Welcome to Top 5 Saturday! This is a weekly challenge hosted by Devouring Books, and this week’s challenge focuses on books with a desert setting (which I changed to books for foodies!).
I really couldn’t think of many books with a desert setting, but I figured the word “desert” is similar to “dessert.” This then got me thinking about books that feature food in some way, so I ended up choosing five books that feature food or dessert! In no particular order, here are my top five books for foodies!
1. “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel
- Genre: Fiction (Magical Realism)
- Status: Read and Enjoyed!
Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico became a best-selling phenomenon with its winning blend of poignant romance and bittersweet wit.
The number one bestseller in Mexico and America for almost two years, and subsequently a bestseller around the world, Like Water For Chocolate is a romantic, poignant tale, touched with moments of magic, graphic earthiness, bittersweet wit – and recipes.
A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and he is seduced by the magical food she cooks. In desperation, Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her, so that Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all the odds.
2. “From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home” by Tembi Locke
- Genre: Memoir
- Status: Read and Loved! (Review HERE)
A poignant and transporting cross-cultural love story set against the lush backdrop of the Sicilian countryside, where one woman discovers the healing powers of food, family, and unexpected grace in her darkest hour.
It was love at first sight when Tembi met professional chef, Saro, on a street in Florence. There was just one problem: Saro’s traditional Sicilian family did not approve of him marrying a black American woman, an actress no less. However, the couple, heartbroken but undeterred, forges on. They build a happy life in Los Angeles, with fulfilling careers, deep friendships and the love of their lives: a baby girl they adopt at birth. Eventually, they reconcile with Saro’s family just as he faces a formidable cancer that will consume all their dreams.
From Scratch chronicles three summers Tembi spends in Sicily with her daughter, Zoela, as she begins to piece together a life without her husband in his tiny hometown hamlet of farmers. Where once Tembi was estranged from Saro’s family and his origins, now she finds solace and nourishment—literally and spiritually—at her mother in law’s table. In the Sicilian countryside, she discovers the healing gifts of simple fresh food, the embrace of a close knit community, and timeless traditions and wisdom that light a path forward. All along the way she reflects on her and Saro’s incredible romance—an indelible love story that leaps off the pages.
In Sicily, it is said that every story begins with a marriage or a death—in Tembi Locke’s case, it is both. Her story is about loss, but it’s really about love found. Her story is about travel, but it’s really about finding a home. It is about food, but it’s really about chasing flavor as an act of remembrance. From Scratch is for anyone who has dared to reach for big love, fought for what mattered most, and needed a powerful reminder that life is…delicious.
3. “Gimme Some Sugar” by Molly Harper
- Genre: Romance
- Status: Read and Enjoyed!
A young widow returns to Lake Sackett, Georgia to face the ghosts of her past—and decide if she’s ready to take another chance on love—in the third sparkling Southern Eclectic novel that “goes down as easy as honey on a deep-fried Twinkie” (Library Journal, on Sweet Tea and Sympathy).
Lucy Bowman would never have guessed that her best friend, Duffy McCready (of McCready’s Bait Shop & Funeral Home) has been in love with her since they were kids. Fear of rejection and his own romantic complications prevented Duffy from confessing his true feelings in high school, so he stood by and watched her wed Wayne Bowman right after high school. Wayne had always been a cheapskate, so it comes as no surprise when he suffers a fatal accident while fixing his own truck.
Even as her family and friends invade Lucy’s life and insist that the new widow is too fragile to do much beyond weeping, Lucy is ashamed to admit that life without Wayne is easier, less complicated. After all, no one knew what a relentless, soul-grinding trudge marriage to Wayne had been. Only Duffy can tell she’s hiding something.
In need of a fresh start, Lucy asks Duffy to put his cabinet-building skills to use, transforming the town’s meat shop into a bake shop. As the bakery takes shape, Lucy and Duffy discover the spark that pulled them together so many years ago. Could this finally be the second chance he’s always hoped for?
Once again Molly Harper “writes characters you can’t help but fall in love with” (RT Book Reviews) in this charming and entertaining love story.
4. “With the Fire on High” by Elizabeth Acevedo
- Genre: YA Fiction
- Status: TBR
With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.
5. “Authentically Mexican: A Family History in Six Dishes” by JP Brammer
- Genre: Memoir
- Status: Currently Reading
¡Hola Papi! columnist John Paul Brammer’s Authentically Mexican is the hilarious and heartfelt story of his Mexican American family in diaspora, exploring his heritage and identity through six meaningful meals.
Many Mexican American families bond over traditional foods and recipes: sweating over steaming tamales at Christmastime, chopping up vegetables for pozole, prepping tortillas with a splintery wooden block and roller. This was not the case for John Paul Brammer. His parents barely cooked, and when dinnertime rolled around, he could often find his mother and grandmother fighting over whether to dine at Pizza Hut or Golden Corral. Years later, when John Paul began to explore the role that food plays in his life, he soon realized that, while it may be unusual, he did have a culinary tradition all his own: No matter the circumstances, the story of a family can be told through the recipes and meals that have sustained it, the meals we come back to eating, time and again – for nostalgia, for comfort, for a deeper kind of sustenance.
The perfect next listen for fans of Samantha Irby and R. Eric Thomas, this unforgettable personal essay is full of both laugh-out-loud moments and poignant observations about what it means to celebrate your heritage and culture “authentically”, wherever you are – from Mexico City’s Día de Muertos parade to the Taco Bueno drive-through in Lawton, Oklahoma.
Have you read any of these books? What would your top five be?
Let me know in the comments!