Saturday, June 14, 2008

Harry Eats

Everything about Harry Potter seems unforgettable -- except there's so much of it that it's hard to keep track. In the first book, the contrast between what he ate at the Dursleys' -- where he was fed on rejects -- and the more-than-life-size introductory feast at Hogwarts doesn't recede into the huge cauldron of Harry Potter details that only a kid could recall. I love the way that every possible favorite food magically appears. Sometimes I wonder why all the pumpkin juice -- but of course they ARE witches, so something has to be different, and Halloween means a lot to them.

In the second and third books, the magical Hogwarts feasts continue, but the descriptions become more cursory -- sometimes we just hear that the food appeared, and was delicious. In the fourth volume, there are some new food themes: Dudley's grapefruit diet, and Mrs.Weasley's amazing magic cooking techniques. Not to mention the role of house elves.

The Weasley's loving family life centers around Mrs. Weasley, and Harry sees her as the most extreme of contrasts to his awful Aunt Petunia. When she disapproves of something they do, you can always tell she's trying to protect and correct them out of affection, not spite like the Dursleys.

In the first scene at the Weasley's house, Harry watches Mrs. Weasley's magic cooking techniques, while we readers learn quickly of the superiority of wizard housekeeping. Mrs. Weasley points her wand "a little more vigorously than she had intended at a pile of potatoes in the sink, which shot out of their skins so fast that they ricocheted off the walls and ceilings."

She then points the wand at a dustpan, "which hopped off the side and started skating across the floor, scooping up the potatoes. ... She slammed a large copper saucepan down on the kitchen table and began to wave her wand around inside it. A creamy sauce poured from the wand tip as she stirred." She lights the fire under the pan with the wand, and then "jabbed her wand at the cutlery drawer, which shot open... several knives soared out of it, flew across the kitchen and began chopping the potatoes, which had just been tipped back into the sink by the dustpan." We've seen her clean pots and pans in the sink with a flick of the wand as well. Magic!

What a difference from life with the Dursleys. Just before he went to the Weasley's Harry ate breakfast with his aunt, his uncle, and Dudley, who is both fat and terribly spoiled by his parents. Becoming a horrible bully and school failure, Dudley also had "reached roughly the size and weight of a young killer whale."

After hearing from the school, Dudley's mother had finally acknowledged his fatness, and had taped the diet recommendations of his school nurse to the refrigerator, "which had been emptied of all Dudley's favourite things -- fizzy drinks and cakes, chocolate bars and burgers -- and filled instead with fruit and vegetables and the sorts of thin gs that Uncle Vernon called 'rabbit food'. To make Dudley feel better about it all, Aunt Petunia had insisted that the whole family follow the diet too." For breakfast, he gets a quarter of a grapefruit -- just a little bigger than Harry's portion. By now, though, Harry has his own food supplies under the floorboards of his bedroom; he's no longer the persecuted child of the first book.

This sounds exactly like what this week's Time magazine says you should do to keep kids from succumbing to the obesity epidemic. Change the whole family's habits. Keep the bad stuff out of the house. Oh, wait. Here's what else Time says: "Does dieting even work for kids? Many clinicians say no. 'We actually find that children who diet gain more weight than their peers.'"

Authorities cited in Time seem to agree: "It's not just that kids who diet tend to gain back the weight later; it's that dieting brings up all sorts of unbidden psychological responses that sabotage the process." And the Dursleys are the ultimate indulgent parents who wreck their kids' personality, aren't they? A textbook case.

I'm enjoying rereading the Harry Potter books. Too bad I'll never get all the details straight!


Jen said...

I love the fact that in the HP books, many of the "feasts" focus on nourishing, nutritious food. Bowls of steaming carrots are described with the same alacrity as pumpkin juice.

That's the way to steer kids in the right direction, IMHO.

Mae Travels said...

Well, they like anything orange -- as well as big roast meat dishes and incredible lists of English puddings. Wouldn't hurt any kid!

Tina said...

What a wonderful post! I'm certainly going to pout this link when I do my roundup for Food 'n Flix.