Gosh, it’s World Book Day! Pour yourself some raspberry pop and have a sardine sandwich to celebrate
There's nothing like World Book Day to make you hungry for nostalgia, and there's nothing like an Enid Blyton book to make you hungry, full stop.
Whether it’s the hearty, farm-fresh meals that fuelled the Famous Five’s precocious crime fighting, the girls of Mallory Towers tucking into a post-hockey tea, or the magical "Google buns" that were eaten round the Faraway Tree many decades before a certain search engine was invented, Enid Blyton’s characters loved their food like nothing else.
While there’s plenty about her iconic books that seems dated 70 years on, Blyton’s greedy descriptions are still as appetising today as they were back in the days of tongue sandwiches and powdered egg.
Here’s how to recreate that magic in honour of World Book Day – or you know, just any day you fancy eating luncheon meat and plums in a haunted wood.
Have a midnight feast!
"Matron: 'If you will feast on pork-pies and sardines, chocolate and ginger-beer in the middle of the night, you can expect a dose of medicine from me the next day'."
When it came to salty/sweet combinations, the boarders at St Clare's and Malory Towers were decades ahead of the rest of us. To achieve the height of midnight feasting, your midnight feast should feature something along the lines of: sardines, marmalade, radishes and fruit cake. Erm.
Follow the rules: 1) you must pretend this combination is entirely delicious. Try saying things like “sardines and marmalade, oh goody!” and “I say, Aunt Dorothy is a brick for sending it,” to convince yourself if you’re struggling.
And 2) you can’t simply stay up to eat it at midnight – you need to go to bed first and set an alarm, or better yet have a mischievous friend wake you. Sshh, in case the prefects hear.
Bake some ‘pop biscuits’
“As soon as you bit into them they went pop! and you suddenly found your mouth filled with new honey from the middle of the little cakes. Frannie took seven, one after the other, for she was rather greedy.“
And wouldn’t we all be? The children in The Folk of the Faraway Tree got in as much of a tizzy over these honey-centred snacks as we do about molten salted caramel today. Try this recipe from Monday Morning Cook Club, or hack your way to pop biscuit perfection by just sandwiching honey between two digestives. What? Don’t blame us, blame Moon-Face and the Saucepan Man.
Get really excited about generic salad vegetables
"Crisp lettuces, dewy and cool, and red radishes were side by side in a big glass dish."
These days we’re spoiled with our rainbow chard and our braised radicchio, but nobody could appreciate a wodge of plain old lettuce quite like The Famous Five.
No Happy Meals for these guys. Oh no. On one adventure they tucked into "dewy and cool” lettuces with the kind of enthusiasm we'd only muster for a pulled pork taco, while on another they got worked up over a salad of “lettuce, tomatoes, onions, radishes, mustard and cress, carrot grated up … and lashings of hard-boiled eggs.” With a feast like that in your crisper drawer, why would you ever look twice at kale?
Put butter on everything
"I never thought I’d like hot scones on a summer’s day, but these look heavenly. Running with butter! Just how I like them!"
Margarine was a dirty word in Enid Blyton’s world, and low cholesterol olive spread wasn’t a thing, so spread butter like you’ve never even heard of rationing. Buttered rolls, buttered scones, buttered fruit cake… buttered cheese…
If you can hear the faint mooing of a dairy cow in the distance while you do it, even better.
Drink ginger beer, obviously
"Ginger beer is a gorgeous drink – it seems to go with simply everything."
No Blyton-inspired feast would be complete without everyone’s favourite pseudo-alcoholic sugar fix, ginger beer. Brew your own homemade version for extra authenticity, or mix up a cocktail with optional vodka (best for after you’ve unmasked the villain, found the hidden treasure and climbed out of the smugglers’ cove).
Or, once your teeth start aching, try putting it in your dinner instead. This roast leg of lamb with ginger beer recipe is almost definitely what George, Anne, Dick and Julian’s kids would serve if they had grown up to open a gastropub in the Cotswolds.
Rediscover anchovy toast
"'Oh, dear – don't you know what anchovy toast is?' sighed Angela. 'Well, you make ordinary buttered toast – and for goodness' sake toast the bread before you put the butter on – then you spread it with anchovy paste.'"
The ultimate teatime treat for discerning prefects, toast and anchovy paste had a starring role in the St Clare’s series – but in recent times the salty spread has been usurped by less controversial things like… er, Marmite?
Make afternoon tea like a first-rate boarder by accessorising your pile of hot buttered toast with a pot of Patum Peperium Gentleman’s Relish, and be careful nobody swaps it for boot polish while you’re not looking.
Have lashings of everything
"Cookie had made a tremendous steamed pudding, with lashings of treacle, which was, as usual, a huge success."
Bring back the Famous Five’s favourite adjective, but just don’t use it for fizzy pop – contrary to popular myth, the phrase "lashings of ginger beer" never actually appeared in any of the 21 books. We know, we know. Your whole childhood was a lie.
The adventurous quintet did, however, eat “lashings of boiled eggs” and “lashings of treacle”, as well as worrying about “lashings of poisonous snakes” on their caravan holiday (they didn’t eat the snakes). Try making “lashings!” your new response to questions like “How much cheesecake would you like?”, “Did you remember to buy kitchen roll?” and “Exactly how many of my chocolate Hobnobs did you eat?”, and just watch how adorable everybody finds it.
Eat everything sat on a picnic blanket
Or if you don’t have a picnic blanket, try sitting on any of the following: a beach, a rowing boat, a horse, a bunk bed, a bicycle, a sturdy tree branch, around a campfire or perched on a big, smooth rock.
But not a chair. Never a chair.