Chocolat, culinary, food fiction, Joanne Harris, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Juliette Binoche, Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate, Richard C. Morais, The Hundred-Foot Journey
November is the month of food in the United States, with Thanksgiving…a holiday entirely centered around food. So it’s the perfect time to talk about food fiction. Which apparently is a genre. Who knew?
A writing instructor once suggested that our class “include descriptions of food” to hook the reader and add depth to our stories. I haven’t taken that advice…yet, but I don’t discount its validity either. Many authors use food as a story element, creating an engaging character element in the process.
I usually limit discussions on this blog to Young Adult (YA) and Middle Grade (MG) fiction. But in this genre, all my favorite stories come from adult fiction. And I don’t think its a coincidence that two of the titles have “chocolate” in them either. These books are all bestsellers that were made into major motion pictures. Proof that my writing instructor’s advice carried more than a little truth…when done right. [PC: morguefile.com]
I hope you enjoy these stories too. Bon appetit!
Like Water for Chocolate ~ by Laura Esquivel
Like Water For Chocolate is a tale of love, magic…and recipes. Earthy and laced with magical realism, this story of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico centers on the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter, is forbidden to marry (by Mexican tradition) and must look after her mother for as long as she lives. As fate would have it, Tita falls in love with Pedro and he in turn is seduced by her cooking, which is magically infused with her passionate emotions. Unable to have the woman he loves, Pedro marries her sister, Rosaura, out of desperation to be close to Tita. Over the following twenty-two years, Tita and Pedro circle each other in a dance of unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of bad luck and fate can finally set things right, allowing the two lovers to unite at last.
In Like Water for Chocolate, the food Tita cooks becomes an extension of herself. Her emotions are infused in the food she touches, and anyone who eats her cooking experiences her emotions. Food becomes the vehicle through which Tita and Pedro fall in love, as well as the connection which sustains their passion until they can be together at last. This sensuous novel was made into a tantalizing motion picture of world-wide acclaim.
The Hundred-Foot Journey ~ By Richard C. Morais
“That skinny Indian teenager has that mysterious something that comes along once a generation. He is one of those rare chefs who is simply born. He is an artist.”
So begins the illustrious career of Hassan Haji, the unlikely gourmand who recounts his life’s journey in The Hundred-Foot Journey. Lively and brimming with the colors, flavors, and scents of the kitchen, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a succulent tale about family, nationality, and the mysteries of good taste.
This story shows us how the hundred-foot distance between a new Indian kitchen and a traditional French one can represent the gulf between different cultures and desires.
In The Hundred-Foot Journey, food is the character that unites family, directs fate, and bridges the chasms between diverse cultures. Food is also the catalyst that opens closed minds to new ideas, and opens hearts to the humanity within us all no matter the culture. This book was recently made into a delightful feature film, I highly recommend seeing. More than once.
Chocolat ~ by Joanne Harris
In tiny Lansquenet, nothing much has changed in a hundred years. That is, until beautiful newcomer Vianne Rocher and her exquisite chocolate shop arrive. Havoc ensues soon after with the breaking of Lenten vows in a strict Catholic community. It’s more than just chocolate that Vianne delivers. Each box of bonbons comes with a personal gift: Vianne’s uncanny perception of the customer’s private discontents and a clever cure. Taken in by Vianne’s charm…and chocolate…the town folk abandon themselves to the culinary delight and happiness. A dramatic face-off between Easter solemnity and the gaiety of a chocolate festival result in a climatic resolution. Chocolat is a delicious mix of passion, whimsy, and of course, chocolate.
In Chocolat, food (chocolate) is part of the main character, Vianne. But chocolate plays another major role in this story when it becomes the adversary—the catalyst for change in the small French village. Chocolate forces the strict Christian township to look at its narrow-minded ways and open their hearts and minds, choosing inclusion over exclusion. The Oscar-nominated film of the same name starred Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, and Johnny Depp.
What’s your favorite food fiction novel?