by Washington Irving
I’ve often noticed while reading old books (pre-20th century), that two themes appear again and again: travel on the high seas, and anything pertaining to food. We tend to forget, in our modern supermarket lives, just how much of human history was devoted to the pursuit and preparation of something to eat. But when we read these old books we are reminded.
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” – along with “Rip Van Winkle,” Washington Irving’s most celebrated work – is a case in point. Its depiction of Ichabod Crane’s ill-fated courtship of the maiden Katrina and the attack of the Headless Horseman is justifiably famous, but what struck me were the author’s loving, nearly idolatrous descriptions of food. It’s notable that although the plot ostensibly concerns Crane’s efforts to woo Katrina, Irving’s most vivid passages are about her father’s table – and not the girl herself (although even she is described as desirably “plump,” as though she would look good beside the turkey on a platter). Vegetarians must hate this story.
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