I love a good food scene in both films and books. Novels about food especially are a delight for me because I always want to eat whatever I read! Whether it is a well-baked cake or a mouthwatering dish, I end up checking out recipes and preparing the mentioned dish for dinner.
There is something magical about novels about food because all of us like to eat. It is one of the things that we all do, no matter the differences. I especially go crazy when reading Asian novels about food because I love Asian cuisine, and I’ve discovered many dishes from novels about food.
This novels about food list contains various genres for every type of reader, and they’re all lovely books. I hope you’ll find many novels about food here and immensely enjoy them.
20 Delicious Novels About Food
Kitchens of the Great Midwest – J. Ryan Stradal
When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine–and a dashing sommelier–he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter–starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience.
Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life–its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent. A good book club choice among novels about food.
Delicious! – Ruth Reichl
Delicious! carries the reader to the colorful world of downtown New York restaurateurs and artisanal purveyors, and from the lively food shop in Little Italy where Billie works on weekends to a hidden room in the magazine’s library where she discovers the letters of Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, who wrote to the legendary chef James Beard during World War II.
Lulu’s letters lead Billie to a deeper understanding of history (and the history of food), but most important, Lulu’s courage in the face of loss inspires Billie to come to terms with her own issues-the panic attacks that occur every time she even thinks about cooking, the truth about the big sister she adored, and her ability to open her heart to love. A historical fiction among novels about food.
The School of Essential Ingredients – Erica Bauermeister
A romance fiction among novels about food The School of Essential Ingredients follows the lives of eight students who gather in Lillian’s Restaurant every Monday night for cooking class. It soon becomes clear, however, that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen.
Students include Claire, a young mother struggling with the demands of her family; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer learning to adapt to life in America; and Tom, a widower mourning the loss of his wife to breast cancer. Chef Lillian, a woman whose connection with food is both soulful and exacting, helps them to create dishes whose flavor and techniques expand beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of her students’ lives.
One by one the students are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of Lillian’s food, including a white-on-white cake that prompts wistful reflections on the sweet fragility of love and a peppery heirloom tomato sauce that seems to spark one romance but end another. Brought together by the power of food and companionship, the lives of the characters mingle and intertwine, united by the revealing nature of what can be created in the kitchen. A lovely read among novels about food.
The Last Chinese Chef – Nicole Mones
For the foodie among novels about food. This alluring novel of friendship, love, and cuisine brings the best-selling author of Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light to one of the great Chinese subjects: food. As in her previous novels, Mones’s captivating story also brings into focus a changing China — this time the hidden world of high culinary culture.
When Maggie McElroy, a widowed American food writer, learns of a Chinese paternity claim against her late husband’s estate, she has to go immediately to Beijing. She asks her magazine for time off, but her editor counters with an assignment: to profile the rising culinary star Sam Liang.
In China Maggie unties the knots of her husband’s past, finding out more than she expected about him and about herself. With Sam as her guide, she is also drawn deep into a world of food rooted in centuries of history and philosophy. To her surprise she begins to be transformed by the cuisine, by Sam’s family — a querulous but loving pack of cooks and diners — and most of all by Sam himself. The Last Chinese Chef is the exhilarating story of a woman regaining her soul in the most unexpected of places among novels about food.
Like Water For Chocolate – Laura Esquivel
The number one bestseller in Mexico and America for almost two years, and subsequently a bestseller around the world, Like Water For Chocolate is a romantic, poignant tale, touched with moments of magic, graphic earthiness, bittersweet wit – and recipes.
A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and he is seduced by the magical food she cooks. In desperation, Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her, so that Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all the odds. One of the most popular novels about food.
Banana Yoshimoto’s novels have made her a sensation in Japan and all over the world, and Kitchen, the dazzling English-language debut that is still her best-loved book, is an enchantingly original and deeply affecting book about mothers, love, tragedy, and the power of the kitchen and home in the lives of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan.
Mikage, the heroine of Kitchen, is an orphan raised by her grandmother, who has passed away. Grieving, she is taken in by her friend Yoichi and his mother (who was once his father), Eriko. As the three of them form an improvised family that soon weathers its own tragic losses, Yoshimoto spins a lovely, evocative tale that recalls early Marguerite Duras. Kitchen and its companion story, “Moonlight Shadow,” are elegant tales whose seeming simplicity is the ruse of a writer whose voice echoes in the mind and the soul. An excellent book among novels about food.
Heartburn – Nora Ephron
Is it possible to write a sidesplitting novel about the breakup of the perfect marriage? If the writer is Nora Ephron, the answer is a resounding yes. For in this inspired confection of adultery, revenge, group therapy, and pot roast, the creator of Sleepless in Seattle reminds us that comedy depends on anguish as surely as a proper gravy depends on flour and butter.
Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel Samstat discovers that her husband, Mark, is in love with another woman. The fact that the other woman has “a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs” is no consolation. Food sometimes is, though, since Rachel writes cookbooks for a living. And in between trying to win Mark back and loudly wishing him dead, Ephron’s irrepressible heroine offers some of her favorite recipes. Heartburn is a sinfully delicious novel, as soul-satisfying as mashed potatoes and as airy as a perfect soufflé. A popular one among novels about food.
Gourmet Rhapsody – Muriel Barbery
For the gourmets among novels about food. In the heart of Paris, in the posh building made famous in The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Pierre Athens, the greatest food critic in the world, is dying. Revered by some and reviled by many, Monsieur Arthens has been lording it over the world’s most esteemed chefs for years, passing judgment on their creations, deciding their fates with a stroke of his pen, destroying and building reputations on a whim.
But now, during these his final hours, his mind has turned to simpler things. He is desperately searching for that singular flavor, that sublime something once sampled, never forgotten, the Flavor par excellence. Indeed, this flamboyant and self-absorbed man desires only one thing before he dies: one last taste.
Thus begins a charming voyage that traces the career of Monsieur Arthens from childhood to maturity across a celebration of all manner of culinary delights. Alternating with the voice of the supercilious Arthens is a chorus belonging to his acquaintances and familiars—relatives, lovers, a would-be protege, even a cat. Each will have his or her say about M. Arthens, a man who has inspired only extreme emotions in people. Here, as in The Elegance of Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery’s story celebrates life’s simple pleasures and sublime moments while condemning the arrogance and vulgarity of power. A French literature among novels about food.
Miss Cecily’s Recipes for Exceptional Ladies – Vicky Zimmerman
An unlikely friendship between two stubborn, lonely souls anchors this big-hearted book and dares us all to ask for more.
When her life falls apart on the eve of her 40th birthday, Kate Parker finds herself volunteering at the Lauderdale House for Exceptional Ladies. There she meets 97-year-old Cecily Finn. Cecily’s tongue is as sharp as her mind, but she’s fed up with pretty much everything.
Having no patience for Kate’s choices in life or love, Cecily prescribes her a self-help book…of sorts. She asks her to read Thought for Food: an unintentionally funny 1950s cookbook high on enthusiasm, featuring menus for anything life can throw at the “easily dismayed,” such as:
Breakfast with a Hangover
Tea for a Crotchety Aunt
Dinner for a Charming Stranger
As she and Cecily break out of their ruts, Kate will learn far more than recipes. A fun and lighthearted book among novels about food.
The Mistress Of Spices – Chitra Divakaruni
For the lovers of spices among novels about food. Magical, tantalizing, and sensual, The Mistress of Spices is the story of Tilo, a young woman born in another time, in a faraway place, who is trained in the ancient art of spices and ordained as a mistress charged with special powers. Once fully initiated in a rite of fire, the now immortal Tilo–in the gnarled and arthritic body of an old woman–travels through time to Oakland, California, where she opens a shop from which she administers spices as curatives to her customers.
An unexpected romance with a handsome stranger eventually forces her to choose between the supernatural life of an immortal and the vicissitudes of modern life. Spellbinding and hypnotizing, The Mistress of Spices is a tale of joy and sorrow and one special woman’s magical powers. A magical realism book among novels about food.
The Passionate Epicure – Marcel Rouff
In the classic French novel The Passionate Epicure, Marcel Rouff introduces Dodin-Bouffant, a character based loosely on Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, an infamous bachelor and epicure dedicated to the high arts: the art of food and the art of love. This edition contains a Preface by Lawrence Durrell and a new Intro-duction by Jeffrey Steingarten, the food critic for Vogue magazine and author of the bestselling book The Man Who Ate Everything. For the French cuisine lovers among novels about food.
Souffle – Asli Perker
Lilia wakes up one morning to discover that her marriage is not what it seemed. Marc cannot face his empty apartment after the loss of his beloved. Ferda struggles with the demands of family life, but all she wants is to follow her passion: to cook with freedom for the people she truly loves.
In this sweeping story set in New York, Paris, and Istanbul, courage and desire begin to stir through three very different people. Turkish literature among novels about food.
Five Quarters of the Orange – Joanne Harris
Beyond the main street of Les Laveuses runs the Loire, smooth and brown as a sunning snake – but hiding a deadly undertow beneath its moving surface. This is where Framboise, a secretive widow, plies her culinary trade at the crêperie – and lets her memory play strange games.
As her nephew attempts to exploit the growing success of the country recipes Framboise has inherited from her mother, a woman remembered with contempt by the villagers, memories of a disturbed childhood during the German Occupation flood back, and expose a past full of betrayal, blackmail and lies. A historical fiction among novels about food.
The Cookbook Collector – Allegra Goodman
Heralded as “a modern day Jane Austen” by USA Today, National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author Allegra Goodman has compelled and delighted hundreds of thousands of readers. Now, in her most ambitious work yet, Goodman weaves together the worlds of Silicon Valley and rare book collecting in a delicious novel about appetite, temptation, and fulfillment.
Bicoastal, surprising, rich in ideas and characters, The Cookbook Collector is a novel about getting and spending, and about the substitutions we make when we can’t find what we’re looking for: reading cookbooks instead of cooking, speculating instead of creating, collecting instead of living. But above all it is about holding on to what is real in a virtual world: love that stays. A contemporary book among novels about food.
John Saturnall’s Feast – Lawrence Norfolk
For the historical fiction lovers among novels about food. A beautiful, rich and sensuous historical novel, John Saturnall’s Feast tells the story of a young orphan who becomes a kitchen boy at a manor house, and rises through the ranks to become the greatest Cook of his generation. It is a story of food, star-crossed lovers, ancient myths and one boy’s rise from outcast to hero.
Orphaned when his mother dies of starvation, having been cast out of her village as a witch, John is taken in at the kitchens at Buckland Manor, where he quickly rises from kitchen-boy to Cook, and is known for his uniquely keen palate and natural cooking ability. However, he quickly gets on the wrong side of Lady Lucretia, the aristocratic daughter of the Lord of the Manor.
In order to inherit the estate, Lucretia must wed, but her fiance is an arrogant buffoon. When Lucretia takes on a vow of hunger until her father calls off her engagement to her insipid husband-to-be, it falls to John to try to cook her delicious foods that might tempt her to break her fast. British literature among novels about food.
The Hundred-Foot Journey – Richard C. Morais
Love French and Indian cuisine? This one is for your among novels about food. Born above his grandfather’s modest restaurant in Mumbai, Hassan first experienced life through intoxicating whiffs of spicy fish curry, trips to the local markets, and gourmet outings with his mother. But when tragedy pushes the family out of India, they console themselves by eating their way around the world, eventually settling in Lumière, a small village in the French Alps.
The boisterous Haji family takes Lumière by storm. They open an inexpensive Indian restaurant opposite an esteemed French relais—that of the famous chef Madame Mallory—and infuse the sleepy town with the spices of India, transforming the lives of its eccentric villagers and infuriating their celebrated neighbor. Only after Madame Mallory wages culinary war with the immigrant family, does she finally agree to mentor young Hassan, leading him to Paris, the launch of his own restaurant, and a slew of new adventures.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is about how the hundred-foot distance between a new Indian kitchen and a traditional French one can represent the gulf between different cultures and desires. A testament to the inevitability of destiny, this is a fable for the ages—charming, endearing, and compulsively readable. For the young chefs among novels about food.
Bone In The Throat – Anthony Bourdain
All is not well at the Dreadnought Grill. The chef has a smack habit, the owner has been set up by the FBI and in the midst of this, the sous-chef Tommy is just trying to do his job.
As depraved as it is hilarious, Anthony Bourdain’s first novel is street smart and spiced with drugged-up savvy, foul-mouthed feds and salty mob speak.
With a cast of unforgettables like the hitman who covers himself in clingfilm to avoid leaving fingerprints and a plot with more twists than a plate of spaghetti, Bone in the Throat rocks through the streets of Manhattan at a blistering pace. For the fans of Bourdain among novels about food.
The Debt To Pleasure – John Lanchester
A beautiful mystery among novels about food. To like something is to want to ingest it and, in that sense, is to submit to the world; to like something is to succumb, in a small but contentful way, to death.
Tarquin Winot – hedonist, food obsessive, ironist and snob – travels a circuitous route from the Hotel Splendide in Portsmouth to his cottage in Provence. Along the way he tells the story of his childhood and beyond through a series of delectable menus, organized by season. But this is no ordinary cookbook, and as we are drawn into Tarquin’s world, a far more sinister mission slowly reveals itself . . .
Winner of the 1996 Whitbread First Novel Award, John Lanchester’s The Debt to Pleasure is a wickedly funny ode to food; an erotic and sensual culinary journey. Its elegant, intelligent and unhinged narrator is nothing less than a work of art himself. An award-winning book among novels about food.
Appetite – Philip Kazan
For the Italy lovers among novels about food. Florence, 1466. A lust for life, a passion for power and a taste for adventure…
In Florence, everyone has a passion. With 60,000 souls inside the city, crammed into a cobweb of clattering streets, countless alleys, towers, workshops, tanneries, cloisters, churches and burial grounds, they live their lives in the narrow world between the walls. Nino Latini knows that if you want to survive without losing yourself completely, then you’ve got to have a passion.
But Nino’s greatest gift will be his greatest curse. Nino can taste things that other people cannot. Every flavour, every ingredient comes alive for him as vividly as a painting and he puts his artistry to increasingly extravagant use.
In an age of gluttony and conspicuous consumption, his unique talent leads him into danger. His desire for the beautiful Tessina Delmazza and his longing to create the perfect feast could prove deadly. Nino must flee Florence to save his life and if he ever wants to see his beloved again, he must entrust himself entirely to the tender mercies of fortune. A delicious historical fiction among novels about food.
Cooked Up: Food Fiction from Around the World
Food can bring together families, communities, and cultures. It is the essence of life and yet our relationships with one another can be most fraught at the dinner table. This perpetually fascinating subject has inspired a unique collection of fiction—including flash fiction, essay, short stories, and even a “stoku” (amalgam of short story and haiku)—from a wonderfully diverse and international group of authors.
The authors in the anthology include Elaine Chiew, Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni, Rachel J. Fenton, Diana Ferraro, Vanessa Gebbie, Pippa Goldschmidt, Sue Guiney, Patrick J. Holland, Roy Kesey, Charles Lambert, Krys Lee, Stefani Nellen, Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Ben Okri, Angie Pelekidis, Susannah Rickards, and Nikesh Shukla. A story collection among novels about food. I had to have this on the list!
Check out my other lists about books!
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- Autumn Books – 20 Cozy Novels
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- Books Set in the English Countryside
- Books Set in Edinburgh
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Are there any other novels about food that should be on this list? Please share your favourite books with us in the comments section below.