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Food & Culture: Food in Literature

Literary Cuisine

Food is often a big part of literature, even if it isn't expicitly discussed--think about all those tea times in British novels! Or Oscar Wilde's cucumber sandwiches!--but it can be a bit difficult to track down if you don't already have a work in mind. Most novels don't have cooking or food or cuisine as subject headings, for example, although some certainly do.

The books listed below all include food and cuisine as a big part of their narratives. They are, however, far from the only works to do so. Happy reading! (You might want to try making some recipes while you're at it, too!)

Selected Literary Depictions of Food

All the books listed here are available on our shelves (or online!)--and there are many more as well!

Novels, Drama, & Poetry for Adults

Our heroine, in Diana Abu-Jaber's novel Crescent, works in a Lebanese restaurant. 

Traverse recipes and romances with Laura Esquivel's Como agua para chocolate (translated as Like Water for Chocolate).

Ernest Hemingway celebrates food (and feasting!) in A Moveable Feast. 

Food--especially the family gingerbread--has a big role to play in Helen Oyeyemi's Gingerbread.

Wine flows amidst fine dining in many of the poems in Baghdad: A City in Verse, edited by Reuven Snir.

John Steinbeck often writes about agriculture and food production, including in works such as Cannery RowThe Grapes of Wrath, and Of Mice and Men.

Have some cucumber sandwiches with Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Earnest, available on the page or online.

Youth Materials

Looking for picture books, middle grade works, or young adult materials about food? There are a lot! Here are a few things to try: 

Selected Literary Depictions of Food: iShare

Laurie Colwin frequently incorporated food into her works, including Home Cooking and More Home Cooking

Spices play a starring role in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Mistress of Spices

From traditional Armenian and Turkish cuisine to almonds and garlic, food plays a central role in Elif Shafak's The Bastard of Istanbul

Looking for a resource about food in literature? A History of Food in Literature is available through i-Share.

Search Strings, Subjects, & More

Want to track down books about food--or books about food in literature!--on your own? These keywords, subjects, and search strings can help get you started. You can also take a look at the subjects listed on material throughout this guide.

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