20 Fantastic and Flavorful Food Fiction Reads

This was a fun, more-or-less lighthearted read about a Boston pastry chef who flees to the country after literally setting her workplace on fire with a flambéed dessert. Reviewers called this parts Jan Karon and parts Gilmore Girls. Perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan's <em>The Little Beach Street Bakery</em> or Laura Dave's <em>Eight Hundred Grapes</em>.
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Asher has one last shot to make the Detroit gastro pub he started with his late husband work. He starts by firing the old staff and hiring replacements, including recent college grad Tyler who needs money for med school. Their relationship evolves from business to friendship and then later, something more. A great behind-the-scenes on the restaurant industry and Detroit’s revival. (Semi-open door.)
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From the publisher: "Once a month, eight students gather in Lillian's restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect. The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian's soulful dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. And soon they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create."
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Layla returns home to San Francisco after her life falls apart. Her father offers her the office upstairs from his Michelin starred Indian restaurant (helpful) and secretly creates an online dating profile for her and arranges a series of blind dates (not helpful.) Sam thought he was renting the office upstairs but finds out he’ll have to share it with Layla and her potential suitors. These two opposites will have you smiling as you read!
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From the publisher: "In his much-anticipated new audiobook, Robin Sloan does for the world of food what he did for the world of books in Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her - feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she's providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer's market, and a whole new world opens up."
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Entertainment Weekly calls this "a swoony rom-com brimming with humor and charm." From the publisher: "The author of The Wedding Date serves up a novel about what happens when a public proposal doesn't turn into a happy ending, thanks to a woman who knows exactly how to make one on her own... When someone asks you to spend your life with him, it shouldn't come as a surprise--or happen in front of 45,000 people. At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik's rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He's even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik's social media blows up—in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can't be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes..."
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Sweet, sparkly, and thoroughly Southern. Like all the women in her family, Claire Waverley possesses a unique magic: she uses edible flowers to prepare foods that affect the eater in “curious ways.” Years ago, Claire’s sister fled town—and her Waverley gift—but she discovers her own sort of magic when she returns. What to say about this book? The romance verges on twee, the magic is impossible, but put them together and it sings. If you’re not down with supernatural food or a magical apple tree, skip this one—but you should know how many readers call this “a wonderful surprise.” Allen’s long-anticipated next novel, Other Birds, is due out August 30. Open-ish door. For fans of Emily Henry’s Book Lovers and Maria de los Santos’s Love Walked In.
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Polly’s life is in ruins: in one fell swoop, she’s lost her business, her boyfriend, and her flat. She can’t afford a place in town, so she’s forced to move out of the city—way out of the city, to a remote British island town, in a flat above an abandoned shop. (Everyone’s reaction to her new home: shouldn’t this place be condemned?) Polly turns to baking to cheer herself up, and before long her favorite hobby turns into something more substantial than she ever dared to dream. (Many readers will appreciate the lack of lascivious scenes. Her characters aren’t all chaste, but that action happens offscreen.) A sweet and multilayered story about starting over, with lots of heart, perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jojo Moyes.
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Seventeen-year old single mother Emoni has always been told she has a magical touch in the kitchen. She dreams of a career as a chef but she doesn't have the time or money for her school's new culinary arts class, not if she's going to still be able to work part-time and provide for her child. She's torn in a lot of directions but her passion for food is clear. Told in stunning prose, this novel captured my heart—and made me want to bake! Acevedo creates fabulous characters to root for, and you'll be cheering for Emoni as you listen.
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Unbeknownst to everyone, NYC’s toughest restaurant critic is an 11 year old girl. Gladys started cooking impressive gourmet meals when she was 7 but she has to find a new outlet when her parents cut her off from the kitchen after a mishap. When she accidentally gets contacted to write a restaurant review, it seems like a sign. There’s just the little matter of keeping her identity a secret. A fun middle grade read.
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This follow-up to Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors stands on its own. In this loose retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Ashna is a Bay Area chef so desperate to save her family’s failing restaurant she agrees to compete on the reality tv show Cooking with the Stars. That’s where she reconnects with her first love—now a Brazilian soccer star—on live tv, for the first time since he disappeared twelve years ago on the worst night of her life. Dev puts her own spin on Austen’s classic, while highlighting the timeless themes of the original: a young woman sensitive to her family’s criticism, a disadvantaged young man with no credentials but a bright future, an unexpected second chance at first love. A sensitive, satisfying update.
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Set in turn-of-the-century Mexico, Laura Esquivel imbues her novel with magical realism to great effect. As the youngest daughter, Tita De Garza is forbidden to marry as she must care for her mother until she dies. When she and Pedro fall in love, he marries her sister so they can at least be near each other. If that sounds like a recipe for torture, you're right. As the family deals with one tragedy after another, Tita pours her emotions into her cooking as she preserves their recipes, causing everyone who eats the food to react in different ways. It will have you yearning for Tita and Pedro to somehow find a way back to one another.
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From the publisher: "Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café is a now-classic novel about two women: Evelyn, who's in the sad slump of middle age, and gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode, who's telling her life story. Her tale includes two more women—the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth—who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, offering good coffee, southern barbecue, and all kinds of love and laughter—even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present will never be quite the same again."
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This contemporary romance debut is going to make you hungry. Moving from NYC to Ithaca, Dominican Republic immigrant Nesto gives himself six months to make a real go of his Afro-Caribbean food truck business. Youth services librarian Jude is trying to get funding for a library bookmobile as a way of getting services to more rural areas. Neither man can afford the distraction but some chances are worth taking. The food descriptions are amazing, as is Nesto's philosophy of food as a way of maintaining cultural roots and nourishing his community in the US. You'll wish you could get in on the meals he makes for Jude, too. (Open door.)
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Opposites attract between bad boy biker Trucker and good girl waitress Pinky in this contemporary romance novella. Trucker always comes in to her family’s Indian restaurant and one day they finally move past their assumptions of one another and realize they have more in common than they ever could have guessed. A fun read. (Open door.)
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