The best novels with descriptions of food that will make your mouth water

Sarah Moore Fitzgerald Author Of The Apple Tart of Hope
By Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Who am I?

I'm a novelist and academic with a passion for food. I’ve always been fascinated by people’s favourite recipes, their signature dishes, or the way they behave around food. (As a novelist, if I’m ever stuck with a story, thinking about food really helps to sharpen my understanding of a particular character or a setting.) To me, food is memory, belonging, connection. Most importantly, in a world that can be so unpredictable and chaotic, cooking food is such a soothing, knowable act. As Nora Ephron puts it: "…if you melt butter and add flour and then hot stock, it will get thick! It’s a sure thing! It’s a sure thing in a world where nothing is sure."


I wrote...

The Apple Tart of Hope

By Sarah Moore Fitzgerald,

Book cover of The Apple Tart of Hope

What is my book about?

Oscar Dunleavy, who used to make the world's most perfect apple tarts, is missing, presumed dead. No one seems too surprised, except for Meg, his best friend, and his little brother Stevie. Surrounded by grief and confusion, Meg and Stevie are determined to find out what happened to Oscar, and together they learn about loyalty and friendship, the power of never giving up hope and the magic of perfectly baked, homemade apple tarts.

The books I picked & why

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Heartburn

By Nora Ephron,

Book cover of Heartburn

Why this book?

It took me a while to realise the thing that so many of my favourite novels have in common, and that thing is food. My first pick is a classic. While Nora Ephron’s Heartburn focuses on the breakup of a marriage, the protagonist’s relationship with food and with her most-loved recipes is a subplot about how the comforts of good cooking can help us through the toughest times in life. Not only does Heartburn contain wisdom about resilience and agency in the face of life crises, it also reveals the best way to roast almonds, mash potatoes, make key lime pie. This book will change your life, if only because it's a recipe for Linguine Alla Cecca. 


Chocolat

By Joanne Harris,

Book cover of Chocolat

Why this book?

This is an enchanting novel about transformation, generosity, small acts of kindness, the complexities of human nature – and chocolate. What I think I love most about this book are the food-related perceptions of the protagonist, Vianne, a new arrival in a small French town. She learns about the people there by observing their relationship with food. Who keeps treats to themselves? Who shares them readily? How can food give us hints about the essence of someone’s soul? She describes one character as the kind of man who breaks a biscuit in two so he can keep the other half for later, which amazingly, tells us everything we need to know. 


The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

By Aimee Bender,

Book cover of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Why this book?

This is a gem of a book: perceptive, quirky, clear-eyed, and dark. Bender uses the tradition and taste of food, starting with her mother’s lemon cake recipe as a mysterious access point that unlocks the complicated secrets of the heart. It’s clever and stunningly written, deceptively deep but also sensuously thrilling. "I reached to the side of the cake pan, to the least obvious part, and pulled off a small warm spongy chunk of deep gold. Iced it all over with chocolate. Popped the whole thing into my mouth."


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

By Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (illustrator),

Book cover of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Why this book?

Charlie Bucket’s life is grim. "There wasn’t even enough money to buy proper food at all. The only meals they could afford were bread and margarine for breakfast, boiled potatoes and cabbage for lunch and cabbage soup for supper." But all that’s about to change. Once he’s been introduced to everlasting gobstoppers, a river of chocolate, three-course-dinner chewing gum, and lickable wallpaper, there’s no going back. Not to mention the whipple scrumptious fudgemallow delight.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar

By Eric Carle,

Book cover of The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Why this book?

A beloved classic picture book about a very hungry caterpillar who (spoiler alert) nourishes his way to becoming a beautiful butterfly. It’s a simple but compelling story of transformation, told with elegance and humour  - and a total joy for very young children. The very specific list of food (apple, pears, plums, strawberries, oranges, chocolate cake, cherry pie) makes it an immersive close-up experience. From the very start ("In the light of the moon, a little egg sat on a leaf.") its words and pictures are vivid and enchanting. A read-aloud delight full of texture, variety, and colour. 


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