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Nineteen of Roald Dahl’s Most Important Food Inventions

Beyond gold-wrapped chocolate bars.

In his work, Roald Dahl routinely maligned gluttony and gullet-stuffing. In his life, however, he was admittedly something of a pig. “More than 100 suppers, not to mention lunches, are devoured [at home] with gusto every week of the year,” Dahl writes in Memories with Food at Gipsy House, a cookbook he published with his second wife Felicity. “We are all pigs, but we are, I hope, discerning pigs who care with some passion about fine cooking.”

Dahl, the author best known for his fantastical, magical children’s books, made food (whether real or imagined) a central focal point—not just a colorful afterthought—in the majority of his work.

There’s the trio of famers—cider-loving, chicken-loving, and goose-fat doughnut-loving—who are constantly outwitted by a cunning subterranean hero in Fantastic Mr. Fox. There are the grotesque Twits, one of whom traps hunks of food in his beard and the other who serves up “wormy” spaghetti. And, of course, there’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which fueled the sugar-rush dreams of kids everywhere, gave us Gene Wilder in his trippiest role, and spawned, eventually, an honest-to-goodness Wonka candy company.

Many of Dahl’s creations found their way into reality as part of 1994’s Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes, a cookbook for children that allowed these literary treats with tongue-twisters to leap off the page. As part of a book report I did in third grade, I made one of the book’s recipes—a mashed potato-based replica of Mr. Twit’s face—which ended up feeling more like a baby version of Close Encounters of the Third Kind than anything recognizably human.

Despite that inauspicious beginning, I never lost my love for Dahl’s culinary imagination. Below are what I think are nineteen of Dahl’s most luminous food inventions, ranked by both their creativity and their importance to the Dahl canon. Some dishes are very real—gjetost, for instance—and others are, well, not quite based in reality. Also included? A few imagined tasting notes, just for kicks.  

19. Bruce Bogtrotter’s Chocolate Cake
As seen in: Matilda, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes

Imagined tasting notes: A give and take between chocolatey gluttony and a sugar coma.

The Trunchbull was not a person who would give someone a whole chocolate cake to eat just out of kindness. Many were guessing that it had been filled with pepper or castor-oil or some other foul-tasting substance that would make the boy violently sick. It might even be arsenic and he would be dead in ten seconds flat.

18. Green Pea Soup

As seen in: The Witches, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes

Imagined tasting notes: Creamy and earthy, with a hint of mouse droppings.

“Good evening, madam,” he said to my grandmother. “Where is the little gentleman tonight?”

“He’s not feeling very well,” my grandmother said. “He’s staying in his room.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” William said. “Today, there is green-pea soup to start with, and for the main course you have a choice of either grilled fillet of sole or roast lamb.”

“Pea soup and lamb for me, please,” my grandmother said. “But don’t hurry it, William. I’m in no rush tonight. In fact, you can bring me a glass of dry sherry first.”

17. Liquorice Bootlaces
As seen in: Boy
Imagined tasting notes:
Rat’s blood and fennel.

One of the other boys, whose name was Thwaites, told me I should never eat liquorice bootlaces. Thwaites’s father, who was a doctor, had said that they were made from rats’ blood.

16. Birgit Svenson’s Eggs
As seen in: The Witches
Imagined tasting notes: Yolky and the size of peacock eggs, with a residual, bubblegum-esque chew.

“The third one was little Birgit Svenson,” my grandmother said. “She lived just across the road from us. One day she started growing feathers all over her body. Within a month, she had turned into a large white chicken. He parents kept her for years in a pen in the garden. She even laid eggs.”

“What colour eggs?” I said.

“Brown ones,” my grandmother said. “Biggest eggs I’ve ever seen in my life. Her mother made omelettes out of them. Delicious they were.”

15. Glumptious Globgobblers

As seen in: The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me
Imagined tasting notes: A gushing free-for-all.

To the Giraffe I gave a bag of Glumptious Globgobblers. The Globgobbler is an especially delicious sweet that is made somewhere near Mecca, and the moment you bite into it, all the perfumed juices of Arabia go squirting down your gullet one after the other.

14. Doc Spencer’s Pie

As seen in:
Danny, Champion of the World, Roald Dahl’s Even More Revolting Recipes
Imagined tasting notes: Buttery, flaky crust with a riot of savory textures and flavors.

Very carefully, I now began to unwrap the waxed paper from around the doctor’s present, and when I had finished, I saw before me the most enormous and beautiful pie in the world. It was covered all over, top, sides, and bottom, with rich golden pastry. I took a knife from beside the sink and cut out a wedge. I started to eat it in my fingers, standing up. It was a cold meat pie. The meat was pink and tender with no fat or gristle in it, and there were hard-boiled eggs buried like treasures in several different places. The taste was absolutely fabulous. When I had finished the first slice I cut another and ate that, too. God bless Doctor Spencer, I thought.

13. Sugary Baby Birds
As seen in:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Imagined tasting notes:
The presentation is a showman’s dream, but the sugary mini-bird is a little one-note.

“And, by a most secret method, [Mr. Wonka] can make lovely blue birds’ eggs with black spots on them, and when you put one of these in your mouth, it gradually gets smaller and smaller until suddenly there is nothing left except a tiny little pink sugary baby bird sitting on the tip of your tongue.”

12. Bean’s Cider
As seen in: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Imagined tasting notes: Like the fire of seven hundred hells, in a good way.

Bean was a turkey-and-apple farmer. He kept thousands of turkeys in an orchard full of apple trees. He never ate any food at all. Instead, he drank gallons of strong cider which he made from the apples in his orchard. He was thin as a pencil and the cleverest of them all.

11. Exploding Candy for Your Enemies
As seen in: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Imagined tasting notes: The sweetness of revenge.

Quickly, Charlie started reading some of the labels alongside the buttons.
‘The rock-candy mine—10,000 feet deep,’ it said on one.
‘Cokernut-ice skating rinks,’ it said on another.
Then…’Strawberry-juice water pistols.’
‘Toffee-apple trees for planting in your garden—all sizes.’
‘Exploding candy for your enemies.’
‘Luminous lollies for eating in bed at night.’

10. Bunce’s Goose-Liver-Filled Donuts
As seen in:
Fantastic Mr. Fox, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes
Imagined tasting notes: The liver to donut ratio is wholly out of proportion. This probably won’t be the next novelty pastry craze.

Bunce was a duck-and-goose farmer. He kept thousands of ducks and geese. He was a kind of pot-bellied dwarf. He was so short his chin would have been underwater in the shallow end of any swimming-pool in the world. His food was doughnuts and goose-livers. He mashed the livers into a disgusting paste and then stuffed the paste into the doughnuts. This diet gave him a tummy-ache and a beastly temper.

9. Grobs-witchy Cake
As seen in: The BFG
Imagined tasting notes:
Just like eating your feelings.

“It is a little bit like mixing a cake,” the BFG said. “If you is putting the right amounts of all the different things into it, you is making the cake come out any way you want, sugary, splongy, curranty, Christmassy or grobs-witchy. It is the same with dreams.”

8. Fizzwinkles

As seen in:
The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me
Imagined tasting notes: These aggressively-carbonated bad boys will shoot straight out your nose.

Then the sweets and chocs and toffees and fudges and nougats began pouring in to fill the shelves. They came by aeroplane from every country in the world, the most wild and wondrous things you could ever imagine.

There were Gumtwizzlers and Fizzwinkles from China…

7. Hot Noodles Made from Poodles
As seen in:
James and the Giant Peach
Imagined tasting notes:
Delicately textured with notes of garden hose and just enough Texas roadkill funk.

For dinner on my birthday shall I tell you what I chose:
Hot noodles made from poodles on a slice of garden hose—
And a rather smelly jelly
Made of armadillo’s toes.
(The jelly is delicious, but you have to hold your nose.)

6. Gjetost
As seen in:
Boy
Imagined tasting notes:
As smooth as a Hall & Oates refrain.

There were stewed apricots and five or six different cheeses including of course the ever-present gjetost, that tall brown rather sweet Norwegian goat’s cheese which you find on just about every table in the land.

5. Fresh Mudburgers
As seen in: James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes

Imagined tasting notes: There’s a lot going on in this burger—fewer ingredients would likely make the flavor less muddy.

I’ve eaten fresh mudburgers by the greatest cooks there are,
And scrambled dregs and stinkbugs’ eggs and hornets stewed in tar,
And pails of snails and lizards’ tails,
And beetles by the jar.
(A beetle is improved by just a splash of vinegar.)

4. Humans (aka “Human beans”)
As seen in:
The BFG
Imagined tasting notes: According to The BFG, “Some is scrumdiddlyumptious and some is uckyslush.”

“The human bean,” the Giant went on, “is coming in dillions of different flavors. For instance, human beans from Wales is tasting very whooshey of fish. There is something very fishy about Wales.”

“You mean whales,” Sophie said. “Wales is something quite different.”

“Wales is whales,” the Giant said. “Don’t gobblefunk around with words. I will now give you another example. Human beans from Jersey has a most disgustable woolly tickle on the tongue,” the Giant said. “Human beans from Jersey is tasting of cardigans.”

3. Mr. Twit’s Beard Food

As seen in:
The Twits, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes
Imagined tasting notes: Decaying, putrid scraps with few redeemable qualities besides a mild fermented bite.

Mr. Twit didn’t even bother to open his mouth wide when he ate. As a result (and because he never washed) there were always hundreds of bits of old breakfasts and lunches and suppers sticking to the hairs around his face. If you looked closely (not that you’d ever want to) you would see tiny little specks of dried-up scrambled eggs stuck to the hairs, and spinach and tomato ketchup and fish fingers and minced chicken livers and all the other disgusting things Mr. Twit liked to eat.

2. Snozzcumbers
As seen in:
The BFG, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes
Imagined tasting notes: A challenging nodular texture and surprisingly mushy, frogskin-like insides.

“I will now show you a snozzcumber.”

The BFG flung open a massive cupboard and took out the weirdest-looking thing Sophie had ever seen. It was about half as long as an ordinary man but was much thicker. It was as thick around in its girth as a perambulator. It was black with white stripes along its length, and it was covered with coarse knobbles.

1. Fizzy Lifting Drink
As seen in: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Imagined tasting notes: Effervescent and honeyed, but so burp-inducing it ought not be consumed in public.

FIZZY LIFTING DRINKS, it said on the next door.

“Oh, those are fabulous!” Cried Mr. Wonka. “They fill you with bubbles, and the bubbles are full of a special kind of gas, and this gas is so terrifically lifting that it lifts you right off the ground just like a balloon, and up you go until your head hits the ceiling—and there you stay.”