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Foodie Fiction

I like food.

I like cooking it, I like eating it, I like watching TV shows about it, and I like reading about it.  I like planning meals and going grocery shopping.  My favorite kind of party is a pot-luck.  I consider myself a failure if I use cans or boxes or prepared foods in a meal.  I grew up helping in the kitchen, and started cooking meals for my family when I was in middle school – and I know I’m not the only one who liked to cook as a teenager.  Yet, for a long time, it was hard to find depictions of teen chefs in fiction.  That seems to be changing, though.  Below you’ll find some recent titles of fiction for foodies – if you like to cook, or even if you just like to eat, you might enjoy one of the titles below.

Sizzle by Lee McClain

Sizzle tops the list because it’s the title that inspired me to write a blog post about foodie fiction for teens.  When this arrived at CLP – Lawrenceville and I saw that not only was it about food, it’s also about Tucson, AZ (where I went to college) and about Pittsburgh, PA (where, duh, I live now), I knew I had to read it.

Sizzle is about Linda, a fourteen-year-old Mexican-American who lives with her aunt in Arizona and helps her run a Mexican restaurant.  While she usually has to wait tables, she’s spent most of her life cooking with her aunt in the kitchen and has always had free rein to try out new recipes.  However, her aunt is getting older, and one day she collapses in the kitchen.  Linda’s ready to help out even more, but her aunt has another idea: while she goes to Texas to recuperate with her aging parents (who, apparently, aren’t very nice people), Linda’s going to move to Pittsburgh to live with her “Aunt” Pat.

Aunt Pat’s not really an aunt – she’s some sort of vague relation.  Pat picks up strays.  She has seven kids — eight, now that Linda’s there — and only one of them is her biological child.  Another thing about Pat: she’s the queen of canned food cooking.  Literally.  She has a TV show about it and everything, and she never cooks anything fresh.  Plus, she won’t let Linda into the kitchen.

Can Linda adjust to life in Pittsburgh, and life without food?  Can she survive, only talking to her friends back in Arizona via the internet? And what’s with that cute kid, Dino, the one who smells so delicious?  With shout-outs to Oakland and the Strip District, Sizzle is a book and Pittsburgh food-loving teen will like.

The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara Zeises

Lara Zeises is the author of several great books, including Anyone But You: a Novel in Two Voices and Bringing Up the Bones, but her newest book (published in 2009) tackles food in a fun way.

Unlike Linda in Sizzle, Stella is not a great cook.  In fact, she’s totally addicted to junk food.  But her parents are both foodies — world-famous chefs, to be exact — and they refuse to accept that Stella’s really just not that into it.

There’s one good thing about having chefs for parents: they’re able to help her get a coveted summer job at the newspaper.  The bad news is, she has to write about food.  Could be a recipe for disaster.  Add to that a boyfriend who is WAY more into their relationship than she is, parents who are separating and maybe even dating other people, and a cute new guy on the horizon, and Stella has all the ingredients for the worst summer ever.

The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski

Sheridan is used to being a big fish in a small pond.  She might not be the most popular girl in school, but she’s the only person to turn to if you need a cake for an event.  She’s been decorating cakes in her grandmother’s bakery for as long as she can remember – just like her mother used to do.  Sheridan’s dream is to keep doing what she’s doing: making the most beautiful, elaborate, amazing cakes anyone’s ever seen.

Sheridan’s dad is also a pretty big fish.  More like a whale, really.  He’s the chef and owner of the hottest restaurant in town.  His dreams are really different from Sheridan’s, though: he wants to move out of their sleepy Michigan town and have a cooking show of his own.

When Sheridan’s dad is offered the chance to have a food show, he’s thrilled.  Sheridan is less so.  Why? Because this “great opportunity,” as her dad keeps calling it, would require they move to New York City.  Away from her grandmother, away from the bakery, away from her best friends…and away from the only place her mother would look for her.

Sheridan’s dad’s become more and more distance since their mother walked out on them.  Sheridan holds fast to the idea that if she stays where she is, her mother will come home.  Find out if Sheridan’s desire to find her mother and her dad’s desire to find fame can ever be reconciled in The Sweetest Thing.

Love, Inc by Yvonne Collins and Sally Rideout

When I started this blog post, I knew I wanted to include this book.  However, I could not for the life of me remember the title. So I did might be considered crowd-sourcing: I asked on Facebook.  Here’s what I posted:

“Seeking title of book: three (or four?) teen girls find out they’re all dating the same guy. Seek revenge. Then start a business to help other girls [get revenge on? meet? break up with?] their guys. One of the teens is a gifted cook.”  Here’s some of what my friends (and other librarians) said:

“…that sounds so familiar to me… I hope someone remembers the title..” (Oh, good. I’m not alone.)

“They made a movie out of that, didn’t they? Oh man…racking brain…” (Nope, no movie, at least not that I know of.)

“Love Inc by Yvonne Collins? ‘When three fifteen-year-old Austin, Texas, girls who met in group therapy discover that they are all dating the same boy, they first get revenge and then start a wildly successful relationship consulting business.'” (Yes! That’s it!)

But…that synopsis didn’t mention the cooking.  And I KNEW I remembered the cooking.  So I did what anyone would do, and I googled the main character’s name (which I found in our catalog) + the title + “cook” and found this awesome webpage, all about the book.

The cooking in this one is more peripheral than in the other titles.  Zahra is the character who loves to cook, and she’s not only dealing with the cheating jerk but also with a disconnect between her Scottish and Pakistani heritage.  She uses creativity in the kitchen as a way to calm herself and channel her energy…and it may or may not play a role in eventually helping her find a guy who’s NOT a jerk.

So, there you have it.  Four fun, fluffy, foodie books.  Are these great literature? No, I don’t really think any of them are going to win the National Book Award.  But they’re all really entertaining, especially if you like your fiction with lots of delicious imagery and a little bit of romance.  Just don’t read them when you’re hungry.

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