The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Set the scene in your home with the smells of sofrito! Here’s a great recipe for Pollo Guisado—or chicken stew—from Taste of Home magazine.
Oscar is a sweet New Jersey kid who dreams of finding love but lacks the “cool” factor living with his old world mother and rebel sister. He blames it on the family fukú—a curse that has followed them from San Domingo to the USA. A hilariously tragic and endlessly soulful read that had me craving my abuelita’s pollo guisado. It’s a recipe that every Caribbean man, woman, son and daughter knows by heart…and taste.
The Joy Luck Club
A steaming bowl of wonton soup is the perfect accompaniment to this novel. Here’s my favorite, from the Food in Literature blog.
In 1949 San Francisco, four resilient Chinese women meet to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and share their great struggles and successes. They name themselves the Joy Luck Club. Forty years later, the women continue their friendship legacy through their daughters. The characters sip and savor their Wonton Soup, as can readers.
The School of Essential Ingredients
This being a “foodie” novel, Bauermeister generously provides a bevy of recipes. Claire’s Roasted Crab is my pick. Mm, pass me a bib.
Eight students come to Lillian’s once a month to learn the art of cooking soulful dishes; truthfully, each is seeking a recipe for life outside the kitchen. The magical smells and tastes of their creations transform their lives and each other. This being a “foodie” novel, Bauermeister generously provides a bevy of recipes. Claire’s Roasted Crab is my pick. Mm, pass me a bib.
Pair this memorable saga with See’s own family recipes (like this one for Beef Lo Mein) from her grandfather’s Chinese-American restaurant, Dragon’s Den.
Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are beautiful, modern young women of 1937 Shanghai when their father gambles away the family’s fortune and the sisters are sold as Chinese brides to Los Angeles men. From China to America, they embark upon a journey of body and heart as their sisterly rivalry and devotion are tested. A memorable saga that you can pair with See’s own family recipes from her grandfather’s Chinese-American restaurant, Dragon’s Den. How cool is that?
Ephron says, “Nothing like mashed potatoes when you’re feeling blue.” And there’s nothing like Ephron’s version of this classic dish—fluffy, creamy, heartwarming and satisfying.
Nora Ephron’s 1983 novel tells the story of a pregnant cookbook writer reeling after she finds out her husband is having an affair with a mutual friend. Ephron, who used her own life and marriage to Carl Bernstein as inspiration, peppers her bittersweet novel full of recipes—including one for Key Lime Pie that main character Rachel throws in her cheating husband’s face at a dinner party. But my most favorite line? When Ephron says, “Nothing like mashed potatoes when you’re feeling blue.” And there’s nothing like Ephron’s version of this classic dish—fluffy, creamy, heartwarming and satisfying.
A Spool of Blue Thread
This recipe for Bread and Milk from chef Nigella Lawson proves the combo is a classic family comfort food.
The Whitshanks are one of those families that radiate an indefinable kind of specialness, but like all families, their stories reveal only part of the picture: Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. From Red’s parents, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to the grandchildren carrying the Whitshank legacy boisterously into the 21st century, here are four generations of lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn house that has always been their anchor.
Circling the Sun
To revel in the glamour of the time period as you read, sip one of a Chilled Champagne Cocktail, concocted by Martha Stewart.
This powerful novel transports readers to the breathtaking world of 1920s Kenya and reveals the extraordinary adventures of Beryl Markham, a woman before her time. Brought to Kenya from England by pioneering parents dreaming of a new life on an African farm, Beryl is raised unconventionally, developing a fierce will and a love of all things wild. But after everything she knows and trusts dissolves, headstrong young Beryl is flung into a string of disastrous relationships, then becomes caught up in a passionate love triangle with the irresistible safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and the writer Baroness Karen Blixen. Brave and audacious and contradictory, Beryl will risk everything to have Denys’s love, but it’s ultimately her own heart she must conquer to embrace her true calling and her destiny: to fly.
The Mapmaker's Children
The Baker's Daughter
I’m someone who loves to have my reading fill up all of my senses. I want to hunger for what the characters’ taste. Smell what’s in the air they breathe. Feel the grit of chip salt between their fingers. Hear the crunch of roasted nuts and see the bounty of a full dinner gathering. It’s what I crave in my stories and it’s evident in my writing, too. Both of my books, The Mapmaker’s Children and The Baker’s Daughter, include elaborate descriptions of cultural foods, plus recipes for readers to make in their real-life kitchens. Here is a cornucopia overflowing with novels that will inspire gobbles—all perfect for digesting over the Thanksgiving holiday—if you can resist succumbing to the sleep-inducing powers of tryptophan, that is!
And, if these reads make you hungry (which they undoubtedly will), check out the below recipes to make the food jump off the pages of the book and on to your table.
Image Credits: Yulia Grigoryeva/Shutterstock