How do you capture the essence of a famous work of literature without using words?

By peoplestaff225
Updated April 21, 2014 05:21 PM

How do you capture the essence of a famous work of literature without using words?

You make a plate of fried chicken or a grilled cheese sandwich — or whatever food best represents the book — and place it on a surface (wood table, a pretty tablecloth) that underscores the book’s setting and tone.

In her new book, Fictitious Dishes, author Dinah Fried “cooked” for 50 celebrated works of fiction, including To Kill a Mockingbird and The Catcher in the Rye, to give readers a visual taste of what the novels are all about.

It’s like SparkNotes but with plated food. Check out what Fried envisioned for each book.

To Kill a Mockingbird (pictured above)

By day, Atticus Finch was a Southern lawyer fighting for racial equality during the Depression era in Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. But by night, Finch was a single dad enjoying a simple home-cooked meal like fried chicken and green beans with his two young children who hadn’t yet been touched by prejudice.

The Catcher in the Rye

That grilled cheese sandwich looks pretty lonely on the plate, even with a pickle companion. That about sums up J.D. Salinger’s coming-of-age book centered on odd, rebellious teenager Holden Caulfield.

The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel about the illusions of grandeur of a young millionaire and his pals is summed up in this decadent spread of caviar, smoked salmon, a harlequin-designed salad — and pigs in a blanket.


There’s nothing more appropriate than a bowl of clam chowder to speak the language of the sea depicted in Herman Melville’s classic tale of a captain’s pursuit of a great white whale.

The Bell Jar

The ladylike meal of crab-stuffed avocado evokes the time that Sylvia Plath’s mentally unstable protagonist spent interning at a New York women’s magazine in the 1960s.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

This colorful table, set with fine china, a lace overlay, playing cards, tea and sugar, evokes the magical world of Wonderland, where a young girl named Alice lands after falling down a magic hole.

—Nancy Mattia

Reprinted with permission from Fictitious Dishes by Dinah Fried. Copyright 2014. Published by Harper Collins. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.