Book Life: The Joy of Cooking with Your Favorite Literary Characters
Guest Blog Post by Courtney Denning
This month we’re celebrating food: both cooking and eating locally grown foods. It’s made me think about some of my favorite books that featured food. I've loved the combination of a good book and a tasty treat ever since my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Harbison, helped us bake chocolate Thunder Cake after reading Patricia Polacco's book by the same name.
Other books from my childhood that made me hungry include If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff, Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, the entire Redwall Series by Brian Jacques and the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. It’s no surprise to me that three of my favorite activities as an adult are reading, cooking and eating (not necessarily in that order).
I find it extremely comforting to read about Mma Ramotswe in Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency preparing an afternoon cup of red bush tea or pumpkin for dinner. I find it almost as meditative and relaxing as the act of actually baking something myself (if only I could join her for dinner!).
I’m not the only reader who wants to connect with my favorite characters in the kitchen; many bloggers make recipes based on their favorite books or television shows. There are also many cookbooks based on fictional characters and worlds from literature and television. I’ve found that the best literary-themed cookbooks are ones written by the book’s author, or the author was consulted during the cookbook writing process. Some awesome literary cookbooks include The Redwall Cookbook by Brian Jacques, Mma Ramotswe’s Cookbook by Stuart Brown, A Feast of Ice and Fire by the bloggers behind The Inn at the Crossroads, the Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook: Recipes Inspired by Dr. Seuss and The Pooh Cookbook by Virginia H. Ellison.
I know there are many fiction books out there that include recipes within the novel. One such example is the tantalizing Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel and the very sweet The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig. The books below are some that do not include recipes or have a related cookbook that I think provide ample cookbook inspiration.
Above the East China Sea by Sarah Bird
One of the many reasons I loved this book is the lush, delicious descriptions of the island of Okinawa. I felt like I took a mini-vacation every time I sat down to read. The descriptions of the food alone are enough to make your mouth water! A cookbook based on this novel would be an amazing way to explore Okinawan cuisine, foods like fish, tofu, and seaweed. The people of Okinawan are known for their longevity and many live to be 100 or older, another compelling reason to try cooking some Okinawan recipes.
Ethan Gage Adventures by William Dietrich
The Ethan Gage Adventures begin during the Napoleonic Wars and follow Ethan Gage as he gets himself tangled in a variety of political plots and treasure hunting schemes. Dietrich is well known for his historical research; while Gage is not a real person, many of the people he meets and the situations he involves himself in are real. A cookbook based on Gage’s exploits would be the perfect way to sample early 1800s American and European fare. I could see recipes including Napoleon’s favorite Marengo Chicken (made by his chef after he was victorious at the Battle of Marengo) or sweet potato pudding, fried eggplant and a fresh salad made with produce grown by President Thomas Jefferson himself at Monticello. An Ethan Gage themed cookbook would be a culinary "Who's Who" of the early 1800s.
Sarah Woolson Mysteries by Shirley Tallman
This mystery series, set in 1880s San Francisco, always makes me hungry. The books follow Sarah Woolson, an attorney, and her colleague Robert Campbell. Many scenes in the books revolve around food. Woolson’s law office is even located above a bakery! Woolson’s family often hosts festive dinners and many cups of coffee and plates of pastries are consumed as Woolson discusses legal cases with her father and Campbell. I think a cookbook based on this series could be a fascinating look at the melting pot culture and cuisine of Victorian San Francisco. It would also give me something delicious to nibble on while I read!
Are there any fiction books you would love to see re-imagined with recipes?