10 Stories Set in the Kitchen
Home is where the hearth is
Everyone knows that the kitchen is the most important room in the house--it’s where we come together to sit and eat and cook and talk and fight and fall in love and raise our children.
So it only makes sense that it’s also a big part of some of our favorite books. Here, ten beloved stories where the kitchen is a central character.
“Like Water for Chocolate”
Like Gabriel García Márquez with a whisk, Laura Esquivel invites us into the magical kitchen of Tita, a turn-of-the-century Mexican woman cruelly forced to cook the wedding banquet for her lover and her sister. Tita adds a few extra ingredients and the results are…shall we say…transformative?
“Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe”
You can practically hear the cast iron sizzling from the first page of this Southern-fried classic (also one of our favorite movies). And as far as food fights go, it’s hard to beat the one between Idgie and Ruth in the kitchen of their café: blackberries squelching through fingers, flour flying everywhere and a fat smear of chocolate frosting that ends up down the chest of the disgruntled police chief.
“Blue Plate Special”
You may know Kate Christensen for her award-winning novels. But we’re partial to her 2012 memoir, which chronicles her winding life through a series of dishes, from the granola she binges on as an angsty adolescent to the croque-monsieurs she makes as an au pair in rural France to the butternut-squash soup she simmers in her New York apartment as comfort after a divorce.
SPONSORED: “Learning About Culture Through Cooking”
The kitchen is the heart of your home. No one understands that better than Doris and Ken Richards, who adopted five kids--two twin girls from Sierra Leone and three children from Vietnam. For their family, cooking was a way to introduce the boys and girls to American culture, and vice versa. In fact, it’s now a Richards family tradition to make Vietnamese spring rolls every Christmas. Watch this video from GE’s Our American Kitchen film series to see their story.
“The Book of Salt”
There’s no doubt that Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas were the grand dames of 20th-century Paris ex-pat society. But this ambitious novel takes us behind the scenes of their famous weekly salons--to the kitchen, where a gay Vietnamese cook finally finds love and acceptance after a lifetime of struggle.
“Julie & Julia”
What happens when a bored office worker decides to cook her way through all of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in her tiny Queens apartment? She saves her marriage, starts a food-blog revolution and gets a book deal that turns into a movie starring Meryl Streep, of course. Not bad for a little bit of boeuf bourguignon!
This novel (and the subsequent movie starring Juliette Binoche) is every bit as sweet and sensual as the confection itself. It tells the story of Vianne, a single mother (quel scandal in postwar France) who moves to a new village with her 6-year-old daughter and opens a chocolate shop. The conservative townspeople are skeptical--until they start tasting the treats that come out of Vianne’s kitchen.
“Blood, Bones & Butter”
Chef Gabrielle Hamilton is beloved for her New York restaurant, Prune. But what really launched her onto the national stage was her badass memoir, in which the self-taught chef tells about pit-barbecuing lamb in her backyard as a child, waiting tables at Coyote Ugly, heading up the mess hall at a sleep-away camp and finally opening her own place in the East Village.
Our ultimate girl crush, Nora Ephron, wrote only one novel--a thinly veiled account of her divorce from journalist Carl Bernstein--but it comes with great gossipy details, achingly heartfelt emotion and even recipes. Nora’s fictional alter ego, Rachel, is a cookbook author, and when her husband leaves her, seven months pregnant, for another woman, she naturally retreats to her kitchen to churn out bacon hash and pot roast, key lime pie and cheesecakes. As always, Nora, we feel you.
In the heart of Sicily, a young woman named Rosa is passionate about two things: cooking and a boy named Bartolomeo. But, alas, tragedy strikes (this is Mafia territory, after all), sending Rosa into years of exile as a librarian in Palermo. Will she ever cook again? Only time--and the introduction of a mysterious new man--will tell.