From a Tuesday teaser to a Thursday thirteen. It's just been that sort of week! And since I am still thinking of last weekend's wonderful culinary conference, books with food as a prominent theme have been on my mind. I always like prolonging a good literary experience, so I thought it would be fun to come up with a list. One of my (well, maybe my only one) favorite food writers is M.F.K. Fisher! I highly recommend her whether you are a 'foodie' or just someone who likes really good writing. She's wonderful on both counts.
So, here are a baker's dozen (of course!) of books to make your mouth water. I've read quite a few of these and have the rest on my bookshelves.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel -- I read this book when it first came out and loved it. I should really reread it someday. And I very much enjoyed the movie adaptation, too. "Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in tum-of-the-century Mexico became a best-selling phenomenon with its winning blend of poignant romance and bittersweet wit."
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal -- Of course this is a recent acquisition of mine! "Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal's startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life--its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises."
The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert -- This one just screamed out to me--'perfect holiday/vacatio' read. So I am holding it in reserve for next month. "You’ve Got Mail meets How to Eat a Cupcake in this delightful novel about a talented chef and the food critic who brings down her restaurant—whose chance meeting turns into a delectable romance of mistaken identities."
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl -- I have several of Reichl's books--her memoirs and now this novel. I think I need to mentally put her on my 'must read this year' list for 2016. "Reichl’s vivid descriptions of food will have readers salivating, and an insider’s look at life at a food magazine is fascinating. Her satisfying coming-of-age novel of love and loss vividly demonstrates the power of food to connect people across cultures and generations." (Library Journal).
Sister Age by M.F.K. Fisher -- I have only read Fisher's essays, so I am very curious what her fiction would be like. "In these fifteen remarkable stories, M.F.K. Fisher, one of the most admired writers of our time, embraces age as St. Francis welcomed Brother Pain. With a saint to guide us, she writes in her Foreword, perhaps we can accept in a loving way "the inevitable visits of a possibly nagging harpy like Sister Age" But in the stories, it is the human strength in the unavoidable encounter with the end of life that Mrs. Fisher dramatizes so powerfully."
Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks -- I admit that when I read this I found the main character somewhat prickly and not always likable (not that you have to like the characters you read about of course), but I have always held on to the book with the idea that I might reread it someday. I think there were several sequels and so I might explore those books eventually, too. "In this engaging novel, Hendricks creates a compelling narrator whose wry, bemused and ultimately wise voice hooks the reader. Even though Wyn's story is predictable at times, this is a well-written, imaginative debut."
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Fannie Flagg -- One of my all-time favorite books and movies! I even visited the location where the movie was made, and ate at the Whistle Stop Cafe--friend green tomatoes of course. If I can ever find the pictures I might even share them here someday. "Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is the now-classic novel of two women in the 1980s; of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women--of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth--who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder."
Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber -- "Sirine, the heroine of this 'deliciously romantic romp' (Vanity Fair) is thirty-nine, never married, and living in the Arab-American community of Los Angeles. She has a passion for cooking and works contentedly in a Lebanese restaurant, while her storytelling uncle and her saucy boss, Umm Nadia, believe she should be trying harder to find a husband. One day Hanif, a handsome professor of Arabic literature, an Iraqi exile, comes to the restaurant. Sirine falls in love and finds herself questioning everything she thought she knew about Hanif, as well as her own torn identity as an Arab-American." This one really appeals to me at the moment and I might even start reading it sooner than later if I can find where I put it!
Chocolat by Joanne Harris -- Another favorite (both book and movie again). I think I have read it at least four times now and will happily read it again. It is a definite turn to comfort read for me. I have read a couple of the sequels, which were pretty good, but none can compare to the magic of this story for me. " In tiny Lansquenet, where nothing much has changed in a hundred years, beautiful newcomer Vianne Rocher and her exquisite chocolate shop arrive and instantly begin to play havoc with Lenten vows. Each box of luscious bonbons comes with a free gift: Vianne's uncanny perception of its buyer's private discontents and a clever, caring cure for them. Is she a witch? Soon the parish no longer cares, as it abandons itself to temptation, happiness, and a dramatic face-off between Easter solemnity and the pagan gaiety of a chocolate festival."
La Cucina by Lily Prior -- Another novel I read years ago and was a keeper for me! "Sumptuously appointed, celebratory and sensuous, this debut novel is a mouth-watering blend of commedia dell'arte and Greek tragedy. Prior cooks up a cinematic yarn full of characters so rich you'll fear they're fattening, but readers will be sure to splurge on this saucy tale chock full of sex, recipes and murder. Born in 1915, Rosa Fiore grows up on the family farm in the Sicilian village of Castiglione with six older brothers and her younger Siamese twin siblings, Guera and Pace (war and peace)."
On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle -- The first in a long standing mystery series set in a coffeehouse! Very comfy cozy and light reading. Must get back to these books.
The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe by Mary Simses -- "Ellen Branford is going to fulfill her grandmother's dying wish--to find the hometown boy she once loved, and give him her last letter. Ellen leaves Manhattan and her Kennedy-esque fiance for Beacon, Maine. What should be a one-day trip is quickly complicated when she almost drowns in the chilly bay and is saved by a local carpenter. The rescue turns Ellen into something of a local celebrity." I started this one and was enjoying it, but I got sidetracked. Another perfect fluffy holiday read.
Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran -- "Infused with the textures and scents, trials and triumph,s of two distinct cultures, Pomegranate Soup is an infectious novel of magical realism. This richly detailed story, highlighted with delicious recipes, is a delectable journey into the heart of Persian cooking and Irish living." I love the sound of this one (as yet unread, so something to look forward to). Wouldn't it make a great movie, too?
Interestingly, of my lists I like to come up with, there are a fair few of these that I have not only read, but have read multiple times. Hmm. Food and books, books about food . . . what does that say about me? If you have a favorite food novel of course you must share!