The data I have produced for this project allows relatively in-depth analysis of food in variants of the fable. Analysis like this could concievably be done on other story elements (for example, furniture or clothing) but "town foods" and "country foods" are story elements that seemed easiest to analyze systematically. The table below outlines the frequency of certain foods and where they appear.
|Food name||overall mentions||as a "country food"||as a "town food"|
The really interesting data is not the overall frequency of certain food words (unsurprisingly in a story about mice, the food most likely to be mentioned is cheese), but rather the tendency of certain foods to be stereotypically "town" or "country" foods. Bacon is almost never mentioned as a food the mice eat in town. Cakes are almost never mentioned as a food the mice eat in the country. Town foods tend to be sweeter (cakes, pies, honey, and jelly are all very "townish" foods) and with a single exception (bacon, which is strongly associated with country foods), meats tend to be "townish" and grains tend to be "countryish."
Probably the most interesting finding I've uncovered in my own, rather limited, analysis of town and country food involves novelty:
1: While there are far fewer variants that mention town foods, there are more named town foods (60) than named country foods (41).
2: Five country foods; cheese, bacon, peas, oatmeal, and corn, account for more than half of all instances of country foods. The five most frequently named town foods; cheese, cake, jellies, pies, and cream, account for only about a third of all named town foods.
3: Nineteen country foods are hapax legomena, or totally unique instances of a word in the dataset (For example "rice" only appears in one variant). These nineteen words account for about 10% of all instances of country foods. There are 34 town foods that only appear in one variant (for example "tongue" or "pineapple"). These 34 words account for about 20% of all instances of town foods.
These three observations are just mathematical expressions of the same basic idea: that town foods tend to be very novel compared to country foods. Given the nature of the story, the narrator is encourage to embellish and possibly exaggerate the foods our mice encounter in town. It might mean that country foods are more likely to be preserved in their exact version from one retelling to another. As the collection expands, I expect all three of the trends I mentioned above to continue.