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Jun 27, 2007 07:03 PM

Food in Fiction [moved from Not About Food board]

Who are the great food writers? Not writers whose subject is food, but those writers who create evocative food scenes and descriptions in their novels. I'm thinking of John D MacDonald and Lawrence Sanders whose male protagonists had great appetites and would describe sandwiches, steaks, breakfasts with mouthwatering detail. Are there any more current authors out there who present food with gusto?

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  1. Andrea Camilieri who writes the Inspector Montalbano books set in Sicily has wonderful descriptions of food and meals.

    1. This probably isn't what you had in mind but it popped right into mine when I read your post. I love this passage. In "The Wind in the Willows" when Toad is in jail, the jailer's daughter brings him tea and toast: "...a tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate, piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in it in great golden drops like honey from the honeycomb...".

      9 Replies
      1. re: Querencia

        In the kiddie lit genre, I'm reminded of Bread and Jam for Francis. Francis the badger wants, as all kids do, only bread and jam while he schoolmates pull out the most amazing lunches. Those badgers have quite the sophisticated palates!

        1. re: wandasue

          OMG but you just brought me back in time. I LOVED that book! Thanks for such a happy memory!

          1. re: wandasue

            I should have known I was a foodie from birth because the Frances books were my favorite!

            I remember a great chapter in Pat Conroy's "The Prince of Tides" where Tom's mother enter a cooking contest and makes a stuffed fish. Yum.

          2. re: Querencia

            I was thinking of all the loving descriptions of food in Laura Ingalls Wilder's books. In "Farmer Boy" it is all about eating, but in the Laura and Mary books the preparation of food is lovingly detailed. And food is appreciated so!

            1. re: mwright

              I really loved reading farmer boy when I was growing up just for the food scenes.

              I also reccomend pretty much anything by roald dahl.

              Im sure you all think of james and the giant peach and charlie and the chocolate factory but how about the fantastic mr. fox? I think I read every single one of his books (including adult short stories) at least 5 times each
              fantastic mr. fox is also being released as a movie in nov 2009

              1. re: bitsubeats

                Have you read his short story "Taste"? It's about wine and so much more!

                1. re: bitsubeats

                  Ah, I remember the part in Matilda where Ms. Honey lets Matilda gather up tea leaves and water from the well in her backyard for a little tea party, along with toast, jam and margarine. I loved it.

                2. re: mwright

                  I do remember the making ice cream details!

              2. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel is fiction entirely devoted to food and passion. i think the joy luck club (amy tan) also has a lot of cookery in it

                the feast scenes in the harry potter books are also wonderful.

                it's been a long while, but I have a vague memory of food images from Enid Blyton's magic faraway tree and only last night my mum mentioned the "suppers" in the secret seven.

                I am not sure if it's a book, but the film "eat drink man woman" certainly deserves a mention.

                3 Replies
                1. re: kmh

                  I had forgotten about Esquivel's novel! Has anyone tried the recipes?

                  1. re: kmh

                    I'm just starting Like Water... and it is quite good. But it's clear Esquivel borrows, just a little here and there, from "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado of Brazil, particularly when it comes to the cooking segments.

                    1. re: inuksuk

                      OK, I would just love to throw in (fellow Jorge Amado lover here), that his book GABRIELA: OF CLOVES AND CINNAMON, takes place in the sugar-growing region of Brazil (I forget the specific province) and is all about food, seduction, what-have-you. A classic.

                  2. Dickins in The Pickwick Papers is absolutely cinegraphic in his descriptions of food.
                    But many of Dickens' works have glorious food passages.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      There are wonderful food passages also in GREAT EXPECTATIONS.

                    2. I've just finished reading a wonderful book by Nicole Mones called "The Last Chinese Chef." Food is both a central theme and the thread into which several personal stories and histories are interwoven. Her writing is engaging, to say the least. As you read, you can hear the thwack of knives against wooden cutting boards, hear the ssszzzzzzzzz! as food goes into a hot wok, and smell the garlic and ginger. I'm never been a huge fan of Chinese food, but reading her beautifully detailed description of the preparation of an Imperial-style banquet made me believe I'd never really eaten Chinese food. Now I almost want to go to China to seek out the real thing.

                      Mones is also the author of "Lost in Translation," which was made into a movie with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Deenso

                        Actually, Mones' "Lost in Translation" isn't the same story-line as the movie with Murray and Johannson - here's a link to the book's plot-line: .

                        1. re: Deenso

                          I agree that the Last Chinese Chef was amazing! I loved it!