artratcafe CAFE – Eating Your Words…

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer, is a contemporary fantasy comparable to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Milo, the novel’s young and bored protagonist receives a magic tollbooth as a gift and drives through it in his toy car. With his two companions, Humbug and Tock, Milo has many incredible adventures, including a quest to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason. The book is full of pun filled events such as Milo’s jump to the Island of Conclusions. If you love puns as much as I do, this book is for you. The section of the story I have chosen for this week’s artratcafe Café menu takes place in Dictionopolis, a kingdom that has literally dedicated itself to words. Milo, Humbug and Tock are taking a break in their quest and find themselves invited to supper with the king:

“Are you ready with the menu?” reminded the Humbug. “Well,” said Milo, remembering that his mother had always told him to eat lightly when he was a guest, “why don’t we have a light meal?” “A light meal it shall be,” roared the bug, waving his arms. The waiters rushed in carrying large serving platters and set them on the table in front of the king. When he lifted the covers, shafts of brilliant-coloured light leaped from the plates and bounced around the ceiling, the walls, across the floor, and out the windows. “Not a very substantial meal,” said the Humbug, rubbing his eyes, “but quite an attractive one. Perhaps you can suggest something a little more filling.” The king clapped his hands, the platters were removed, and, without thinking, Milo quickly suggested, “Well, in that case, I think we ought to have a square meal of–”

“A square meal it is,” shouted the Humbug again. The king clapped his hands once more and the waiters reappeared carrying plates heaped high with steaming squares of all sizes and colours. “Ugh,” said the Spelling Bee, tasting one, “these are awful.” No one else seemed to like them very much either, and the Humbug got one caught in his throat and almost choked. “Time for the speeches,” announced the king as the plates were again removed and everyone looked glum. “You first,” he commanded, pointing to Milo. “Your Majesty, ladies and gentlemen,” started Milo timidly. “I would like to take this opportunity to say that in all the–“

“That’s quite enough,” snapped the king. “Mustn’t talk all day.”

 “But I’d just begun,” objected Milo. “NEXT!” bellowed the king. “Roast turkey, mashed potatoes, vanilla ice cream,” recited the Humbug, bouncing up and down quickly. “What a strange speech,” thought Milo, for he’d heard many in the past and knew that they were supposed to be long and dull. “Hamburgers, corn on the cob, chocolate pudding–p-u-d-d-i-n-g,” said the Spelling Bee in his turn. “Frankfurters, sour pickles, strawberry jam,” shouted Officer Shrift from his chair. Since he was taller sitting than standing, he didn’t bother to get up. And so down the line it went, with each guest rising briefly, making a short speech, and then resuming his place. When everyone had finished, the king rose. “Pâté de foie gras, soupe à l’oignon, faisan sous cloche, salade endive, fromages et fruits et demi-tasse,” he said carefully and clapped his hands again. The waiters reappeared immediately, carrying heavy, hot trays, which they set on the table. Each one contained the exact words spoken by the various guests, and they all began eating immediately with great gusto. “Dig in,” said the king, poking Milo with his elbow and looking disapprovingly at his plate. “I can’t say that I think much of your choice.”

 “I didn’t know that I was going to have to eat my words,” objected Milo. “Of course, of course, everyone here does,” the king grunted. “You should have made a tastier speech.”








Picture Credits from top (thank you to all sources):

1. Word Cookies  from 2. Supper with the King, illustration by Jules Feiffer from The Phantom Tollbooth. 3. A Square Meal from 4. Chocolate Pudding from        5. Humble Pie from 6. Eating Words from


4 thoughts on “artratcafe CAFE – Eating Your Words…

  1. Hey Chrissy – just realized I misread your comment so my previous reply (now deleted) was out of context, sorry. So glad you are discovering that wonderful book…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s