Tess on the Town: Cookbook satisfies cravings

My editor ran across a book a few weeks ago that combined two of my favorite things: literature and food.

Have you ever read a book and imagined the taste of the food described?

Consider Laura Esquivel’s “Like Water for Chocolate,” a feast of a novel interspersed with Latin recipes, which was a best-seller for years.

To feed that lust for food and the written word, Judith Choate created “The Reader’s Cookbook,” as a companion piece for book clubs.

She has created a cookbook broken down into 17 overlapping literary/culinary zones. In each of the regions are recipes for drinks and nibbles, star dishes, delicious asides and sweet endings. She also includes a category called moveable feast, which are easy-to-transport items that can be taken to book club potlucks.

The recipes are fairly simple and emblematic of the regional cuisine.

There are generally eight to 10 recipes in each zone, so everyone in the club could conceivably contribute to the spread, or one host could make three or four dishes.

“A good book should be savored with an equally fine meal. Ideally, the reader should be able to have a taste or sip redolent of a favorite scene,” Choate writes.

From the Southeast of America, one might considering pairing ambrosia, shrimp remoulade, spoon bread and bourbon balls while reading Pat Conroy, William Faulkner or Zora Neale Hurston. If your club is reading “A Confederacy of Dunces,” throw in some street cart hotdogs as an ode to protagonist Ignatius Reilly.

Moving north, Choate’s choice of vittles includes Maine lobster rolls, Brooklyn egg creams, a Manhattan cocktail and a lox and bagels spread. Possible authors are limitless, but some names come to mind: William Kennedy (cocktail party, no doubt); Joyce Carol Oats, John Updike and Stephen King.

Choate rounds out the Americas with sections on the Western United States, Canada and South America. A suitable Western feast could include Texas caviar, margaritas and buffalo burgers while reading anything from Zane Grey to Dalton Trumbo.

Imagine the feast you could have reading Pablo Neruda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabelle Allende. Choate suggests mojitos, Argentine parrilla grill, tres lec she cake and Mexican hot chocolate.

The choice of authors is up to you, but here are a few samples from across the globe:

The British Isles: ploughman’s lunch, Irish soda bread, shepherd’s pie and mulled wine paired with Frank McCourt, Maeve Binchy or James Joyce.

France: Proust with a provencal picnic.

Spain: Cervantes with Sangria and paella.

Italy: Dante with antipasta platter and lemoncello.

Russia, a country of five Nobel Prize for literature laureates: Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky with a caviar plate, pickles, pumpernickel bread and ice-cold vodka.

China: This year’s Nobel laureate Mo Yan served with shrimp dumplings and tea assortment of jasmine, green and black.

Choate covers all regions of the Earth and makes me realize I know few if any authors from the Dark Continent or Down Under. Time to expand my horizons.

FOOD QUIZ ANSWER: Rose’s Lime Juice — used today for cocktails and specifically gimlets — was developed and patented by Lauchlan Rose in 1867 to save English sailors from developing scurvy on long voyages.

QUOTE: “Money, like vodka, turns a person into an eccentric.” — Anton Chekov

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