Novel Recipes: Summer Reading You Can Sink Your Teeth Into is a collaborative series of posts from food bloggers highlighting recipes that are included in novels and memoirs. Each post contains a review and a recipe from the book. This is a must-read collection of books for foodies!
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If you love to cook, you know that recipes are more than just food. Not just a means to satisfy physical hunger, the dishes we make can satisfy our hunger for nostalgia or adventure.
It’s not just a tomato sauce: it’s the tomato sauce your grandmother used to make. It’s not just a sandwich; it’s your recreation of your favorite sandwich from that café in your college town. Or maybe you’re making Spanish tapas because while you’d love to travel there someday, you can go to Spain today, in a small way, from your kitchen.
The best recipes are imbued with meaning and wrapped in the stories of our lives.
And recently, I’ve noticed that sometimes recipes are wrapped in literal stories. I’m talking about books: Novels and memoirs.
Have you ever been engrossed in a book and all of a sudden, there’s a recipe smack dab in the middle of the chapter?
Have you ever gone back and made one of those recipes?
Join with our group of literature-loving food bloggers as we explore books for foodies that will whet your imagination AND your appetite – novels and memoirs with recipes right inside the text!
Each post contains a review and one of the included recipes so you can really get a taste for the book. And you’ll get to experience the dishes that are part of someone else’s story, whether true or fictional.
I look forward to going on this literary journey with you!
Please comment if you’ve read or cooked from any of these books, or if you have recommendations of your own we could incorporate in future Novel Recipes series!
by J. Ryan Stradal
Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a novel about a young woman with a once-in-a-generation palate who becomes the iconic chef behind the country’s most coveted dinner reservation. 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 Laura Esquivel
This classic love story takes place on the De la Garza ranch, as the tyrannical owner, Mama Elena, chops onions at the kitchen table in her final days of pregnancy. While still in her mother’s womb, her daughter to be weeps so violently she causes an early labor, and little Tita slips out amid the spices and fixings for noodle soup. This early encounter with food soon becomes a way of life, and Tita grows up to be a master chef, using cooking to express herself and sharing recipes with readers along the way.
by Jessica Fechtor
At 28, Jessica Fechtor was happily immersed in graduate school and her young marriage, and thinking about starting a family. Then one day, she went for a run and an aneurysm burst in her brain. She nearly died. She lost her sense of smell, the sight in her left eye, and was forced to the sidelines of the life she loved.
Jessica’s journey to recovery began in the kitchen as soon as she was able to stand at the stovetop and stir. There, she drew strength from the restorative power of cooking and baking. Written with intelligence, humor, and warmth, Stir is a heartfelt examination of what it means to nourish and be nourished.
by Nora Ephron
Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel Samstat discovers that her husband, Mark, is in love with another woman. The fact that the other woman has “a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs” is no consolation. Food sometimes is, though, since Rachel writes cookbooks for a living. And in between trying to win Mark back and loudly wishing him dead, Ephron’s irrepressible heroine offers some of her favorite recipes. Heartburn is a sinfully delicious novel, as soul-satisfying as mashed potatoes and as airy as a perfect soufflé.
by Pamela Timms
Pamela Timms finds her inspiration when the disorderly, not-so-grand and yet honest gullies of the old city, Delhi, offer her a sweet escape into the world of aroma and vibrant flavours. Numerous explorations change her perceptions about cooking and food forever, and she embarks on a journey to explore the stories and the undisclosed ingredients of the much-loved street food of Old Delhi. She discloses the anonymities surrounding several recipes.
This journey takes Pamela straight to the heart of the city, where she is not only opened up to new ways of cooking and creating brilliant taste, but is also welcomed into the lives of people who are in this noble business. She rejoices festivals with them, gets acquainted with their families, finds recipes for some of the best Khorma, Kheer and beyond, and makes treasured friends, soon to gather that Old Delhi has become no less than a home.
More books to check out
by Sarah Addison Allen
In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit.
In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it….
Recipe example: Chive Blossom Vinegar
by Stephanie Smith
“Honey, you are 300 sandwiches away from an engagement ring.”
When New York Post writer Stephanie Smith made a turkey and Swiss on white bread for her boyfriend, Eric (aka E), he took one bite and uttered those now-famous words.
While her beau’s declaration initially seemed unusual, even antiquated, Stephanie accepted the challenge and got to work. Little did she know she was about to cook up the sexiest and most controversial love story of her generation.
Recipe example: Tomato, mozzarella, and scrambled egg sandwich
by Judy Baer
While cleaning out the cluttered basement of Grace Chapel Inn, Jane Howard finds an old cookbook brimming with her mother’s recipes and handwritten notes.
Through these precious, fragile pages, Jane comes to discover the spirit of her mother, Madeleine, who died while giving birth to Jane. But when the inn gets busy and money troubles threaten, Jane wonders if moving back to Acorn Hill was a big mistake. Can her crisis of faith lead to a new solution for the inn—and for Jane herself?
by Nina George
Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.
After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.
by Ruth Reichl
Billie Breslin has traveled far from her home in California to take a job at Delicious!, New York’s most iconic food magazine. Away from her family, particularly her older sister, Genie, Billie feels like a fish out of water—until she is welcomed by the magazine’s colorful staff. She is also seduced by the vibrant downtown food scene, especially by Fontanari’s, the famous Italian food shop where she works on weekends. Then Delicious!is abruptly shut down, but Billie agrees to stay on in the empty office, maintaining the hotline for reader complaints in order to pay her bills.
To Billie’s surprise, the lonely job becomes the portal to a miraculous discovery. In a hidden room in the magazine’s library, Billie finds a cache of letters written during World War II by Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, to the legendary chef James Beard. Lulu’s letters provide Billie with a richer understanding of history, and a feeling of deep connection to the young writer whose courage in the face of hardship inspires Billie to comes to terms with her fears, her big sister and her ability to open her heart to love.
Want more recipes from fiction?
Here are some inspiring resources to check out!
The Little Library Cafe is a blog that focuses on recipes inspired by literature — while the actual recipes are not included in the books that bibliophile and blogger Kate Young reads, her love of reading, creativity, and culinary skills make for a brilliant portfolio of imaginative recipes. Plus, each post begins with the quote from the book that inspired the recipe. A truly delightful site!
Love Harry Potter? So does Jenni from Whip and Wander! Visit her site for a whole collection of Harry Potter inspired recipes – perfect for when you’re having a Harry Potter movie marathon or for sustenance when you’re curled up for 12 hours straight with one of the books. (No? Is that just me?) Plus, Jenni is one of the contributors to our Novel Recipes series, writing about the book Garden Spells!
If Harry Potter isn’t your thing, check out the Inn at the Crossroads – it hosts entire sections devoted to Game of Thrones and World of Warcraft inspired recipes, and also has a section of recipes described in other fiction including Lord of the Rings, Hunger Games, and more, including historical fiction.