The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
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
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
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.
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?
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.
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 14 novels that will inspire 14 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.
Do you have a book to add? Please share in the comments section! Good reading and guten Appetit!
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Delectable Recipes Inspired By Delicious Books
Portuguese Seafood Chowder inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s Bone in the Throat
Before reading Bourdain’s murder mystery, start a batch of the chef’s seafood chowder for a mouth-watering treat when you reach the very best part.
Bread and Milk inspired by Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread
This recipe for Bread and Milk from chef Nigella Lawson proves the combo is a classic family comfort food.
Pollo Guisado inspired by Junot Diaz’s The Brief and 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.
Chilled Champagne Cocktail inspired by Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun
To revel in the glamour of the time period as you read, sip one of these champagne cocktails, concocted by Martha Stewart.
Wonton soup inspired by Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club
A steaming bowl of wonton soup is the perfect accompaniment to this novel. Here’s my favorite take from the Food in Literature blog.
Waverley Fig and Pepper Bread from Sarah Allen Addison’s First Frost
Try making this savory Fig and Pepper Bread—the recipe is featured in the novel as a magical treat for readers.
The Clasp by Sloane Crosley
Croquembouche (French wedding cake)
French for “crunch in mouth,” the Croquembouche consists of custard-filled cream puffs stacked in a pyramid and drenched in caramel. Decadent and delectable.
French Apple Tarte Tatin inspired by Alice Hoffman’s The Marriage of Opposites
To honor the role pommes play in Hoffman’s book, try this scrumptious French Apple Tarte Tatin from The French Chef, Madam Julia Child.
Roasted Crabs from Erica Bauermeister’s 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.
Shrimp Cakes inspired by Jane Green’s Summer Secrets
These shrimp cakes are as delicious to read about as they are to eat. Jane, an author and a kitchen goddess, is releasing her cookbook Good Taste. Good Food. Good Life. this December!
Beef Lo Mein from Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls
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.
Turkish Delights (Lokum) inspired by C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
As brother Edmund is lured into the White Witch’s captivity by Turkish Delights, eat them right alongside him without fear. This unique dessert is perfect for the holiday season.
Shakrlama from Jessica Soffer’s Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots
Lorca and Victoria’s time together in the kitchen is precious to them. The smell of cardamom and rosewater will nourish you too as you create Jessica’s family’s shakrlama cookies using this recipe.
Mashed Potatoes from Nora Ephron’s Heartburn
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.
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