Top Ten Tuesday: foodie fiction

Top Ten Tuesday bannerTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, in which we all talk about a bookish topic and have fun making lists. This week it’s an open topic on books that match your mood.

I love books. I love food. I love books that make my mouth water. This week won’t be a full ten, but may include recipes.

Get your mouth watering:

Book cover: John Saturnall's FeastJohn Saturnall’s Feast – nominally a historical about romance, religion and civil war, this is really a food book. The religious bit focuses on preparing and sharing food, and those who celebrate the Feast are verging on practicing witchcraft. By the time you read the descriptions of how they cook, you’ll be tempted to agree.

From the Master Cook, John learned to set creams with calves’ feet, then isinglass, then hartshorn, pouring decoctions into egg-moulds to set and be placed in nests of shredded lemon peel. To make cabbage cream he let the thick liquid clot, lifted off the top layer, folded it then repeated the process until the cabbage was sprinkled with rose water and dusted with sugar, ginger and nutmeg. He carved apples into animals and birds. The birds themselves he roasted, minced and folded into beaten egg whites in a foaming forcemeat of fowls.


Book Cover: Of Oysters, Pearls and MagicOf Oysters, Pearls and Magic – the first book in the Tale of Yin has oysters in the title for a reason. Food is one of several themes through the novella, helping to define the geography and the people Mirra meets; and the recipes form part of the story so you can join in at home. Magical.

Josh’s Innerlanders’ Oyster Stew
Ingredients: Half a cup of freshly churned butter, a cup of chopped celery (carrots and potatoes are also good), 3 table-spoonful of chopped shallots (small onions make a fine substitute as well), 1 quart fresh cream, 2 bowlfuls of fresh oysters (washed clean of grit), salt and ground black pepper to taste.
Method: Melt the butter in a large pot, throw in the shallots or small onions. Stir until the shallots are soft and golden-brown. Add in the celery (and/or carrots and potatoes). Add in the fresh cream and mix with medium heat, remembering to stir frequently. When the mixture is about to boil, add in the oysters and the brine they have been soaked in. Salt and pepper for the seasoning. Taste first before adding more salt. Stir until the “lips” of the oysters curl and when this happens, turn off the heat. Serve with hot bread or river rice. Or enjoy it unadorned.


Book Cover: A Game of ThronesA Game of Thrones – GRRM is famous for his even-handed slaughter of his cast, but lets not overlook his lavish banquets. Even the Night’s Watch dine well (at least initially), and the themes of culinary excess run through the novels in counterpoint to indelicate murders and assaults. Sansa may have single-handedly reinvigorated the market in lemon cakes. Mmm, lemon cakes.

The eight soon-to-be brothers feasted on rack of lamb baked in a crust of garlic and herbs, garnished with sprigs of mint, and surrounded by mashed yellow turnips swimming in butter. There were salads of spinach and chickpeas and turnip greens, and afterward bowls of iced blueberries and sweet cream.


Book cover: Lifelode - Jo WaltonLifelode – this delectable gem puts the domestic into fantasy and celebrates homely cooking and shared meals as the centre of extended family life. Nothing may take centre stage here (arguably much of the book deals with the consequences of people trying to do that), and the mundane is elevated to art by the affection with which it is embraced.

She stirs the onions and garlic over the heat and her eyes smart. As she does every time, she brushes them with the back of her hand and wishes she knew some yeya that would prevent the watering. She empties the pan on top of the meat and adds a handful of oats to thicken it. She takes a pinch of salt from the precious glass jar, and sniffs at the meat, considering pepper. It isn’t so much the expense, but how long it will be before she can buy any more. There are no pedlars due from the west until autumn.


Book Cover: The Lies of Locke LamoraThe Lies of Locke Lamora – a Gentleman Bastard is expected to know his way around his own kitchen as well as other people’s; and if a con requires one to attend an aristocratic banquet, then one must neither disappoint nor stand about gaping like a commoner. There are so many reasons to love Locke Lamora…

At one end of the banquet table were desserts (the Fifth Beautiful Art) – cherry cream cakes encased in shells of gold leaf that were intended to be eaten; cinnamon tarts painstakingly assembled with honey-paste glue into the shape of sailing vessels, a whole fleet of little ships with white marzipan sails and raisins for crewmen. There were hollowed-out pears, their cores replaced with cylinders of river-melon pulp or brandy cream; there were shaved river-melons, their green exteriors scraped down to reveal the pink flesh inside.


Book cover: Green SmokeGreen Smoke – young Sue and crusty old R Dragon bond by tutting over tourist litterbugs, but the backbone of their relationship is a shared love of buns. Cream buns, currant buns, sugary sweet iced buns. And bananas. This childhood gem celebrates the joy of picnics with friends. And dragons.

“Ah!’ he said, his eyes gleaming with satisfaction, ‘Two chocolate biscuits. One each.’ He laid them on plates. ‘We’ll see to the banana afterwards,’ he said. ‘One of us might be too full to want his half, and then, of course, the other might eat it all, just to save wasting it, don’t you think?’

‘Well,’ answered Sue, rather doubtfully. She rather liked bananas.


And there’s always room for alcohol-related conspiracy thrillers, right?

Book cover: Windswept - Adam Rakunas

Windswept – honestly, I don’t love rum enough to justify the complete mayhem that erupts on the back of a distillery purchase in this screwball scifi thriller, but I loved reading about it. Padma Mehta will go to (almost) any lengths to make sure Old Windswept never gets shut down – which is just as well, because there’s a cane sugar conspiracy in the offing that could wreck her day, her plans and her planet.


Book cover: The Wine of AngelsThe Wine of Angels – Look, I can’t really defend enjoying this (not least because the sequels really go for broke on collecting nasty tropes), but I couldn’t resist a book about a single mum priest with a guilty conscience, a teenage daughter, and a parish cider conspiracy. Could you?


Must get to this: two of my favourite things, pirates and baking! Need I say more? – Cinnamon and Gunpowder.

Honourable mention: I never knew fish could be so damn interesting – Cod (Mark Kurlansky).

Dishonourable mentions: I don’t want what they’re having – Life of Pi and Jamrach’s Menagerie. 


What books have had you day-dreaming of delicious dinners?