Thematic Sheet

Tales to chew on

None of us will live forever, but stories will.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Tales are just like life: food has a special place in them!


Picking, preparing, cooking and eating are social activities: it’s the pleasure of being together and sharing, learning to cook, learning tolerance by accepting other people’s cooking, developing curiosity and solidarity.

Without hospitality, there can be no society! Hospitality is a reciprocal gift, it’s knowing how to welcome the other in one’s space.

Through the way of cooking, the ingredients used… it’s a culture, a social class, a religion, a way of life or an era that asserts itself.

The kitchen is the place where imagination is exercised, as the art of mixing ingredients, of inventing flavours as one invents worlds.


  • In many tales, when the hero arrives in the “other world”, he sits down to eat. It’s one step on the path of initiation. Whether as a form of punishment or reward, food is constantly present in these tales and in many cases it’s mandatory to the unfolding of the story.
  • In the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, the devouring of the little girl by the wolf can be symbolically analysed as an initiation rite to womanhood.


  • What would have happened to Hansel and Gretel if they hadn’t found a little candy house in the middle of the forest? It was common in the Middle Ages, due to lack of food, to lose children in the woods. But this tempting treat had a bitter taste, because Hansel had to gain weight to be devoured by the terrible witch, while Gretel became her servant.
  • In the traditional Portuguese Pebble Soup, a monk asks a farmer to give him a soup to eat. He refuses. He succeeds in convincing the farmer that he is capable of making a soup from a single stone: he therefore asks for ingredients to give the soup more flavour and when the soup is ready, he eats it all, succeeding in satisfying himself une the peasant’s nose.
  • In the fantasy tale of James and the Magic Bean, (Jack and the Beanstalk, in the stories library) the hero exchanges his cow, the family’s only means of subsistence, for magic beans. Jacques would be lost if his magic bean didn’t take him to the giant’s castle, allowing him to get the goose with the golden eggs back! Also bitter is the beautiful apple eaten by Snow White.
  • Who wouldn’t dream of a magic table like the one in the tales of The Table, the Donkey and the Stick?” Towel, unfold,” says the hero of the tale Norouas, present in the stories library. « And here is a beautiful table that stands on its own, covered with plates, glasses, meat and wine; no one had ever seen a meal better served. »
  • Finally, how can we not mention the apple, with its rich symbolism! The apple of discord, at the origin of the Trojan War in Greek mythology, the apple of knowledge in the Garden of Eden, the golden apple in Russian tales such as The Firebird… In the tale of Snow White, the poisoned apple plunges her into a deep sleep. Fortunately, the prince discovers her in the forest and takes her coffin with him. On the way, he stumbles and drops the coffin! Snow White then spits out the piece of apple and comes back to life! An end ignored by the Disney adaptation.

The list is endless! Sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter, food has always been present in fairy tales. Eating and talking are indeed the two pleasures of orality!


  • This theme can be worked from proverbs around meals.
    « Wisdom is at the bottom of the pot ».
    « If there are no thrushes, we eat blackbirds. »
    « A trout in the pot is worth more than two salmon in the river. »
    It’s up to everyone to find some!
  • Prepare a cake in class, tell its story. For example with the galette des rois.
  • Ask the children to collect recipes around them and make a book from them.
  • Tell the story of La Petite Poule rousse, which shows that food should be shared, both to prepare it and to eat it!