When I feel very hungry and my refrigerator offers no respite, I turn to my books. No, of course I don’t eat them… not literally, anyway. But figuratively speaking, I do from time to time return to my favorite books with some of the best described foods made from words, which I then devour.
From Enid Blyton’s picnics to beloved J.K. Rowling’s descriptions of feasts, they offer some relief even if it makes the hungry animal inside me go berserk and even spurs me into action to cook something.
But my hunger (which is as existent as the sun, ’cause I am always hungry) aside, I decided to take time out from my daily occupation of feeling hungry to make a list of books that have provided remission to my hungry brain and tummy. I hope that they will do the same for you.
Now this is in no way the ultimate list because there are so, so many books I would love to share, but these certainly are the ones I remember in times of need.
Harry Potter, The Boy Who Ate
Shoutout to all Potterheads. When it comes to describing food, there is no writer (in my eyes at least) greater than the queen of words, J.K. Rowling. From when Dumbledore offers Lemon drops to McGonagall to the description of the grand festive feasts, even an ordinary meal in the wizarding world leaves me drooling.
“But the woman didn’t have Mars Bars. What she did have were Bettie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum, Chocolate Frogs. Pumpkin Pasties, Cauldron Cakes, Licorice Wands, and a number of other strange things Harry had never seen in his life.”
– Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone
“Harry’s mouth fell open. The dishes in front of him were now piled with food. He had never seen so many things he liked to eat on one table: roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, fries, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy, ketchup, and, for some strange reason, peppermint humbugs.”
– Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone
Five Go Off On a Picnic
It was not just Famous Five. From The Billy Bob tales, The Wishing Chair, Noddy, Naughtiest Girl, Malory Towers, The Magic Faraway Tree to so many more, Enid Blyton is not just the childhood of many generations. She’s the lady who made bread, butter, honey, strawberry jam, hot fresh scones, crisp lettuce and ginger beer sound so delicious.
Though I never really tasted some of the things she described or dished out as food for my favorite characters, I could almost taste it because of the way she described those foods.
“A large ham sat on the table, and there were crusty loaves of new bread. Crisp lettuces, dewy and cool, and red radishes were side by side in a big glass dish, great slabs of butter and jugs of creamy milk.”
– Five Go Off in a Caravan
Percy Jackson and The Blue Food Obsession
Blue M&M’s, blue cake, blue cookies and those beautiful blue eyes… Rick Riordan got me fascinated not just with the blue delicacies, but also with his genius description of Nectar and Ambrosia. We all knew these existed in ancient mythology, but describing their “taste” as something that is comforting to us was genius.
The campfires and Camp Jupiter’s dining hall, where you would be served by invisible servers with your fave food or Camp Half-Blood, where one only had to think of their favourite drink. This is stuff that my dreams are made of.
“I recoiled at the taste, because I was expecting apple juice. It wasn’t that at all. It was chocolate-chip cookies. Liquid cookies. And not just any cookies – my mom’s homemade blue chocolate-chip cookies, buttery and hot, with the chips still melting.”
– Percy Jackson and The Lightening Thief
The Hunger Games
A series that literally talks about the struggle for food: what it is like to go without food for days, what it means to starve.
Not only does this masterpiece give us the reality of what it means to be really hungry, but this characteristic makes us appreciate the descriptions of the food given all the more. The banquets, the meals in the arena, the first time Katniss ate a full breakfast, with bread dipped in cocoa, made me happy somehow.
“The supper comes in courses. A thick carrot soup, green salad, lamb chops and mashed potatoes, cheese and fruit, a chocolate cake.”
– Hunger Games
“The moment I slide into my chair I’m served an enormous platter of food. Eggs, ham, piles of fried potatoes. A tureen of fruit sits in ice to keep it chilled. The basket of rolls they set before me would keep my family going for a week. There’s an elegant glass of orange juice.”
– Hunger Games
“Chicken and chunks of oranges cooked in a creamy sauce laid on a bed of pearly white grain, tiny green peas and onions, rolls shaped like flowers, and for dessert, a pudding the color of honey.”
– Hunger Games
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
I really don’t need to say anything about this one. Almost all the books of Roald Dahl have amazing food descriptions, but in this one he surpassed himself.
I am talking of descriptions that inspired children and candy makers across the world to make a business of it. From the three meal chewing gum, to the fudge mountain and the chocolate river – all of this just made me drool.
“Mr. Willy Wonka can make marshmallows that taste of violets, and rich caramels that change colour every ten seconds as you suck them, and little feathery sweets that melt away deliciously the moment you put them between your lips. He can make chewing gum that never loses its taste, and sugar balloons that you can blow up to enormous sizes before you pop them with a pin and gobble them up.
And, by a most secret method, he can make lovely blue birds’ eggs with black spots on them, and when you put one of these in your mouth, it gradually gets smaller and smaller until suddenly there is nothing left except a tiny little dark red sugary baby bird sitting on the tip of your tongue.”
– Charlie and The Chocolate Factory
Eat Pray Love
Honestly, Elizabeth Gilbert literally defined a way of living, a living that preaches not just living to the fullest but eating, praying and loving in the right amount to make your life beautiful.
But her descriptions of food, especially in Italy, is what takes it away for me, there is description in all three parts of different kinds of cuisines and food, for e.g: In India at the Aashram and in Bali too, but it is the description of the pizza in Italy (The “Eat” part obviously) which takes you to the seventh cloud in terms of reading pleasure.
“The dough it takes me half my meal to figure out, tastes more like Indian nan than like any pizza dough I ever tried. It’s soft and chewy and yielding, but incredibly thin. I always thought we had two choices in our lives when it came to pizza crust—thin and crispy, or thick and doughty. How was I have to have known there could be a crust in this world that was thin and doughy? Holy of holies! Thin, doughy, strong, gummy, yummy, chewy, salty pizza paradise.
On top, there is a sweet tomato sauce that foams up all bubbly and creamy when it melts the fresh buffalo mozzarella, and the one sprig of basil in the middle of the whole deal somehow infuses the entire pizza with herbal radiance, much the same one shimmering movie star in the middle of a party brings contact high of glamour to everyone around her. It’s technically impossible to eat this thing of course. You try to take a bit off your slice and the gummy crust folds, and the hot cheese runs away like topsoil in a landslides, makes a mess of you and your surroundings, but just deal with it.”
— Eat, Pray, Love
The Fault in Our Sandwiches
Though the above novel (which made me cry for seven days straight while stress eating tubs of chocolate Nutella ice cream) is not as food-oriented as the rest of the entries, John Green still makes an impression on me as a writer, writing about food when he describes their dinner date in Amsterdam.
The description of the champagne… was well… *sigh.*
“He called out to his fellow monks, ‘Come quickly: I am tasting the stars.’ Welcome to Amsterdam.
‘Awesome. And can we get more of this?’ Gus asked, of the champagne.
‘Of course,’ said our waiter. ‘We have bottled all the stars this evening, my young friends.'”
And the meal they had together –
“The food was so good that with each passing course, our conversation devolved further into fragmented celebrations of its deliciousness: ‘I want this dragon carrot risotto to become a person so I can take it to Las Vegas and marry it.’ ‘Sweet-pea sorbet, you are so unexpectedly magnificent.’ I wish I’d been hungrier.
After green garlic gnocchi with red mustard leaves, the waiter said, ‘Dessert next. More stars first?'”
– The Fault in Our Stars