When we talk about how books make us feel, we mostly refer to the emotional–the swoons, the sighs, the weeping and the rages–but what about the physical pull fiction can have on us? Have you ever read a passage about food and found your stomach growling right along with the characters? Found your mouth watering at some bit of lusciously described food?
It’s amazing how prominent the role of food is in our bookish lives here at The Midnight Garden–in fact, we even have a tag dedicated to food in books in the sidebar, and Friday’s classic readalong discussion book All-of-a-Kind Family has quite a bit of food porn in it, too! All of us cook or bake to some degree, and we’re all fans of tasty dishes and drinks.
So, what are our favorite foods in fiction?
Tonya’s Favorite Fictional Foods
Anne of Green Gables – (do I manage to work Anne into every list? Yes. I regret nothing.) As a kid, I was obsessed with trying raspberry cordial. I used to make raspberry jello and drink the mixture before it was set, and pretend I was getting tipsy like Diana. (Weird? Maybe.) And I always wondered just exactly what plum pudding looked like–minus the mouse, of course. (According to the internets, plum pudding does not have any actual plums in it. Dreams. Dashed.)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor has a gift for bringing worlds to life, from Prague to Marrakesh to Eretz, I felt as though I actually visited each place. And her descriptions of food were no different. I could almost smell the spices, the roasting meat. And the goulash. I want it in my mouth.
Anna and the French Kiss – Macarons. Pain au chocolat. Chocolat chaud. Ham and cheese paninis. Need I go on? I think not.
Kim’s Favorite Fictional Foods
All Four Stars – This is actually a completely food-centric book! It feels like every page is nearly bursting with delicious food descriptions and also cooking! In my review I talked about how I loved that the food element also took us traveling around the world. A delightful global culinary tour and a delightful book!
All-of-a-Kind Family – This one did such a fabulous job transporting us to the world of the Lower East Side in 1912. Food is present in nearly every chapter whether it’s a trip to the market, a regular lunchtime, or a holiday. I especially loved the peek into Jewish culture in this time and place and seeing the similarities and differences to what I know.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Much like All-of-a-Kind Family, the food in this book is like a form of time travel (and they even begin in the same year!). I remember when I first read this as a kid and how Francie’s food adventuring around her neighborhood from purchasing penny candy, to picking up rye from the Jewish bakery, to getting to sip and cherish the coffee that is one of her sole luxuries really immersed me in her world.
Wendy’s Favorite Fictional Foods
I dream about food, and I dream about books–so when those two things come together, I’m in ecstasy.
I LOVE when food is featured in books, so much so that I even have a food porn shelf on GoodReads! My earliest memories of food porn are probably Bread and Jam for Frances (I hosted a story time for this book once and served thick jam sandwiches to the kids), the beautiful lemon pudding in The Stories Julian Tells (I can’t eat this dish without thinking of this book), and the Ramona Quimby books, in which her father would sometimes bring home a paper bag full of gummy bears, or a payday treat might be a juicy burger with a soft bun and pickles. A lot of the Cleary books had great food porn, actually, including bananas in Mitch and Amy, or doughnut holes in The Luckiest Girl, or Coke floats in Fifteen.
As an adult, I get terrible cravings in the middle of the night when I read cop dramas, because they’re often eating pizza or doughnuts and I never have any in my house. When I read Cat Hellisen’s When the Sea is Rising Red, I had to leave to buy cake before I could finish the book–and of course, I thought about the hummingbird cake in Rebel Belle so much that I had to make it!
Like Tonya, I am immensely fond of the raspberry cordial in Anne of Green Gables–I used to make my mother buy Welch’s frozen raspberry juice concentrate and pretend I was having tea with Anne and Diana. For me, Turkish Delight will always be associated with Narnia, and of course the Harry Potter books are filled with iconic foodstufffs, too.
The surprise attic feast in A Little Princess.
The crisp gingerbread cookies wrapped in tin foil stars in Mary Poppins. Jane and Michael later watch in amazement as the stars are pasted into the sky with a bucket of glue. <3
The tomato sandwiches in cranky Harriet M. Welsch‘s lunch and the chocolate cake waiting for her every day after school.
The Little House books, forever groaning with food, but most especially pies of all kinds, roasted pig’s tail, popcorn and milk, maple syrup candy made in the snow, pink lemonade, oyster soup during a long, hard winter, and the amazing chapter in Farmer Boy when the parents are away and the kids eat all the sugar in the house because they keep making cake and churning ice cream. If that doesn’t sound like heaven to a kid, I don’t know what would! Frankly, it sounds like heaven to me now.
The forbidden candy bar store run by The Great Brain at the Academy. Highly recommended if you enjoy historical Laura Ingalls Wilder stories, except with too-smart boys who are always getting into trouble!
The juicy pork chops in The Middle Moffat, when Jane is invited to dinner and is fearful she’ll forget her manners and accidentally eat the maid’s dinner.
The onion sandwiches in the Betsy-Tacy books, made by Betsy’s father on Sundays when all the neighborhood boys came over to her house to hang out. Later, Joe bonds with his future father-in-law over making those sandwiches. Food brings us together in so many funny ways, eh?
Ginnie and the Cooking Contest, in which Ginnie tries out all kinds of amazing desserts and main dishes to decide which one to enter into the local contest. As an adult, I was tickled to find that the author published a children’s cookbook based on her series, and I posted an adaptation of one of the recipes Ginnie experiments on my old children’s books and crafts blog for chicken-almond mousse.
More recently published YA with great food porn: Sixteenth Summer, which features lovely lemony ice creams and hot dogs at the beach; Bittersweet, which will drive you mad with desire for cupcakes of all flavors in addition to the adorable romance; The Miseducation of Cameron Post, with its cool strawberry pretzel salad; The Grisha Trilogy, with all the glorious feasts and fantastical foods. As Leigh Bardugo said in her Grisha Food Chat with us, putting a twist on something familiar really can transport you there in an immediate way.
As Tonya and Kim both mentioned, the All-of-a-Kind Family series also has AMAZING food featured in it. We’ll be discussing the first book this Friday, and I cannot wait to plot overnight candy games with you all!
P.S. You might also enjoy the transcript from this #mglitchat that I jumped on last fall. Lots of great suggestions if you like food in your books.