Cookbooks inspired by literature aren’t anything new. There’s a cookbook for nearly every popular franchise. Social activity is centered around food, so it makes sense that we incorporate that into our other interests as well. What about the foods in books? The foods characters prepare and eat and savor. Do you remember reading a book as a child and wanting to eat something just because the protagonist in your current read ate it? That’s what this list is all about.
This list of literary foods and drinks was inspired by a Reddit thread. Some answers were submitted multiple times, and I also looked for answers that intrigued me. This thread was spontaneously created by redditors, featuring food from classics, childhood favorites, and popular fiction. I would love to expand on this idea, including food and beverages from books by more authors of color and LBGTQIA+ authors.
“It is dull, Son of Adam, to drink without eating,” said the Queen presently. “What would you like best to eat?”
“Turkish Delight, please, your Majesty,” said Edmund.
—C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
By far, this was the most common answer on the Reddit thread that inspired this post. Turkish Delight is presented as a magical, fantastical Narnian sweet. If you’ve never had Turkish Delight, picture a rose or pistachio flavored gelatin square covered in powdered sugar. That’s what Edmund betrayed his siblings for. I mean, it was enchanted, but Edmund was on WWII sugar rations, so go off, I guess.
Variations of Bread
What is it about reading fantasy novels that just makes you want to eat a loaf of bread? Choose from bread and cheese, bread and oil, or bread and butter/honey with a flagon of mead to get that true fantasy protagonist feel. Or try these Fantasy Meals Brought to You By Sci-Fi and Fantasy Cookbooks.
“Open the whiskey, Tom,” she ordered, “and I’ll make you a mint julep. Then you won’t seem so stupid to yourself.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
The mint julep belongs to a category of cocktails that are just inherently literary. You can place pretty much any Hemingway and Salinger inspired cocktail in this category as well. Other than the Kentucky Derby, where else would you drink a mint julep but at a Gatsby-themed party?
He wiped the dirt off and realized it was an onion. He bit into it without peeling it. The hot, bitter juice burst into his mouth. He could feel it all the way up to his eyes.
—Louis Sachar, Holes
Satisfy your curiosity for a raw onion and just cronch. Stanley and Zero were dehydrated and without food in the brutal heat, after months of manual labor. An onion was a miracle. Sweet onions still taste like onions, though.
By that time it was dark, and he was hungry. He made himself baked beans
on toast and sat at the kitchen table wondering about the best order to
look through the downstairs rooms.
—Phillip Pullman, The Subtle Knife
Beans on toast is one of those foods that if you didn’t grow up eating it, you might assume it was concocted for the fantasy. Many British children’s series, including His Dark Materials, baffled American readers with descriptions of mince pie, treacle tart, and lemon sherbet sweeties. No, these are not magical foods, just British.
“Kimchi! Kimchi! Homemade kimchi! The most delicious kimchi in Ikaino! More tasty than your grandmother’s! Oishi desu, oishi!” She tried to sound cheerful, because back home, she had always frequented the nicest ajummas.
—Min Jin Lee, Pachinko
Pachinko is a multigenerational family saga, set in 20th century Korea and Japan. Throughout the book, kimchi is prepared, sold, and shared. The long process of kimchi making is meditative, often passed down from generation to generation. Heritage fiction like Pachinko often includes descriptions of culturally important foods like kimchi.
Strawberry Fizz and Scones
The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques is the mini-foodie’s paradise. Each book in the middle grade fantasy series is detailed with scrumptious meals. After years of letters from fans, Jacques published a Redwall cookbook.
“Why, I owe at least a dozen pickled limes, and I can’t pay them, you know, till I have money, for Marmee forbade my having anything charged at the shop.”
“Tell me all about it. Are limes the fashion now? It used to be pricking bits of rubber to make balls.” And Meg tried to keep her countenance, Amy looked so grave and important.
—Louisa May Alcott , Little Women
I don’t know how to tell you this bestie, but Amy March was not trading bright green Key Limes. She was trading greyish, unappetizing salty-sour pickled limes. Citrus fruit was a status symbol, often given as gifts. It was expensive. Like Meg says, though, the trading fashion at school is always changing.
“Well, I have to admit, this Singapore Sling is better than I imagined,” Peik Lin said, taking another sip of her frothy crimson drink.”
—Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians
Aside from all the delicious pan-Asian food mentioned in CRA, Singapore Slings get a shout out for not being the local’s drink of choice. The Raffles Hotel in Singapore is the original birthplace of the cocktail, but you don’t have to fly all the way there to have one.
What was sickening about a tomato sandwich? Harriet felt the taste in her mouth. Were they crazy? It was the best taste in the world. Her mouth watered at the memory of the mayonnaise.
—Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy
A summertime classic, tomato sandwiches are easy to make and cooling. There’s nothing like a crisp tomato sandwich and a glass of iced tea after working in the garden all morning. Harriet’s favorite sandwich is perfect for those lazy summer days when you just don’t want to cook.
Have you ever tried a food from a book? Did you track down a recipe or seek a cookbook inspired by your reads? Anytime a character eats an unfamiliar snack, you know I’m looking it up. Check out our cookbook archive for more cooking inspiration.