Food is in many novels, including mine, but there are some books which nail it. Some revolve around food, others incorporate it less so but in such a way that it still means you couldn’t imagine the story without food. Here are my favourites:
- The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan. I loved all Amy Tan’s early books, and her incorporation of food into her novels is wonderful and especially evocative. (I could easily add The Kitchen God’s Wife to this list as well). You can taste the dim sum! Add to that her skill in writing about relationships and cultures in America and you have a very special book.
- Day of Atonement, by Jay Rayner. How can I not love a plot which has home-made chicken-soup machines! But the food is just part of it; it’s funny, insightful, addresses what it means to be a Jew in post-war Britain, and a real page-turner. (I wish he had written more novels, apart from The Apologist, and not just continued as a food critic!)
- Chocolat, by Joanne Harris. I admit, I saw the film first, but when I read the book, it was so much more sensual.
- Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, by Kiran Desai. The food – the fruit – is the background to this beautifully written novel, about a man who sits atop a tree in a guava orchard and becomes a popular “holy man”. I loved it.
- The Mistress Of Spices, by Chitra Divakaruni. How to use food as the core, the structure, the surround of a captivating, magical, beautifully written novel. The sort of book where you forget everything else going on around you while you read it.
- Number One Chinese Restaurant, by Lillian Li. I first heard Li speak about her book on a podcast, and I went online and bought it the next day. Yet again, a mix of relationships and food, and Li’s descriptions of Chinese cuisine and the restaurant is so expressive and well written.
- The Kosher Delhi, by… me! Well, I have to give a little boost to my own novel. I hope it does justice to food; certainly reviewers have been kind to have said that some of the restaurant scenes are amongst their favourite parts. I’m still waiting to hear if anyone tries out the recipe at the very end of the book…