Novels that feature food


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Novels that feature food

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Oct 8, 2011, 1:22pm

I have read a number of novels that create a "sense of place," transporting me to another a time or location. The ones I seem to love are the ones that compel me to go into the kitchen and cook because a key element of the plot is food! So I am constantly seeking out these types of fiction.

I just finished reading The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella which takes place in Naples, Italy towards the end of World War II. The story revolves around the Allied occupation of the area and the relationship between a British "wedding officer" and a woman from a neighboring village that becomes the cook for the military stationed in Naples. While the recipes are not written out, they are described with such detail that my mouth begins to water!

One of the first books I read that had this effect on me was The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. The basic story is about a restaurant owner, Lillian, who offers cooking lessons on the Monday evenings when her restaurant is closed. Again, there are no specific recipes. The students learn to "pay attention" to the ingredients as they create their dishes. This book invites transformation, from the most essential ingredients in your food to the most essential ingredients in your life.

Another was Tomato Rhapsody by Adam Schell. Set in Tuscany in the 16th century, this novel reads like a fable, complete with bigger-than-life characters. The plot is built on the historical information regarding the introduction of the tomato to Italy by the Spanish who brought it from the New World. I loved this book and it does have recipes!!

Are there some novels that you have read that had this effect on you?

Oct 8, 2011, 3:36pm

Cooking With Fernet Branca plays up both originality and precision in cooking and serving. It is also continuously humorous.


Oct 8, 2011, 9:13pm

When I finished Like Water for Chocolate I went to the library and took out a handful of Mexican cook books, and then I went to the market. Great book, great inspiration.

Oct 8, 2011, 9:43pm

I think Like Water for Chocolate was one of the first food novels I read!

Oct 8, 2011, 9:56pm

Joanne Harris is pretty food focused. In Five Quarters of the Orange the heroine cooks from her mother's recipes and then Chocolat has the chocolate shop.

Oct 10, 2011, 5:26pm

There is always Isak Dinesen's Babette's Feast. The movie was great, it's in Danish, but there's always subtitles. The kitchen scenes were absolutely terrific.

Oct 12, 2011, 6:56pm

I was just looking up my book club's selection for next month, The Beauty of Humanity Movement, and it looks like a real foody novel. It's set in Vietnam.

And that made me remember another good foody read--Stanley Park, which features a chef as the protagonist. It also features some highly unusual cuisine.

Oct 13, 2011, 6:43pm

I am not familiar with either of those books. I shall hunt! I have visited Stanley Park and would be interested in reading a story set there.

Oct 13, 2011, 7:02pm

Stanley Park is great! It was the Vancouver Reads book a few years back.

Oct 8, 2012, 7:29pm

I've been reading quite a bit of Louise Penny's crime-fiction which is set in Quebec, and I am intrigued by the references to the food her characters enjoy, much of which would appeal to many of us here in Australia. Does anyone know of a good Quebecois cook-book they could recommend?

I'll post over at other LT food related groups too.

Oct 20, 2012, 3:08pm


I know of a few books that have Quebecois cuisine
Taste of Quebec, Julian Armstrong 1990
From Pemmican to Poutine, Suman Roy 2010
The Art of Living According to Joe Beef, David McMilliae 2011

Hope this helps

Oct 20, 2012, 11:00pm

My favorites don't necessarily invoke a specific place, but here's a few:

One obvious one: Heartburn by Nora Ephron about her former marriage, but full of food & recipes.

And a local favorite, the Ellen Hart Jane Lawless mystery series . . .
The main character/sleuth is a Minneapolis restauranteur . . . the books definitely invoke Minnesota, but (thankfully) the food is more wide-reaching . . . don't remember any "hot dish" at all :)

Another obvious choice . . . some, but not all, of the Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell feature food and cooking (in between murders)
There was even a cookbook connected to the series Scarpetta's Winter Table
I seem to remember the cooking as mostly Italian, but I could be wrong . . .

This thread is making me hungry . . . though I just had a big bowl of homemade Pad Thai :)

Oct 21, 2012, 11:36pm

I have just read John Saturnall's Feast, a historical novel by Lawrence Norfolk. It combines an occasionally mystical story with fascinatingly concrete details of seventeenth century cuisine and kitchen management.

Nobody seems to have mentioned Kerry Greenwood. She writes (among other things) crime novels and is perhaps best known for Phryne Fisher. But she has another series featuring Corinna Chapman, a baker and usually reluctant investigator.

Oct 24, 2012, 9:11pm

11 David,

Thanks so much.... I'll undertake a search for those books.

Apr 28, 2014, 4:29pm

One of my recent favorites -
Aftertaste; a Novel in Five Courses by Meredith Mileti

Apr 28, 2014, 4:54pm

What a great subject for a thread.

I've been spending time with Mole, Ratty, and Badger. There is lots of cozy eating in The Wind in the Willows. In fact, Arabella Boxer gathered up the recipes in The Wind in the Willows Country Cookbook.

Also a modern romance that focused on lots of great food is The Husband Habit. The heroine is a chef, and the first half of the book is full of her delicious southwestern ruminations.

Jun 24, 2014, 10:53pm

I find the "Best of Food Writing" annual books are a nice variety of writing in relation to food. A collection of short stories and published work throughout the year, some take you to another place. Each year the collection is edited by Holly Hughes. Always a book I look forward to each year.

Jun 25, 2014, 2:58am

Let's not forget Paola Brunetti, the peerless wife, mother, academic and cook who looks after the Commissario in Donna Leon's super crime series based in Venice. Guido would be lost without her. The great advantage of living in Venice, it appears, is that you can usually walk home to lunch.

There is a cookbook based on the series, I believe.