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Literary Works Involving Food?

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

    1. 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

        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. "A Moveable Feast" is a fairly quick read.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Olivia

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

          3 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            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: prunefeet

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

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

            1 Reply
            1. re: fistalee

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

            2. 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. 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

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

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

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                      1. re: E Eto

                        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.

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

                          1. 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. babette's feast was actually originally a novella.

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

                                  1. "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. 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. 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. 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

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

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

                                              1. 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

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

                                                2. 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. 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. Like Water For Chocolat