Food in Books

Depending on how the author writes, I can either loathe the mention of food in books, or be so enamored of it that I get hungry and promptly want what’s being described.

Two series in which the many food references didn’t work for me were in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, and in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series, beginning serialization on HBO this month with A Game of Thrones. In the Larsson books, I lost count of how many sandwiches, cups of coffee, and frozen Billy’s pizza were consumed. None of them sounded appetizing. Only dull and repetitive.

Ditto the food in the Song of Fire and Ice books. The food, along with what characters were wearing, was described so many times, and in such unnecessary detail, that I gave up partway through the third book, and am now afraid to pick up the series again as many fans fear Martin is going to die before he finishes the fifth book, which isn’t even the last in the series. And while the food, sauces and serving styles were repeated ad nauseum, vegetables are pretty much nowhere, something I noticed after reading Diana Wynne Jones’ Tough Guide to Fantasy Books. Meat: yes! Fruit: sometimes. Vegetables or salad? No way.

Two recent books had me salivating, though. Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad books, especially The Likeness, mentioned so many types of biscuits (cookies) so often that I now have both ginger lemon and chocolate cream in the house. Hollis Henry’s description of broasted potatoes from William Gibson’s Spook Country made me long for them. Hubertus Bigend in Zero History recommends The Full English breakfast a few times, so I ate baked beans with my eggs and toast all last week and am considering whether I want to go to Anchor Fish and Chips for the Full Whack. (Yes, you can get a Full Irish in Minneapolis!)

What food in what recent books has made you hungry, or horrified?

6 Responses to “Food in Books”

  1. Jessica Snell Says:

    Well, I don’t know if it counts as food, the coffee in the SCR has sounded awfully good as I’ve been reading through Gaudy Night again.

  2. Karen Marston Says:

    I highly recommend trying a full breakfast, or a fry-up as I call it. I’m tempted to have one myself now! It’s so easy to throw gether, I usually plump for beans (we just call baked beans ‘beans’ in the UK) or tinned tomatoes, fried bacon, fried egg, fried mushrooms and fried sausage, all with a hearty dollop of brown sauce. Other great additions are black pudding and hash browns, but I usually only have those if I’m eating in a cafe.

    Also, if you’re going to the chippy, you should try chips with a battered (or plain jumbo!) sausage with curry sauce. Yum!

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now, stumbled upon it quite by accident - I can’t even remember how. Anyway, keep it up, I love reading what you have to say. Karen.

  3. girldetective Says:

    Oh, Jessica, Gaudy Night has been on my shelf for ages… Not anytime soon, but maybe this year.

  4. girldetective Says:

    Karen, thanks for delurking; welcome! We’ve tried the battered sausage at our fish n chips place, and while I and the husband liked it, the boys were unimpressed. I do love their curry and gravy sauces. K, my friend Thalia is English; might you have come here via her?

  5. Ritalee Says:

    The coffee always sounded great to me in the Millenium series and It also made me miss smoking. When I read The Hummingbird’s Daughter I made a point of sprinkling cayenne on chunks of melon and the summer I was into Mario Puzo I was particularly salacious toward tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. Yesterday I was thinking of Thomas Wolfe’s comment that the most beautiful sight is a woman cooking for someone she loves.

  6. Ritalee Says:

    Another great use of food was in TC Boye’s The Inner Circle, about Kinsey’s researchers. Descriptions of the bland unimaginative food were a terrific comment on conventional and pleasure-less attitudes toward sex.