|Miss Plum Duff by Kristin Tercek|
UPDATE 12/28/11 THANKS TO RENEE OF THE FAE: See end of post.
This illustration by Kristin Tercek (of Cuddly Rigor Mortis) reminds me of a favorite childhood classic tale from Australia, The Magic Pudding, written and illustrated by Norman Lindsay . Although isn't set specifically at Christmas, it works with the season because every Christmas in Australia seems to require pudding and fruitcake. And how can you resist the idea of magical pudding?
I must admit, this Magic Pudding is on the grumpy side and quite a trouble maker, giving his companions - who spend all their time guarding him against pudding thieves - a lot of grief. In fact, he's only happy when he's being eaten, though he can never be fully consumed, being magical and all.
The Christmas season tends to involve a lot of food and festive meals so thinking about fairy tale food also seems appropriate at the moment.
While I don't recall many (if any) fairy tales in which the food itself is magic (in that it has personality), there are plenty of examples of magical food in fairy tales, that is, food that is magical, makes magic as it's consumed or contains something magical. Food in fairy tales is always important, even when it isn't specifically magical as well. (I've commented on this a little recently with regard to apples and Snow White in ABC's Once Upon A Time.)
Off the top of my head here are some tales where food, or a food item, are of supreme importance in the tale:
Like Meat Without Salt (another of my favorites as a child)
Hansel & Gretel (remember the breadcrumbs as well as the candy house!)
Princess Manyfur & Donkeyskin (the soup made by the princess in disguise with an 'extra' ingredient)
Rapunzel (Radishes? Lettuce? Take your pick but the vegetable garden holds the roots of the story.. ;)
The Juniper Tree (I almost didn't include this but that meal is, sadly, very key)
The Princess and the Pea (a pea, obviously, but also breakfast revelations)
Cinderella (pumpkin in the best known version but if memory serves there are oranges and lemons as well - aristocratic delicacies)
Snow White (the famous apple of course but also what the queen asks for to add to her dinner)
Stone Soup (everything BUT the stone!)
Red Riding Hood (a basket of bread and wine for Grandma, and wolf food of course)
Love For Three Oranges (cheese and oranges)
Jack and the Beanstalk (not just beans but also milk and all the significance of that drink, not to mention the fee fi fo fum dinnertime. The other Jack o- f Giant Killer fame - also has pudding - see image earlier in post)
Beauty & the Beast (each night at dinner...)
Momotaro (Peach Boy - a little boy born in a peach)
The Tin Soldier (the fish sliced open for dinner)
Baba Yaga (rice)
Tom Thumb (his big troubles start with falling into a pudding)
The Girl Who Trod On A Loaf (bread and all it represents)
Goldilocks & the Three Bears (porridge and breakfast)
Strawberries in the Snow (or the Twelve Months)
The Nutcracker (not about nuts at all but lots of sweets instead)
UPDATE: Thanks to Renee of the Fae's comment below, I was reminded of The Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci. It's an American variation on Diamonds and Toads with lovely language and gorgeous illustrations. Check it out (there's a very small preview of a couple of pages on amazon.com). If you haven't got it already I'm predicting you'll add it to your fairy tale wish list. ;) Thanks Renee!