It’s Christmas Day and I’m hoping that you’ll all be gorging yourselves on amazing food. Spare a thought for me as you do, because I’m in the News Dungeon today – working the Big Day so other team members don’t have to (and so I don’t have to next year). You should be all Christmas Booked up by now, so to celebrate the Big Meal on the Big Day I’ve put together a list of books with fabulous food, fantastic feasts or magnificent meals. It has ended up being rather children’s book heavy, but hey it’s Christmas and the season for reading children’s books. Well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
Boarding School books
I know. I’ve mentioned my love for boarding school series enough already. But back in the day, the writing about the midnight feasts in Mallory Towers or the meals at the Chalet School was enough to make Childhood Verity – queen of the fussy eaters – think she might be able to get over her dislike of all sorts of things. At the Chalet School they didn’t have midnight feasts, but they did have fresh warm rolls – so far so good – accompanied by milky coffee for Kaffee and Kuchen. Now coffee makes me feel sick* but I was convinced that I would have loved it. From my memory, basically pick a Mallory Towers or St Clares and there’ll be a midnight feast or a food related mishap, if you want to go Chalet School, try The Chalet School and the Lintons which has a rare example of a midnight feast in the series or start with School at the Chalet for the full on Austrian food experience.
The Harry Potter series
I argued long and hard with myself about what to do with Harry Potter – because it’s sort of a boarding school series to start with but it goes far beyond that. So separate it is. Whether it’s Butter Beer or Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans or the celebratory banquets there’s something fabulous about the food in the Potterverse. I was eating a packet of Jelly Beans the other day and came across a gross one (Cinnamon I think) and all I could think of was Dumbledore and the earwax flavour.
Strong Poison by Dorothy L Sayers
This is very nearly a spoiler including this, but the last meal of Philip Boyes is gone over in such detail in this, the first of the Harriet and Peter books, that it’s forever stuck in my mind. And although for everyone else Turkish Delight is inexorably linked with Edmund in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, for me it’s more about this book. Not that I’ve ever liked Turkish Delight anyway, but I swear this book would put you off it permeantly too!
Away from specific books and on to food stuffs…
I’ve read a lot of cozy crime books set in New England and I think every series has invoked chowder at some point or another. Whether it’s the local diner where the detective talks the crime through with her friends while eating a bowl or the weird looking out of the way hut that turns out to be the home of amazing seafood, set a mystery book (or series) in New England and someone will be eating chowder at some point. Try Jenn McKinley’s Library Lover’s series if you fancy some Chowder action.
Ices from Gunter’s
It’s not a Regency Romance if someone hasn’t mentioned Ices from Gunter’s – whether they’ve been provided for a party or an afternoon trip for younger relatives. I blame Georgette Heyer for starting it, so that’s where I’m sending you. The Grand Sophy has some Gunter’s action (also a problematic depitction of a Jewish Money lender which I suggest you just skip past) and so does Frederica and a number of others. If you’re Heyered out, try some Julia Quinn – there’s definitely some Gunter’s action in at least one of the Bridgerton books.
And finally, if you’re at all interested in food in history, can I suggest The Greedy Queen by Annie Grey which looks at the food Queen Victoria and her household ate and where it came from. Really, really interesting.
Enjoy your Christmas dinner – and I hope you got the books that you wanted and will have time to read them!
*Long story, but the TL:DR is travel sick child + coffee factory = psychosomatic link between coffee and vomiting.