Snack after reading

A quick look at my Instagram account will reveal one powerful, inalienable truth: I’m obsessed with food.

Whether I’m cooking it, presenting it, photographing it or, you know, eating it, food and I go way back. This has manifested itself in a variety of ways — including going up a dress size — but never has it been more obvious than when scrolling through the 500-plus snapshots I’ve shared.

And through my reading, apparently. If the plot revolves around a cooking class, a market or a bakery, I’m salivating — and reach for the paperback. I’ve recently noticed an upward trend in “foodie fiction” — stories centering on eating, baking, the restaurant life. From Melissa Senate’s The Love Goddess’ Cooking School to Erica Bauermeister’s The School of Essential Ingredients, popular characters are perfecting their culinary skills — and often falling in love in the process.

I love these plots. I’ll make no bones about it, y’all; I adore a good love story, and talking macarons and wedding cakes as well is a quick way to win me over. There’s just something warm and comforting about foodie fiction. I rejoice in mealtimes and love trying new things, I suppose, so getting to “travel” through another’s kitchen is delightful.

As long as I’m not reading on an empty stomach.

Of the books I’ve read in the foodie fiction and non-fiction categories lately, I’ve distilled my favorites into this collection. Glancing through the 2012-13 line-up, it looks like we have much to look forward to in the way of food-related reading — including Megan Caldwell’s Vanity Fare, which sounds delectable. I’ll bring my fork.

A sampling of fun foodie fiction

Life From Scratch by Melissa Ford

To plagiarize myself, Ford incorporates fresh prose and likeable characters in this Julie & Julia-esque look at one woman learning to cook following tons of personal tumult. Rachel’s adventures in the kitchen were funny and realistic, and I finished this slim book wanting another 100 pages. She would make an awesome dinner host — and everything sounded delicious.

Friendship Bread by Darien Gee

When it comes to baking, Gee’s characters might not think they have what it takes — but a shared batch of friendship bread, which becomes a yeasty chain letter, unites the characters in her small town.

“You know that cozy feeling that envelopes you when you take a bite of warm chocolate cake, homemade cookies, fresh-baked bread or apple pie? Well, Darien Gee does, too — and that’s exactly how she created Friendship Bread, one of the most heartwarming books I’ve read in a long time,” I wrote in 2011. And darn if I wasn’t totally right. This cozy read sucked me in.

The Bake-Off by Beth Kendrick

An epic sister rivalry, a baking contest, an adorable grandmother, a fantastic-sounding apple pie recipe — everything blends beautifully in Kendrick’s novel, which I read and enjoyed last year. It’s fun and frothy, sweet and fun — but with heart. And even after getting ten kinds of complicated, the baking contest sounded like a blast.

How To Eat A Cupcake by Meg Donohue

Between its San Francisco setting, drama and delicious treats, Donohue’s novel centering on two unlikely friends coming together to open a bakery drew me in — and left me with a powerful craving for sweets. Though the novel had a few “Um, what?” moments for me, it kept my interest throughout and had me wanting to do some serious late-night baking.

Have any other fun, food-related recommendations? Please share them in the comments. I’m always up for a new taste sensation.

Book review: ‘Life From Scratch’ by Melissa Ford

Oh, Melissa Ford — how you captured the heart and soul of a blogger. It felt like you could have written this book for me. With fresh prose and very likable characters, I’m now standing here before you — proudly — with a copy of Life From Scratch waving above my head. Read it! I’m shouting. Read it.

Rachel Goldman is recently divorced and still smarting from the demise of her 12-year marriage, which was a slow descent into silence. Now living on her own in a rented apartment in her native New York City, Rachel finds herself lonely, listless and frustrated. How could she emerge from the wreckage of being with Adam, a certified workaholic, without even the most basic of culinary skills? How can she stand eating meals out of Styrofoam take-out containers night after night?

In an effort to learn a little more about herself, Rachel quits her graphic design job and dedicates herself to learning to cook while slowly draining her savings account. And after starting a blog, Life From Scratch, she finds that many other people are on a similar quest — or, at least, relate to her experiences. As her blog readership grows and new people — men — enter her life, Rachel has to decide if she’s really ready to let Adam go . . . and if she can ever keep her risotto from burning.

If the flavor of Life From Scratch sounds a bit “Julie & Julia” to you, friends, you’re right: it totally does. I haven’t read Julie Powell’s memoir but have seen the film and, sure, there are resemblances here. Not in an OMG-you-plagiarized-me! way, but in a “I’m figuring out my life in and out of the kitchen” way. And I loved it.

Rachel is such a completely realistic, empathetic character that I truly had to pause and remind myself she wasn’t real. Ford herself is a popular blogger and it certainly read that way. From obsessively checking blog stats to realizing for the first time that we’re not “shouting into the void” — you know, when we get our first comment — Ford completely understands what it means to put your life online. From start to finish, Rachel felt like a friend. Like a blogger you visit daily for the latest recipes and stories of life from a 35-year-old woman ready for a change.

Though slim — only about 200 pages — the book is packed with weighty issues like marriage, love, family, infertility and letting go. Food is a major theme in the book, of course, but Ford doesn’t delve too deep into her cookbooks; learning to cook is merely the device through which Rachel becomes self-sufficient, confident and adventurous. The real issue here is ready or not our heroine is ready to let go of the love she allowed to slip through her fingers . . . and I think the conclusion reached was fantastic.

Basically, I loved this book. It wasn’t without minor issues, but they never hampered my overall enjoyment of the story. Realistic, moving and addictive, Life From Scratch was a novel I truly didn’t want to end. Ford is working on a sequel, I hear, and I’ll be first in line. Pick this one up and lose yourself for a while . . . I certainly did.

4.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0061984027 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program