The XX Factor

Meat Pies, Pig’s Tails, and Turkish Delight

The Guardian ‘s food blog is reminiscing about foods from childhood today-or, more accurately, foods from childhood’s library . She instantly reminded me of how my mouth watered along with Edmund’s for Turkish Delight, and took me back to all the other unfamiliar foods I craved while curled up in the library (remember when you couldn’t eat or drink in a library?)-seed-cake and marmalade roll and those “buns” so coveted by A Little Princess , and then “given away to a beggar girl.” Fresh fish was everywhere, from Swallows and Amazons to (again) to The Chronicles of Narnia (“You cannot think how good the new-caught fish smelled while they were frying”), and I, who had never eaten fish that wasn’t breaded, frozen and fried, longed to try it. And I wanted to taste everything that was ever served in the Little House -remember the maple sugar that froze into shapes on the snow, and the glories of the pig’s tail?

But the thing I wanted above all was a meat pie. I was a picky eater, and knew, in my secret heart, that I was unlikely to enjoy anything involving marmalade, and I’d been told that Turkish Delight involved nuts. But meat pie-which I imagined as a hamburger in a pie crust-sounded wonderful. I couldn’t find a recipe (and if I had, I would have been appalled by the inclusion of things like parsnips and peas), but I remember attempting, at about age 12, to put well-salted ground beef into a frozen pie crust, which didn’t in any way live up to my imagined version. (In retrospect, I was picturing an empanada .)

It was completely lost on me at the time that the reason all of these authors were able to write so eloquently about feasts and times of great bounty was, of course, that each one had experienced times when food was scarce and luxuries like meat and oranges close to nonexistent. All I knew was that they made even hard-tack sound delicious, and I wanted to sample it all.