Last night someone asked me to recommend a book about food, and it kinda stumped me. I mean, I love books, and I love food, but I’ve somehow missed the middle of that Venn diagram. I need to fix this!
Well, that’s assuming she wanted nonfiction. On the fiction side, there are a couple of things I could mention, although not as many as I’d like:
Chocolat is the obvious one. To anyone who’s seen the movie: the book is much better. (And I did like the movie!) The adaptation makes the mayor the villain, which completely defangs the subplot about his temptation; in the original, the villain is the priest. The book also lets the reader inside the villain’s head more than the movie does, which makes him more understandable and also a lot scarier. The threat he poses is underscored by Vianne’s mother’s lifelong fear of priests, which the book shows in flashbacks that are completely left out of the movie. And…I don’t want to give away the ending, but the movie just doesn’t do justice to the book’s description of the food being eaten!
The title story of Jeffrey Ford’s collection, The Empire of Ice Cream, is amazing. (All the stories in that collection are great, but that’s the only one that really features food.) The narrator, William, is a man with synesthesia, and Ford does a beautiful job describing the way he experiences the world. (“The feel of silk against my fingers rests on my tongue with the flavor and consistency of lemon meringue.”) When William eats coffee ice cream, he has visions of a girl who becomes his “muse.” It’s a short story, so I can’t say anything more without giving it all away—just go read it!
Patricia C. Wrede’s collection, Book of Enchantments, has a food story called “Utensile Strength” which is features a “Frying Pan of Doom.” It’s just about the silliest thing ever, but I liked it. The book ends with a recipe for “Quick After-Battle Triple Chocolate Cake,” which makes some killer brownies. (I’m enough of a nerd that I had to try that recipe, but still not enough of one to make these.)
Someday I’ll get around to reading some proper food books. Until then, I’ll have to satisfy my cravings with fiction and geekery like this.
OM NOM NOM