I love books. I love food. And I love-love-love any time those two interests come together. That’s why I hoard beautiful cookbooks (like A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus). It’s why I’ve recently really taken to Instagram (I’m @bookmobility!), where book and food obsessions both run rampant. It’s why I squeed when I saw Cassandra’s recent post on authors’ recipes. And it’s why I’ve fallen in love with literary food blogs. They may be a sub-genre of a sub-genre, but they’re deliciously vibrant—and definitely worth exploring.
So here’s an introduction to three literary food blogs adored by Rioters near and far. (In the comments, share your favorites and any you think we should know about.)
Paper and Salt is fascinating and fantastic: like the best parts of your favorite book blogs and food blogs got together, went to the library to do research, and then made something interesting, beautiful, and delicious.
In each post, the bookish gourmand behind Paper and Salt (Nicole Villenueve) picks an author, dives deep into research on their work and their historical context, and then offers a recipe that recreates a dish related to that author’s work or life.
From a recent post on J.R.R. Tolkein’s love of fungi, for example:
Mushrooms are seemingly the most modest of foods, growing nestled close to the earth, humble hobbit fare. But they’re also inherently magical: shape-shifters that absorb the flavors of whatever is cooked with them—or give you a nightmare or two, depending which ones you grab. Fantasy is similarly ambiguous, intentionally making it difficult for us to tell what is and what is not. So perhaps this is the year to finally sit down, re-open The Hobbit, and embrace its magic, in all its messiness.
Or there’s one of my favorite posts, from 2012, exploring Ralph Ellison’s relationship to Southern food, which he cooked during college and on a ship during World War Two, and which he missed deeply while living in Rome after the war. (“I got no way to get any corn bread … no sweet potatoes or yellow yams,” he wrote in a 1956 letter, “a biscuit is unheard of – they think it means a cookie in this town – and their greens don’t taste like greens.”) As with all Paper and Salt’s posts, you get an excellent bit of history and then an excellent recipe—this time for a buttermilk-heavy, molasses-marbled cornbread.
If you like your literary food blogging research-heavy, cerebral, but still beautiful, Paper and Salt is definitely for you.
Paper/Plates is a much bigger outfit than Paper and Salt, with a founder/editor (Amina Elahi) and a stable of contributors, and its approach is a bit different. But it’s totally amazing, as well. On Paper/Plates, most posts are about books (usually not authors), and the recipes are inspired by the books without, in most cases, trying to recreate something from them.
So, for example, a 2014 post by Elahi starts with a short-ish review of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist–highlighting, in a nice phrase, “the casualness of [Gay’s] conviction”–and ends with a fun and reflective recipe for sprinkle-dipped marshmallows. Or there’s this post by another contributor, on Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, which elegantly describes the book, reflects on the importance of memory and mothers in the narrative, and offers a recipe for “bird’s tongue soup,” which the contributor’s mother used to make for her.
It’s a lovely, creative way to combine books and food, using each to explore the possibilities of the other. If you like your literary food blogs associative, wide-ranging (the index of titles covered is massive), and beautifully-produced, you should definitely check out Paper/Plates.
Yummy Books’s approach to literary food blogging is overall more varied than either of the previous blogs. There are a ton of recipes inspired by books–check out this list of recipes variously related to The Goldfinch or this Unorthodox chocolate babka–but Yummy Books mixes it up a bit more often. There’s a post pairing Brooklyn restaurants with books (including a brilliant pairing of Saltie’s Clean Slate Sandwich with The Baby-sitters Club), and “Fresh This Week” posts about new literary releases and in-season produce. Yummy Books creator Cara Nicoletti was a pastry chef, is currently a butcher, and is the author of the forthcoming Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books. And her omnivorous talents are really in evidence here. I can’t wait to read Voracious, but in the meantime I’ll comfort myself with her scary sausage and feminist cake.
If you like your literary food blogs varied, skilled, and creative, give Yummy Foods a try.
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