Updated: Dec 3, 2021
In the third blog post of my month-long #FoodWritingFestival series, here’s a list of my favourite food moments in literature
When food finds its way into books, it’s a sensory treat all the way. We get to imagine the pleasures of a hearty meal beautifully woven into an already intriguing plot.
And if one succeeds in painting these mouthwatering visions through words, every other form of food writing becomes a piece of cake for them.
Here’s an attempt to learn from the best through a compilation of my favourite food moments in books. I’ll add more to this list as and when I come across more such gems. For now, here are my top 7 picks.
‘Harry Potter’ by JK Rowling
No list of food scenes in books can ever be complete without even a mention of the out-of-the-world feasts at Hogwarts, arguably the most famous wizarding school in the world of fiction. The spread of “roast beef,” “roast chicken,” “pork chops,” “lamb chops,” “sausages,” “bacon,” “steak,” “boiled potatoes,” “roast potatoes,” “chips,” “Yorkshire pudding,” “blocks of ice cream in every flavour you could think of,” “apple pies,” “treacle tarts,” “chocolate éclairs,” “jam doughnuts,” “trifle,” and more is just as captivating as the magic at play in the seven-plus books.
Also, right outside Hogwarts’ majestic walls, stands the sweet haven of Honeydukes, a chocolate and confectionary shop in the adjacent village of Hogsmeade famed for its “creamy chunks of nougat,” “shimmering pink squares of coconut ice,” “fat, honey-coloured toffees,” “hundreds of different kinds of chocolate in neat rows,” “Every Flavour Beans,” “Fizzing Whizzbees,” “levitating sherbet balls,” and “Special Effects sweets,” including “Droobles Best Blowing Gum (which filled a room with bluebell-coloured bubbles that refused to pop for days),” “fragile sugar-spun quills,” and “exploding bonbons,” to name a few. Phew.
The Twins at St. Clare’s by Enid Blyton
Blyton’s joyful food descriptions are what most of us have taken away from her iconic works. My school-time favourite, however, was her St. Clare’s series. While I’ve forgotten most of the story, the “midnight feasts” at the fictional boarding school, complete with their “ginger-beer,” still remain fresh in my memory.
“Golly! Pork-pie and chocolate cake, sardines and Nestlé’s milk, chocolate and peppermint creams, tinned pineapple and ginger-beer!” said Janet. “Talk about a feast! I bet this beats the upper third’s feast hollow! Come on—let’s begin. I’ll cut the cake.”
I’ve been too partial to the St. Clare’s series to read other Blyton novels, which is why I’ve missed the numerous delights she immortalised in those pages. I’ll make it a goal to devour these remaining works, despite their alleged failure at aging well. In any case, who wouldn’t want those midnight feasts 24x7?!
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
I sought inspiration from this book; instead, it left me with a lot of hunger. Hunger to make the most of my life, as well as the one anticipating the arrival of scrumptious food, such as the potato salad, macaroni salad, bagels, apple cobbler, and baklava the author would get for his teacher Morrie during his visits. Drooling already, aren’t we?
The Food of Love by Anthony Capella
This Italian romance reminiscent of the Madhuri Dixit-starrer Saajan has its male characters working at a Michelin-starred restaurant. So, it’s obvious to expect some glorious Italian food gracing its pages. In fact, the very first chapter describes the workings of a ristretto machine, capable of producing a “red-brown ooze with a hanging quality like honey dripping off the end of a butter knife, with a chestnut-coloured crema and a sweet oily tang that required no sugar, only a gulp of acqua minerale and a bite of a sugar-dusted cornetto”.
My favourites, though, are the parts involving the chef character, Bruno, and the chapter showing the workings of the restaurant.
The book has been divided into acts as if they’re meal courses—Antipasto, Primo, Secondo, Insalata, Dolci, and Ricette. If you’re looking for a #foodporn novel without much regard for the actual plot, this one’s worth your time and taste.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Despite its issues, this bestselling memoir leaves no stone unturned in whetting our appetite. The author’s goal during her first of three life-changing trips, which is to Italy, is to simply enjoy its culinary side and scoop up as much of it as possible. Thanks to Gilbert’s unique voice and style, we, too, end up lusting for the gelato and Neapolitan pizza.
Then I went for a walk and ate some pistachio gelato. Which Italians consider a perfectly reasonable thing to be eating at 9:30 AM, and I frankly could not agree with them more.
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
This gangster novel is perhaps the last book anyone would think of when it comes to food scenes, but legendary storyteller Mario Puzo certainly knew how to mix the gritty with the delicious. It’s mostly simple and home-style fare here, including a “sloppy sandwich” of fried peppers, rustled up by Santino Corleone, with “hot olive oil dripping from his fingers”. And that’s actually the best thing about the book.
Tom Hagen was given a hot dish of spaghetti with oily rich tomato sauce, the taste of which he had never forgotten, and then given a metal folding bed to sleep on.
Even the movie has its fair share of deliciousness, made even more tempting with some gorgeous cutlery-on-crockery sound effects.
The Wedding Tamasha by Sudha Nair
Among the Indian novels that make things drool-worthy for readers, is this 2017 Pen to Publish winner, which amps up the food quotient with its scrumptious wedding spreads. Going by the descriptions of how the payasam and ada are prepared, it certainly is #foodcoma in a book!
And of course, PiKu & ViRu by Yours Truly!
Time for some self-promotion now, hehe. While my baby isn’t an out-and-out food novel, it certainly has its share of delicious moments—from PiKu enjoying one of ViRu’s characters’ favourite golgappas in Delhi to her savouring a fully loaded thali in ViRu’s make-up room in his presence.
The vendor filled a small orange-brown UFO-shaped puri with a mixture of chopped boiled potatoes, boiled chickpeas and tamarind paste. He then dipped the puri into a steel barrel of green chutney water, with coriander leaves floating on top. I stuffed the puri into my mouth and let its crisp texture and piquant notes captivate me.
I hope to learn from the aforementioned master storytellers and inject even more deliciousness into my next novel. For now, buy/download, read, and review PiKu & ViRu here if you haven’t yet; it’s FREE on Kindle Unlimited.
More on my devour list
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
More than Just Biryani by Andaleeb Wajid
The Crunch Factor by Andaleeb Wajid
Lallan Sweets by Srishti Chaudhary
Sorry Fugu by TC Boyle