My book club met last night. We were trying to remember how long we've been going and who the original members were (I'm one of them), but that information was lost in the recesses of time. In any case, we used to try to theme our food to our monthly book, but we've gotten a little lazy about it. Therefore, the novel set in post-Civil-War Texas we read just inspired a carb onslaught in us that had not much to do with the book.
Some readers and eaters are more dedicated. Take Cara Nicoletti, whose delightful book I just read this week:
Ordering the book by phases in her life (childhood, adolescence, adulthood), she begins each chapter with a memoirish essay and follows up with a recipe based on a food mentioned in the book. So there's sausage for LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS and doughnuts for HOMER PRICE and cherry pie for IN COLD BLOOD. (Did you remember that baking a cherry pie was one of the last things one of the murder victims did in IN COLD BLOOD? I didn't.) VORACIOUS is a delightful read and inspires me to pay attention to the food showing up in books again, that I might be a better book club member.
In the same vein as VORACIOUS is Alison Walsh's A LITERARY TEA PARTY.
Walsh's book, featuring photos, rather than watercolor illustrations, is more strictly a recipe book, with only brief notes on what in the book inspired the recipe. The recipes are also more "inspired by" than actual connections. For example, Walsh cites A LITTLE PRINCESS (one of my childhood faves), where starving Sara Crewe passes the bakery window and salivates over fresh-baked buns. We don't know what kind of buns they were, but Walsh comes up with "Blackberry Lemon Sweet Rolls." Sounds tasty, but the connection to the book is pretty loose... Similarly, ROMEO AND JULIET leads to "Star-Crossed Foccaccia with Parmesan Chive Butter."
In any case, both of these books would be great starting points for your own themed book clubs or even a special supper or children's birthday party.
Next month it's the "classic" in our group's rotation, so we'll be reading Elizabeth Gaskell's Ruth, about--gasp--a "fallen woman." 19th-century novels can be full of toast and tea, but I'll be extra-on-the-lookout for other foods. Let's hope this fallen woman's fleshly appetites include eating!