“How does the petit bourgeois Bilbo Baggins have enough seedy-cake and so forth stockpiled in his pantry to feed twelve hungry dwarves?”
Depictions of food in classic children’s literature can be wonderfully rich and evocative, conjuring up an imaginative world. Revisiting these books as an adult, however, can bring to light certain concerns about that food’s production that might have flown over one’s eight year old head. Consider The Hobbit, for instance. How does the petit bourgeois Bilbo Baggins have enough seedy-cake and so forth stockpiled in his pantry to feed twelve hungry dwarves? He lives alone, and doesn’t have access to modern refrigerators or freezers. How much of that food would have been thrown away? Does he have a cook, or other servants? Where does his money come from, since he doesn’t appear to work for a living? Does hobbit society have banks? Is Bilbo a landlord? Why do the Famous Five subsist entirely on ginger pop and cow tongue? When are the Oompa-Loompas going to unionise? Why does everyone sneer at Hermione’s valiant efforts to free the house-elves from a life of indentured servitude? Why do so many children’s books depend on slavery to make their plots work? And what was really in that Turkish Delight?