I’ve always been one to excel more at the reading and writing side of school–the arithmetic, not so much. There was a time in my life though, when I never read fictional books; I considered myself more of a realist who only read books I could apply to my life. I would read biographies, self-help books and books about others’ real life experiences, but didn’t have an appreciation for the wonderment or escape of letting my imagination run wild or getting to know characters conjured up by someone I’d never met. I look back at that old self now and think, “Live a little, sister!” I couldn’t have been more wrong about fiction. I can’t pinpoint the moment my brain shifted, but as of late, I can’t seem to devour fictional books fast enough. I am a voracious reader. I find myself naturally gravitating to books where the characters live a life I want to lead…almost always set on the coast and in the South with lots of food involved. If you’re a reader like me, and you enjoy food and cooking and being in the kitchen with a little romance on the side, there are four books I’m going to recommend you read immediately. Some of these titles have come into my life as fate would have it or as a gift from friends who know me well. I should preface this by saying it is my dream to make a living hosting my own cooking television show and to write about food. You’ll notice the common themes throughout these books support that lifestyle.
#1 The Blue Bistro – Elin Hilderbrand
I was shopping at an antique store when I came across this dusty, used book about a restaurant on Nantucket. Little did I know, this absorbing book, all 324 pages of it, would become my all-time favorite read. It alone is solely responsible for my desire to be on staff at a high-end restaurant where you get to partake in “family meal” and learn about what’s on the menu so you can better explain flavors to guests. Elin Hilderbrand, with her descriptions of menu items and island life, is a literal master at making your mouth water. The characters are so real and relatable that I cried when this book ended, feeling as though I had lost a friend. I still dream about some of the dishes served under the stars, ocean side at The Blue Bistro. I have since read nearly all of Hilderbrand’s books and she is easily one of my favorite authors.
#2 Sweet Salt Air – Barbara Delinsky
This book is dead sexy. Barbara Delinsky takes a rugged, ex-con who’s somewhat sketchy, introverted and reclusive and morphs him into a soft, tender-hearted and lovable guy. But that’s not the main story line. This book, set on the island of Quinnipeague off the coast of Maine, is about two women, once best friends, who are reunited to write a local cookbook about island food in their childhood haven. Nicole is a famous food blogger with a large following and Charlotte is a travel writer and skilled photographer. The plot weaves friendship, secrets and love with mystery and the trials of marriage. Food is a focal point – and Nicole’s blog saves her, just like Some Kinda Good has saved me. The ironic thing is, the friend who gave me this book as part of a wedding gift (genius since I spent my honeymoon at the beach!), is my Charlotte.
Tori Sprankel was a bridesmaid in my wedding and is a longtime friend. I’m her Nicole (the food blogger) and she’s the graphic designer/photographer. We have dreams of producing a cookbook together. Crazy parallels! Sweet Salt Air is a page-turner. I read this book on the balcony of my apartment, on the beach, in the bed; Wherever I was, the book was there too. Thanks for the excellent gift, sweet friend!
#3 The Glass Kitchen – Linda Francis Lee
Linda Francis Lee is a new author for me. This is the first book I’ve read of hers, but I can already tell it won’t be my last! I started reading this Novel of Sisters last night, and I’m already on Chapter 7. The main character, Portia, has a gift of knowing, just like her late grandmother. In the oddest of moments, whether it be when she first meets someone or the moment she wakes up, she gets visions of food and strong urges to cook – chocolate cake with buttercream frosting, a roast, fried chicken and sweet jalapeno mustard. The type of food she cooks and the number of place settings she prepares is usually a foreshadowing of circumstances to come but she doesn’t know what or how. The book’s namesake mirrors a popular restaurant her grandmother once owned. Perhaps what drew me to The Glass Kitchen is the plot about the courage it takes to follow your heart and be yourself. Perfectly timely for this season of my life!
#4 Deep Dish – Mary Kay Andrews
Y’all, this book was so much fun to read. It’s a quick read that’s lighthearted and good-natured. Being the Georgia girl that I am, I identified with every character! I’ve read several Mary Kay Andrews books and really enjoy her witty approach.
Check out the book’s description from Mary Kay Andrew’s website:
Chef extraordinaire Gina Foxton doesn’t expect anything to be handed to her on a platter. After years of hard work, the former runner-up Miss Teen Vidalia Onion is now the host of her own local Georgia public television show called Fresh Start, and she’s dating the show’s producer.
But when her show gets canceled, and she catches her boyfriend in flagrante delicto with the boss’s wife, Gina realizes that she’s meant for bigger and better things. The Cooking Channel is looking for its next star, and Gina is certain that she fits the bill. Trouble is, the execs also have their eye on Mr. “Kill It and Grill It” Tate Moody, the star of a hunting, fishing, and cooking show called Vittles. Tate is the ultimate man’s man, with a dog named Moonpie and a penchant for flannel shirts. Little does Gina know, though, that she and Tate are soon to embark on the cook-off of their lives.
Now, why in the world would I be interested in reading a thing like that? HA!
What food books would you add to this list? Have you read any of these? Who are your favorite authors? A few other authors I dearly love spending my beach days with include: Pat Conroy, Mary Alice Monroe and Dorthea Benton Frank. You can’t go wrong with any of their deliciously enticing reads.
As a side note: Public libraries are a true gift – fascinating places where anyone can go and check out a book FOR FREE on just about anything to learn or improve upon a skill or to simply be entertained (all the while becoming a better writer and smarter simultaneously). So, whatever your passion, for the love…get a library card people and get reading!