Foodie Books, But Not Cook Books (Well, Not Quite Yet)

I have had a real craving for a certain type of book at the moment. I really want to read books with food in them, almost in a starring role of their own. If you are thinking that I have gone a little bit mad and am talking even more gobbledygook than normal then I should explain that this is in part because I am off to a cooking school in Italy next week, and also to do with a sort of Savidge Reads off shoot project that I will be doing with The Beard, but more on that in detail on Thursday as in the interim I just really want to know what books you have loved that have had food as a character/plot device or food in the title. I don’t mean cookbooks, not quite yet. I have pulled some down off the TBR already; this is in part to start reading them, and satisfy this current reading whim, and also to show any people still thinking I am bonkers that they exist.

I am sure I have more than those pictured above, and I haven’t actually gone and looked in the lounge at books that I have read already (‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ has instantly popped into my head, oh and now ‘Heartburn’ has with its recipes throughout) but in case you can’t see them they are…

  • Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (which I read in my teens and must re-read)
  • Chocolat by Joanne Harris (which is one of those rare books where I have watched the film but not read the book, I do now think it’s been long enough since I have seen it that I can read it. She has written lots of books with food in hasn’t she, should I be delving deeper than this obvious title?)
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (which I have been meaning to read for ages and ages and ages and ages)
  • Eating for England by Nigel Slater (I adored his memoir of food and childhood ‘Toast’ immensely and The Beard has just started it and been howling with laughter)
  • John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk (which is out in September but Alice at Bloomsbury thrust in my hand when I visited and demanded I read because it is apparently so brilliant. I discovered it’s like a foodie version of Suskind’s ‘Perfume’ which was all about scent, I am now very excited – in fact I think this book started the whole craving so maybe I should read it first?)

So that should really do me for now but I am desperate to know of other gems which I might be missing. I am desperate for a foodie book like the above set in Italy, as that would be too perfect for my trip away, does anyone know of any? Which books featuring food have you read and loved? Have you read any of the above and where should I start?

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41 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

41 responses to “Foodie Books, But Not Cook Books (Well, Not Quite Yet)

  1. verityjdo

    Love Eating for England – it’s a great book for dipping in and out of.

    • I loved Toast so I am very much hoping that Nigel Slater is as good in this one, which by your report it sounds like he will be. I heard there is another book of his on food that isn’t a cook book and want to hunt that down too.

      I need to find out if his cook books are as good!

  2. Are you looking for fiction novels with cooking/recipes or non-fiction food memoirs? I have a bunch of wonderful food memoirs that also have recipes in them! :-)

  3. sharkell

    Gingerbread Woman by Jennifer Johnston, Rhubarb by Craig Silvey (which I didn’t like that much, I have to admit) and, not quite in the same frame of mind (or stomach), Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears.

    • I love Jennifer Johnston, have heard of Mears and favourable reviews too. Not heard of Silvey and weirdly because of your dislike of it I am all the more intrigued!

      • sharkell

        Craig Silvey wrote Rhubarb when he was 18 years old and followed it a few years later with Jasper Jones, which I did like! I’d love for you to read one of his and let me know what you think.

  4. I loved Anthony Capella’s The Food of Love. A great Cyrano de Bergerac storyline, only with food instead of letters, and the food descriptions made my mouth water.

    • Aha thank you Rosario, it is Capella that I was thinking of earlier today when I was sure that I knew of a book about food set in Italy and indeed it is this one in Rome! Thank you very much. Will look into the other recommendations too.

  5. I ve read the Bender simon I like it but didn’t love it ,all the best stu

    • I’m not expecting it to change my world but it seems a really good holiday read though so might be going in the suitcase.

      Oh and I am coming to Chesterfield a lot to see Gran now so we must try and meet up!

  6. I have read Ruth Reichl’s memoirs, which I loved, lots of food involved. A collection of essays about food that I recommend is ‘Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant’. I am so very jealous of your cooking class in Italy! Please report back! :)

    • I will indeed report back to you of course! I’m really excited about it. I am slightly envisaging Julie and Julia like behaviour. In fact I need her book, Julia’s not Julie’s.

      I haven’t heard of Ruth Reichl let alone her memoir is that bad? I love the sound of those essays.

  7. zeneedle

    Like Water for Chocolate is atmospheric and beautiful. One of my favorites. Chocolat is worth the read as the movie was messed up, not as dark or as interesting as the book. Looking forward to reports about your trip to Italy! You do great travelogues.

  8. Ok, so chiming in with some food memoirs! :-)

    “The Sweet Life in Paris” by David Lebovitz (San Fran cook, moves to Paris, great fun!)
    “Home Cooking” and “More Home Cooking” by Laurie Colwin (sadly, she passed away way too soon. She’s someone you just want to sit with and chat with over tea and cake.)
    “Lunch in Paris” by Elizabeth Bard (are you finding a theme here? American moves to Paris, cooks, falls in love…)
    “Born Round” by Frank Bruni (one of my favorite writers, he was the restaurant critic at the New York Times, memoir of his love for food)
    “Confections of a Closet Master Baker” by Gesine Bullock-Prado (yes, she is Sandra’s sister and a baker. When this came out in paperback, they changed the name of the book. The only reason I can think is because the original could have been misconstrued?!)
    “The Tenth Muse” by Judith Jones (Julia Child’s editor, a lovely memoir!)
    “My Life in France” by Julia Child (one of the best food memoirs out there, she had such a zest for life!)
    Anything by Ruth Reichl, former restaurant critic for the LA Times, New York Times, and editor of the now defunct “Gourmet” magazine.

    Right now I’m reading “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry” by Kathleen Flinn. American finds herself at the Cordon Bleu in Paris. It’s great, plus recipes!

    Of course, being an avid reader, plus a cook and food writer, I LOVE reading about food! Sometimes you’ll find a few cookbooks on my nightstand! ;-)

    • And I forgot to mention one of the Brit’s favorite, Elizabeth David’s “An Omelette and a Glass of Wine.” I have yet to read this, but it’s been on my TBR list for more than a year. I think it’s going to be a good one! :-)

  9. simon – when i read this post the first thought that popped into my brain was “the debt to pleasure” by john lanchester. it is absolutely divine! if you haven’t read it yet, i highly recommend it. sinister, dark and delicious. . . have a great time in italy – can’t wait to hear all about it!!

    • Now I saw this in the local second hand bookshop just the other day, but I have read a few essays of John Lancaster and I simply cannot stomach the man, pun intended, so should I try and overlook that and give the book a whirl? Is it that good?

  10. zeneedle

    Chris left such a lovely list!
    I read Blackberry Wine and Five Quarters of the Orange, neither of which I cared for much, and which put me off reading any of her other books.

  11. I love Nigel Slater. I’ve read Toast and have the book on your list in my “to be read” pile. I also love reading his Kitchen Diaries. They’re full of recipes but also what he cooks/eats, which is great.

  12. Chiming in with titles from my Food and Drink book salon list that haven’t been mentioned yet: Babette’s Feast and Other Anecdotes of Destiny by Isak Dinesen, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury, Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, Gabriela, Cloves and Cinnamon, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, The Last Chinese Chef, Le Ventre de Paris (The Belly of Paris) by Émile Zola. I’d especially recommend Fried Green Tomatoes and the Zola, which would be a great follow-up to Pure, as it’s all about the Les Halles market neighborhood.,

  13. Geraldine

    Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart
    The Olive Farm and it’s sequels by Carol Drinkwater
    The Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill
    The Land of Green Ginger by Winifred Holtby
    The Egg and I, and Onions in the Stew both by Betty Macdonald
    Chorister’s Cake by William Mayne
    Apple Tree Lean Down by Mary E Pearce
    Big Cherry Holler by Adriana Trigiani

    And a drink to wash it all down with, Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

  14. Sarah Cubitt

    The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake is AMAZING – I’m sure you will love it. It was definitely one of my top reads this year. Also have you tried Julie & Julia by Julie Powell? If you don’t have time to read any more memoirs, see the film, because I actually think it’s better than the book, and I absolutely love it.

    • I tried Julie and Julia the book and hated Julie Powells writing, she seemed a bit, erm, well just not my sort of person. I love the film though, it inspired some recent baking, it has only taken me watching that film three times to push me.

  15. marina

    Try one of Annie Hawes’s series on life in Liguria, Italy. I’ve read Ripe for the picking and Journey to the South but I know there are more out there. They are light reads, very funny and guaranteed to make you hungry as you read.

  16. Don’t think it’s been mentioned yet – Al Dente: Madness, Beauty and the Food of Rome, by David Winner. A slightly bonkers non-fiction book. Based around food culture in Italy, but it seemed to me to be more about Italian films and the author’s odd vaguely-about-food conversations with odd strangers and his general ramblings about anything and everything. Not to everyone’s tastes I’m sure, but I liked it a lot! Jim

  17. Pat

    Have you read the Inspector Brunetti crime novels by Donna Leon? – set in Venice and food & drink features prominently

    • I haven’t Pat but I tried looking high and low before I went to Italy and alas to no avail could I get a copy. I have made a note though for future reference as someone who worked at the TLS raved about them.

  18. Almost anything by Colette! I agree with “Pat” about the books by Leon. Can I strongly recommend “The Anatomy of Dessert” by Bunyard? Food and wine and wit and just great, great fun.

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