Food Stuff 


I enjoy reading both novels and recipes, but I especially enjoy reading novels with recipes in them. Almost all my favorite novelists write about food. Most of the time food isn’t the theme, but it plays a supporting part and always makes novels more readable.

The great Chinese romance, The Dream of the Red Chamber, portrays a big family’s beautiful but indulgent life. The way the author, Tsao Hsüeh-chin, describes the dishes the characters eat is equally beautiful.

Look at how characters in the novel cook eggplant:

"Peel eggplants first, then dice them. Fry them in chicken oil. Then, stew eggplants with diced chicken breasts, mushrooms, young bamboo shoots, five-spice dried bean curd, various dried fruits and chicken soup. Then stir with sesame oil … When serving, stir it with fried chicken breasts."

The recipe needs more than 10 chickens and 15 different ingredients – and it’s only a snack!

The famous Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami loves beer, Italian food, pickling vegetables and cooking – as do most of his protagonists. He even names his characters after food, such as Nutmeg Akasaka and Cinnamon Akasaka in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. In its opening, Murakami writes, "When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along with an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta."

Through the protagonist, Toru Okada, Murakami shares recipes and other cooking details:

"I would be stir frying thin slices of beef, onions, green peppers, and bean sprouts with a little salt, pepper, soy sauce and a splash of beer – a recipe from my single days. The rice was done, the miso soup was warm, and the vegetables were all sliced and arranged in separate piles in a large dish, ready for the wok. Only Kumiko (Okada’s wife) was missing."

The detailed descriptions let Murakami’s characters seem close to our own daily life. They are not just virtual people – they eat and cook, just like us. I think that’s why Murakami’s novels are so popular.

It’s not just Tsao and Murakami who include steamy kitchen scenes in their stories. Many other novelists also make our reading delicious. Perhaps one day there will be a food-fiction category in bookstores, so I can find these recipe-novels directly.

One wonderful thing I can be certain of: I don’t need to worry about my weight after enjoying these delicious novels. However, I still wonder how these dishes might taste. It seems the only way I can know is by running to the kitchen to make them real!

Other tasty books include Eating Chinese Food Naked (Mei Ng, 1998), The Fruit ’N Food (Leonard Chang, 1996), Soul Food (LaJoyce Brookshire, 1997), Angel Food (John L. Martin, 1989), Kitchen (Banana Yoshimote, 1994), and The Trouble With a Bad Fit (Camilla T. Crespi, 1997).–Yu-Ru Lee


Up late Friday night? Feast on a free Caribbean buffet, and dance to hip-hop, reggae and house music at Klub Kilimanjaro. Music starts at 12:30 a.m. every Saturday morning at the African-Caribbean Restaurant, 18456 Grand River, Detroit, 313-270-3060. … Cooking class alert! Lenore’s Natural Cuisine (22899 Inkster Rd., Farmington Hills, 248-478-4455) offers beginning vegetarian cooking courses, beginning April 21. Mac & Ray’s Chef Baldwin will demonstrate "The Five Mother Sauces" at the restaurant (30675 North River Rd., Harrison Twp.) on April 27 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Cost is $37.50 per person, buffet dinner/beverages included. Seating is limited; to reserve seats call 810-463-9660 ext.437.

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