I love books... and I love food. I love to eat, and in the past few years (thank you, “The Great British Baking Show”) I have gradually developed a love of making food. Naturally, I also seek books that feature food. I am a sucker for memoirs written by chefs like Anthony Bourdain, and I am always on the lookout for interesting food histories to add to my to-read list.
Though they are sometimes harder to find, I am also a big fan of novels that feature food and cooking. As a former youth librarian, I still read a lot of young adult literature (and honestly, I already did before I worked with teens). This year alone, I have read a few wonderful teen novels that feature incredible descriptions of food.
“The Way You Make Me Feel” by Maurene Goo lets you spend the summer on the Kobra - a Korean-Brazilian fusion food truck that I think needs to exist for real ASAP. The story belongs to Clara, daughter of the Kobra’s owner, who is forced to work on the truck alongside her rival all summer after a disastrous school prank. It’s a story that intertwines food and family with a little bit of romance.
It only makes sense to get ice cream next. If you do, read “Stay Sweet” by Siobhan Vivian, and make sure you have ice cream in your freezer or plan a visit to your local ice cream shop. Another summer-focused book, this book dives deeper into the friendships of the all-female staff at the Meade Creamery. It’s about how plans go awry and friendships change over time, all triggered by the sudden death of the creamery’s owner and the new male (gasp!) who inherited the shop. It also provides fascinating insight into how ice cream is made.
The narrative I most crave is the experience of working in a kitchen. Therefore, I was drawn to “North of Happy” by Adi Alsaid, which features a teenage protagonist with raw talent who allows us to experience the overwhelmingly chaotic wonder of stepping into a professional kitchen for the first time. Carlos is a wealthy teen from Mexico City who, while grieving his older brother’s sudden death, runs off to the Pacific Northwest to visit the restaurant of a famous chef and ends up working there.
I must include honorable mentions... A couple of my favorite books that I did not pick up for the food, nor is food the reason I love them, but the way they featured food was a definite bonus.
“The Wrath & The Dawn” by Renée Ahdieh is a dark fantasy retelling of “Arabian Nights.” I love it for its conflicted characters and intriguing storyline. Ahdieh also does setting really well. Her writing made me want to go to every location she described and eat every morsel of food she mentioned. The meals prepared for the characters were lavish and mouthwatering. I’d risk a murderous king to have what they were having.
The food in “Lola and the Boy Next Door” by Stephanie Perkins integrates food more subtly. The story is a really sweet romance between two teenagers in San Francisco - Lola, a quirky teenage costume designer, and Cricket, the gangly, would-be inventor-next-door. Lola’s father runs a pie business out of their house - and of course, Lola and Cricket have to step in at least once when a baking crisis arises. Romance and pie are a tough combo to beat.
I’ll leave you with a few more titles that, while I haven’t personally read them, should satisfy your need to torture yourself reading about food you can’t eat. There are more romances here, but some murder and monsters as well. Enjoy!
“Taste Test” by Kelly Fiore Stultz
“Neil Flambé and the Marco Polo Murders” by Kevin Sylvester (technically middle grade but supposed to be awesome, first in a series)
“Killer Pizza” by Greg Taylor
“Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous” by Kathryn Williams