3 Dangerous Books To Read If You’re Hungry

Forget about glowing author testimonials and ‘award-winning’ stickers. 

What some novels really need is a health warning on their cover. A warning that reading this book will not just stimulate your mind, it will stimulate your appetite. 

Why? 

Because these are novels that contain fulsome descriptions of ingredients purchased, dishes cooked and meals ordered.  Characters in films seem only to sit at a table and play with their cutlery. You hardly ever see them take a sip of wine or a mouthful of food. Meanwhile their book counterparts are tucking in heartily. 

Reading these novels is a dangerous activity. Certainly not one to be embarked upon if you’re trying to restrict your calorie intake or you didn’t get a chance to eat yet. 

Dangerous because just reading about food is guaranteed to:

  • sharpen your appetite;
  • send you running to the biscuit tin or
  • get you foraging in the fridge/freezer

Here’s a shortlist of novels that really shouldn’t be read on an empty stomach. 

The Cruelest Month 

The Cruelest Month

Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamach series is guaranteed to have you salivating.

Much of the action takes place in Olivier and Gabri’s bistro  in the picture-postcard Canadian village of Three Pines. It’s a home from home for the Chief Inspector; a place where he and his deputy, Inspector Beauvoir, can reflect on the progress of their latest investigation. Policemen clearly need their sustenance. 

Gamache’s coq au vin filled the table with a rich, earthy aroma and an unexpected hint of maple. Delicate young beans and glazed baby carrots sat in their own white dish. A massive charbroiled steak smothered in pan fried onions was placed in front of Beauvoir. A mound of frites sat in his serving dish. 

Beauvoir could have died happily right there and then but he’d have missed the crème brülée for dessert. 

Stay the night in the bistro’s B&B and you can be sure that breakfast will be a step up from packets of cereal and thin orange juice.

Yummy, yummy, said Gabri, placing the platters in front of his guests.Each held two eggs on a thick slice of Canadian back bacon which in turn rested on a golden toasted English muffin. Hollandaise sauce was drizzled over the eggs and fruit salad garnished the edges each plate. 

I’ll skip the fruit salad (fruit and eggs absolutely no not belong together) but otherwise yes, yummy, yummy indeed. 

If your tastes run to something more adventurous, perhaps my next book will be more to your taste. 

The Gourmet

The Gourmet

How does “Pan roasted breast of Peking duck rubbed with berbère; grapefruit crumble à la Jamaïque with shallot confit” sound?

This is the kind of dish favoured by Pierre Athens, the greatest food critic in the world. He is dying after ” decades of grub, deluges of wine and alcohol of every sort, after a life spent in butter, cream, rich sauces, and oil…” 

In his final hours, his mind returns to some of the most sublime flavours he has ever experienced. They were not always the most complex of dishes.

The raw tomato, devoured in the garden when freshly picked, is a horn of abundance of simple sensations, a radiating rush in one’s mouth that brings with it every pleasure. . . . a tomato, an adventure.

I wish I could discover where he buys these tomatoes because it’s years since I experienced any that had any flavour. 

How about something a little more indulgent than tomatoes? Pierre, it turns out, holds sugary treats in high esteem.

Pastries . . . can only be appreciated to the full extent of their subtlety when they are not eaten to assuage our hunger, when the orgy of their sugary sweetness is not destined to full some primary need but to coat our palate with all the benevolence of the world.

Next time you experience pangs of guilt for picking up an éclair, just remember that you’ll be bringing joy to the world when you eat it.

Chocolat 

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

For unsurpassed joy however, it’s not a pastry you want, but chocolate. the plot and characters in Joanne Harris’ novel may be rather twee but for a chocoholic, it represents absolute bliss. Almost every page oozes with the stuff. 

Not everyone who lives in the village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes is delighted when the young widow Vianne Rocher decides to open a chocolatier in a disused bakery.

Her timing is unfortunate. It’s the build up to Lent and the villagers have pledged to forgo sweet delights. But all it takes is one whiff of the aroma from the shop and their resistance melts away. 

The air is hot and rich with the scent of chocolate. Quite unlike the white powdery chocolate I knew as a boy, this has a throaty richness like the perfumed beans from the coffee stall on the market, a redolence of amaretto and tiramisù, a smoky, burned flavour that enters my mouth somehow and makes it water. 

Vianne’s mouthwatering bonbons, steaming mugs of liqueur-laced cocoa and flaky cream-filled patisserie become the battle ground between her and the village priest. 

I know whose side I’d be on in this battle. How about you??

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on July 22, 2019, in Book Reviews and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. Chocolat is a great one for this!! And I’m hungry for the gourmet now 😉

  2. Delicious post! I’m so glad I’d eaten before I read it although I still want an eclair and some chocolat! I also love the descriptions of Aunt Dahlia’s French chef Anatole’s menus in the Jeeves and Wooster books…they always leave me salivating enviously.

  3. Olivier and Gabri’s bistro is one of the many reasons that I am buying the very next house that comes up for sale in Three Pines. The other writer who immediately comes to mind in this context is Donna Leon. I’m surprised her detective can do anything more than waddle given the meals his wife serves up.

  4. Spot on about pastries! Wasted when gulped down hungrily. You might find some more temptation in N. M. Kelby’s White Truffles in Winter.

  5. Great choices. A couple of years ago I had a tomato salad at a restaurant in Hobart. It was unbelievably tasty. I happened to be dining with a friend who is a food chemist and she said the key to tasty tomatoes is letting them sun-ripen on the vine (which rarely happens these days because of the quantities demanded).

  6. I just read an advance of The Book of Eating by Adam Platt. He spent a lot of time in China and Hong Kong as a child and his descriptions of the food there made me so hungry even when I thought I wasn’t hungry at all! I had to be really careful when I read it. Love your idea for this! I hadn’t heard of The Gourmet, I may have to check that one out.

    • You just reminded me of another food related book – The Chilli Bean Paste Clan which is about a Chinese family. They do like to eat too…. The Platt book sounds interesting. I was in Hong Kong earlier this year and the food is very different to what I’d experienced in mainland china

  7. Love hot chocolate, I’m feeling hungry now.

  8. I actually don’t like chocolate much, but cakes on the other hand … The big tempter for Australian readers is Kerry Greenwoods Earhly Delight series about a pastry cook detective.

    • Now my curiosity is aroused. Is she a pastry cook by day and a detective on the sidelines or does she detect where there are pastries???? (just joking, I know what you meant)

  9. Ha ha, very clever!
    To counter this, try The Cook by Wayne Macauley. A very black comedy about a young chef…

  10. I like to read about diners and the food they eat in the Amrrican south. Such as the Postman rings twice or the Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Eggsm coffee, bacon. 🤠🐧

  11. I stand by the fact that the right tomato is better than any piece of candy…

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