Study Guide

Angela's Ashes Food

By Frank McCourt


In Angela's Ashes a meal isn't just a meal, it's the stuff dreams are made of. Hunger—serious, aching hunger—is a constant companion throughout the memoir. Many meals in the McCourt home consist of tea and fried bread. Frank spends a lot of his memoir describing food:

Did you hear that? Our own egg of a Sunday morning. Oh, God, I already had plans for my egg. Tap it around the top, gently crack the shell, lift with a spoon, a dab of butter down into the yolk, salt, take my time, a dip of the spoon, scoop, more salt, more butter, into mouth, oh, God above, if heaven has a taste it must be an egg with butter and salt, and after the egg is there anything in the world lovelier than fresh warm bread and a mug of sweet golden tea. (9.28)

When you're hungry, food is all you think about.

You don't know what to do with yourself when the first telegram doesn't come. You can't stay out in the lane playing with your brothers all night because everyone else is gone in and you'd be ashamed to stay out in the lane to be tormented with the smell of sausages and rashers and fried bread. (9.63)

Malnutrition helped kill three of Angela's children, who lived on a lot of sugar water as infants. Frank resorts to stealing food on a few occasions when things are particularly bad at home. And during the times he's at a neighbor's or relative's having a real meal, you can almost feel the comfort and satisfaction of his full belly.

Frank isn't the only one who has to deal with a lack of food. Food's scarce in many households in Limerick and it's not a new problem. Food scarcity in Ireland goes back a long time; in fact, one of the deadly famines in history occurred during the 19th century when a blight killed the potato crop and the resulting famine killed 750,000 Irish. More than two million people emigrated from Ireland to other countries to avoid starvation.

When Frankie thinks about getting a job, he doesn't think about buying fancy clothes or concert tickets. He wants to bring home the bacon, literally.

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