Anecdotes about famous authors who relied on friends, patrons, and the kindness of restaurateurs for their next meal (and their next drink) are part of the lore and mystique of being a writer. These acts of kindness by patrons or charm by the authors allowed the writers to focus on their craft — move beyond their empty bellies and finish their masterpiece. But what if those great writers hadn't been able to get over that pressing hunger? What if some of the great novelists just generally had shifted their focus 45 degrees over so that all they could think of was food?
Consider American Book Review's 100 Best First Lines from Novels and shift the focus to food. It provides some fun results. Take Nabokov's opening line from Lolita, "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loin," and imagine him obsessed with Tex-Mex, "Fajita, light of my life, fire my sirloins." Or the first line from Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, "I am an invisible man," and refocus it on food: "My ham is divisible, man."
Okay, so some are a stretch — more quasi-homonym than anything. Still, you can come up with a few gems playing this game with some of the easiest of the first 50 best first lines from the American Book Review. Below are original first lines of ten famous novels followed by the 'hungry' versions. Can you do better? Take a stab in the comments below.
Original Line from Melville's Moby Dick: "Call me Ishmael."
Moby Dick, Nose to Tail: "Caul fat and fish meal."
Original Line from Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye: "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like..."
The Catsup on the Rye Bread Yelp.com Post: "If you really want to hear about my bad meal, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was eating, and what my lousy entrée was like…"
Original Line from Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..."
A Tale of Twin Cities Dining: "It was the best of thymes, it was the wurst of times, it was the age of cheese Wiz-dom, it was the age of Danishes…"
Original Line from Kafka's The Trial: "Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested"
The Trial, Biggest Loser Season 12: “Someone must have slathered butter while on Jenny Craig, for this morning, without having eaten anything truly wrong, the scale was busted.”
Original Line From Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler.: "You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler."
Zagat’s If on a winter's night a traveler can get a reservation.: "You are about to begin eating Italian at Maialino's new novel Gramercy location, If on a winter's night a traveler can get a reservation."
Original Line from Bulwer-Lytton's Paul Clifford: "It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets..."
Paul Clifford, Mixologist: "It was a Dark and Stormy cocktail; the ginger beer poured in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent swig of Gosling's Black Seal..."
Original Line from Cervantes' Don Quixote: "Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance…”
Don't Eat Huitlacoche: "Something a la plancha, in a tapas place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman served to me not long ago, one of those dishes on which you take a chance..."