The best sumptuous fiction about food, family and friendship

Andrea Israel Author Of The Recipe Club
By Andrea Israel

The Books I Picked & Why

Heartburn

By Nora Ephron

Book cover of Heartburn

Why this book?

Nora Ephron’s book Heartburn is a funny, short, smart novel about food and relationships. The book explores adultery, revenge, group therapy, weaving in a number of recipes to highlight the emotions as the story charts a fictionalized version Ephron’s real-life marriage imploding when she discovers her husband, journalist Carl Bernstein, is having an affair. Ephron perfectly captures this, extolling the comforting virtues of buttery spuds: “Most people do not have nearly enough mashed potatoes in their lives, and when they do, it's almost always at the wrong time."


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The Joy Luck Club

By Amy Tan

Book cover of The Joy Luck Club

Why this book?

Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club is comprised of sixteen interwoven stories about conflicts between Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-raised daughters. One of The Joy Luck Club’s key components is the way in which food is intertwined with cultural identity and family dynamics. For the characters, food drives memory, sense of identity, nostalgia, and love. Food becomes the bridge between generations, symbolic talismans of good luck and fortune. Food is also the vehicle to express love, exert power, and celebrate life in a continuous struggle among the women characters to maintain relationships, and to make sure there is a connection between past, present, and future. 


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Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies

By Laura Esquivel

Book cover of Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies

Why this book?

Like Water for Chocolate is a blend of romance and magic realism in which food is integral to the story. Each section begins with a beloved Mexican recipe that is woven into the story. The novel takes place in the early 1900s and follows a fifteen-year-old girl seeking true love and independence. While pursuing her adoration of a young man, her mother’s disapproval gets in the way and the girl finds her way toward independence as she cooks. The themes of coming of age, revolting against constraints, following one’s bliss, and cultivating passion—all the while cooking


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Chocolat

By Joanne Harris

Book cover of Chocolat

Why this book?

Chocolat by Joanne Harris is a novel about the awakening of sensuality in a small French Catholic village in France, where change is largely unwelcome and conservative religious views govern behavior. Enter a stranger, a woman who indulges in witchery and bonbons, who opens a chocolate shop, and in so doing goes up against the local priest and alters the fabric of their society. The sumptuous descriptions of chocolate will turn just about anyone into a chocoholic. Chocolat has themes of religion, superstition, prejudice, and finding carnal enjoyment all blended into what so many readers consider a confection of a novel. 


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Stories from the Kitchen

By Diana Secker Tesdell

Book cover of Stories from the Kitchen

Why this book?

Stories from the Kitchen is a celebration of food in fiction, an anthology of short stories combined with tidbits from novels. The authors are well known, ranging from Charles Dickens’ “Love and Oysters,” about oysters upending the life of a man and his dependable routines, to Isaak Dineson’s “Babette’s Feast,” in which a lavish dinner served by a French cook transforms the hearts and souls of the most austere members of an isolated Danish community. Another story of particular interest: M.F.K. Fisher’s heartbreaking “A Kitchen Allegory.” As in Fisher’s gastronomical non-fiction writing, in which food is her greatest metaphor, this slice of fiction uses food as a source of empathy for a woman who has to reckon with no longer being needed. Reading this entire collection underscores how my own book—though unprecedented in its number of recipes tucked within a novel— stands on a long tradition of food as a character in imaginative writing. 


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