Recipes Inspired by Our Favorite Books
If you’ve ever wanted to sample the dishes enjoyed by the characters in your favorite books, you’re in luck. Bookish bites await: From The Secret Garden and Charlotte’s Web to The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird, there is no shortage of books containing memorable—and mouthwatering—descriptions of food. With that in mind, here's a collection of recipes plucked from the pages of classic and destined-to-be-classic books. These are perfect recipes (and reads!) for your next book club, and they are inspired ways to bring what you’re reading to the table at dinnertime. For the kids in your life, there are plenty of children’s books included on the list, ones so beloved that they're likely to coax a re-read from grown-ups too. The pages of your favorite books might just provide the dinnertime inspiration you’ve been seeking. From the shelf to the kitchen, some books make us downright hungry—browse these literary dishes, and you’ll soon see why.
Recipes Inspired by Our Favorite Books
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
“How they removed the covers of the dishes, and found rich, hot, tasty soup, and sandwiches and muffins enough for both of them. The tea was so delicious that it was not necessary to pretend that it was anything but tea.”
Recipe: Bakeshop Blueberry Muffins
In A Little Princess, Sara Crewe and her friend Becky awake to a feast, a mysterious banquet of delicious foods and treats, that appears in their quarters at Miss Minchin’s boarding school—a moment of joy during a period of strife for the two young girls.
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
“We had eaten very good cold chicken at noon but this was still famous chicken country so we had poularde de Bresse and a bottle of Montagny, a light, pleasant white wine of the neighborhood.”
Recipe: Whole Roasted Chicken
The entire book is a celebration of the art of eating, and nearly every page is rife with dinner ideas. One memorable trip in Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast includes meals of roast chicken, a dish that demands mastery.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
“In the next moment, her eyes fell on the White Rabbit that was serving the court as a herald and was reading the accusation that the Knave of Hearts had stolen the Queen’s tarts. In the middle of the court, a large platter of tarts was on display.”
Recipe: Mini Strawberry Tarts
Alice’s Wonderland adventures contain more than a few references to tea and tea parties—the Mad Hatter's comes to mind—and a perfect complement to a cup of tea is a fruit tart, like the ones the Knave of Hearts is accused of stealing from the queen of the same suit.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
“The children ran for the kitchen. ‘Just in time for a piece of blueberry pie,’ said Mrs. Zuckerman.”
Recipe: Blueberry-Thyme Pie
In E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, Fern Arable saves a pig named Wilbur, who then makes his home at the Zuckerman farm, where Aunt Edith Zuckerman makes a blueberry pie and offers it to Fern and her brother, Avery.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
“Idgie and Ruth had set a place for him at a table. He sat down to a plate of fried chicken, black-eyed peas, turnip greens, fried green tomatoes, cornbread, and iced tea.”
In Fannie Flagg’s novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, the titular restaurant is the go-to spot in Whistle Stop, Alabama, for satisfying meals—and heartwarming company too.
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
“‘Listen, Harriet, you’ve taken a tomato sandwich to school every day for five years. Don’t you get tired of them?’
In all of literature, there may be no more avid consumer of tomato-and-mayonnaise sandwiches than Harriet M. Welsch, an observant eleven-year-old determined to be a professional private eye.
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
“And when they saw the great golden peach floating past them not fifty yards away in the sky, they gave a great yelp of surprise and dropped their shovels to the ground.”
Recipe: Easy Peach Cobbler
The mode of transportation at the heart of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach is just that—a giant peach. An easy peach cobbler is the perfect pairing for this whimsical children’s novel and its high-flying adventures.
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
“There was stewed jack rabbit with white-flour dumplings and plenty of gravy. There was a steaming-hot, thick cornbread flavored with bacon fat. There was molasses to eat on the cornbread…”
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series is filled with descriptions of food cooked on the prairie, in the big woods, and by Plum Creek. Pick up any one of Wilder’s novels, and you’ll no doubt be inspired re-create a dish or two in your own kitchen.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
“Jo’s one strong point was the fruit, for she had sugared it well, and had a pitcher of rich cream to eat with it. Her hot cheeks cooled a trifle, and she drew a long breath as the pretty glass plates went round, and everyone looked graciously at the little rosy islands floating in a sea of cream.”
In Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Jo March prepares a meal for her sisters, Laurie, and their neighbor, Miss Crocker. Strawberries and cream finish the meal.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
“The cook disappeared. Almost at once she was back again staggering under the weight of an enormous round chocolate cake on a china platter. The cake was fully eighteen inches in diameter and it was covered with dark-brown chocolate icing.”
Recipe: Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
Perhaps the most famous chocolate cake in all of children’s literature is the one Bruce Bogtrotter is forced to eat in front of the entire school in Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Enjoy your own slice—at your leisure—by making this decadent, towering chocolate cake.
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
“And they shouted with delight when they saw all the good things Pippi had set out on the bare rock. There were lovely little sandwiches of meatloaf and ham, a whole pile of pancakes sprinkled with sugar, little brown sausages, and three pineapple puddings.”
Recipe: Peaches-and-Cream Pancakes
The unconventional Pippi Longstocking can do many exciting things—lift her horse with one hand, tell swash-buckling stories of adventure on the high seas—and she serves a mean brunch spread too, complete with a stack of sugar-speckled pancakes.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
“At length, however, Mrs. Bennet had no more to say; and Lady Lucas, who had been long yawning at the repetition of delights which she saw no likelihood of sharing, was left to the comforts of cold ham and chicken.”
Recipe: Ham Salad
While ham salad as we make it probably wouldn’t be found on the Bennet table, this interpretation of Lady Lucas' meal will transport a tableau from the pages of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to your dining room.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Daisy and Tom were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table, with a plate of cold fried chicken between them, and two bottles of ale.”
Recipe: Oven-Fried Chicken
Southern-favorite fried chicken gets a mention in Fitzgerald’s New York City-set classic The Great Gatsby. For a true Jazz Age meal, add a glass of fizzy champagne—you know, for good measure.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
“It was Elizabeth we had in common. Without her urging, I would never have thought to invite them to share my pig, and the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society would never have drawn breath.”
Recipe: Shepherd’s Pie
The “potato peel pie” of the novel’s title is a reference to the time period in which the book is set. During World War II, food was rationed, making certain foods luxury goods and culinary ingenuity a requirement. Pair this book with a shepherd's pie topped with broiled mashed potatoes (sans peel) for a tip of the hat to Guernsey.
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
“‘Tomorrow we’re going to have duck Rochambeau right here. Tell me honestly, have you ever tasted better food at Galatoires?’
‘No, It’s very good, Walter.’”
Binx Bolling, the wanderer at the center of Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, finds himself adrift in New Orleans and invited by an acquaintance, Walter, to a fancy duck dinner.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
“Mrs. Taylor had served us with a good broth, which we had eaten with helpings of crusty bread, and at that point, there had been little to suggest the evening held for me anything more daunting than an hour or so of pleasant conversation before retiring to bed.”
Recipe: Field Peas in Herbed Broth
Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day is narrated by Stevens, a former butler of Darlington Hall, who reminisces about his service at the ancestral home in the years leading to World War II, as well as his relationships with Lord Darlington, the housekeeper Miss Kenton, and his own father.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
“Dickon made the stimulating discovery […] there was a deep little hollow where you could build a sort of tiny oven with stones and roast potatoes and eggs in it. […] Very hot potatoes with salt and fresh butter in them were fit for a woodland king—besides being deliciously satisfying.”
Recipe: Crispy Potatoes
The adventures of Mary Lennox, Colin Craven, and Dickon Sowerby are filled with imaginative forays into a secret garden that they coax back to life. In it, they discover many wonders, including a place to build an oven for preparing assorted dishes, including buttered and roasted potatoes.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
“They got under way slicing ham, laying out fried chicken, shaking paprika on the deviled eggs. We had green beans, turnips, macaroni and cheese, caramel cake—all kinds of funeral foods. We ate standing in the kitchen holding paper plates […].”
Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees is set in 1964 in the fictional Southern town of Sylvan, South Carolina. Unsurprisingly, it includes more than a few references to classic Southern dishes.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
“She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her.”
Zora Neale Hurston’s heroine, Janie, tells the story of her life, beginning with young adulthood, when a pear tree catches her eye and all of life’s possibilities seem to her present in its branches.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
“I’ll make him a Lane cake. That Stephanie’s been after my recipe for thirty years, and if she thinks I’ll give it to her just because I’m staying with her, she’s got another think coming.”
Recipe: Lane Cake
In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout Finch’s neighbor, Miss Maudie Atkinson, makes a bourbon-loaded Lane cake that’s famous all over the town of Maycomb, Alabama.
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
“‘Well,’ said Pooh, ‘it’s the middle of the night, which is a good time for going to sleep. And to-morrow morning we’ll have some honey for breakfast. Do Tiggers like honey?’
‘They like everything,’ said Tigger cheerfully.”
Recipe: Hot Honey
Winnie-the-Pooh and honey go together like, well, you get the idea. Hot honey adds a kick to the sweet syrup you know and love; try a drizzle on homemade pizza, chicken, or roasted sweet potatoes.