Every bookworm would have had their starting point somewhere; for many other readers and me, that was Enid Blyton. The memory of reading my first Enid Blyton book is still fresh in my mind. My mom had just bought me a Famous Five book, and being a budding reader, I delved into the book with great enthusiasm. This book opened up a new world, one I had not experienced until then. That Famous Five book became the first of many until I was firmly situated in the Enid Blyton books lover camp. I voraciously read through all the books in the series and then went on to complete the other series (which seemed inexhaustible to my younger self). The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, The Five Find-Outers and Dog, The Adventure, The Secret of, The Naughtiest Girl, Malory Towers, St. Clare’s, and so on, with a determination that would have made my school teachers green with envy.
Best Enid Blyton Books… And The Best Food!
I remember reading in astonishment and slight jealousy as kids who were close to my age went on adventures, faced new dangers, solved mysteries, and generally lived their best life. But the one thing that I was really envious of was the food. Enid Blyton’s books are only truly complete if they feature myriad descriptions of food written in the most enticing way possible. As a child, most of these food names were not a part of my lexicon, yet they could make me salivate at their mere mention. I would make up my own idea of what that particular item was supposed to be and feel content with that, and for that, I had to depend on my imagination before the age of the widespread internet. I read and reread pages of these books only to get to the part with the exciting mentions of delicious tidbits. They had such an impact during my growing years that even now, years later, when I think back on those books, it is not the adventures or mysteries that first spring to mind but the mouthwatering menus featured in them.
In this article, I will go down nostalgia lane and relive the gastronomical exploits of the Enid Blyton characters and group them into different categories. A fair bit of warning ahead, this article might make you ravenously hungry, so keep some munchies at hand for those inevitable hunger pangs (I speak from experience). Bon appetit, and continue scrolling!
Hearty Breakfast Fit For The Kings
The day’s first and most important meal deserves a special mention in an article dedicated to Enid Blyton’s literary, culinary masterpiece. Every young adventurer requires the requisite nutrition before embarking on new quests, so they start their day with a big hearty breakfast that can feed an army instead of just a handful of kids. There are usually eggs (served fried, runny, or hard-boiled), bacon, sausages, ham, and chicken. Porridge served with cream or honey, thick slices of freshly baked bread (toasted, buttered), spread with jam (primarily homemade), honey, or marmalade. Fried mushrooms, tomatoes, boiled spinach. Home-made or cream cheese, and some fruits (usually raspberries and strawberries) with cream, cold puddings (rice or milk), and lastly, fresh creamy milk to be drunk as is or to make coffee, tea, or cocoa.
Breakfast commonly appears in all of Blyton’s books, but some of my favorites are from The Famous Five, The Mystery, The Adventure, and The Secret series. I will show an excerpt from The Mountain of Adventure book to showcase the kind of hearty breakfasts the Blyton protagonists used to indulge in. “A great ham ready to be carved, a big tongue garnished with bright green parsley. An enormous salad with hard-boiled eggs. Two cold roast chickens, and little curly bits of bacon, tomatoes. Scones and cakes. Jams and golden honey. Jugs of creamy milk, cereal along with big bowls of raspberries, and finally cream cheese!”. After polishing off this incredible meal, I wonder how they manage to do any sleuthing, let alone find the appetite to eat three or four meals apart from this! No wonder those kids always went on hikes, cycling, or running around the countryside! You can get the book here! 📖
Mid-Morning Munchies, aka The Elevenses
The elevenses is a short snack break between breakfast and lunch. It is typically held at eleven o’clock, hence the inspired name. The elevenses is more or less a light snack (or whatever is considered “light” in the Blytonian world). Generally, it consists of buns, biscuits, ice creams, coffee, tea, lemonade, or ginger pop. The elevenses is most commonly present in only the Secret Seven and the Mystery series.
In the Secret Seven books, the seven secret club members hold confidential meetings in a shed belonging to two of their members, Peter and Janet. They talk about the latest mysteries that are taking place near them. And discussing mysteries is so much better while munching on food, hence the elevenses. In the book Good Old Secret Seven, they have hot cocoa, a tin full of currant buns, some homemade macaroons, lemonade, biscuits, and a jam tart each. Sometimes they nibble on sweets and candies, instead of something slightly more substantial, like sticks of toffees, peppermint drops, barley sugars, nougats, boiled sugar sweets, liquorice, and humbugs. I shudder to think of the sugar high they must have experienced. You can get the book here! 📖
Lovely Lazy Afternoon Lunches
Lunch is more or less an informal affair in the Blytonian world. This meal is most commonly sandwiched (food pun intended!) between the eleven o’clock elevenses and the afternoon high tea. These meals are either had at home or as a picnic while hot on the footsteps of a new escapade. When the kids are at home or in the presence of capable adults, they have a structured meal. It consists of soups (peas, tomato, chicken) and stew (chicken, rabbit), cold meat cuts, and pies (chicken, pork, ham, farmhouse, vegetable). Potatoes in their jackets served with parsley or fried tomatoes, salads with fresh and pickled vegetables (radish, beetroot, onion), and for dessert, either cakes, puddings or tarts, and lemonade or milk to quench the thirst. When the kids are off on their own, the meals are more unstructured and an eclectic mix, consisting of sandwiches, salads, tarts, cakes, biscuits, chocolates, fruits, and a lot of lemonade, orangeade, or ginger beer to wash it all down.
The book, Five on a Hike Together from the Famous Five series strikes a perfect balance between both structured and unstructured meals. The four kids, Julian, Dick, George, Anne, and their dog Timmy set off on a hike across the countryside during their half-term break. They alternate between having lunches in a farmhouse and a picnic meal while on their own. Their lunches comprise homemade meat pie, ham, tongue, hard-boiled eggs, and salad. Pickled cabbage, onions, and beetroot in vinegar. Cream cheese and raspberries with cream. And also loaves of bread, butter, potted meat, pork pie, big fruit cake, chocolate, biscuits, shortbread, and orangeade. A pretty delicious spread if you ask me! You can get the book here! 📖
High Tea Fit For Royalty
High teas are a significant affair and not something to be trifled with in the British way of life (or so Enid Blyton would have us believe). And the author does treat the meal with the respect it deserves, as evidenced by the splendid teas put forth by the characters in her books. There are numerous extravagant high teas filled with every imaginable goodie possible. Lashings of potatoes dripping with butter, drop scones with cream, salads with heaps of vegetables, and sandwiches. There are pies, tarts (cherry, strawberry, raspberry, jam, treacle), buns (currant, jammy, cherry, cream, chocolate), biscuits (gingerbread, shortcake, sugar, chocolate), macaroons, and eclairs. And also other accompaniments such as fruits, jugs filled with creamy milk or lemonade, loaves of bread, cheese, butter, honey, and jam.
A tasty example of the same can be taken from the book, Go Ahead Secret Seven of the Secret Seven series. The Secret Seven club members are Peter, Janet, Jack, Barbara, Pam, Colin, and George. They congregate at the siblings, Peter and Janet’s house for high tea and indulge in enormous jugs of hot cocoa, honey sandwiches, sardine sandwiches, and buns both buttered and jammed. New doughnuts, chocolate cake, smashing jam sponge sandwich, and a plate of mixed biscuits. I want to witness what their grocery bill would have looked like one of these days! You can get the book here! 📖
Super Smashing Suppers
Supper, or dinner as it is formally called, is the meal that rounds off the day’s meals. The suppers are generally- to use Blyton’s favorite adjectives when describing food- smashing or scrumptious. Scarcity not being a theme in the Blytonian world, the suppers are affairs of abundance (as are every other meal, to the delight of the readers). The food gets rich and heavy for the suppers. There are different kinds of meat pies (veal, ham, chicken, mince), thick soups, and stews. Meat dishes like lamb chops, roast chicken, spiced ham, and spam are served with mint sauce or gravy. Different kinds of fish (boiled, poached, fried). Sausage rolls, boiled or mashed vegetables (carrots, potatoes, peas), stewed fruits (plums, apples, peaches) with cream. Baked goods such as jammy buns, cakes, or tarts and hot cocoa to top it all off.
The Famous Five book, Five on Finniston Farm, shows an excellent example of substantial suppers. The four kids and their dog go to stay in the titular Finniston Farm, where each meal is grander than the next, despite the supposed impoverished state of their hosts. They feast on a large meat pie, home-cooked ham, fat ginger cake, a large plate of macaroons, and stewed plums with rich cream. Lastly, there is rich, creamy milk and cocoa. The mind boggles to think what the meals would have looked like had they not been on a budget! You can get the book here! 📖
The Great British Outdoors Picnic
Enid Blyton’s books have many picnics with the beautiful British countryside as the backdrop. The picnics have the honor of displaying some of the most scrumptious meals of her books. These outdoor picnics commonly occur in the Famous Five and the Adventure series. A typical outdoor picnic scene would have the kids, most likely their parents or guardians, packing an enormous feast for them. The kids then go cycling or hiking to some scenic countryside locale and find a beautiful patch of land (often someplace teeming with springy heather and a gurgling stream of water nearby) to rest and enjoy their picnic. They would then take out a tempting array of food from their rucksacks or hampers and have a delicious feast with a gorgeous view in front of them. Then they would set off on (or continue with) their adventure. The tempting picnic offerings range from delicious sandwiches (ham, chicken, egg, potted meat, bacon, cheese) and some salad (green, vegetable, hard-boiled egg, potato) with or without an accompanying dressing (mayonnaise or cream). Lots of vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes) and some meat (roast chicken, ham). Fresh fruits (apples, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, plums). Then some baked goods like cakes, tarts, and biscuits, probably some chocolate bars to nibble on. And finally, something to drink (usually lemonade and ginger beer, with orangeade mentioned sometimes). Not to forget the deliciously cool water from the waterbody nearby that quenches their myriad pets’ thirst and fills up their canteens or bottles, if any.
One of my favorite outdoor picnic menus is from The Mountain of Adventure book. In this book, the four kids, Jack, Philip, Dinah, Lucy-Ann, and not to mention their indomitable pet, Kiki, the parrot, are vacationing in the Welsh countryside near a mysterious mountain. A lot of peculiar incidents occur in the mountain’s vicinity, and the four get about to solve the mystery surrounding it. No adventure is complete without delicious food, and this book delivers it in spades. The menu for their outdoor picnic in the Welsh countryside consists of roast chicken, tender tongue, spiced ham, hard-boiled eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes, and potted meat. And also, fresh fruit and homemade lemonade that is kept cool by placing it in a nearby stream. Everything that an amateur detective needs to fuel themselves before going on adventures and solving mysteries. You can get the book here! 📖
The Not-So-Humble Farmhouse Fare
It’s impressive how the modest, countryside farmhouse folks could serve their guests with a lavish spread that was anything but humble. In my opinion, this is the true mystery of all the mysteries that make up Blyton’s books. Nevertheless, I still loved to live vicariously through the Blyton kids as I read about them polishing off those delicious farmhouse spreads that were lavish enough to serve twenty-grown people instead of just a handful of kids. Reading the expansive varying menus that the farmhouse hostess (usually a cheerful, rotund, and matronly woman) served the children, who were either staying there or passing by on their way in pursuit of a shiny new adventure, was enough to make me ravenous. Every meal in a farmhouse is fit for royalty with generous servings of meat (ham, pork, chicken, veal, potted meat). Salads made of tomatoes, onions, radishes, lettuce, potatoes, cress, carrot, mustard, and hard-boiled eggs served with salad cream or mayonnaise, all homemade. Freshly baked bread served with butter, honey, marmalade, or jam (Home-made using fruits that are available at the farmhouse). Different iterations of meat pies and sandwiches. Pickled vegetables, a selection of seasonally available fruits (stewed or served as is along with cream and sugar). Hot scones, drop scones (dripping with melted butter), and clotted cream. Home made buns (Jammy, cherry, gingerbread, cream). Big, round cakes (fruitcakes, sponge, jam, and chocolate cake). And with a smattering of puddings, macaroons, tarts, and biscuits. Not to forget thick, creamy milk in giant jugs, served with tea, coffee, or cocoa options.
My favorite farmhouse fare of all time has got to be the one in The Circus of Adventure, the seventh book in The Adventure series. In this book, Jack, Dinah, Lucy-Ann, Phillip, and Kiki, the parrot, are on a new adventure with their mysterious new friend. On their journey, they stop at a nearby farmhouse for tea and are visibly overwhelmed by the extravagant and delicious tea prepared by their gracious hostess. “Fresh ham, veal, and ham pie smothered in green parsley. Yellow butter in glass dishes. A blue jug of thick yellow cream. Honey, homemade strawberry jam. Hot scones, large fruitcake. Egg sandwiches, tea, cocoa, and creamy milk”. I have never forgotten this spread, and I cannot blame Gussy (the aforementioned mysterious friend) for trying to gobble down everything in front of him. You can get the book here! 📖
Tasty Treats on an Adventure
After another grueling school year, the children are ready to tackle an adventure or two on break. So off they go, with their bags filled to the brim with goodies, into the countryside or another country! They also have an innate ability to find food in the most unlikely (read unbelievable) places amid an intriguing adventure. This ability has helped them unearth tinned goodies from places like hidden caves, secret passages, islands, moors, etc. No matter the predicament they find themselves in, they still manage to get a good meal out of it. Ham, cheese, egg, pork, and potted meat, are used to make sandwiches. Salads filled with vegetables and hard-boiled eggs for their daily dose of protein and micronutrients. Healthy servings of tinned fruits such as pineapples, peaches, and nectarines. And not-so-healthy portions of cakes, buns, and chocolates. Then for refreshments, lemonade, and the crowd-favorite ginger beer. These meals had no set timings and were sometimes comprised of two meals at once, which led to the coining of phrases such as brunch (breakfast and lunch), and tea-sup (tea and supper).
Tea-sup occurs in the Famous Five book; Five Go to Demon’s Rocks. The five, along with their new friend Tinker and his monkey Mischief, stay in Tinker’s lighthouse. They have a late meal, which they have termed tea-sup, complete with mince pies, cherry buns, homemade macaroons, hard-boiled eggs, ginger beer, lemonade, and tea for those who want it. Lighthouses, castles, islands, valleys, caves, ships, mountains, secret passages, whatever unlikely place you name it, Blyton has found a way to incorporate a delicious meal over there. You can get the book here! 📖
Make-It-Yourself Island Meals
As mentioned above, the children don’t miss an opportunity to find themselves in some quandary or another. Some of Blyton’s favorite methods of sticking her protagonists in the middle of a situation is to make them get stuck on an island. Sometimes, the kids decide to live on an island to escape from the evil adults. Case in point, the Famous Five book, Five Run Away Together, and the book from the Secret series, The Secret Island. I loved reading and rereading these two books when I was younger; as someone who had a sheltered childhood, it helped me to realize my dream of being independent vicariously through them. In the Famous Five book, the kids, along with their dog, run away together to their island to escape their evil housekeeper and her family. They swipe the pantry, taking a pile of food such as tins of cakes, meats, vegetables, fruits, milk (condensed and regular), biscuits, chocolates, and cocoa powder. They also bought other necessities like freshly baked loaves of bread, ginger pop, lemonade, and eggs from the village bakery before setting off on their little adventure. They make their own meals on the island at their leisure, a mishmash of items in their stock. For example, ham, bread, pickles, and marmalade for breakfast, biscuits with sardines, and tinned peaches for lunch washed down with ginger beer. And more such nonsensical but delectable meals.
Likewise, in The Secret Island book, the children Mike, Nora, Peggy, and Jack run away to an island to escape from their cruel guardians. They make themselves at home and fend for themselves in true castaway fashion. The clever kids set up their own source of sustenance by planting runner beans, radishes, lettuce, carrots, mustard, cress, potatoes, and mushrooms. They bring in their hens and a cow from their farms to get a daily supply of milk and eggs. They hunt the abundant fish in the lake surrounding the island and the rabbits on the island. And finally, make use of the island’s strawberry, raspberry, blackberry bushes and hazelnut trees. They make excellent meals of boiled eggs, mashed potatoes, rabbit pie, fried mushrooms, and fish. Salads made from cress, mustard, radish, lettuce, and carrots. Fresh fruits like raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries with cream. Cold rice puddings, milk, cocoa, and hazelnuts to munch on. To summarize, these kids are not ordinary, and I was always in awe of their life skills! You can get the books here: Five Run Away Together | The Secret Island 📚
Quaint Little Countryside Cafe
I like it when the quaint little cafes in the countryside are brought up in these books. It gives a slice of life back then and slightly moves away from the homemade fares that make up most of the books. The Blyton kids come across many of these cafes, dairies, ice cream shops, and bakeries and have tea or elevenses between their quests. This mostly happens in The Famous Five and The Mystery series. Typically the five find-outers from the Mystery series are more urban and spend most of their meals in cafes and bakeries; hence the quaint little cafe features more in their books. There are all kinds of pastries, ice creams, refreshing drinks, and yummy sandwiches for the ever-hungry young sleuths.
In the book, The Mystery of the Missing Man, the five find-outers, Fatty, Larry, Daisy, Pip, Bets, and their dog Buster, get a new acquaintance, Eunice. They go to a posh cafe to indulge in plates of currant buns with butter, easter eggs, chocolate eclairs, and gingerbread biscuits. And also scones, cream cakes, buttered toast, cups of coffee, and frothy drinking chocolate. Throughout the book, they also find the time to go to a dairy shop and enjoy ice cream. It’s a wonder that the characters, except Fatty, managed to stay in shape! You can get the book here!
I believe that the children from Blyton’s school series, such as The Malory Towers, St. Clare’s, and The Naughtiest Girl, love to go to their school because of the decadent feasts served there and for no other reason. The opportunity for feasts at these schools is almost never-ending. There are back-to-school suppers, last-day lunches, picnic tea, midnight feasts, half-term tea, common room tea, tuck boxes, and birthday feasts. The girls usually bring tuck boxes at the start of the school term, filled with treats to be shared with all the students in their form. The tuck boxes contain cakes, buns, tarts, biscuits, macaroons, and eclairs. Then there is the grand first-day supper with thick slices of bread spread with potted meat, ham, and butter. Chicken, cheese, and sausage rolls. Jammy or chocolate buns. Pots of golden honey, marmalade, and jam. Milk to be mixed with coffee, tea, or milky cocoa. Then there is the tea- either taken at the dining hall, common room, or their studies (for higher forms)- which includes cakes and sandwiches. Bread, butter, and jam. Chocolate, ginger, sugar, or jammy biscuits—lemonade, ginger beer, tea, and coffee.
The breakfasts were more spartan than the laden affairs of the supper and various feasts. Usually, some porridge with cream or honey. Toast with butter, jam, or marmalade, and eggs. Tea and coffee to drink. When the weather is glorious, the staff arrange a splendid picnic for their hard-working students filled with their favorite eatables- sandwiches, crisps, sausage rolls, cakes, biscuits, and milkshakes: some ice cream, gallons of lemonades, and ginger beer. Then books like the First Term at Malory Towers feature lavish half-term feasts, starting with the half-term lunch. Cold chicken with pickles. Little cardboard containers full of fresh salad and mayonnaise sauce. Jam tarts and slabs of chocolate ice cream and ginger beer to wash it down. They were followed by a marvelous tea at the school, serving strawberry and cream, cream tea, buns, cakes, and biscuits, with ice creams for the visiting parents and their children. If my school spoiled us with regular meals like that, I would not have minded staying there all year long. You can get the book here!
Secret Midnight Feasts
The secret midnight feasts- a category present in the school series only- deserves a special mention. The midnight feasts were my favorite part of the school books. These were usually conducted, as the name denotes, at midnight. The lower-form girls would make up their minds to be mischievous and have fun in the form of secret midnight feats, which are against the school rules. The secrecy is half the fun, and the food is the other half. They would try to fly under the radar of the staff and prefects, providing more entertainment to the readers. These feasts usually occur on birthdays or to celebrate hard work and the end of difficult exams. The class would, as a whole, contribute to the celebrations, or the birthday girl would use her birthday money to do the same, resulting in an assortment of culinary delights. They would hide the food under their beds or in empty cabinets to avoid getting caught. Then on the day of the feast in question, they would gorge the delicious food to their heart’s content without arousing suspicion in those in charge.
The food ranges from crisps, sausage rolls, squidgy chocolate cakes, jammy buns, sandwiches, tarts, biscuits, and other kinds of tinned fruit, vegetables, and meat. In the book, Fifth Formers at St. Clare’s, the second formers planned to have a midnight feast and used the Fifth Formers’ help to hide their goodies in an old unused cupboard. The items consisted of chocolates, sugar biscuits, sardines, tinned milk, strawberry jam, tinned pineapple, ginger beer, and boxes of sweets. And these were put to good use by the second formers indeed! At times like this, I wish I had gone to a boarding school too!
Writing this almost endless list featuring the literary menu of Enid Blyton’s, made me realize that the author was a true food lover at heart. She loved food so much and did not shy away from featuring them in substantial quantities in almost all her books. Her books were meant to be a sort of escapism for the children in her time and continue to be so today, many decades over. These books are like a time capsule that showcases the popular British meals of that era. They have helped to expand the food vocabulary of children worldwide across different generations. I am not the only one to have been enamored by the depictions of food in her books, and I will say with conviction that I definitely will not be the last. And finally, many cookbooks have been written based on these books for those who like to try out new recipes and would love to give the ones in Blyton’s books a try. Namely Five Go Feasting and Jolly Good Food. I hope you go nuts using these cookbooks (food pun intended, as always!) You can get the books here: Fifth Formers of St. Clare’s | Five Go Feasting | Jolly Good Food 📚
An architect who loves to write. Her favorite past-time fluctuates between reading books and writing about what she reads. Her favorite habitats are libraries, bookstores, and old buildings, in that order. She dreams of becoming an author one day, provided she gets over a pesky affliction called procrastination.