Summer is my season for idleness. I relish the peaceful days and slower pace that summer brings. With regular activities on hiatus, I have time for relaxing in the shade of an umbrella, enjoying informal gatherings with friends, experimenting with new recipes, taking every opportunity to read.
I’m inspired to try new recipes at home after I’ve visited friends and sampled the food they’ve prepared. Travelling encourages me to experiment in the kitchen, like the Guinness bread I made following a trip to Belfast and the gazpacho I made after visiting Andalusia.
Fiction is filled with food inspiration. Descriptions of mealtimes and food preparation are used by authors to set a scene, create a mood, expose plot points, reveal characters, and carry symbolic meanings. They add richness and realism to a story.
Your mouth will be watering as you read the descriptions of the elaborate feast served to the abstemious Danish villagers by a French refugee in Babette’s Feast by Isak Dinesen. The theme of abstinence also runs through Chocolat by Joanne Harris, when the scent and taste of chocolate in a newly opened chocolaterie drives the locals in a French village a little crazy during Lent when they are supposed to be fasting.
You may be tempted to reach for fresh oysters and chilled white wine when you read the descriptions of dining in A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Once you’ve read The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C Morais, you’ll want to add Indian spices to your next omelette like budding chef Hassan Haji. You’ll be curious to try comfort food from America’s deep south when you read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg.
After you’ve been seduced by the magical meals prepared by Tita for her forbidden lover Pedro in Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, why not follow the Mexican recipes included in the book. Make sorrel soup, pot roast and key lime pie using the recipes in Heartburn by Nora Ephron, while you read about the rollercoaster love story of cookbook writer Rachel and her husband.
Food is a significant part of the storyline in numerous novels, creatively incorporated for different reasons.
The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
The Dinner by Herman Koch
Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Supper Club by Lara Williams
By all means, ponder the intentions behind Rachel’s key lime pie or Tita’s quail in rose petal sauce while you’re reading, but also appreciate the food for its fundamental qualities: as a source of nourishment, as a means of drawing people together, as a creative expression. Then give yourself over to the sheer mouth-watering pleasure of creating such morsels in your own kitchen and serving them to your loved ones.
Happy reading, cooking and eating this summer! And please let me know your favourite food-inspired fiction.