Here are 10 traditional stories about food and eating. Some of the stories were used in the project mentioned above.
A delightful African story tells of a mighty king who, to his surprise encounter a poor man with a ”fat” wife. The king himself is married to a skinny queen. When asked by King about how this is possible, the poor man answers that he serves his wife “tounge meat”. King does not understand this metaphor, on the contrary, he takes it literally and serve his wife meat from tongues. The meaning was of the more spiritual food, produced ”on the tongue” – like story and talk. The story has been discussed from a feminine perspective, where women are powerless in the men’s needs for happiness. I think with that perspective that we go into the same trap as the king, taking the story too literally.
Erysichthon – This is one of the strongest stories on this topic. A Greek myth about the ignorant king who violates the law of nature and are cursed with eternal hunger. To tame his hunger he sells all his goods, and finally his own and only daughter. Poor and alone, the king has no choice but to devour himself. The story makes me think of my dead father, a man who cut all his ties and let the loneliness consume him. Contact with other people was a disturbance and threat to him.
The myth of Tantalus is similar horrifying. There are various sources as to why he was punished, the most frighten is, of course, the source that says that he served his own child to the gods and thus was punished with eternal thirst and hunger. He was chained in water without the ability to drink it and over him hangs fresh fruit that he can never reach.
Eating their own offspring, is an aggressive image that recurs in several myths and epics. You will find it as a revenge motive in several Norse epics. It is as if it demonstrates the complete “lack of fertility” in the sense that nothing ”can exist” after that. When the younger generation dies before the older generation, there is a sort of ”end of everything”. The blacksmith Volund kills the king’s two children and shaping their skulls to drinking cups that are donated to the parents. In the myth of the Titan Kronos, Kronos devours his own children, this scene presents an image of time. Time creates and time devours.
Salt is represented in many stories. Many daughters have to leave their home, because they compare their love to “what the salt does with the food”. Recognizing this importance comes first when you eat tasteless food that lacks salt. Love gives to life, what salt does with food. In the Norwegian folktale “The mill which stands on the ocean floor,” tells about the magic mill that makes the sea salt.
In Norway, all children knows the Norwegian folktale “The Pancake”. A cumulative folktale that tells about how the pancake escape from hungry children, men, women, and a variety of birds. The only one who can manage to eat the pancake, is the pig. The pig has a great deal of patience. In Norway, pancakes are many children’s favorite food.
Despite the fact that Norway is a fishing nation, less eat fish than before. I was raised on fish as a main meal, meat was eaten on Sundays. Now fresh fish is more expensive to get hold of than meat. The fact that a picture like “salmon of knowledge” is an old motive, is extremely interesting. Modern research proves something that has been there as old wisdom.
In the oral tradition is not the only fish that is the way to wisdom. By devouring a dragon’s heart, you can, for example, understand the birds’ language. This tells the story of Sigurd Fåvnesbane. He roasts the dragon’s heart, gets some hot fat from the roasting on his thumb, he sticks his thumb in his mouth and understand the birds. The picture of sticking your thumb in your mouth has to come from seeing how the children stick their thumb in their mouth. I do not know whether this has a connection with when they learn speak?
For 250 years ago the potato came to Norway. It created a discussion. Some felt that it was devil’s work – because it grew under the ground. While others taught about its importance. Individual priests traveled around, called potato priests, and told of its importance. For many, the potato was their rescue from hunger. Today, many Norwegians can not eat dinner without the potatoes being present in the meal. The potato has its mythical background. A story from America tells how it came to be when a boy broke the laws of the gods. He was blinded, which you can still see on the potato – it’s like the blind eyes are staring at you.
Erotic and food goes together. Eating is an sensual act. This is reflected in the stories. From North America you find a wonderful story about Iktome and Coyote. Iktomes wife tells Coyote that it is his own balls which are going to be served for dinner. Ikotme and Coyote are two tricksters. In the book “The Tricksters Makes the world” we get to know that this character comes from the need to be ”full”. This is about to eat his fill, without being eaten.
This was a few examples of stories about food and eating.