12 February 2011

Weekend Cooking: Novel-Inspired Cooking

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


From a very young age I've been attracted to books that talk about food. In fact, one of my favorite childhood series was by Eve Titus, beginning with Anatole, which is all about a cheese-tasting mouse. I remember doing a book report on Anatole in first grade.

Since then, I've read many, many books of all sorts that have celebrated food both as a primary theme and in passing. I have a number of cookbooks based on books and authors I have read, and I thought I'd share five of them today.

One series I liked was P. L. Travers's Mary Poppins books. I wanted to be able to drink tea and eat crumpets every day and to go on adventures, whether around the world or up to the stars. Yes, the Mary Poppins in the books was a bit sterner than the movie version, but she was still magical.

Mary Poppins in the Kitchen: A Cookery Book with a Story by Travers, is about a week in the Banks house when Cook takes time off. Mary, of course, takes over the kitchen for the entire time, and each day is full of adventure and culinary fun. At the end of each chapter is the day's menu. Nicely illustrated, the book is fun to read and to cook from. You'll find recipes for shepherd's pie, Dundee cake, trifle, kedgeree, and more.

I--along with millions of young girls around the world--loved Anne Shirley and the Anne of Green Gables books. Who could forget the famous raspberry cordial incident? Anne is always dreaming of food: chocolate caramels, shortbread, lemonade, and "poetical" egg salad sandwiches.

Recipes for many of the dishes mentioned in the Anne books can be found in The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook by Kate Macdonald. The book is illustrated by Barbara Di Lella, and each recipe is introduced by a quotation from one of the books, so you can link the dish with Anne's story. The recipes are geared to the young cook, and my niece and I tried several recipes when she was going through her Anne stage.

Another childhood favorite series was the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I used to dream of hand-cranked ice cream in the summer and maple sugar snow candy in the winter. Those books were a young-foodie's delight. Barbara M. Walker's The Little House Cookbook is a well-researched book covering the foods and cooking techniques of the late 1800s. She culled the Wilder books for the sections on food, cooking, farming, gardening, and hunting as well as what one could buy at the town's general store.

The book includes a number of Garth Williams illustrations and each recipe is tied to a passage in one of the Little House books. You'll find Caroline's magic green pumpkin pie that had Pa fooled into thinking he was eating apples, the pancake men from the first book, rye'n'injun bread from Almanzo's childhood, huckleberry pie, dumplings, Christmas goose, and many other dishes Laura wrote about.

When Laura and Almanzo married and moved to the Ozarks, Laura settled down to raise her daughter, help with the farm, and write for a local newspaper. Eventually, of course, she wrote the books we remember her for. One of the things she left behind was her personal recipe book, which included original recipes and recipes clipped from magazines and papers. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook, introduced by William Anderson, contains the recipes that Laura made in her own kitchen.

The text and recipes are wonderfully complemented by Leslie A. Kelly's photographs of Rocky Ridge Farm and house. You'll find basic recipes for soups, stews, casseroles, cakes, cookies, and breads. The recipes were all tested and revised for the modern kitchen, and all look easy and good. Although I've owned this one since about 1996, I have yet to cook from it.

In the early 1980s, I read pretty much everything Barbara Pym ever wrote. I think I discovered her when I read about her death in 1980. I love her characters and her portrayal of women. And I love her little bits about the food they eat and cook. When The Barbara Pym Cookbook by Hilary Pym (her sister) and Honor Wyatt, was published in 1988, I knew I had to own it.

Similar to the other books featured today, every recipe is introduced by either a quotation from one of her books or her autobiography or a short blurb from Hilary. This is an absolute must for every Pym fan, even if you don't have much interest in cooking (though food and Pym go hand in hand in my mind). For example, we read from Less Than Angels: "They were talking in the kitchen, where Catherine had started to prepare a risotto with whatever remains she could find." (I want to be in that kitchen!) A longer quotation from that scene is capped with a comment from Hilary and then a recipe for risotto.

I have several other books along these lines and will share more in a future post. Do you own any novel- or author-inspired cookbooks?


Chinoiseries 2/12/11, 7:04 AM  

Thank you for sharing your favorite author-inspired cookbooks with us :) I've never heard of them before, but they do seem like a great way to 1) share love of food with children and 2) get to know an author through his/her favorite foods!

Julie P. 2/12/11, 7:48 AM  

I really need to check out the Little House ones.

Shelly B 2/12/11, 8:20 AM  

What a great group of cookbooks! I love cookbooks, but I did not know these existed.

Chrisbookarama 2/12/11, 8:52 AM  

No I don't have any novel inspired cookbooks but now I want the Green Gables one!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 2/12/11, 8:54 AM  

We love Anatole! The SITFOB family are big cheese-eaters (not that we're big from eating cheese .... you know what I mean), and he is something of a mascot :)

I don't know these other books you list, but I'm intrigued. The illustration on the Mary Poppins book is a memory (making me think of my old books, instead of the Disney Mary Poppins).

Thanks for sharing these.

bermudaonion 2/12/11, 9:16 AM  

Oh, how we love Anatole in our house! I don't have a single book inspired cookbook, but I sure would love to look through your collection.

Deborah 2/12/11, 9:27 AM  

oh i ADORE the Little House cookbook!! I won't lie...that's the best part of the little house books, all the descriptions of the food. I love to read the LH Cookbook while I'm eating....it makes food taste so delish.

Another novel-inspired cookbook I like is the Jan Karon Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader. if you've ever read any of the mitford books then you know that there is a A LOT of food mentioned in the series. I bought this for my mother in law and she loves it. SO much food and stories.

Beth F 2/12/11, 9:30 AM  

Deborah -- I have read a few of the Mitford books and I didn't know there was Mitford cookbook. Yes, I must get that one to add to my collection. Thanks.

Trish 2/12/11, 9:46 AM  

Oh I've got to find that Little House on the Prairie cookbook for my friend! She loved those books growing up and now loves to cook--great combination. I'm curious about the Mary Poppins. Shepard's Pie? Yum!

caite 2/12/11, 10:35 AM  

gosh, I never heard of any of these...I must get my hands on the Marry Poppins one!

Alex 2/12/11, 10:43 AM  

Thanks for sharing these. I never knew cooking could be so much fun and so interesting, not to mention literary.

William 2/12/11, 11:11 AM  

I like Lillian Hellman & Peter Feibleman's EATING TOGETHER: RECOLLECTIONS AND RECIPES. She was a tempestuous playwright and memoirist; he was her toyboy and sidekick, who inherited her estate on Martha's Vineyard. I have always liked women who are larger than life.

Beth F 2/12/11, 11:14 AM  

I love Lillian Hellman -- this is a cookbook I missed. Thanks! I must get this one.

Joy Weese Moll 2/12/11, 11:31 AM  

Those all sound lovely!

One of our local food bloggers covered a restaurant's Laura Ingalls Wilder supper -- it seemed to be a lovely event:

Margot 2/12/11, 11:40 AM  

We are in total agreement on this subject. I love the discussion, or even the mention, of food in the novels I read. I also like the cookbooks that result. I have several of the ones you've mentioned here. I just "discovered" Barbara Pym's books so I'll have to find her cookbook too.

JoAnn 2/12/11, 11:56 AM  

Great post! Even though the kids are practically adults, we still use the sugar cookie recipe from a childhood favorite - Mr. Cookie Baker.

And there's a Barbara Pym Cookbook? I'm off to investigate...

Jean | Delightful Repast 2/12/11, 11:59 AM  

Thank you! How fun is THIS! I have a Peter Rabbit cookbook, of all things, and it has some pretty good recipes. I love Anne of Green Gables and Little House, so I must check these out.

Sheila (Bookjourney) 2/12/11, 12:24 PM  

Mary Poppins in the Kitchen looks fun!

Nan 2/12/11, 12:36 PM  

I so love the Mary Poppins book and have made (and posted on the blog) a number of 'her' recipes. I must look into the BP one. She is one of my favorite writers.

Belle Wong 2/12/11, 1:48 PM  

You have single-handedly fattened my TBR list - I'm not kidding. I hope I can find copies of each of these. They all sound so wonderful! Great list.

Heather 2/12/11, 6:16 PM  

Great post. Interestingly, my son and husband stopped reading the Redwall books as the author spent too much time describing food.

Peaceful Reader 2/12/11, 7:05 PM  

I had no idea about this Mary Poppins cookbook/novel. I do have the Little House on the Prairie cookbook at my school library. What a wondeful post.

Lynne Perednia 2/12/11, 10:23 PM  

There are Mary Poppins and Barbara Pym cookbooks? Oh joy! They deserve a place of pride right next to my Lord Peter Wimsey Cookbook.

Melwyk 2/12/11, 10:55 PM  

This is a wonderful post! I am always on the lookout for a copy of the Barbara Pym cookbook, since I discovered her early last year. You are so right that food & Pym go hand in hand :)

I own a copy of the Little House cookbook - it is very informative. And I also own a copy of the marvellous Aunt Maud's Recipe Book, a cookbook put together by descendents of close friends of LMM, based on LMM's recipe scrapbook that she handed down to them. LMM was a noted cook and the recipes are wonderful.

Dorte H 2/13/11, 8:36 AM  

I have never envied Mary Poppins her tea, but those adventures!

NB: I am always impressed when bloggers can write a cooking post that interests *me* :D

Rebecca Rasmussen 2/13/11, 10:09 AM  

These look like so much fun. Ava is obsessed with Mary Poppins right now, so I think I'll look into that cookbook :)

Beth Hoffman 2/13/11, 10:18 AM  

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook really grabbed my attention. I might have to pick that one up!

Molly 2/13/11, 1:09 PM  

Well, I thought I was a fairly savvy foodie - but I had no idea that these kinds of cookbooks existed. I will now have to add this sub-genre to my frequent second-hand bookstore excursions :)

holdenj 2/13/11, 1:42 PM  

I still have my Nancy Drew Cookbook proudly shelved next to my mysteries!

nat @book, line, and sinker 2/13/11, 1:46 PM  

i *just* bought a copy of the nancy drew cook book while i was in florida at the end of january! it's adorable, and i can't wait to actually make one of the recipes!

Marie 2/13/11, 9:21 PM  

Those books look great. I don't have any of these titles or any other books like them. They look like a lot of fun, though, so I'll keep my eyes open for them.

Gnoe (@graasland) 2/14/11, 3:02 AM  

What a fun post -- and a great selection of cookbooks! I'm beginning to wonder how many cookbooks you actually own...

When I read about 'The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook' the first question that sprung to mind if & what you'd ever cooked from it! LOL What a pity you haven't yet. But is there any recipe you're dying to try?

Jane of Australia 2/14/11, 6:37 AM  

I'm late
I'm late
for a very important date...
I have posted a link for what Ive been cooking up.

Tribute Books 2/14/11, 12:58 PM  

Laura Ingalls Wilder cookbook - very cool! I so want to do a Little House road trip and visit all of the homesteads.

Sue Jackson 2/14/11, 6:53 PM  

My son loved Brian Jacques' Redwall books so much that we got him the Redwall Cookbook, another great one for literary kids!


Louise 6/18/11, 10:09 AM  

What a great collection of cookbooks you have here. I've heard of all of the original series, but none of the cookbooks! The Barbara Pym one sounds especially fascinating. Although I've only read one of her books (Quarter in Autumn)- I did love it and would love to get to read more of her work someday soon.

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