C.S. Lewis, one of the most prolific writers of the 20th century, is widely known for his children’s book series, the Chronicles of Narnia. His philosophical treatises on objective morality in “The Abolition of Man,” and the nature of temptation in “The Screwtape Letters” have also gained him great notoriety. Many are familiar with him as a Christian theologian and writer, but the 1998 “The Narnia Cookbook,” compiled by Lewis’ youngest stepson Douglas Gresham and publisher Mary Kate Morgan, explores Lewis’ other profound love: food.
Whether or not you’ve read the entire seven volume Chronicles of Narnia, or only seen the 2005 movie “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” you’re probably familiar with Edmund Pevensie’s obsession with Turkish Delight. In Douglas Gresham’s “The Narnia Cookbook,” you can learn how to make the delicious delicacy, and enjoy it without betraying your friends.
Keeping in line with the book series’ recommended audience, Gresham advertises the book to kids ages eight and up.
In Gresham’s foreword, he discusses C.S. Lewis —“Jack” — and his experience in the kitchen. Many of Jack’s favorite dishes came from “The Book of Household Management,” a widely-used cookbook that contained a few thousand recipes. “The Narnia Cookbook” is a nostalgic undertaking, harkening back to Gresham’s childhood, and revealing some of the foods he and Jack enjoyed.
The 115-page cookbook is divided into six main sections: Breakfast, Lunch, Afternoon Tea, Dinner, Dessert, and Drinks. The last subsection, titled “Some Favorite Narnian Menus,” presents several examples of meals, such as, “Tea With Mr. Tumnus,” using combinations of recipes from the main sections.
Each section begins with a preface briefly describing the etymology of the meal, and its significance in our world versus the world of Narnia. In the Dinner section, the author describes how dinner was the most significant meal at Jack’s house, The Kilns, and was “served at seven in the evening and could be either a very simple meal or an elaborate feast, depending on the occasion.” At the closing of the Dinner preface, Grisham invites the reader to have his own Narnian Dinner party with friends.
Besides Edmund’s Turkish Delight, the book presents a lot of basic, traditionally English recipes, such as buttered eggs and roast chestnuts, as well as more difficult dishes like mincemeat pies (a traditional Christmas dessert in England) and ginger fig pudding. Perhaps the most exotic dish is the stewed eel, the dish that Puddleglum first made for Eustace and Jill in “The Silver Chair.”
Rather than photos of the food, the Narnia cookbook features original artwork by Pauline Baynes, also the original artist for the Narnia series. Her drawings add color to the description of the recipes, and help situate the food in its context in the land of Narnia.
Virtually the only downside of the cookbook is acquiring it. It is unclear why the book is no longer in print, but the large demand from Narnia devotees has made it difficult to find the cookbook online for under $85. A economical option would be the $2.99 Kindle version on Amazon, though this puts those who prefer the page to a screen in a predicament.
Grisham captures Jack’s love of food and friends early on in the cookbook.
“He enjoyed nothing more than a fine dinner in the company of people whom he liked and respected and with whom he could enjoy good conversation,” Grisham said.
As such, the cookbook presents many simple recipes that children, or adults with little cooking experience, can easily create and enjoy with others, and be transported back to the magical land of Narnia — no wardrobe necessary.