DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Feb 9 2011

Foodie Fiction

by Dea Anne M

I was among the stacks the other day and a title caught my eye – American Cookery: A Novel by Laura Kalpakian. Readers of this blog may know by now how enamoured I am of all matters cuisine oriented, and fiction that uses food and cooking as a theme is a favorite. American Cookery does not disappoint on any level. A rich, sprawling saga set in Southern California during the early and middle 20th century, it features strong characters, beautifully observed detail, and a guiding motif that illustrates the centrality of food and cooking in family life.

…the good cook wastes nothing, uses everything – and not just everything in the kitchen, but here and here.” Afton touched the top of her head and her heart.
— from American Cookery: A Novel by Laura Kalpakian.

Here are some other of my favorite titles in which cooking and food play a major role.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel is a delicious novel that has to be on many lists of irresistible food oriented fiction.

Gertrudis got on her horse and rose away. She wasn’t riding alone – she carried her childhood beside her, in the cream fritters she had enclosed in a jar in her saddlebag.
— from Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.

I have long loved the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My particular favorite is Little House on the Prairie with its descriptions of “prairie chicken” dinners and making butter and cheese, but it is Farmer Boy that is the most food-centered of these books telling as it does of Almanzo Wilder’s life as a young boy growing up on his family’s busy N.Y. farm.

Everything must be saved, nothing wasted of all the summer’s bounty. Even the apple cores were saved for making vinegar.
— from Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Let’s not leave out Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. While you savor this literary treat, you might want to check out Fannie Flagg’s Original Whistlestop Cafe Cookbook which features recipes from the Irondale Cafe—the Alabama restaurant that served as the model for Idgie and Ruth’s cafe in the book.

But with all her spooky ways, there wasn’t a better cook in Alabama. Even at eleven, they say she could make the most delicious biscuits and gravy, cobbler, fried chicken, turnip green, and black-eyed peas. And her dumplings were so light they would float in the air and you’d have to catch ’em to eat ’em. All the recipes that were used at the restaurant were hers. She taught Idgie and Ruth everything they knew about cooking.
— from Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg.

The Eugenia Potter series by Virginia Rich (and continued after her death by Nancy Pickard) has provided me with some of my favorite “cozy” mysteries. The main character is a talented amateur cook and a very, very smart lady. You can pick up the series anywhere, but I particularly enjoyed The Secret Ingredient Murders.

“How about Apples In Jackets?”

” Perfect!” Genia cried. “They’re a kind of dress-up dessert.”

Typically, Janie’s idea was quick and clever.
— from The Secret Ingredient Murders by Nancy Pickard (based on the character by Virginia Rich).

…and if all that isn’t enough, here are some other, more recently read, titles that I have enjoyed.

Finally, you might have fun with The Book Lover’s Cookbook: recipes inspired by celebrated works of literature and the passages that feature them by Shaunda Kennedy Wenger and Janet Kay Jensen. I can’t vouch for the recipes (which, honestly, strike me a little run-of-the-mill), but the quotes are wide-ranging and deliciously entertaining.

As always, enjoy!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jimmy L February 9, 2011 at 1:47 PM

I recently cooked some brussels sprouts based on a recipe found in the all-inclusive novel ‘2666’ by Roberto Bolano. It was excellent.

Jesse M February 9, 2011 at 5:23 PM

Another good book of this type is Liquor by Poppy Z. Brite, which describes the experiences of two cooks in New Orleans who go into business together to open a new restaurant. A friend of mine who is head chef of a local restaurant and pub told me he found the depiction of restaurant life to be uncannily accurate.

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