“Graaack graaaak gracccck!” The noise was right outside my bedroom window. “Griink griiiiiink!” It was insistent and loud and it was 5 in the morning, still dark out. I stumbled from bed and opened the window, and the storm window, and grabbed the tree branch and shook it as hard as I could then went back to bed.
“Grick grick grick!” The stupid noise continued. My own fault, really. I’d forgotten that a week ago today was Roald Dahl Day – the day given over to celebrating all that is Of Dahl – and this monstrous cricket had come along to remind me, appropriately enough while I was sleeping.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. James and the Giant Peach. The Twits. People know Dahl mostly from his children’s stories but there is more to Dahl than just nursery rhymes.
In my own way I was celebrating Roald Dahl Day last week, though I didn’t realize it was a formal celebration at the time. It was in the best way, too – I was right in the middle of reading a generous collection of his stories written for “grown-ups”, precisely titled: The Best of Roald Dahl.
Food (and the ways we think about it and feel about it) is alive in Dahl’s writing. It can come dangerously (and thrillingly) close to being a living breathing protagonist in some way. Taste is a story of Richard Pratt, the famous gourmet and president of the Epicures – and what happens when he decides to place a little bet on his superior wine knowledge at a dinner party. Lamb to the Slaughter features a leg of lamb as a vital part of the story (and that’s all I’ll say!). Royal Jelly is about exactly that – the foodstuff we know of as royal jelly is very important in this little tale. Royal Jelly may be my favorite story of all, for it wanders into the territory of the fantastic. It is a genre story perhaps way before its time. I’m not sure in saying that, for my knowledge of the history of genre writing is not too secure but scattered – but from the readings I’ve done this is a stand-out for any time period. Georgy Porgy again speaks of eating (and of being eaten, too). Pig would seem to be an all-out call to action for vegetarianism, and I’ve seen it read that way. But to me Pig is not discussion of food politics. It is actually more than that. It surpasses any generalized specific rhetoric, as any great piece of fiction must do – indeed as any great story of anything at all must do. The Boy Who Talked With Animals starts off with a giant turtle ready to be made into a giant turtle soup.
There’s more. These are just the most focused food parts.
Roald is so edible. I’m so glad there’s a day just to celebrate him. Now excuse me, I must go cook this giant cricket.
Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes (there is a “More Revolting Recipes” book also but I much prefer this first one of the set)