Reading Louise Miller's The City Baker's Guide to Country Living makes me hungry. That's how "into the moment" I am when reading it. Some books do that to you. There is a certain pleasure factor to reading generally, of course. But it takes on a whole new dimension when a writer is particularly adept at describing food. This made me think of other good books that have meals in them that I have enjoyed or have on my bookshelves for future enjoyment. You know what that means . . . nothing like a good book list to have at hand. So, in honor of a good meal, here are a baker's dozen (of course) novels that might make your mouth water.
Chocolat by Joanne Harris -- "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." **One of my all-time favorite books**
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquival -- "Like Water For Chocolate, a poignant love story told from a woman's point of view, takes place on the De la Garza ranch in turn-of-the-century Mexico. Cooking and eating play a central role in the tale. The heroine, Tita, a master chef, was literally born in the kitchen. Following tradition, her tyrannical mother decrees that Tita as the youngest must not marry but must instead care for her mother in old age. Unable to communicate freely, Tita concocts recipes so magically potent as to convey her emotions to all who eat her creations- even the chickens-with often hilarious results."
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal -- "When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine—and a dashing sommelier—he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter—starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience."
The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert -- "Set in the lovely, quirky heart of Wisconsin, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is a charming love story of misunderstandings, mistaken identity, and the power of food to bring two people together."
The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe by Mary Simses -- " This charming, tender first novel emphasizes the power of simple pleasures, comfort food, and undeniable chemistry."
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl -- "When Billie Breslin abandons college to work as assistant to the editor of Delicious! magazine, she’s immediately known for her superhuman palate: she can taste any dish and list its ingredients and suggest the flavors it needs. She’s known for another trait, too: Billie does not cook. When Delicious! is unceremoniously folded by its parent publisher, Billie is the sole employee kept on to honor the magazine’s guarantee: “Your money back if the recipe doesn’t work.” Between phone calls from wacky subscribers, alone in the yawning old mansion headquarters, Billie discovers a hidden room and a cache of quirkily cataloged letters from a young girl to Delicious! writer James Beard during WWII. In the search for each letter and the young letter writer herself, Billie finds a purpose and a heroine, and gathers the courage to face the past she’s running from." (Booklist)
Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks -- "The life of 31-year-old trophy wife Wynter Morrison suddenly changes course when her husband announces one evening that their marriage is over. Emotionally devastated and desperate for a change of scenery, Wyn moves to Seattle where she spends aimless hours at a local bakery, sipping coffee and inhaling the sweet aromas of freshly-made bread. These visits bring back memories of her long-ago apprenticeship at a French boulangerie, and when offered a position at the bakery, Wyn quickly accepts -- hoping that the rituals of baking will help her move on."
Babette's Feast by Isak Dineson -- "It tells the story of a French cook working in a puritanical Norwegian community, who treats her employers to the decadent feast of a lifetime."
The Emperor of Paris by C.S. Richardson -- "Like his father before him, Octavio runs the Notre-Dame bakery, and knows the secret recipe for the perfect Parisian baguette. But, also like his father, Octavio has never mastered the art of reading and his only knowledge of the world beyond the bakery door comes from his own imagination. Just a few streets away, Isabeau works out of sight in the basement of the Louvre, trying to forget her disfigured beauty by losing herself in the paintings she restores and the stories she reads. The two might never have met, but for a curious chain of coincidences involving a mysterious traveller, an impoverished painter, a jaded bookseller, and a book of fairytales, lost and found . . ."
The Discovery of Chocolate by James Runcie -- "Diego de Godoy sets off for South America in 1518 with Cortes and the Conquistadors. During his travels he falls in love with Ignacia, a native woman who introduces him to the secrets of the most delicious drink he has ever tasted: chocolate. Tragically, their passionate affair is cut short by the chaotic conquest of Mexico. Diego later discovers that his lover had secretly added the elixir of life to his chocolate. Unable to die, he lives on through history -- Paris during the time of the Revolution, Vienna in the 19th century, late Victorian England, and Hershey, Pennsylvania -- accompanied by his trusty greyhound, Pedro. All the while, he searches to recapture the magic of Ignacia's chocolate -- and to learn to love life just as fully."
The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood -- "Ever since her engagement, the strangest thing has been happening to Marian McAlpin: she can't eat. First meat. Then eggs, vegetables, cake, pumpkin seeds--everything! Worse yet, she has the crazy feeling that she's being eaten. Marian ought to feel consumed with passion, but she really just feels...consumed. A brilliant and powerful work rich in irony and metaphor." (Reverse treatment in this one . . .).
Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran -- "Beneath the holy mountain Croagh Patrick, in damp and lovely County Mayo, sits the small, sheltered village of Ballinacroagh. To the exotic Aminpour sisters, Ireland looks like a much-needed safe haven. It has been seven years since Marjan Aminpour fled Iran with her younger sisters, Bahar and Layla, and she hopes that in Ballinacroagh, a land of 'crazed sheep and dizzying roads,' they might finally find a home."
The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni -- "Magical, tantalizing, and sensual, The Mistress of Spices is the story of Tilo, a young woman born in another time, in a faraway place, who is trained in the ancient art of spices and ordained as a mistress charged with special powers. Once fully initiated in a rite of fire, the now immortal Tilo--in the gnarled and arthritic body of an old woman--travels through time to Oakland, California, where she opens a shop from which she administers spices as curatives to her customers. An unexpected romance with a handsome stranger eventually forces her to choose between the supernatural life of an immortal and the vicissitudes of modern life." (This is one of my most recent acquisitions!).
Well, this list should keep us all busy (and full!) for a while. Do you have a favorite "delicious meal" of a read?