impression of Dwarfs crowding round the fire with frying-pans rather bigger than themselves, and the hissing, and delicious smell of sausages, and more, and more sausages. And not the wretched sausages half full of bread and soya bean either, but real meaty, spicy ones, fat and piping hot and burst and just the tiniest bit burnt. And great mugs of frothy chocolate, and roast potatoes and roast chestnuts, and baked apples with raisins stuck in where the cores had been, and then ices just to freshen you up after all the hot things.”
And that description is just how I like my Bratwurst.
And when Shasta is guided into Narnia by the Unwelcome Fellow Traveller, the greatest drink he gets is the cool Water from the paw print of the great lion Aslan, but then he eventually falls in with some Dwarfs and his body is also fed:
“Hey brothers! A visitor for breakfast.”
And immediately, mixed with a sizzling sound, there came to Shasta a simply delightful smell. It was one he had never smelled in his life before, but I hope you have. It was, in fact, the smell of bacon and eggs and mushrooms all frying in a pan.”
These they eat with butter and toast and coffee. As a tip on the mushrooms, by the way, use the white button ones, slice them long ways and not too thin, use lots of butter, a bit of garlic and take your time to cook them, adding a little water and covering them, then more butter as necessary (and it is), and then finally uncovering them and sauting them till they are just ever so slightly crisp. Mm, mm. A good recipe for mushrooms even if you don’t fancy them much, but then I am persuaded that even shoe-leather would be good with butter and garlic.
It is not simply the food that is so delightful about these experiences, though. It is the sharing of food together. One can have marshmallows and chocolate and graham crackers and apples and cocoa at home rather more conveniently, but these are never so lovely as in the deep dark after a cold, autumn hay ride complete with tomfoolery and singing and, if one is so blessed, perhaps a bit of a cuddle.
I eat the type of breakest food mentioned above a fair bit, but it isn’t so good as when roommate Lloyd whips up a mess of eggs and sausages and toast and coffee and invites the rest of us to partake in a late Satrurday morning breakfast. It isn’t as lovely as it is when you eat similar fare in a smoky Denny’s after a college Bible study or as Tanya and Heidi and I did after a movie a few weeks ago, reliving our college years, which one of us had to work a lot harder at to remember what those were like than the other two did.