What Is CanLit’s Most Famous Turning Point Meal?

Readers often refer to turning points in literature—those plot developments that alter a character’s situation or fortune. But how does food play a role or set the stage for these moments?

When we peruse some of the most famous works of literature, a number of “turning point meals” quickly come to mind. Think of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist (1837) when the young orphan dares to ask the master of the workhouse for more gruel. Or consider Marcel Proust’s sudden rush memories when tasting a madeleine in In Search of Lost Time (1909-1922).

Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist

Canadian Literary Fare has explored a number of “turning point meals” in a past series of posts by highlighting key scenes that mark a change in the plot and a character’s transformation.

Now we’d like to turn this question over to you…

What is the most famous turning point meal in Canadian literature?

Please post your answers on our blog!


Chinatown Ghosts

Turning point meals are filled with possibility.

They have the potential to change characters’ circumstances and to shift their perspectives. Sometimes, these meals even move beyond the confines of a specific text and work to reshape the larger literary landscape and the country’s cultural fabric.

Jim Wong-Chu’s book of poetry Chinatown Ghosts, which was first published in 1986, is teeming with food narratives and meals that mark a significant turning point in Canadian literature. These poems and Wong-Chu’s other literary work—as a founding member of the Asian Canadian Writers Workshop and a co-creator of the first Asian Canadian literary anthology in 1979 (Inalienable Rice: A Chinese and Japanese Canadian Anthology)—helped to foster an Asian-Canadian writing tradition (Kamboureli 315; Chao ix).
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Apple or Cherry Pie

As Shelley pointed out in her introduction to our latest series over on The CanLitFare Blog, “Turning Point Meals” can alert us to a change in character – or rather, to a character’s changing relationship to the world in which s/he lives.


“Wild Turkeys” from Beth Brant’s short story collection, Food and Spirits gives us Violet, and apple pie.

On her way home from a visit with her grandmother – the first in a long while – Violet makes a pit stop in purported Turkey capital of Michigan, Fairview, at Rita’s Diner. She has two hours left of driving and she could use a coffee. She’s been here before. She used to live nearby . . . with an abusive husband . . . until she left.
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What Are Turning Point Meals?

Readers often refer to turning points in literary texts as those moments and plot developments that alter a character’s situation or fortune. When grappling with history, we also debate what constitutes a turning point, such as a major event or a larger societal transformation.

This fall season, the Canadian Literary Fare team will explore “turning point meals” — key scenes that mark, respond to, or prompt a notable change happening within the text and often outside of it. What kinds of food-related events will we discover? How do these turning points change over time?  Let’s begin with a more recent turning point.

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