Fiction with food on the side

Time to make your summer reading list for lazy days in the sun!

Lets talk about fiction where food plays a delectable part.

Please note author, title, links if possible so others can easily track your suggestion down.


I’ll start with a book I read last year "Cinnamon and Gunpowder " by Eli Brown. It’s 1819 when a chef is kidnapped by a pirate. He is tasked with creating one amazing meal for the pirate each week or he dies. Sourcing while on the high seas becomes a fascinating aspect of the story. A year later I keep thinking about the food.

From Goodreads:
“Cinnamon and Gunpowder is a swashbuckling epicure’s adventure simmered over a surprisingly touching love story—with a dash of the strangest, most delightful cookbook never written. Eli Brown has crafted a uniquely entertaining novel full of adventure: the Scheherazade story turned on its head, at sea, with food”


Not necessarily delectable:

And an oldie before celebrity came calling:


Andrea Camilleri’s “Inspector Montalbano” series, set in Sicily, always make me salivate over the descriptions of seafood.

“The Shape of Water” is the first of the series:

If you can track down copies of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolf series, they’re a delight - with a real gourmand!


Camilleri was good airplane reading. We weren’t as big fans of the TV show. Grazie.

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Did you know The Godfather was a book before it became a movie? I found a paperback of it at a vacation house when I was a teenager, and the food descriptions made me feel that there was a hidden world out there, and why were my parents keeping this from me?

The other book from about the same age was “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” Boiled potatoes dipped in salt while reading, just like Franny. :slight_smile:


Sourdough by Robin Sloan - weird and wonderful!

“A software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions, Lois Clary codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. When the brothers have Visa issues, they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her-- and learn to bake with it. Soon Lois is providing loaves to the General Dexterity cafeteria, then the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up-- including a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology.”


I remember reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Farmer Boy” (about her husband’s childhood) and feeling famished after all the foods they had at every meal. (I later read that she’d included all those dishes because they were in contrast to what she’d eaten as a child and the feasts she described were overly fanciful rather than being accurate.)

I seem to recall that Peter Mayle’s fiction, set in Tuscany, contained excellent food - but that the novels were fairly light.

“Hotel Pastis” was a stand alone novel:

And he has the Sam Levitt series, the first being “The Vintage Caper” (I think all titles in the series have “Caper” in them):


LOL! I don’t recall the food at all. The book was passed around by us 10 year olds and would fall open to the graphic descriptions of sex. We were fascinated and freaked out in equal measure! A few years later the movie came out. I was friends with the child of a minister. Her Mother brought us to see it. It was the first “R” movie I had seen.

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You’re surely referring to the “R” scene of Tom Hagen summoning Sonny through the locked door, and then the denoument of Godfather asking Johnny Fontaine (who was accused of having ruined the horse owner’s starlett (and he can’t be seen to be “ridiculous”)) about being a good family man while raising a brow toward Sonny who still adjusting his clothes arrives in a haste to the study overlooking the wedding party .

This is a particularly good anthology that came out a couple of years ago:

LIke the whole Everyman series, it’s a nice small pocket size and pretty cheap. Here’s the table of contents:

Charles Dickens, “Love and Oysters”

Guy de Maupassant, From Bel Ami

Saki, “Tea”

M. F. K. Fisher, “A Kitchen Allegory”

Isaac Bashevis Singer, “Short Friday”

Nora Ephron, “Potatoes and Love” from Heartburn

Lara Vapnyar, “A Bunch of Broccoli on the Third Shelf”

Elissa Schappell, “The Joy of Cooking”


Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, “On the Pleasures of the Table”

Anton Chekhov, “On Mortality”

Virginia Woolf, From To the Lighthouse

Evelyn Waugh, “The Manager of ‘The Kremlin’’’

Isak Dinesen, “Babette’s Feast”

Gerald Durrell, “Owls and Aristocracy”

Shirley Jackson, “Like Mother Used to Make”

Amy Tan, “Best Quality”


Emile Zola, “The Cheese Symphony” from The Belly of Paris

Marcel Proust, From Swann’s Way

Alice B. Toklas, “Murder in the Kitchen”

Günter Grass, “The Last Meal” from The Flounder

T. C. Boyle, “Sorry Fugu”

John Lanchester, “A Winter Menu” from The Debt to Pleasure

Erica Bauermeister, “Lillian”

Jim Crace, “#45” from The Devil’s Larder


Only the one brief/bare mention of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe? Have they gone out of print again?


@BadaBing talked about the Victorian cucumber sandwiches in the Oscar Wilde’s play “The Importance of Being Earnest” with a whole thread dedicated here:

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Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” dedicated to his fond memory of the little spongy cakes madeleine.

Ernest Hemingway’s “A Movable Feast”, an account of observations and stories of Parisian cafés, bars, hotels and life.


If you like a light but well-written mystery then check out the China Bayles series by Susan Wittig Albert! Some of the earlier books have become a bit of a time capsule of '80s culture but the characters and mystery remain strong. China Bayles is a former attorney turned herb shop owner in a small town located in the Texas hill country. Most of the books in this series stand alone so it is not necessary to read in order. So far all of the books I’ve read have had recipes and a great deal of interesting info (practical and historical) about herbs!


Should have mentioned this series the first time you solicited titles:


Perfect timing for summer reads! I have many “Fiction with food on the side” titles, (especially mystery thrillers with historical fiction,) on my Kindle and Audible, but not all suit my taste. Does anyone have any specific titles they would recommend?

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My MIL gifted me this for my BD
Not technically what you are asking for, but I’m looking forward to checking it out just the same


That reminds me of a website with similar content, posted somewhere here.


Not fiction but lots of fun: “An Embarrassment of Mangos”