Shhhhh….. 🤫 If you listen veeerrrry carefully you’ll hear the telltale (and slightly giddy) sounds of people up and down the country triumphantly nearing the end of a mammoth 40-days without their beloved comfort-craving. Plans are most definitely afoot to make sure nothing stands between them and that blissful moment of reunion.
That squeak is a corkscrew being surreptitiously checked to make sure it’s at peak opening capability come day #0. And that unmistakable rustling sound? That’ll be the cellophane wrap being removed from a luxury box of chocolates purchased with Sunday in mind. Oooh … and there … there it is again …. that almost imperceptible ‘wiiiiishing’ sound was a specialist knife (cake / bread / cheese *delete as appropriate) being eased out of a knife block and checked ( … double checked … triple checked … ) for optimum sharpness in readiness for action in just a few days time.
Anything from chocolate, coffee, cakes and even social media have been forsaken in the name of self improvement. But with the end in sight, I don’t feel too bad about publishing this (sugar-coated) post about some of the best foodie-fiction out there. In fact, I’m hoping it’ll help to gently reintroduce the strong-willed abstainers to the mouth-watering wonders they’ve been keeping at arm’s length for so long. And if – like me – you have abstained from abstaining … well … here you’ll find a selection of books just begging to be devoured.
if you gave up chocolate
Title - Like Water For Chocolate Author - Laura Esquivel GoodReads ⭐️ rating - 3.95 Rated by - 316,579 readers Reviewed by - 8,648 readers
The number one bestseller in Mexico and America for almost two years, and subsequently a bestseller around the world, Like Water For Chocolate is a romantic, poignant tale, touched with moments of magic, graphic earthiness, bittersweet wit – and recipes.
A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and he is seduced by the magical food she cooks. In desperation, Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her, so that Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all the odds.
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Chocolate-lovers will also devour ... Julia’s Chocolates by Cathy Lamb The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris
if you gave up cake
Title - Baking Cakes in Kigali Author - Gaile Parkin GoodReads ⭐️ rating - 3.67 Rated by - 5,609 readers Reviewed by - 1,035 readers
Once in a great while a debut novelist comes along who dazzles us with rare eloquence and humanity, who takes us to bold new places and into previously unimaginable lives. This gloriously written tale, set in modern-day Rwanda, introduces one of the most singular and engaging characters in recent fiction: Angel Tungaraza; mother, cake baker, keeper of secrets. A woman living on the edge of chaos, finding ways to transform lives, weave magic, and create hope amid the madness swirling all around her.
In Kigali, Angel runs a bustling business baking cakes for all occasions; cakes filled with vibrant colour, buttery richness, and, most of all, a sense of hope only Angel can deliver. A CIA agent’s wife seeks the perfect holiday cake but walks away with something far sweeter. A former boy-soldier orders an engagement cake, then, between sips of tea, shares an enthralling story. Weary human rights workers. Lovesick limo drivers. Amid this cacophony of native tongues, love affairs, and confessions, Angel’s kitchen is an oasis where people tell their secrets, where hope abounds and help awaits. As her customers tell her their stories, Angel comes to realize how much each of them has to mourn as well as what they have to celebrate. And, finally, she comes to accept how much that is true of her too…
This is a uniquely charming, gently moving, deliciously funny novel about life, love and cake. Ultimately, it shows how the human spirit – even when pushed to its limits – endures and unifies us all.
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Cake-lovers will also demolish ... The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller
if you gave up wine
Title - The Vintage Caper Author - Peter Mayle GoodReads ⭐️ rating - 3.36 Rated by - 4,371 readers Reviewed by - 709 readers
Set in Hollywood, Paris, Bordeaux, and Marseille, Peter Mayle’s newest and most delightful novel is filled with culinary delights, sumptuous wines, and colourful characters. It’s also a lot of fun.
The story begins high above Los Angeles, at the extravagant home and equally impressive wine cellar of entertainment lawyer, Danny Roth. Unfortunately, after inviting the Los Angeles Times to write an extensive profile extolling the liquid treasures of his collection, Roth finds himself the victim of a world-class wine heist.
Enter Sam Levitt, former corporate lawyer, cultivated crime expert, and wine connoisseur. Called in by Roth’s insurance company, which is now saddled with a multimillion-dollar claim, Sam follows his leads—to Bordeaux and its magnificent vineyards, and to Provence to meet an eccentric billionaire collector who might possibly have an interest in the stolen wines. Along the way, bien sûr, he is joined by a beautiful and erudite French colleague, and together they navigate many a château, pausing frequently to enjoy the countryside’s abundant pleasures.
The unraveling of the ingenious crime is threaded through with Mayle’s seductive rendering of France’s sensory delights … from a fine Lynch-Bages and Léoville Barton to the bouillabaisse of Marseille and the young lamb of Bordeaux. Even the most sophisticated of oenophiles will learn a thing or two from this vintage work by a beloved author.
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Wine-lovers are also in for a treat with ... My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith Nose by James Conaway Dial M For Merlot by Howard K
if you gave up cheese
Title - Blessed are the Cheesemakers Author - Sarah-Kate Lynch GoodReads ⭐️ rating - 3.82 Rated by - 3,008 readers Reviewed by - 470 readers
Set on a small Irish dairy farm, this tender and funny debut novel follows two lost souls as they try to carve out new lives amid a colorful cast of characters reminiscent of those in the hit film Waking Ned Divine.
Abby has been estranged from the family farm since her rebellious mother ran off with her when she was a small child. Kit is a burned out New York stockbroker who’s down on his luck. But that’s all about to change, now that he and Abby have converged on the farm just in time to help Corrie and Fee, two old cheesemakers in a time of need.
Full of delightful and quirky characters – from dairy cows who only give their best product to pregnant, vegetarian teens to an odd collection of whiskey-soaked men and broken-hearted women who find refuge under Corrie and Fee’s roof. Blessed are the Cheesemakers is an irresistible tale about taking life’s spilled milk and turning it into the best cheese in the world.
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Cheese-lovers can also tuck in to ... Edward Trencom's Nose by Giles Milton The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti
if you gave up coffee
Title - The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul Author - Deborah Rodriguez GoodReads ⭐️ rating - 3.62 Rated by - 17,996 readers Reviewed by - 1,914 readers
From the author of the memoir Kabul Beauty School comes a fiction debut as compelling as real life: the story of a remarkable coffee shop in the heart of Afghanistan, and the men and women who meet there – thrown together by circumstance, bonded by secrets, and united in an extraordinary friendship.
After hard luck and some bad choices, Sunny has finally found a place to call home … it just happens to be in the middle of a war zone.
The thirty-eight-year-old American’s pride and joy is the Kabul Coffee House, where she brings hospitality to the expatriates, misfits, missionaries, and mercenaries who stroll through its doors. She’s especially grateful that the busy days allow her to forget Tommy, the love of her life, who left her in pursuit of money and adventure.
Working alongside Sunny is the maternal Halajan, who vividly recalls the days before the Taliban and now must hide a modern romance from her ultra traditional son who, unbeknownst to her, is facing his own religious doubts. Into the café come Isabel, a British journalist on the trail of a risky story; Jack, who left his family back home in Michigan to earn “danger pay” as a consultant; and Candace, a wealthy and well-connected American whose desire to help threatens to cloud her judgment.
When Yazmina, a young Afghan from a remote village, is kidnapped and left on a city street pregnant and alone, Sunny welcomes her into the café and gives her a home, but Yazmina hides a secret that could put all their lives in jeopardy.
As this group of men and women discover that there’s more to one another than meets the eye, they’ll form an unlikely friendship that will change not only their own lives but the lives of an entire country.
Brimming with Deborah Rodriguez’s remarkable gift for depicting the nuances of life in Kabul, and filled with vibrant characters that readers will truly care about, this is the best kind of fiction – full of heart yet smart and thought-provoking.
Coffee-lovers can also savour ... The Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony Capella On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle Black Coffee by Agatha Christie (adapted from the screen script by Charles Osborne)
if you gave up bread
Title - Sourdough Author - Robin Sloan GoodReads ⭐️ rating - 3.76 Rated by - 37,162 readers Reviewed by - 6,188 readers
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 neighbourhood 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.
Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. 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.
When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?
Sourdough is a soup of skilfully balanced ingredients: there’s satire, a touch of fantasy, a pinch of SF, all bound up with a likeable narrator whose zest for life is infectious. The novel opens a door on a world that’s both comforting and thrillingly odd. – The Guardian
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Bread-lovers knead to read these, too ... How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal Bread Alone by Judi Hendricks
To be honest, if you gave up anything at all then I salute you. This year, my willpower and I assiduously abstained from abstinence, and I blame the books … THE BOOKS MADE ME DO IT 🤭
Time for your confessions now!! Did you give something scrumptious up … but not quite last the full 40 days? The comments box below is totally non judgemental …