11 Savory Novels Filled with Fictional Feasts

December 13 2022
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If the title of this list triggered an increase in your saliva production like some sort of (very specific) Pavlovian response, well, you’re in the right place. Like you, several of our staff—in addition to obsessing over all elements of great fiction—are hardcore foodies. And, when world’s collide, you get the ultimate list of novels that celebrate and incorporate food into scintillating stories.

Here are eleven books that will satisfy any fiction craving you and your foodie friends may be having. Bon appétit.

Feast of Sorrow
by Crystal King

Intrigue, politics, and the madness of Rome are packaged into a delicious and devious tale. FEAST OF SORROW takes place in the twenty-sixth year of Augustus Caesar’s reign, when the infamously wealthy gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius purchases Thrasius, a young slave chef. Marcus is obsessed with his own ambitious desire to serve as Caesar’s culinary advisor, and he believes Thrasius will get him there. Marcus uses Thrasius’s abilities and holds lavish parties in hopes of catching the right attention, while Thrasius finds a home in the Apicius household. But as Marcus’s obsession grows, he threatens to bring the most powerful forces in Rome down on his family. King is a master at details and descriptions, and everything in this book comes alive. Even if you aren’t a fan of Rome or food, this book is sure to enrapture the senses.  

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Feast of Sorrow
Crystal King

Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
A Massachusetts Book Award “Must Read”

Set amongst the scandal, wealth, and upstairs-downstairs politics of a Roman family, this “addictively readable first novel” (Kirkus Reviews) features the man who inspired the world’s oldest cookbook and the ambition that led to his destruction.

In the twenty-sixth year of Augustus Caesar’s reign, Marcus Gavius Apicius has a singular ambition: to serve as culinary adviser to Caesar. To cement his legacy as Rome’s leading epicure, the wealthy Apicius acquires a young chef, Thrasius, for the exorbitant price of twenty thousand denarii.

Apicius believes that the talented Thrasius is the key to his culinary success, and with the slave’s help he soon becomes known for his lavish parties and sumptuous meals. For his part, Thrasius finds a family among Apicius’s household, which includes his daughter, Apicata; his wife, Aelia; and her handmaiden Passia, with whom Thrasius falls passionately in love. But as Apicius draws closer to his ultimate goal, his dangerous single-mindedness threatens his young family and places his entire household at the mercy of the most powerful forces in Rome. “A gastronomical delight” (Associated Press), Feast of Sorrow is a vibrant novel, replete with love and betrayal, politics and intrigue, and sumptuous feasts that bring ancient Rome to life.

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The Love Goddess' Cooking School
by Melissa Senate

When recently heartbroken Holly inherits her grandmother’s Italian cooking school, she takes on the challenge of teaching her mouth-watering family recipes to a new set of students, despite the fact that she cannot cook. Garnishing recipes with her grandmother’s essential ingredients of memories and wishes, a determined Holly soon comes to learn a thing or two about her own recipe for happiness.

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The Love Goddess' Cooking School
Melissa Senate

When recently heartbroken Holly inherits her grandmother’s Italian cooking school, she takes on the challenge of teaching her mouth-watering family recipes to a new set of students, despite the fact that she cannot cook. Garnishing recipes with her grandmother’s essential ingredients of memories and wishes, a determined Holly soon comes to learn a thing or two about her own recipe for happiness.

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Eight Hundred Grapes
by Laura Dave

Georgia Ford grew up on her family’s idyllic Sonoma Country vineyard watching her parents craft the seasons and grapes into a fine art through their wine. It was a beautiful childhood, but Georgia especially savored watching her parents’ happy partnership, her brothers’ loving friendship, and the warmth of their family togetherness. So when a week before her wedding Georgia accidentally stumbles (at her final gown fitting, no less!) into a secret her fiancé’s been hiding, her immediate reaction is to escape back to her family home where everything always makes sense. Unfortunately, she finds anything but escape. Her brothers are fighting, her parents are on the brink of changing their lives forever, and Georgia is caught trying to make a life-changing decision of her own.

EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES is escapist reading at its best because not only are there sun-dappled fields to picture, a dashing neighbor vying for Georgia’s attention, and behind-the-scenes winemaking (author Laura Dave took her wine research seriously!)—there is also real heart.

Read more of this review!

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Eight Hundred Grapes
Laura Dave

EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES is escapist reading at its best because not only are there sun-dappled fields to picture, a dashing neighbor vying for Georgia’s attention, and behind-the-scenes winemaking (author Laura Dave took her wine research seriously!), there is also real heart.

Read Elizabeth Breeden’s review here.

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The Coincidence of Coconut Cake
by Amy E. Reichert

This sweet treat is You’ve Got Mail for the culinary set—Milwaukee chef Lou receives a scathing review from a critic who happened to come to her restaurant on basically the worst day of her life, and now her business is in shambles. Drowning her sorrows in a local pub, she runs into Al, a gruff but charming Brit who’s celebrating getting a new article in the paper. Banter ensues, and when Al pooh-poohs the local scene, Lou undertakes to show him the best of what Milwaukee has to offer. But what happens when the two of them discover that Al’s the critic who ruined Lou’s career?

Read more from our list of tasty titles!

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The Coincidence of Coconut Cake
Amy E. Reichert

A chance meeting between talented chef Luella and British transplant Al leads to a budding romance. But when Luella discovers her new paramour is the writer behind the anonymous food column whose scathing review of her cooking left her restaurant facing closure, can their relationship survive? A charming tale of mistaken identity and unlikely love, this delightful tale will surely satisfy your sweet tooth.

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To Sir, with Love
by Lauren Layne

Lauren Layne, author of the supremely fun Central Park Pact series, is back this June with a new rom-com that’s drawing comparisons to You’ve Got Mail. In TO SIR, WITH LOVE eternal optimist Gracie Cooper takes over her father’s Manhattan champagne shop after his untimely death. She quickly learns that the business is struggling and she’s offered a buyout by the devastatingly handsome and exceedingly arrogant Sebastian Andrews. Not wanting to stress her family with this difficult decision, Gracie turns to an anonymous friend named “Sir” who she met on an online dating app. She begins to fall for Sir, but little does she know that Sir and Sebastian are one and the same … TO SIR, WITH LOVE is charming and swoon-worthy—a perfect summer read.

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To Sir, with Love
Lauren Layne

Love Is Blind meets You’ve Got Mail in this laugh-out-loud romantic comedy following two thirty-somethings who meet on a blind dating app—only to realize that their online chemistry is nothing compared to their offline rivalry.

Perpetually cheerful and eager to please, Gracie Cooper strives to make the best out of every situation. So when her father dies just months after a lung cancer diagnosis, she sets aside her dreams of pursuing her passion for art to take over his Midtown Manhattan champagne shop. She soon finds out that the store’s profit margins are being squeezed perilously tight, and complicating matters further, a giant corporation headed by the impossibly handsome, but irritatingly arrogant Sebastian Andrews is proposing a buyout. But Gracie can’t bear the thought of throwing away her father’s dream like she did her own.

Overwhelmed and not wanting to admit to her friends or family that she’s having second thoughts about the shop, Gracie seeks advice and solace from someone she’s never met—the faceless “Sir”, with whom she connected on a blind dating app where matches get to know each other through messages and common interests before exchanging real names or photos.

But although Gracie finds herself slowly falling for Sir online, she has no idea she’s already met him in real life…and they can’t stand each other.

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The Belly of Paris
by Emile Zola

In the third novel of Emile Zola’s 20-volume Les Rougon-Macquart series, a man named Florent, accused of a crime he didn’t commit, escapes to Paris and becomes a fish inspector at the Les Halles market. Food and politics collide in the heart of the market, giving the reader some of the most vivid and delicious descriptions you’ll ever find on the page.

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The Belly of Paris
Emile Zola

In the third novel of Emile Zola’s 20-volume Les Rougon-Macquart series, a man named Florent, accused of a crime he didn’t commit, escapes to Paris and becomes a fish inspector at the Les Halles market. Food and politics collide in the heart of the market, giving the reader some of the most vivid and delicious descriptions you’ll ever find on the page.

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Chef's Kiss
by TJ Alexander

Simone Larkspur, serious minded and career oriented, works at her dream job for The Discerning Chef, a cookbook publisher in New York City. All is well as Simone works hard to develop the perfect sourdough recipe and to achieve her goals. But when Ray, the new kitchen manager, is hired, tensions start to rise. Ray is cheerful and outgoing while Simone is quiet and focused. When it is made known that The Discerning Chef will soon shut down, Ray and Simone work together creating a series of home-brewing videos that go viral. Soon sparks begin to fly between Ray and Simone. When Ray comes out as nonbinary at work to mixed reactions, Simone must choose between her career and the person who just might steal her heart. This food-themed romance is heartwarming.

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Chef's Kiss
TJ Alexander

A high-strung pastry chef’s professional goals are interrupted by an unexpected career transition and the introduction of her wildly attractive nonbinary kitchen manager in this deliciously fresh and witty queer rom-com.

Simone Larkspur is a perfectionist pastry expert with a dream job at The Discerning Chef, a venerable cookbook publisher in New York City. All she wants to do is create the perfect loaf of sourdough and develop recipes, but when The Discerning Chef decides to bring their brand into the 21st century by pivoting to video, Simone is thrust into the spotlight and finds herself failing at something for the first time in her life.

To make matters worse, Simone has to deal with Ray Lyton, the new test kitchen manager, whose obnoxious cheer and outgoing personality are like oil to Simone’s water. When Ray accidentally becomes a viral YouTube sensation with a series of homebrewing videos, their eccentric editor in chief forces Simone to work alongside the chipper upstart or else risk her beloved job. But the more they work together, the more Simone realizes her heart may be softening like butter for Ray.

Things get even more complicated when Ray comes out at work as nonbinary to mixed reactions—and Simone must choose between the career she fought so hard for and the person who just might take the cake (and her heart).

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Milk Fed
by Melissa Broder

Reading MILK FED is like eating your favorite flavor of frozen yogurt. This book is an absolute treat to read, and you can’t help yourself from going back for more of its sharply written, hilarious, erotic, and surprisingly touching prose. A twenty-four-year-old lapsed Jew, Rachel is convinced she is fine with merely subsisting as she maintains a strict, calorie-restricted diet, works a dead-end job at a Hollywood talent agency, and pedals nowhere on the elliptical machine. However, when she meets Miriam, a zaftig Orthodox Jew, at her local frozen yogurt shop, Rachel can no longer suppress her desires—for unconditional love, for nourishment, and for spiritual fulfillment.

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Milk Fed
Melissa Broder

Named a Best Book of the Year by Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Time, Esquire, BookPage, and more

This darkly hilarious and “delicious new novel that ravishes with sex and food” (The Boston Globe) from the acclaimed author of The Pisces and So Sad Today is a “precise blend of desire, discomfort, spirituality, and existential ache” (BuzzFeed).

Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of existential control, through obsessive food rituals, while working as an underling at a Los Angeles talent management agency. At night, she pedals nowhere on the elliptical machine. Rachel is content to carry on subsisting—until her therapist encourages her to take a ninety-day communication detox from her mother, who raised her in the tradition of calorie counting.

Rachel soon meets Miriam, a zaftig young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite frozen yogurt shop and is intent upon feeding her. Rachel is suddenly and powerfully entranced by Miriam—by her sundaes and her body, her faith and her family—and as the two grow closer, Rachel embarks on a journey marked by mirrors, mysticism, mothers, milk, and honey.

“A ruthless, laugh-out-loud examination of life under the tyranny of diet culture” (Glamour) Broder tells a tale of appetites: physical hunger, sexual desire, spiritual longing, and the ways that we compartmentalize these so often interdependent instincts. Milk Fed is “riotously funny and perfectly profane” (Refinery 29) from “a wild, wicked mind” (Los Angeles Times).

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Sin Eater
by Megan Campisi

May, a 14-year-old Sin Eater, has been assigned a role where she will be forced to hear the dying confessions of others for the remainder of her life. As these confessions are spoken, May must eat ritual foods that symbolize people’s sins, and thereby shoulder their transgressions to grant their souls access to heaven. Navigating this dangerous and cruel world that May hardly understands, she finds a deer heart on the coffin of a royal governess who did not confess to the sin it represents. After her elder Sin Eater refuses to eat the heart, she is taken to prison, tortured, and killed. To avenge her death, May must find out who placed the deer heart on the coffin and why.

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Sin Eater
Megan Campisi

“For fans of The Handmaid’s Tale...a debut novel with a dark setting and an unforgettable heroine...is a riveting depiction of hard-won female empowerment” (The Washington Post).

The Sin Eater walks among us, unseen, unheard
Sins of our flesh become sins of Hers
Following Her to the grave, unseen, unheard
The Sin Eater Walks Among Us.

For the crime of stealing bread, fourteen-year-old May receives a life sentence: she must become a Sin Eater—a shunned woman, brutally marked, whose fate is to hear the final confessions of the dying, eat ritual foods symbolizing their sins as a funeral rite, and thereby shoulder their transgressions to grant their souls access to heaven.

Orphaned and friendless, apprenticed to an older Sin Eater who cannot speak to her, May must make her way in a dangerous and cruel world she barely understands. When a deer heart appears on the coffin of a royal governess who did not confess to the dreadful sin it represents, the older Sin Eater refuses to eat it. She is taken to prison, tortured, and killed. To avenge her death, May must find out who placed the deer heart on the coffin and why.

“Very much reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale…it transcends its historical roots to give us a modern heroine” (Kirkus Reviews). “A novel as strange as it is captivating” (BuzzFeed), The Sin Eater “is a treat for fans of feminist speculative fiction” (Publishers Weekly) and “exactly what historical fiction lovers have unknowingly craved” (New York Journal of Books).

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The Chef's Apprentice
by Elle Newmark

A Venetian street urchin winds up as the apprentice (and accomplice) of the Doge’s chef, who is also the keeper of incredible secrets. Heavenly food descriptions dot the landscape of this enchanting book.

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The Chef's Apprentice
Elle Newmark

A Venetian street urchin winds up as the apprentice (and accomplice) of the Doge’s chef, who is also the keeper of incredible secrets. Heavenly food descriptions dot the landscape of this enchanting book.

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Like Water for Chocolate
by Laura Esquivel

By turns tragic, witty, and romantic, this is magical realism at its finest. Set in turn-of-the-century Mexico, youngest daughter Tita is forbidden by tradition to marry, so when she falls in love, she expresses her passion the only way she knows how: through cooking. Blessed with a truly magical touch in the kitchen, the food Tita prepares is imbued with the emotion she feels as she cooks, leaving those who eat it overcome by tears or overwhelmed with longing.

Read more of 11 Delicious Food Novels to Savor

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Like Water for Chocolate
Laura Esquivel

Food and rampant emotion are melded together in this magical realist romance in which each of the twelve sections begin with a Mexican recipe, all of which are cleverly incorporated into the plot of the book itself.

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