Books and food are some of the finer things in life. Both can be indulgent, leaving us lingering in bed or in the arms of cozy chair for hours, unable to pull away. They can be guilty pleasures — for some, romance novels and beach reads fall into this category — something that we only do on occasion but that inevitably makes us come back for more. Most of all, food and books both nourish us. While one feeds the body, another feeds the soul and mind.
A well-balanced diet includes food from all levels of the food pyramid and books from a variety of genres. You might find that certain types of books leave you hungry or thirsty for particular foods. If you’ve ever wondered how you should be treating your taste buds while you treat your mind to a good book, look no further. We’ve cooked up food and drink suggestions to pair perfectly with your fiction of choice and keep your reading habits well fueled. Bon appétit!
Mysteries, especially those of the murder variety, can leave many characters killed in cold blood. Cold foods are the perfect choice for these bone-chilling moments. Gazpacho, a chilled Spanish soup made with raw vegetables, is a deep red that would probably be hard to get out in the wash. Reach for a glass of sangria to drink down the evidence — its name comes from the Spanish word “sangre,” meaning “blood.”
Dystopian novels make us grateful for things like democracy, freedom, and the right not to kill our peers in the name of mass entertainment. The Hunger Games, arguably the most popular dystopian novel of our time, takes place in a world where not everyone gets enough to eat. You may feel ill at ease when reading dystopian fiction, and there’s a good chance you’ll be thinking about food. Some good old-fashioned comfort food will give you a little peace as you cling to the hope that things become a little less Kafkaesque. Restore your faith in humanity with chicken noodle soup, macaroni and cheese, and other soothing dishes.
Weird stuff happens in science fiction novels. Plants eat people, interplanetary wars are waged, and computers take over the world. Odd and futuristic foods will complement the strange and unusual places that science fiction novels take you. Try alien fruit (Durian), an exotic cheese, or a lollipop with a bug inside of it. Engineered and novel foods like Tang, French fries on a stick (big in Korea), and Soylent, will make you feel like part of the future.
When we think of Harry Potter, we can’t help but be reminded of the delectable delights that J.K. Rowling introduced us to in the Wizarding World (mmm, butter beer). Fantasy realms have their own custom menus, and making food from them is a common pastime for big fantasy fans. Cook up a dish inspired by your favorite fantasy novels, like something from this book featuring foods from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Many fantasy novels take place in a time that resembles the medieval centuries, so Renaissance fare will make readers merry. Try a meat-and-vegetable pie, a big turkey leg, freshly baked bread, and a tankard of ale to wash it down.
The foods of Valentine’s Day may be an obvious choice for reading a romance novel, but nothing else will do. While your leading lady is being ravished, sip on some red wine and indulge in some chocolates — or any kind of dessert, really. If you’re not already in the mood for love, you will be.
Novels written for teens aren’t just for teens. Whether you’re the target audience reading a Young Adult novel, or a not-so-young adult living vicariously through pubescent protagonists, the genre allows us to embrace our youth. Candy and other favorite foods from childhood will help take you there. Put on a candy necklace, unwrap your choice of candy bar, or pour out a bowl of sugary cereal for a treat that Mom might not approve of (but hey, at least you’re reading!)
The Classics are the staples of a literary diet. There’s no question that they’re well-written, important works. Similarly, some foods are just unquestionably good. Simple but delicious foods pair nicely with works that are loved the world over. Milk and cookies, cheese pizza, and stir-fried veggies are just a few examples. You can’t go wrong with the Classics, and you can’t go wrong with classic foods.
Stories of suspense can get your heart racing as you move quickly from page to page, anticipating what comes next. You probably don’t want to be drinking coffee while you’re already on the edge of your seat. Instead, brew a cup of calming herbal tea like chamomile or a caffeine-free fruit blend. Nibble on some heart-healthy options like berries, a slice of whole-wheat toast, or a handful of nuts to calm your nerves.
Reading a short story makes for a smaller meal than digging into a full novel. When all you need is a morsel, they can be just as filling. For these bite-sized pieces, satisfy your cravings with snack foods like potato chips, veggies and dip, or cheese and crackers. You might find, though, that your intentions to read one short story and have a modest snack could turn into a binge!
In many historical novels, food and the family meal are a central part of the narrative. Authors take care to ensure that the dining customs and meals portrayed in their books are accurate. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, for instance, takes place during the British Regency period in an upper-class society. The family dinner was the big event of the day, usually eaten on the early side, and featured large meals with foods like venison pie, baked salmon, sautéed vegetables, rich sauces, and plenty of dessert. Eating food from the period that you’re reading about will make you feel like you’ve been transported to the past (or at least your taste buds will). There is a wealth of resources online about the eating habits of different time periods. Do your research and come up with a dish the main character would envy.
Looking for your next literary treat? Check out our some of our titles — there’s plenty of food involved. Puzzles is a period piece set in 1959 featuring a diner and a scrumptious picnic scene. In Double Dare, a fast-paced story of adventure and friendship, protagonists Mona and Phyllis regularly meet for girls’-night-out dinner. We think these books would go well with just about anything!