One of my favourite series are the Coffeehouse Mysteries, a cozy mystery that features recipes and jargon about coffee. The sleuth in these mysteries is a manager of New York City café which lends itself nicely to an inside look at the world of coffee. Our relationship with food often becomes a character for many authors, who have explored this connection of food and emotion:
- Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel -- “A classic love story [that] takes place on the De la Garza ranch, as the tyrannical owner, Mama Elena, chops onions at the kitchen table in her final days of pregnancy. While still in her mother's womb, her daughter to be weeps so violently she causes an early labor, and little Tita slips out amid the spices and fixings for noodle soup. This early encounter with food soon becomes a way of life, and Tita grows up to be a master chef. She shares special points of her favorite preparations with listeners throughout the story.” (Doubleday)
- The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender -- “On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose. The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.” (Doubleday)
- Babette’s Feast by Isak Dinsen -- “With the mysterious arrival of Babette, a refugee from France's civil war, life for two pious sisters and their tiny hamlet begins to change. Before long, Babette has convinced them to try something other than boiled codfish and ale bread: a gourmet French meal. Her feast scandalizes the elders, except for the visiting general. Just who is this strangely talented Babette, who has terrified this pious town with the prospect of losing their souls for enjoying too much earthly pleasure?” (Penguin)
- Edible Stories by Mark Kurlansky – “In these linked stories, Mark Kurlansky reveals the bond that can hold people together, tear them apart, or make them become vegan: food. Through muffins or hot dogs, an indigenous Alaskan fish soup, a bean curd Thanksgiving turkey or potentially toxic crème brulée, a rotating cast of characters learns how to honor the past, how to realize you're not in love with someone any more, and how to forgive. These women and men meet and eat and love, leave and drink and in the end, come together in Seattle as they are as inextricably linked with each other as they are with the food they eat and the wine they drink. Kurlansky brings a keen eye and unerring sense of humanity to these stories. And throughout, his love and knowledge of food shows just how important a role what we eat plays in our lives.” (Penguin)
So curl up with a coffee, tea or cupcake and dish up a tale about food. Check out the Coffeehouse Mystery series here.