Easter eggs and candied comestibles are starting to appear in the stores and I just read Chocolat, a luscious tale which really got my salivary glands going. This led me to muse about other stories that have caused me to salivate over the years. The Classics have made good use of dinner scenes to delineate characters and develop plot - for example, who could forget the enthusiastic gluttony in Fielding's Tom Jones?
In recent years, an entire Mystery sub-genre has developed around food. These books are often light on plot, but appealing to the palate. Diane Mott Davidson spreads out her tales for different tastes, with stories like Grilling Season and Dying For Chocolate. For a sprinkle of spice turn to Susan Wittig Albert, who throws herbal lore into mysteries like Chile Death and Lavender Lies. Tamar Myers' Play It Again, Spam lays it on thick for those who like their cuisine less haute. And if the culinary mysteries themselves don't catch your interest, you can always linger over the recipes.
Sometimes descriptions of food are not quite so appealing. Lindsey Davis has fun using nettle pie to catch the villain in Ode to a Banker, but I think I'd give it a miss even if she had supplied the recipe. And some of the food described by travelers to remote parts of the world can be quite unappetizing ... Redmond O'Hanlon's 'spaghetti' dinner of worms in Into The Heart Of Borneo is more likely to make you want to regurgitate than to salivate.
Science Fiction like Eater is just as likely to put humans on the menu as to feed them, but wise authors like Anne McCaffrey make their alien worlds human with the appeal of bubbling hot fruit pies and the Benden wines so beloved by her Masterharper of Pern. And her charming heroine Sara in Restoree spends the entire book eating (in a new body that does not gain weight, to complete the fantasy). Speaking of Fantasy, J. K. Rowling has fun with food in her Harry Potter stories ... Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans have caught the imaginations of kids of all ages, though perhaps not the spinach or snot flavors. Judith Tarr uses food and wine to convey the reality of ancient Rome as experienced by a modern woman in Household Gods - she lets us taste the era through its rough red wines and ripe olives.
So watch what you read as we enter this season of spring indulgence. There are plenty of stories out there to make you salivate over delectable spreads at the risk of a pound or so per page.
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