Good Minds Suggest—Ruth Reichl's Favorite Fiction About Food

Posted by Goodreads on May 6, 2014
Professional eater Ruth Reichl has brought her discerning taste to food writing of every persuasion: She's advised where to dine (or not) as restaurant critic for both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, served as editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine for ten years, and her many food-focused memoirs, including Tender at the Bone and Garlic and Sapphires, have become bestsellers. Now she adds novelist to her impressive résumé. In her fiction debut, Delicious!, a young woman takes a job at a foodie magazine and discovers a hidden stash of letters written by a little girl to renowned chef James Beard during World War II. Reichl, a New Yorker who can also be found on TV as a judge on Top Chef Masters, recommends her top five food-obsessed stories.

Crossings by Chuang Hua
"I first read this book when it came out in 1968, and its languid, incantatory description of the act of cooking has never left me. The heroine, Fourth Jane, is a Chinese American woman trapped between cultures and continents, who spends her time cooking while waiting for a lover who is always late. The book is about many things, but what captured me was the way the heroine anchors herself in the world by performing simple kitchen tasks."

The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones (Goodreads Author)
"Food. History. Romance. And a cooking contest. A young American widow goes to China to look into a mystery about her late husband. Along the way she meets a Chinese American chef intent on re-creating his grandfather's recipes in order to win an important Chinese culinary competition. A wonderful love story, great fun—and a superb introduction to the art of classic Chinese cuisine."

Heartburn by Nora Ephron
"A roman à clef, a settling of scores, and one of the first novels in which recipes were an important part of the narrative. Only Nora Ephron could turn the bitter end of her marriage into a novel as poignantly funny as this. Her heroine, Rachel Samstat, writes about food, and while her husband philanders, she cooks. In the end she throws a (key lime) pie in his face and offers up a raft of really good recipes. Cheesecake, anyone?"

If the River Was Whiskey by T.C. Boyle
"Few writers are as obsessed with food and cooking as T.C. Boyle. And nobody is better on the subject. From his description of the fattening of an Arab princess in Water Music to the crazy Kellogg diet in The Road to Wellville to the constantly cooking identity thief in Talk Talk, he tackles every aspect of food. But 'Sorry Fugu' (in this collection) is in a class of its own. It is, hands down, the best story ever written about a restaurant critic."

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
"A powerful book about the people who raise our food, Steinbeck's classic novel of the Depression changed the way many people viewed the plight of farmers. But although it was written in the '30s, this is a book that continues to resonate in modern America. As he exits the book, Tom Joad says, 'I'll be there wherever people are hungry.' Sadly he is with us still."

Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Food-Related Fiction

Comments Showing 1-15 of 15 (15 new)

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message 1: by Wrenn (new)

Wrenn Fun list! I love Ruth's work - all of it - and can't wait to read her new novel.

message 2: by Maryann (new)

Maryann Fox I remember being assigned to read x pages of The Grapes of Wrath over winter break my first year of high school for an English class. I loved it so much that I read way beyond the assignment.

message 3: by Maryann (new)

Maryann Fox x pages ( x number of pages)

message 4: by Ambra (new)

Ambra Remember re-reading Nora Ephron's Heartburn two years after her death. Still loved it. If only my food memoir blog would become something like that. Sigh.

message 5: by Olga (new)

Olga One of my favorite books with a food/cooking theme is Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran. It's about two sisters and a mother opening a Persian café in Ireland. It's such a cozy and warm book, reminds me very much of the movie Chocolat.

message 6: by Cyndi (new)

Cyndi "Like Water for Chocolate" by Laura Esquivel and "Angela's Ashes" by Frank McCourt make me hungry for different reasons, one so richly detailed, the other stark grease spots on newspaper. And whenever Kay Scarpetta enters a kitchen I'm salivating like Pavlov's dog.

message 7: by Susanna (new)

Susanna Stone I'm a big Ruth Reichl fan, especially those first two memoirs, so I'll be looking for that novel.

message 8: by Ppyett (new)

Ppyett I'm glad you included Grapes of Wrath. The food in it has stayed with me ever since I first read it (probably 50 years ago). The hunger is so real and the descriptions of Ma cooking biscuits or frying the last of the meat they had salted down are so vivid. You can smell and taste the food before the characters eat. I read it again last year and it was the same.

message 9: by Colleen (new)

Colleen Mcdonnell If you think the theme of the Grapes of Wrath was cooking and food, you have completely missed the point of the book. Poverty, homelessness, hunger, corporate greed, despair and depression were what stayed with me after I read it. Please place this book in a different category. If Angela's Ashes made you hungry, I think you need to re-read it.

message 10: by Marcia (new)

Marcia Jacobson Crescent by Abu-Jabari is one of my favorite food related books.

message 11: by Heather (new)

Heather Thank you, Ruth! I love your writing, so I will definitely take your recommendations :)

message 12: by Psca (new)

Psca Chef Have read Grapes of Wrath in High School but would like to reread it for a now grandmother's perspective. Last chinese Chef is good reading indeed. A lot of chinese culinary "secrets" there!

message 13: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Paschen Love anything by the late, great Laurie Colwin.

message 14: by Seheh (new)

Seheh boss

message 15: by Azn_seddie (new)

Azn_seddie Been recently craving books that explore the relationship between food and everyday life and these are some interesting recs! Really wanna read CROSSINGS and HEARTBURN. =]

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