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Literary Works Involving Food?

AmySue Aug 9, 2006 06:38 PM

I teach Freshman Composition at a community college and I am a full-on Chowhound. I want to put the two together by having my students write about food. I'm good on the expository paper, and on the research paper, but we do a literary analysis paper and I'm drawing a blank on literary works (short fiction) that involve food. Any ideas? Again, short fiction would be best. Thanks!

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  1. mnosyne RE: AmySue Aug 9, 2006 06:48 PM

    Anthony Bourdain's Bobby Gold stories, including "Bone in the Throat" and "Gone Bamboo".

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      Piglet RE: AmySue Aug 9, 2006 08:49 PM

      Offhand, I can't think of any short fiction, but if you're willing to consider full-length novels, there's always "Like Water For Chocolate."

      I also loved Timothy Taylor's novel "Stanley Park", about a high-end chef in Vancouver and his conflicted relation with his hippie anthropologist father. It got a lot of buzz in Canada when it came out a few years back, but has been, IMHO, sadly ignored in the US. Definitely worth checking out, if not for your class, for your own enjoyment.

      Good luck with your search!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Piglet
        bogie RE: Piglet Aug 31, 2006 07:04 PM

        Good one, Piglet! As a Canadian I am so proud that book is one of ours. Definitely the best recent serious literature that has the restaurant biz as topic.

        It was Taylor's first book and was nominated for Canada's fiction award, The Giller Prize. It is lengthy, but a very quick and easy read.

      2. Olivia RE: AmySue Aug 9, 2006 08:51 PM

        "A Moveable Feast" is a fairly quick read.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Olivia
          slacker RE: Olivia Aug 10, 2006 08:40 PM

          Or, "Across the River and Into the Trees." That man loved to eat. I have the Hemingway Cookbook, what a great read. Haven't tried the recipes yet, though.

        2. Robert Lauriston RE: AmySue Aug 9, 2006 09:04 PM

          Some of Murakami's short stories have a lot of eating and/or cooking.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            Pei RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 10, 2006 06:32 PM

            Another Japanese writer, Banana Yoshimoto (what a name!) writes short stories and novels often about food. Kitchen is the name of her book with the most about food, and it's a very short novel.

            1. re: Pei
              prunefeet RE: Pei Aug 10, 2006 08:45 PM

              Yes, Kitchen is wonderful!

              1. re: prunefeet
                Foodrat RE: prunefeet Aug 30, 2006 08:00 PM

                LOVED Kitchen as well. I remember wishing that it was longer.

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            fistalee RE: AmySue Aug 9, 2006 09:48 PM

            I have always very much enjoyed "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote.

            1 Reply
            1. re: fistalee
              prunefeet RE: fistalee Aug 10, 2006 08:45 PM

              Yes again! Is this the one about getting moonshine with his grandmother for the xmas fruitcakes?

            2. s
              Sam Ottawa RE: AmySue Aug 10, 2006 12:39 PM

              Random House has a series of food-related books - the series is edited by Ruth Reichl, which includes both non-fiction and fiction. I just picked up "The Passionate Epicure" but have yet to read it. http://www.randomhouse.com/modernlibr...

              1. PaulF RE: AmySue Aug 10, 2006 04:36 PM

                Raymond Carver is one of my favorite all time short story writers.

                He has a story called "A Small Good Thing." It's about a mother and a baker. (You probably know the story, if not, you might be familiar with the plot via the Altman film "Short Cuts" -- the baker is played by Lyle Lovett and the mother by Andie MacDowell -- though he film changes a bit).

                Here is a web page discussing the story:


                1 Reply
                1. re: PaulF
                  PaulF RE: PaulF Aug 10, 2006 04:44 PM

                  FWIW - Charles Bukowski wrote many short stories -- not about food -- but about drink.

                2. CynD RE: AmySue Aug 10, 2006 05:46 PM

                  I recall a novel called "Bread Alone" by Judith Hendricks. Story of a woman coming to terms with being newly single, but the story centers around the bakery where she takes a job and starts her new life. Describes the baking process, running a bakery, and her learning to bake.

                  1. n
                    niki rothman RE: AmySue Aug 10, 2006 05:59 PM

                    I've got your book for you: "Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame. The most beautiful chowhoundish passage ever is in it. It's about a picnic basket and what's in it - near the beginning of the book. There are lots of other absolutely lovely descriptions of foods throughout. In my humble opinion WITW is the most beautiful use of the English language, bar none. So you could never go wrong assigning it to kids to read - everybody should have the pleasure of reading it.

                    1. E Eto RE: AmySue Aug 10, 2006 06:38 PM

                      George Orwell's _Down and Out in Paris in London_ should be required reading for any chowhound.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: E Eto
                        niki rothman RE: E Eto Aug 10, 2006 08:20 PM

                        I've heard that before but can you tell me what makes it so chow-worthy? I'm to old to be entertained by being made depressed - even by fine writing.

                        1. re: niki rothman
                          E Eto RE: niki rothman Aug 10, 2006 09:06 PM


                      2. s
                        slacker RE: AmySue Aug 10, 2006 08:34 PM

                        Not short fiction, but OMG, the BOEUF EN DAUBE in VIRGINIA WOOLF'S "TO THE LIGHTHOUSE." And how Mrs. Ramsay served it to her dinner party guests. I could not get it out of my mind, even now that I don't eat beef.

                        1. prunefeet RE: AmySue Aug 10, 2006 08:47 PM

                          What about anything by MFK Fisher? I love the story about the first summer peas...

                          1. s
                            slacker RE: AmySue Aug 10, 2006 08:56 PM

                            Again, not short fiction (sorry!), but a fast read and told from a most interesting perspective: "The Book of Salt." A fiction account of an Asian cook who worked for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas during their years in Paris.

                            Or, "The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook." A cookbook, but detailed with their lives in Paris, and references to friends like Picasso.

                            1. t
                              traceybell RE: AmySue Aug 11, 2006 08:02 AM

                              babette's feast was actually originally a novella.

                              1. Low Country Jon RE: AmySue Aug 11, 2006 01:39 PM

                                "Pet Milk" by Stuart Dybek is not only a great food-centric short story, it's one of my favorite short stories, period. A swirling, bittersweet meditation on love, loss, memory, and yes, food!

                                1. b
                                  Blumie RE: AmySue Aug 11, 2006 01:41 PM

                                  Calvin Trillin's Tummy Trilogy. A compilation of short humor pieces. Very entertaining. Very well written.

                                  1. g
                                    gfjones RE: AmySue Aug 11, 2006 03:45 PM

                                    "The Devil's Larder" by Jim Crace. A collection of short (some less than a page) food related tales. Often disturbing, but in the best kind of way.

                                    1. c
                                      cerises RE: AmySue Aug 15, 2006 12:35 AM

                                      I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned Poppy Z. Brite's wonderful New Orleans restaurant series, "Liquor," "Prime," and the newly published "Soul Kitchen." These books are a delight to all the senses, whether Brite's young chefs are cooking their own liquor-laced food or lampooning other restaurants' pretentious creations. I believe Ms. Brite is a Chowhounder too. If you are looking for short work, she has also written several stories about the characters. Most of them are not as food-oriented as the novels, though. Several are collected in her book "The Devil You Know."

                                      Some of MFK Fisher's work, though fact-based, reads like literary fiction.

                                      Carson McCullers' "The Jockey" is a very different take on food-related fiction.

                                      That's all I can think of for now, but I'll look through my library and see if I can find others.

                                      1. Carrie 218 RE: AmySue Aug 15, 2006 12:40 AM

                                        Check out the book "A Literary Feast" an anthology edited by Lilly Golden.

                                        It includes short stories and extracts like:

                                        V.S. Pritchett - The Veils of Spain
                                        Peter Mayle - January
                                        Zelda Fitzgerald - The Continental Angle
                                        Ernest Hemingway - Hunger was Good Discipline
                                        Isak Dinesen - Babette's Feast
                                        Isaac Bashevis Singer - Short Friday
                                        Virginia Woolf - To The Lighthouse
                                        Kenneth Graham - Mr. Badger
                                        Thomas Pynchon - Banana Breakfasts
                                        Betty Fussell - On Murdering Eels and Laundering Swine

                                        and much, much more.

                                        1. frankiii RE: AmySue Aug 15, 2006 01:07 AM

                                          Maruki Murakami has an engaging and modern style, very hip and culturally vibrant. Many of his storys place the main character in the kitchen for a portion of the story. "The Fall of the Roman Empire, The 1881 Indian Uprising, Hitler's Invasion of Poland, And The Realm of Raging Winds" in the collection "The Elephant Vanishes" stands out.

                                          "The Debt To Pleasure" is great book about a series of murders centered around menus and memories of food and it is very funny

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: frankiii
                                            jillp RE: frankiii Sep 2, 2006 12:15 AM

                                            Thank you for suggesting "The Debt to Pleasure." I located it at my local library and by page 9 I had already laughed outloud three times and made my husband produce the grimace that passes for laughter when I read passages to him. There is no finer accolade!

                                          2. l
                                            lduerrnj RE: AmySue Aug 15, 2006 05:38 PM

                                            Babette's Feast is my first pick.
                                            Non-fiction would include any or preferably all of Ruth Reichl's books

                                            1. m
                                              melly RE: AmySue Aug 15, 2006 05:44 PM

                                              Stuffed, Adventures of a Restaurant Family by Patricia Volk. Very witty, sharp, well written and all about food and family!

                                              1. l
                                                lyn RE: AmySue Aug 15, 2006 05:56 PM

                                                I say the classic Upton Sinclair (short) novel, The Jungle. it is a turn of the centery novel about the evils of the meatpacking industry. really is good social commentary of the times with parallel to todays corporate wrong doings.... and you will be off meat for a while after reading it.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: lyn
                                                  sivyaleah RE: lyn Sep 4, 2006 09:48 PM

                                                  Great book - I didn't eat hot dogs for years after reading it. I got over it, but it really left its mark.

                                                2. jackie RE: AmySue Aug 15, 2006 06:34 PM

                                                  Oh my, who can resist Roald Dahl's "Lamb to the Slaughter"? Delightful and well written, this is the one where the housewife kills her husband with a frozen leg of lamb, then cooks and serves it to the investigating police. Great food imagery, and Dahl's adult stories are wonderful. "Taste", about wine snobbery and high stakes gambling is another good one.

                                                  1. j
                                                    jennyfur RE: AmySue Aug 31, 2006 07:43 PM

                                                    At the beginning of HEIDI, there is a segment about Grandfather toasting cheese. I still remember that from childhood, and I think it was one of the first impressions that made me a Chowhound.

                                                    1. m
                                                      mattrapp RE: AmySue Aug 31, 2006 07:48 PM

                                                      Like Water For Chocolat

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