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Books that Cook: A Reading List

Complied by Jennifer Cognard-Black, Professor, St. Mary’s College of Maryland


A book that “cooks” is one that includes bona fide recipes in the text, which means it can be a literary cookbook but also a novel, a memoir, a collection of essays, a polemic, a book of poems, or a children’s book. Sometimes foodie films, too, depict visual recipes for the viewer.

The following list is by no means exhaustive, but I have read or taught all of these texts as part of my various iterations of an upper-level literature class I’ve developed called “Books that Cook”—a course I have taught at St. Mary’s College in Maryland but also in Alba, Italy. In addition, a number of these texts appear, at least in part, in my co-edited anthology Books that Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal (NYU Press 2014). Enjoy consuming these texts, with your eyes as well as your stomachs.

Children’s Books with Recipes

Everybody Cooks Rice by Nora Dooley (1995)
Everybody Bakes Bread by Nora Dooley (1995)
The Apple Cake by N. Van Hichtum (1996)
Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco (1997)
The Day Piero Spilled the Soup by Dino Cortopassi (1998)
Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper (1998)
Wednesday is Spaghetti Day by Cocca-Leffler (1999)
Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan (1999)
Cackle Cook’s Monster Stew by Patricia Rae Wolff (2001)
Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth (2003)
Fannie in the Kitchen: The Whole Story from Soup to Nuts of How Fannie Farmer Invented Recipes with Precise Measurements by Deborah Hopkinson (2004)
Cook-a-Doodle-Do by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel (2005)



Novels with Recipes

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1931)
Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange (1982)
Heartburn by Nora Ephron (1983)
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café (1987)
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (1995)
Olivia or the Weight of the Past by Judith Rossner (1995)
Big Night:  A Novel with Recipes by Joseph Tropiano (1996)
The Priest Fainted:  A Novel by Catherine Temma Davidson (1998)
Chocolat by Joanne Harris (1999)
My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki (1999)
Feeding Christine by Barbara Chepaitis (2001)
The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester (2001)
Secrets of the Tsil Café by Thomas Fox Averill (2002)
The Food Taster by Peter Elbing (2003)
Keeping House: A Novel in Recipes by Clara Sereni (2005)
Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love by Lara Vapnyar (2008)
Kitchen Chinese by Ann Mah (2010)
The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais (2010)
Letters from Wishing Rock: A Novel with Recipes by Pam Stucky (2011)
A Table by the Window: A Novel by Hillary Manton Lodge (2014)
A Carol Dickens Christmas by Thomas Fox Averill (2015)
Delicious Foods by James Hannaham (2015)
Kitchens of the Great Midwest: A Novel by Ryan Stradal (2015)
Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson (2016)


Memoirs / Polemics / Essays with Recipes

The Art of Eating by M. F. K. Fisher (1949)
The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book by Alice B. Toklas (1954)
Vibration Cooking or the Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl by Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor (1992)
An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field by Terry Tempest Williams (1994)
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes (1997)
Through the Kitchen Window: Women Explore the Intimate Meanings of Food and Cooking edited by Arlene Voski Avakian (1997)
Never Eat Your Heart Out by Judith Moore (1997)
Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin (1988)
We Are What We Ate edited by Mark Winegardner (1998)
Pass the Polenta: And Other Writings from the Kitchen by Teresa Lust (1998)
Consuming Passions: A Food-Obsessed Life by Michael Lee West (1999)
If I Can Cook / You Know God Can by Ntozake Shange (1999)
The Kitchen Congregation by Nora Seton (2000)
My Story as Told by Water by David James Duncan (2001)
Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes by Shoba Narayan (2003)
Sustenance & Desire: A Food Lover’s Anthology of Sensuality and Humor edited by David R. Godine (2004)
Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes by Maya Angelou (2004)
Toast by Nigel Slater (2005)
Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford (2007)
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (2007)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (2008)
Gumbo Tales by Sara Roahen (2008)
Food Rules by Michael Pollan (2009)
The Chicken Chronicles by Alice Walker (2012)
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (2013)
Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya Von Bremzen (2014)



The Back Country (specifically “How to Make Stew in the Pinacate Desert:  Recipe for Locke and Drum”) by Gary Snyder (1968)
John Keat’s Porridge: Favorite Recipes of American Poets edited by Victoria McCabe (1975)
Hunger’s Table: Women, Food, & Politics by Margaret Randall (1997)
Paperwork (specifically “The Poet in the Kitchen” and “The Poem of Chicken Breast with Fettuccine”) by David Citino (2003) 
The Sound of Poets Cooking edited by Richard Krawiec (2010)
The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink by Kevin Young (2012)



Diner directed by Barry Levinson (1982)
Eating Raoul directed by Paul Bartel (1982)
Tampopo directed by Juzo Itami (1985)
Heartburn directed by Mike Nichols (1986)
Babette’s Feast directed by Gabriel Axel (1987)
The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, and her Lover directed by Peter Greenaway (1989)
Fried Green Tomatoes directed by Jon Avnet (1991)
Like Water for Chocolate directed by Alfonso Arau (1992)
The Age of Innocence directed by Martin Scorsese (1993)
Food (or Jidlo) directed by Jan Svankmajer (1993)
Eat Drink Man Woman directed by Ang Lee (1994)
Chinese Feast directed by Tsui Hark (1995)
Big Night directed by Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott (1996)
Chocolat directed by Lasse Hallström (2000)
A World of Food directed by Dane Archer (2000)
Mostly Martha directed by Sandra Nettelbeck (2001)
Tortilla Soup directed by Maria Ripoll(2001)
Sideways directed by Alexander Payne(2004)
Supersize Me directed by Morgan Spurlock(2004)
The Future of Food directed by Deborah Koons(2004)
Fast Food Nation directed by Richard Linklater(2006)
No Reservations directed by Scott Hicks (2007)
Lemon Tree directed by Eran Riklis (2008)
The Garden directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy(2008)
Food, Inc. directed by Robert Kenner (2008)
Bottle Shock directed by Randall Miller (2008)
Julie & Julia directed by Nora Ephron(2009)
Fresh: New Thinking about What We’re Eating directed by Ana Sofia Joanes (2009)
Ingredients directed by Robert Bates (2009)
Toast directed by S. J. Clarkson (2010)
Forks Over Knives directed by Lee Fulkerson (2011)
Veducated directed by Marisa Miller Wolfson (2012)
Chef directed by Jon Favreau (2014)
Fed Up directed by Stephanie Soechtig (2014)
The Hundred-Foot Journey directed by Lasse Hallström (2014)