In his fiction, Ernest Hemingway takes us on sumptuous journeys to different countries. With the eyes, ears and palate of an artist, he weaves these travel experiences into his fiction. From his early years in Oak Park, Illinois, through the tragedies of Italy, his emergence as a writer in France, the grand celebrations in Spain, the years of fishing in Key West and Cuba, and hunting in Africa, descriptions of food and drinks all enliven his fiction. His characters, though alienated from their native land, participate in the local cuisine with the knowledge of natives. Amid their epic odysseys, Hemingway’s characters find treasure and foundation in the cuisine of the lands where they find themselves adrift.
One of the major settings which had a great impact on Hemingway’s fiction was Italy. Like other American authors such as Nathanial Hawthorne, Henry James, Margaret Fuller and Edith Wharton, Hemingway fell under Italy’s spell and beauty. Italy was second only to Hemingway’s Upper Michigan in stimulating his lifelong passion for geography and for local expertise. Hemingway knew the particulars of the region of northern Italy very well, and his love extended to the cultural lore itself: the language, food, custom, architecture, paintings, music and literature (Sanderson 2006, p. 131). ‘They say everyone loves Italy once and that it is well to go through it young,’ wrote Hemingway in 1931, proclaiming his love of Italy, which became an important setting for his early stories and his two novels: A Farewell to Arms and Across the River and into the Mountains (qtd. in Comley 2006, p. 41).
Italianicity in Hemingway’s fiction is not merely the knowledge of the geography or geopolitics of a nation; it also includes everything that is Italian. Roland Barthes’s (1977) concept of Italianicity in his essay “Rhetoric of the Image” reveals a Panzani pasta advertisement showing ‘some packets of pasta, e tin, a sachet, some tomatoes, onions, peppers, a mushroom, all emerging from a half-open string bag, in yellows and greens on a red background’ (p. 48). For Barthes, Italianicity encompasses anything that is Italian, from spaghetti to painting. Similarly, Hemingway’s Italianicity and, in particular, the luxuriance with which most of his Italian stories treat Italian food is worth analyzing as, in addition to showing Hemingway’s knowledge and respect for the Italian cuisine, Italian gastronomy becomes part and parcel of the aesthetics of the Modernist text and a literary technique which broadens and deepens Hemingway’s engagement with geopolitics. In all the stories where the setting is Italian, Hemingway describes the pleasures of expatriate eating in full detail. He mentions precise names of foods and wines, knows the Italian types of restaurants and the typical courses of an Italian meal, and shows great respect for the people who work in the food business. However, Hemingway did not just endow his heroes with hearty appetites and sturdy protruding stomachs, nor is eating a merely biological behavior. Instead, the essential and necessary instances of eating invest these activities with values, whether psychological, moral or affective. The characters are influenced, changed, nourished or defined by what they eat and are affected by whoever provides their food.
One of the major characteristics of modernist fiction is the conscious attention it pays to aesthetics. The novel is no longer a copy of an external reality that the author reproduces. Modernist novelists introduced techniques to heighten the discontinuity between the text and everyday reality: distortions of temporal order; limited or unreliable narrators; often with unusual points of view; pastiches, parodies and other rhetorical devices that make the mode of representation as prominent as the things they represent. In short, ‘the modern artist no longer represents a preexisting reality but presents a new set of relations, a ‘model,’ through which to order the world anew’ (Schwartz 1985, p.102). Thus, the kinds of food depicted in Hemingway’s fiction are transformed into literary devices that the author uses to create an effect independent from simple familiarized mimetic constraint. Food in Hemingway’s fiction, therefore, is aesthesized, formalized, epiphanized, and transformed into a complex modernist rhetoric.
In the short story “In Another Country,” the use of gastronomy reveals not only the social customs of the region, but echoes the psychology of the hero and contributes to his characterization in the story. The feeling of alienation and loneliness haunts the story from beginning to end. The title exemplifies these feelings. The narrator feels alienated from the comforts of the familiar. He is an American in Italy and a patient with a serious handicap; he is also a new comer to the Italian language. The bond that links him with the other soldiers whom he identifies with ‘we’ after he starts his narration with the singular pronoun ‘I’ is the dislike and dishonesty or discourtesy of the people in the streets and satisfying their appetites at the Cova, a famous Milanese coffee shop.
Hemingway brings Italy to the fore in this story. The narrator recounts the walks through the streets of Milan to the hospital, the number of bridges that mark the possible routes, the routines of coming and going. We walk with him the streets of Milan with several wounded soldiers as they make their way to the hospital for treatment, and we feel the cold of autumn and the pleasure of the warmth of a charcoal fire when the narrator pauses to buy roasted chestnuts. The description of this Italian setting is so vivid that we are lulled into a complacency and do not realize that the story is really about bravery, courage, and death. Although in this Italian setting, there is a sense of loss and alienation, there is also, on the other hand, a sense of a romantic encounter with a very charming setting:
We were all at the hospital every afternoon, and there were different ways of walking across the town through the dusk to the hospital. Two of the ways were alongside canals, but they were long. Always, though, you crossed a bridge across a canal to enter a hospital. There was a choice of three bridges. One of them a woman sold roasted chestnuts. It was warm, standing in front of her charcoal fire, and the chestnuts were warm afterward in your pocket. (SCC 1987, p. 206)
Although the final image in the story is that of the major undergoing treatment for his ruined hand while stoically ‘looking out the window,’ the reader is also mindful of the narrator who has been so carefully observing the code hero reminiscing about the events from a point of view of a person who has outlived them. The sensual details of these ‘Italian’ passages offer a counterbalance to the sense of loss and suffering, which echoes Hemingway’s early encounter with Italy: a mixture of contrasts: romance and violence; love and war, close friendship and a complete sense of foreignness. In Italy, he plunged into the world of adulthood and learning, feeling separated and freed from the constraints of a Midwestern protestant family and a puritanical mother. Moreover, Italy also meant freedom for this Midwestern lad; a life of discovery, adventure, camaraderie and passion. Italy is the place where this young man will change and develop sexually, emotionally, and intellectually, but as in a typical bildungsroman , Hemingway’s hero has to go through these stages of experience through physical and psychological suffering and pain (Comley 2006).
Italian gastronomy in the story “Che Ti Dice La Patria?” becomes a vehicle of satire and ridicule towards Fascist Italy. The Italian title translates as: “What Do You Hear from Home?” It is an account of ten day expatriate tour of northern Italy. Despite the critics’ lack of interest in this short story, it is important nevertheless in offering historical insight into how American travel writing constructed images of ‘Italianicity’ in the 1920s. The most obvious image has to do with food and the use of cuisine to index native character. The disdain for Italian cuisine is not typical of Hemingway. However, In “Che ti Dice la Patira”, the narrator describes an unpleasant spaghetti luncheon. His unnamed narrator and his traveling companion, Guy, are struck by the lowliness of the restaurant they visit in the little village of Spezia: the kitchen and dining room are separated by nothing more than a curtain, and the waitresses have an odd habit of silhouetting their bodies in the threshold of the doorways. The narrator reminds his friends, ‘You wanted to eat some place simple’–to which Guy responds, ‘This isn’t simple. This is complicated’ (CSS 1987, p. 255). And indeed, the men soon realize that the restaurant actually fronts a whorehouse, a deception made necessary, as the narrator reports that it is because ‘Mussolini has abolished the brothels’ (CSS 1987, p. 226). The whores’ obvious lack of kitchen proficiency not only ruins the expatriates’ hope for a satisfying meal, but their attempts to sell themselves to the travelers also intrude upon the men’s fraternal good humor. ‘Spezia is my home and Italy is my country,’ one homely prostitute says, as Guy admits with unconcealed sarcasm, ‘It looks like her country’ (CSS 1987, p. 226). Later, they sit for a better meal in Sestri. While the pasta asciutta , beefsteak, and fried potatoes are filling, the restaurant lacks both heat and a restroom, again making the dining experience terrible. ‘Do you remember what we came to this country for?’ Guy asks after a waiter leads him to a nearby private residence to use the facilities. ‘Yes,’ the narrator answers, ‘but we didn’t get it’ (p. 228).
Hemingway sees a different environment than the one he envisioned in the previous stories. The negative food experience that Hemingway depicts in this story implies that Mussolini’s ascension has dampened Italy’s festive spirits. It seems that the boorishness of the Fascist mentality has infected even the most basic of local pleasures, rendering the Italy that the character previously knew ‘what we came to this country for’ a thing of the past.
Italian gastronomy also plays an important role in A Farewell to Arms (1929), the World War 1 epic of love and war. One of the most important scenes in the novel which involves the eating of a meal is when Frederic Henry is injured while he is eating a rotten meal of macaronis. The scene highlights Hemingway’s ideas about the war and constitutes one of the major themes of the novel, specifically pointing to the absurdity of war. Hemingway’s use of this shabby meal and the details and actions involved in eating it are a parody of the heroic actions of a soldier’s feats of heroism. The scene that Hemingway creates instead is absurd and lacks heroism or epic proportions. Hemingway deconstructs the popular literary convention of the protagonist facing great adversity to accomplish heroic feats of bravery. Henry Frederick’s action (having a lousy meal of macaronis) is ridiculous, pathetic, and not heroic at all. He sheds doubts on romantic ideals such as glory and bravery. The awful conditions of the meal, the dirty cheese, the lack of any utensils, and the awkwardness in eating the macaroni all show how unglamorous war is.
This is further reflected in Frederic and Catherine’s Milanese dinners at Biffis’s and the Grand Italia. In Chapter XV111 of book one, the details of the scene that Hemingway depicts are as follows:
We had a lovely time that summer……Afterward when I could get around on crutches we went to dinner at Biffi’s or the Gran Italia and sat at the tables outside on the floor of the galleria. The waiters came in and out and there were people going by and candles with shades on the tablecloths and after we decided that we liked the Gran Italia best, George, the headwaiter, served us at a table. He was a fine waiter and we let him order the meal while we looked at the people and the great galleries in the dusk, and each other. We drank dry white Capri iced in a bucket, although we tried many of the other wines, fresa, barbera and the sweet white wines. ….
One evening I was short of money and George loaned me a hundred lire. “That’s all right, Tenente,” he said. “I know how it is. I know how a man gets short. If you or the lady need money I’ve always got money.”
After dinner we walked through the galleria, past the other restaurants and the shops with their steel shutters down, and stopped at the little place where they sold sandwiches; ham and lettuce sandwiches and anchovy sandwiches made of very tiny brown glazed rolls and only as long as your finger. They were to eat in the night when you were hungry. (A Farewell to Arms 1957, p.112)
The above quotation reveals many interesting functions for the use of Italian gastronomy and important motifs that are repeated in the novel. First, the chapter is structured in a crucial time of the novel when the relationship between Catherine and Henry is growing to a full-blown idyll despite the summertime season of war. Henry’s injury detaches him from the war, and gets him closer to Catherine. Ultimately, she becomes the most important thing in his life, and the war becomes the external force that only distracts the couple from their lovemaking.
The passage also highlights the complexity of Henry’s character. Despite Henry Frederic’s naiveté in the matters of war and love, Hemingway depicts him as a savvy insider who speaks Italian fluently, knows where to stay in every city, and knows the best restaurants and places to have a splendid passegiata , very much like a native would do. Frederic is also an excellent connoisseur in wines; in fact, the wines he prefers to drink are Italian, not Spanish or French. While he is respected and well known by Italian waiters, Hemingway associates his apparent connoisseurship with emotional immaturity.
The passage also shows Hemingway’s great respect for the Italian servicemen which he shows in most of his Italian stories. Waiters, hotel owners, and operators are depicted very positively in Hemingway’s fiction. Like the Italian padrone in “Cat in the Rain”, the waiter, George, seems to be committed to his job in the way he serves his clients and wants them to be satisfied. The fact that Frederic and Catherine ‘let him order the meal while they looked at the people’ testifies to the way the clients trust the waiter, but also shows the professionalism of the waiter who knows the tastes and distastes of his clients. For example, like the padrone who plays many roles, especially in his relation to the American wife: the father figure who shelters her, the ardent lover who bows for her, and the honest serviceman who caters her every whim, George, the waiter at Gran Italia, also plays many roles in relation to Henry. He is the experienced serviceman who cares about his client’s interests and tastes, the gourmet counselor who tells his client what to eat while being a real friend who helps Frederic when in financial crisis. Hemingway endows both the padrone and George with values that belong to the mature generation of Italian men. He describes them as polite, mature, and as belonging to the older generation, not ‘the lost generation’ who do not have these values anymore.
The last paragraph in the long quote above not only shows his love of luxurious restaurants and cafés, but also demonstrates Hemingway’s love for the popular restaurants and specialties. Catherine and Frederic stop at the ‘little place where they sold sandwiches,’ either with ham and lettuce, a typical Italian sandwich that is found in nearly every snack bar, and those special ‘anchovy sandwiches made of very tiny brown glazed rolls,’ a popular snack in Italy. As Frederic says: ‘they were to eat in the night when they we were hungry’ (p. 112).
Another passage which reiterates the same motifs mentioned earlier in relation to the function of Italian food in the novel is the following from Chapter XXX1V, which depicts Henry reaching the town Stresa, where he finds Catherine Barkley in a hotel dining room with Nurse Fergson, and where Henry and Catherine will spend the night together in his hotel room. Again, the scene functions as another idyllic moment when both the lovers are reunited, and thus the tone is very romantic:
There was a big double bed, a letto matrimoniale with a satin coverlet. The hotel was very luxurious. I went down the halls, down the wide stairs, through the rooms to the bar. I knew the barman and sat on a high stool and ate salted almonds and potato chips. The martini felt cool and clean. ( A Farewell to Arms 1957, p. 244)
The same motifs are reiterated in this passage. Henry Frederic feels the comfort and familiarity with an Italian setting; the room is the setting for the reunion with Catherine, so it symbolizes their idyllic and passionate time together away from the arms and war, Henry knows the barman, and the food is great. Later, Henry eats sandwiches and drinks more martinis and says: ‘I had never tasted anything so cool and clean. They made me feel civilized. I had had too much red wine, bread, bad coffee, and grappa’ (A Farewell to Arms 1957, p. 245). The comparison between the two kinds of Italian drinks: Martini and grappa reveals the difference between the life in the war and the life away from it and near Catherine. Grappa is an Italian drink which is usually drunk after the meals, and it started as a by-product of the Italian winemaking trade. It is a rough, potent drink made with what is available. Its purpose is to get the farmers through the cold winter months. Clearly, grappa warmed Henry in the cold nights of the war even if it was not particularly tasty. In contrast, Martini is a cool appetizer drink which has become the symbol of a cool cocktail that is served in happy occasions; partying, nightlife and such. In his book Martini, Straight Up: The Classic American Cocktail, Lowell (1981) analyzes the cocktail’s symbolic potency in Western civilization and how a whole virtual mythology was created around it, mainly because of the historical and fictional figures who favored it. These include Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Nixon and the fictional James Bond. Martini created a virtual mythology, and it came to communicate many things; among these it communicates urbanity; it is a man’s drink and is optimistic (p. 24). The grappa-martini contrast parallels the change in Henry’s personality from a naïve ambulance driver who believed that he will not be killed because this was a dangerous war only for other people and that defeat is worse than fighting, to a deserted soldier who has ‘made a separate peace’ and who just wants to be reunited with Catherine. Now, he knows Catherine’s value to him and has recognized the destructiveness of the war.
As Frederic and Catherine move safely along the shores of Lake Maggiore to Switzerland, Catherine is pregnant. During the novel’s closing drama, Catherine struggles in labor all day long while Frederic is sent away from the hospital three times to eat. These attempts at meals stand in stark contrast to the idyllic splendor of their earlier feasts together in Milan. Hemingway uses the Modernist method of juxtaposition to reveal Frederick’s mental and psychological state as the tragedy of Catherine’s delivery unfolds. Catherine goes into labor in the darkness of early morning. At the hospital, she sends Frederic away to have breakfast. As the light of the day slowly emerges, he goes to a café to eat:
I walked down the empty street to the café. There was a light in the window. I went in and stood at the zinc bar and an old man served me a glass of white wine and a brioche. The brioche was yesterday’s. I dipped it in the wine and then drank a glass of coffee. (A Farewell to Arms 1957, p. 315)
After breakfast, Frederic walks back to the hospital, stopping to root through a trash can to find something for a scavenging dog, but finds nothing but a grave like pile of coffee grounds and dead flowers. At the hospital, Catherine has been moved to the delivery room and remains in labor into the early afternoon. At two o’clock, Frederick again leaves the hospital and returns to the same café for lunch: ‘the waiter brought a dish of sauerkraut with a slice of ham over the top and a sausage buried in the hot wine-soaked cabbage. I ate it and drank the beer’ (A Farewell to Arms 1957, p. 318).
As the tragedy of Catherine’s delivery unfolds, Frederic is sent to the café again. This time it is brightly lit and crowded inside. Dinner, as the two previous meals, consists of leftovers. The final meal at the café near the hospital, with the strange taste of eggs and beer, and the unfriendly clientele, sets the tone for Frederic’s hurried return to Catherine. Hemingway has taken us through this ordeal, a day on the clock but the suffering of a lifetime, and engaged us through the otherwise benign act of eating. The juxtaposed scenes where Frederic visits the café nearby enhance the moment of crises and portray clearly the deterioration of Catherine’s health which leads to her death. Thus, food and drink become important codes signifying the mood and psychology of the protagonists.
Similar to Frederic, Colonel Richard Cantwell, a fifty-year- old American colonel, in Across the River and Into the Trees also knows Italy very well and feels at home in an Italian setting. The novel published in 1950 recounts a three-day stay in Venice, where Cantwell eats, drinks, and makes love to his countess, Renata, a nineteen-year-old Italian countess. Cantwell’s encounter with Renata becomes a sort of rebirth for him where the dying man attempts to rediscover the youth that he once was, and so it is fitting that this encounter takes place in Venice for Cantwell’s affair with that city predates his metaphor-laden love affair with Renata by nearly thirty years, when he was in the Italian infantry fighting the Austrians outside Venice. These early associations with Venice make him feel that it is his town, with all its sights and sounds. His wide acquaintance among the boatmen, bartenders, headwaiters and porters of the town suggest a local man returning to his hometown, and not an army man who has conquered Fascist Italy. We are told in the novel that ‘this country meant very much to him, more than he could, or would ever tell anyone’ (p. 39) and that Venice is ‘his town.’ The nostalgic tone is clear in most of the passages describing the Venetian region:
He was at home in his small house in Treviso, close to the fast flowing river under the old walls….He was at home, too, in all operation that did not involve more than a company, and understood them as clearly as he understood the proper serving of a small room; or a large dining room. ( Across the River and Into the Trees , 1978, p. 64)
Enjoying food is part of the activities that Hemingway’s hero has to indulge into before he faces death, in addition to sex, hunting, and enjoying life to its fullest. Cantwell’s personal tragedy ends ultimately with a sense of dignity instead of defeat. However, like most of Hemingway’s heroes, before Cantwell suffers his fourth and fatal heart attack, he spends his few days enjoying what he has always enjoyed most in life. He visits his most beloved town, hunts with his closest friend, savours his favourite food and loves his best girl. By fully enjoying his last few days of life, Cantwell can face death with the knowledge that he lives life intensely and dies on his own terms. He has demonstrated courage as a commander of the 22nd Regiment, so the way he accepts death is not at all surprising.
The Colonel and Renata share Venice together. Whether hunting near Torcello in the Venetian lagoon, dining at the Gritti Palace Hotel, or drinking martinis at Harry’s Bar, Cantwell and Renata feast, and Venice becomes alive as the Italian food and drink reflect their indulgent passion. They dine repeatedly at the Gritti, enjoying dinner and breakfast served with wit and elegance. As they arrive, they are greeted by the Gran Maestro, a friend of the Colonel’s from the war, so we have the same motifs that we encountered in Farewell to Arms : the comfort with an Italian dining setting, the familiarity with the waiter or servicemen, the food is delicious and an idyllic love setting.
In Across, Hemingway describes the joy in which the Colonel shops in a food market, and the way the servicewoman is described, despite her toughness and physicality in cutting the moratedella, she is nonetheless doing her job ‘lovingly.’ The delicious gustatory sense of the Italian freshly cut mortadella is here given a sort of primitive and pastoral association with Italian mountains:
Then he said to the woman in the booth, “Let me try a little of that sausage, please. Only a silver.”
She cut a thin, paper thin, slice for him, ferociously, and lovingly, and when the Colonel tasted it, there was the half smokey, black pepper-corned, true flavor of the meat from the hogs hat ate acorns in the mountains. (Across the River and Into the Mountains, 1978, p.177)
When Hemingway describes the fish market, it becomes an occasion for him to meditate on philosophical issues that pertain to the basic themes of his novels: mainly about death, immortality, and sacrifice. This is an important element because the story in fact is not only about love, but also about war and how one confronts death. The description of the fish in the market takes on a symbolic function rather than a mere realistic description as the following passage suggests:
In the market, spread on the slippery stone floor, or in their baskets, or their rope-handles boxes, were the heavy, gray-green lobsters with their magnets overtones that presaged their death in boiling water. They have all been captured by treachery…and their claws are pegged. ……There were medium sized shrimp, gray and opalescent, awaiting their turn, too, for the boiling water and their immortality, to have their shucked carcasses float out easily on an ebb tide on the Grand Canal. The speedy shrimp, with tentacles longer than the mustaches of that old Japanese admiral, comes here now to die for our benefit. Oh Christian shrimp…..master of retreat, and with your wonderful intelligence service in those two light whips, why did they not teach you about nets and that lights are dangerous? (Across the River and Into the Mountains 1978, p. 178-180; emphasis added).
Hemingway’s images of the fish and their struggle against the nets and treacherous forces that capture them are symbolic of an important theme pervading Hemingway’s fiction—that of bravery in conquering the fear of death. Hemingway’s heroes deal with a sick, mortally wounded man’s fight to overcome the dread arising from his meeting with death. This harsh universe is one where suffering and death are the rule, and which, in terms of what the human being expects of it, stubbornly refuses to make sense. The repetition of the pronoun ‘their’ and the passive ‘have been captured by treachery’ are typical aspects of Hemingway’s style and symbolize an unknown, absurd force against which the heroes are destined to fight.
This is further evoked in the image of the ‘Christian shrimp’ that is dying for the benefit of others, which also extends to Cantwell’s imminent passing. Cantwell knows that he is dying soon, and any action or any speech of his might be the last, so he tries to live every minute the best he can. Whenever this attempt is threatened by the forces of fate and the indifferences and cruelty of others, he reminds himself to be charitable. Hemingway tells us that when a man is still in rebellion against death, he will find grace in giving to others. Thus, the Christian imagery related to the fish ‘the Christian shrimp’ becomes a suitable image to describe this sense of pleasurable satisfaction in dying for the benefit of others.
Italian gastronomy also has another important function in this novel. Hemingway associates food with sex. Association of food with sex is not something new in Western tradition, where the act of eating symbolizes or serves as a prelude to the physical act that invariably follows. Freud (1985) in A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis states that ‘in dreams a table is very often found to represent a bed. Bed and board together mean marriage, so that one easily stands for the other’ (p. 273). Hemingway relates the sex and food in two ways: either he makes eating a meal a prelude to the physical act that invariably follows, or the meal itself becomes synonymous with the sexual intercourse. In chapter eleven, for example, the Colonel and Renata are served by the Gran Maestro a meal of fresh lobster, and this is followed by a scene in the hotel room where the Colonel and Renata kiss. The motif of kissing is also combined with the hair of Renata, an important symbol in Hemingway’s fiction which represents femininity, sexuality, and sensuality. Hemingway’s hero first gourmandizes and then turns his thoughts to a woman.
When Hemingway describes the details of the meals that Renata and the Colonel have, the language becomes charged with sexual connotations. In The Rituals of Dinner, food anthropologist Visser (1991) describes a meal as a ritual in which ‘desires are aroused and fulfilled.’ We speak of fat, in particular, with sexual connotation—words like ‘juicy,’ ‘tender,’ ‘satisfying,’ ‘greasy,’ ‘soft,’ ‘great mouth-feel’ (p. 18). In chapter twelve, Hemingway aligns gastronomy with sexuality. The description of the lobster has a strong phallic connotation:
The lobster was imposing. He was double the size a lobster should be, and his unfriendliness had gone with the boiling, so that now he looked a monument to his dead self; complete with protruding eyes and his delicate, far extended antennae that were for knowing what rather stupid eyes could not tell him. ( Across the River and Into the Mountains 1978, p. 110)
When Renata asks the Gran Maestro whether he thinks the lobster will be tough, he answers: ‘he is truly not tough. He’s only big. You know the type’ (p. 111). Later, the lobster is described as ‘tender, with the peculiar slippery grace of that kicking muscle which is the till, and the claws were excellent, neither too thin, not too fat’ (p. 112). Furthermore, when the Colonel ‘touches’ the wine, ‘it was pale and cold like the wines of Greece, but not resinous and its body was as full and as lovely as that of Renata’ (p. 113). Later, Renata asks the Colonel: ‘Don’t we have fun with food? Imagine if we could eat together always.’ The Colonel responds: ‘I’ve suggested it’ (p. 114). It is impossible to escape the strong sexual images which signify the strong desire that Cantwell has towards Renata. She is the symbol of sexual youth, freshness, and an object of desire. The Colonel hopes to gain immortality through Renata (whose name implies being ‘reborn’). It is for this reason that Hemingway refers to her as a ‘daughter’ or even ‘boy or daughter or my one true love or whatever it is’ (p. 173)–all diminutions to the sex-role she plays.
To conclude, Italian gastronomical elements in Hemingway have a strategic aesthetic function. Rather than merely parading the author’s knowledge of the world, the images of Italian food testify that food and eating represent the core of our lives and psyches. Moreover, they are not only representative of cultural traditions, but also evocative of our relationship to the world. In this respect, Hemingway’s works teach us what is called ‘gusto’: an enthusiastic enjoyment performed with zest whereby gastronomy becomes a sensual code, but also a symbol of life and death.
Barthes, Ronald (1977). “Rhetoric of the Image”. Image, Music, Text. Trans. Stephen Heath. (New York: Hill and Wang)
Comley, Nancy R. (2006). “The Italian Education of Ernest Hemingway”, in Sanderson, Rena, ed. (2006). Hemingway’s Italy (Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press)
Freud, Sigmund (1958). A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, trans. Joan Riviere. (New York: Garden City Publishing Company)
Hemingway, Ernest (1978). Across the River and Into the Trees (New York: Scribner)
Hemingway, Ernest (1957) A Farewell to Arms (New York: Scribner)
Hemingway, Ernest (1987). The Complete Short Stories (New York: Scribner)
Lowell, Edmunds (1981). Martini, Straight Up: The Classic American Cocktail (London: Johns Hopkins University Press)
Sanderson, Rena, ed. (2006). Hemingway’s Italy (Louisiana: Louisiana State University)
Schwartz, Sanford (1985). The Matrix of Modernism (Princeton: Princeton University Press)
Visser, Margaret (1991). The Rituals of Dinner (New York: Penguin)