I love when food is featured prominently in historical fiction! It lets me vicariously feast on pheasants, lampreys, mulberry gin, and any number of other things that are tough to fit into my daily meals.
Here are a few intriguing historical fiction books centered around food:
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John Saturnall’s Feast by Laurence Norfolk
A 17th-century orphan is taken in by a local manor, where he rises from kitchen boy to head cook. When the lord’s daughter protests her arranged marriage by goes on a hunger strike, it becomes the cook’s duty to tempt her into eating by cooking scrumptious feasts.
Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
A renowned English chef is kidnapped by a ruthless pirate named Mad Hannah Mabbot. She promises to spare the chef’s life, as long as he provides her with an excellent meal every week. Eventually, romance strikes! …I’m dying to try the two delicacies mentioned in the official synopsis: tea-smoked eel and pineapple-banana cider.
The Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony Capella
Set in London at the turn of the 19th century, this book tells the story of an impoverished poet who categorizes coffee for a coffee merchant. The merchant has three daughters, and… romance strikes!
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
Nomadic chocolate-making lady and daughter move to small town, cause hubbub. I’ve only seen the 2000 movie based on this novel, but apparently there are also 2 other books in this series: The Girl with No Shadow and Peaches for Father Francis.
Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris
(More Joanne Harris! Clearly she loves both France and food.) Long after the miseries of WWII, a woman returns to her village home, where she explores both her mother’s recipes and memories of the tormented past.
White Truffles in Winter by N.M. Kelby
A fictionalized account of the life of influential chef Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935).
The Wedding Officer: A Novel of Culinary Seduction by Anthony Capella
It’s WWII, and the British have occupied Naples. In their concern that soldiers might fraternize too much with the local girls, they task a captain with discouraging marriages to Italian girls. The captain meets a young widow with a passion for cooking, and romance strikes! (Because of course it does.)
The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark
In Renaissance-era Venice, a chef and his apprentice get roped into plots and conspiracies beyond their control.
Tomato Rhapsody: A Story of Love, Lust, and Forbidden Fruit by Adam Schell
In 15th-century Tuscany, a Jewish tomato farmer and a Catholic girl meet… and romance strikes! Apparently the characters speak in rhyme. Also, Goodreads reviews say things like “there is a lot of donkey penis in this book,” which might or might not be a good thing.
Evidently, foodie fiction really loves romance.
Seriously, half of the relevant books I found were romance-heavy. I guess focusing on one sensory experience leads easily to focusing on others…
…Writing this post on an empty stomach was not a good plan.
I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read any of these. And let me know if you’ve got recommendations for more historical fiction centered around food!