Books That Make Me Hungry is the topic in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. I’m not going to guarantee that every book I list will have you salivating but maybe that’s a good thing. After all I don’t want to be responsible for causing waists to expand stomachs to bulge!
Late Harvest Havoc by J P Alaux & N Balen. Lets start in the country of gastronomy and fine wines. This novel is part of a crime series set within the vineyards of France. The two amateur detectives get to sample lots of wine but they also do a lot of eating. If caisson de porcelet rôti aux épices douces or sour cherry terrine takes your fancy, this is the book for you.
The Gourmet by Barbery, Muriel. I’m sticking around in France for my second book. If your tastes run to more refined dishes, then you’ll enjoy the items described in Barbery’s novel where the greatest food critic in France. is on a quest to decide what is the most delicious food he has ever eaten. Cue lots of descriptions of dishes he’s loved, from Pan roasted breast of Peking duck rubbed with berbère to grilled sardines and garden fresh tomatoes.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton Let’s move north to Amsterdam where in the seventeenth century, local inhabitants resorted to eating sugar in secret to avoid the strictures of the city’s Calvinist burgomasters. Burton’s main character loves eating marzipan and sweetened dough balls flavoured with almonds and ginger.
The Dance of the Seagull by Andrea Camilleri If the splendid setting of Sicily isn’t enough to attract you to Cammilleri’s Inspector Montelbano series, then maybe his copious references to food, will. The Inspector seems to do his sleuthing as a side line from eating. He’s either wolfing down meals his housekeeper has prepared for him or dropping into his favourite local trattoria to for some pasta, calamari, mussels, sole, shrimp.
The Dinner by Herman Koch This is a pretty dark novel but there are some unexpectedly funny scenes in an upmarket restaurant. Two brothers meet for dinner in Amsterdam to discuss their reaction to a horrid crime committed by their 15 year old sons. Every item on the menu is described in minute detail by the oleaginous maître d’hotel. He doesn’t just tell them how each dish is cooked, he wants to explain the provenance of all the ingredients.
The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch Sometimes gourmands can get a bit up themselves. Charles Arrowby, the protagonist of Murdoch’s Booker Prize winning novel, thinks he has a refined palate. His “felicitous gastric intelligence” leads him to concoct some rather bizarre meals. How do you fancy “baked beans and kidney beans with chopped celery, tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil.“? Nope, me neither.
One Moonlight Night by Caradog Prichard Food of a much humbler variety features in Prichard’s tale of poverty, sickness and hard work in a North Wales community. His narrator, a young boy growing up with a widowed mother, is hungry in the way small boys are always hungry. Money is tight but he’s very happy with bread and butter and lobscouse (a traditional dish in North Wales that is akin to a lamb and vegetable stew).
The Guernsey Literary & Potato Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer The bizarre title of Mary Ann Shaffer’s first (and only) novel suggests the society members exist on a poor man’s diet. But in fact the club is a smokescreen for the real menu of illicit roast pig.
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. Food can be fun as Ransome shows in his series about the adventures of groups of children in the Lake District. In the first book the Walker children camp on a small island in the middle of a lake, eating something called pemmican (which seems a bit like SPAM) with potatoes. Sounds basic but they’re also kept well supplied with cakes and other treats from their mother.
Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton Let’s finish with a childhood favourite. Five on a Treasure Island is the first in Blyton’s Famous Five series. I don’t remember any of the plots but I do remember that the kids always seemed to be on holidays and always seemed to be scoffing cream buns and ginger ale. Much more to my taste that SPAM and potatoes!