Novel Food

The link to the recipe related to the Inspector Montalbano books reminded me of cookbooks based on novels. Here are four that we have in our collection.

First is The Lord Peter Wimsey Cookbook based on the classic series by Dorothy L. Sayers. These days I’ve noticed that Sayers gets trashed a bit for having a very aristocratic sleuth. I think that’s an unfair assessment and doesn’t give her credit for her detailed character depictions of people who are going through a time of huge social upheaval. I am a lifetime fan of these books, and all of Sayers’ writing, and that will come another day. But today it is the food from the novels that takes center stage. It’s fun journey through the often not very exciting cooking of England in the first half of the twentieth century, but the Sayers quotes and commentary are worth it as well. This is way out of print. I lost my original one and found this one at a used bookstore a few years ago.


The second book is English as well. If you have never read Barbara Pym, head off to your local library and find Excellent Women. Pym wrote what are often called “social comedies” in the middle of the 20th century. They are beautiful books, very funny and a very astute view of people, relationships and the world. Pym worked at the International African Institute in London. There she met Hazel Holt, who would eventually write Pym’s biography. (Pym died of breast cancer at the age of 66 in 1980.) Holt also wrote a great series of mysteries featuring Mrs. Malory, but that’s for another post! But do read Barbara Pym, and along the way you might want to take another shot at English food from the Barbara Pym cookbook. I do use this book for its Shepherd’s Pie recipe, something that doesn’t really need a recipe, but it is helpful for proportions and all.


My husband Larry really likes maritime war stories, and so is devoted to the Patrick O’Brian Aubrey-Marutin books. And there is a cookbook: Lobscouse and Spotted Dog. If you want to dip into the pleasures of preserved food for long sea voyages, this is the book for you! It is rather fun, and has more twists on English cooking again. I was interested that lobscouse,  a kind of stew,  was part of the regime as I grew up eating it as part of my mother’s Norwegian repertoire. She mostly used leftover meat, potatoes, carrots and all, but often did it from scratch as well.


Moving across Europe, the last entry is related to Donna Leon’s wonderful Inspector Brunetti mysteries. Set in Venice, the food descriptions in these books are amazing. You always want to sit down at lunch with Brunetti and his family after you read what his professor wife Paula has prepared. Delicious! This is a great book about Venetian cooking in general, and works well in Seattle’s seafood culture as well.


In reference to Louise Penny’s books above, I found this link to recipes related to her Inspector Gamache books: I had to sign up for Macmillan’s email list to get it, but I haven’t received a ton of emails as a result and do indeed have the recipes.





















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