One of the joys about a book is the way that it can transport you to new places. The settings that you travel to can be entirely removed from reality, steeped in danger and utterly different to your day to day life and yet, usually there are similarities to the real world. One of these, I find, is descriptions of food. In our everyday lives, food is important to people: it joins people together, provides a shared sense of community and when lockdown is over, I can’t wait to share food with family members again. As someone who enjoys baking and, of course, eating, I’m always on the lookout for books that describe food.
There’s something magic about a book that can really describe meals and recipes. It adds an extra level of authenticity and charm to a book and ultimately makes it more memorable. I’d say that this is something that children’s books excel at, hence why we remember them so many years later.
Today, in honour of my favourite books that mention food (but aren’t necessarily food themed) I’ll be shortlisting my favourite references to food in books. This is by no means exhaustive but a quick crash course.
I apologise in advance if you’re feeling hungry…
- The Hunger Games Trilogy
If you want a step-by-step guide of how to describe food, look no further than The Hunger Games. Of course, the trilogy is about far more than what the characters are eating and in that way, food is still important: it highlights the divides between the rich and the poor and it brings the seemingly distant world of Panem a little bit closer to home. And of course, who wouldn’t want to eat beef stew or goat’s cheese after reading them?
‘The stew’s made with tender chunks of lamb and dried plums today. Perfect on the bed of wild rice.’The Hunger Games
- Anything by Enid Blyton
I loved Enid Blyton’s books as a child. They were perfect for me for a number of reasons: the characters were relatable, the settings were interesting and I reread them time and time again. Every book inevitably features some type of midnight feast and the interesting arrangement of items that the girls bring– tinned peaches, sardines, chocolates, sweets and biscuits. Of course, a healthy amount of ginger beer can also not be forgotten. Blyton’s books are classics for a reason.
‘It was a lovely picnic. There were sandwiches of all kinds, buns biscuits and slices of fruit cake.’Upper Fourth At Malory Towers
- The Alex Rider Series
For an action based series, Anthony Horowitz talks a lot about food in his Alex Rider series. From fancy restaurants where lots of ravioli is consumed to hastily put together meals, I always find that these descriptions add an extra dimension of interest to the series, again grounding it in reality.
‘Mrs Rothman ate some of her ravioli. She used only a fork, cutting each pasta envelope in half then spearing it with the prongs. She ate very delicately, and Alex could see the pleasure in her eyes. It wasn’t just food for her. It was a work of art.’Scorpia
- The Chronicles of Narnia
C.S. Lewis’ books are inviting to read, fun but with deep themes and he writes in a friendly style which feels all the more comforting because of the references to food. After all, who wouldn’t want to try Turkish Delight after reading about Edmund’s temptation?
‘And when they had finished the fish, Mrs Beaver brought unexpectedly out of the oven a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll.’The Lion, The Witch And The The Wardrobe
- Honourable Mentions
Of course, there are many more books which are punctuated by descriptions of food. I personally love how the Ruby Redfort series always has Ruby drinking some sort of flavoured milk or eating something and in one of my favourite contemporaries, Goodbye Stranger, I don’t think cinnamon toast has ever been described more invitingly. And then there’s John Grisham’s Theodore Boone series where the Boone’s eat out at restaurants almost every day of the week… And the list goes on.
‘Gertrude’s was an old diner on Main Street… It claimed to serve pecan waffles that were famous around the world, but Theo had often doubted this. Did people in Japan and Greece really know about Gertrude and her waffles?The Abduction
So, now I’m off to add some more descriptions of food to my WIP…
Do you like reading about food in the books that you enjoy? Can you recommend any food-themed books for me? What is your favourite food?