Food for thought – books with food references in their titles

Image: Pixabay

Whether it’s a direct reference or a more subtle metaphor, there is no shortage of book titles that have something to do with food.  It’s always fun to organize collections this way.  These classics, thrillers, children’s books and modern fiction all have this common food trait:

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway’s memoir of his days in Paris, where he was part of the expatriate community of writers, artists and creative minds, known now as the “Lost Generation”

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Capote’s character sketch of Holly Golightly, a nineteen-year-old runaway in New York who tries to escape her sad past

Eating Bull by Carrie Rubin

Exciting medical thriller that tackles the subject of obesity and the food industry’s role in this serious health problem

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

In his guide to eating right, Pollan simplifies the dizzying task of figuring out what to eat:  Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.

One Hundred Hungry Ants by Elinor J. Pinczes

Entertaining children’s book that uses hungry ants to teach math and a life lesson

Pete’s a Pizza by William Steig

Pete’s mad because it’s raining and he can’t go outside, so his parents turn him into a pizza in this quietly warm children’s story.

Taste by Tracy Ewens

Sophisticated and a little bit spicy romance about young professionals in the restaurant business

The Dinner by Herman Koch

Twisted tale about a seriously messed up and unlikable family with a terrible secret

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

One of the greatest American stories of endurance ever told.  When The Grapes of Wrath was published, Steinbeck said, “I’ve done my damndest to rip a reader’s nerves to rags.”

We the Eaters by Ellen Gustafson

An argument for ways “we the eaters” can change the world by fighting against big companies like Monsanto and Cargill and buying more organic and whole foods

What do your books in common?

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Ernest Hemingway – love him or hate him?


I’m getting ready to read A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway’s memoir of Paris in the 1920s.  During this time, Hemingway wrote both The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms and became part of the expatriate community in Paris, which included Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Dos Passos.  This group is commonly known as the “Lost Generation”, a description Hemingway made popular when he wrote The Sun Also Rises, and a phrase to whom he credits Gertrude Stein.


Hemingway died in 1961 and A Moveable Feast was published in 1964.  My copy of the book includes a foreward by Hemingway’s son, Patrick and an introduction by Seán Hemingway, the author’s grandson.

Now you either love Hemingway or you hate him.  I happen to think he is one of the greatest writers of all time, but many readers become frustrated with his style.  I have always liked his simple dialogues, word choices and descriptions because I think they make the characters and events all the more moving.  I recently read a review of The Old Man and the Sea  in which the reviewer commented that she thought she would like it better now that she was older but she still hated it!

I’m still working on reading all his books and short fiction, but you can check out my opinions of these:

A Farewell to Arms

The Old Man and the Sea

The Sun Also Rises

“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”

“Hills Like White Elephants”

“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”

What do you think of Papa Hemingway?

the paris wife
If you enjoy reading about Hemingway and the Lost Generation, you may like The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.


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From the Archives: Books about Water and the Sea


With only a few weeks left on our summer calendars, there’s still time to read a book about water and the sea.  Take a look at this mix of classic tales, popular fiction and nonfiction!

Classic fiction

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
What happens to a group of young British schoolboys when their plane is shot down and they land on deserted island in the Pacific?

The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
The classic Hemingway story of Santiago, an old Cuban fisherman who has not caught a fish in eighty-four days

Popular fiction

sea creatures pic

Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel
Set in Miami, Florida, a story about love, marriage, family, death, art, weather and the sea

stiltsville book cover

Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel
All about marriage, family and relationships in a community of stilt houses in the Miami sand flats

The Dressmaker cover

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott
Light historical fiction and romance written into the history of the Titanic’s voyage, its passengers and the disaster’s aftermath

the light between oceans pic

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
A story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife, who live alone on an island off Western Australia

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Fast-paced, coming-of-age fantasy tale for adults about the mysteries of life, death, nature, the past, and the present

We Are Water

We Are Water by Wally Lamb
A rotating narrative about abuse over time and generations, and its range of effects


Death in a Red Canvas Chair cover

Death in a Red Canvas Chair by N. A. Granger
Debut mystery novel, the first in a series about Rhe Brewster and her adventures as an amateur detective.  Set in the fictional coastal town of Pequod, Maine

Death in a Dacron Sail cover

Death in a Dacron Sail by N. A. Granger
The second in the Rhe Brewster mystery series, full of New England color and Maine personality


I also enjoyed reading Tracy's first love story!

Catalina Kiss by Tracy Ewens
Where the Tracy Ewens romance series begins.  Set on the island of Catalina during Prohibition, a light, feel-good romance

Young Adult/Children’s

Casey of Cranberry Cove

Casey of Cranberry Cove by Susan Kotch
Teen love on the Jersey shore, lots of fun shore references for Jersey guys and girls

the cay pic

The Cay by Theodore Taylor
Touching coming-of-age story about an eleven-year-old American boy living on the island of Curaçao during World War II

Tommy's Mommy's Fish

Tommy’s Mommy’s Fish by Nancy Dingman Watson
Tommy wants to give his mother the best birthday present so he heads to the beach to catch the biggest fish he can.


Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast

Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast by Margie Miklas
Coffee table/photo book featuring the people, streets and culture of a beautiful part of Italy, showcasing magnificent coastlines, ancient architecture and vibrant street life

In the Heart of the Sea

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
True survival story of the whaleship Essex, attacked and sunk by an eighty-five foot sperm whale in the Pacific

Read but not reviewed

Billy Budd by Herman Melville
A classic Melville story about the battle between good and evil

Jaws by Peter Benchley
Gripping suspense novel about a killer shark off a Long Island beach

Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Ahab takes on a killer whale.  Classic story inspired by the whaleship Essex

Gift from the Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh
Meditations about love, marriage and family written by Charles Lindbergh’s American wife

Do you have any favorite tales about the sea?

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The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and the Sea
Ernest Hemingway

5 book marks

Warning – some spoilers below:

I’ve been on a Hemingway kick lately and The Old Man and the Sea is another great way to experience a writing style that is deceivingly simple but has deeply thoughtful and powerful themes.  I have always enjoyed books that feature man versus nature.  It is one of the primary themes in this classic, studied each year by a new crop of both students and leisure readers.  And because I love stories about hope and overcoming adversity, another important idea in the book, this one is on the top of my list.

The Old Man and the Sea is the story of Santiago, an old Cuban fisherman who has not caught a fish in eighty-four days.  Every day, he goes out to sea in his fishing skiff, and returns empty-handed.  His companion, a boy, no longer fishes with him, sent by the boy’s parents to a more successful fishing boat.  From the beginning, despite this bad luck streak, there is something enduring in Santiago’s being.  In the first pages, Hemingway writes, “Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.”

When Santiago hooks a giant marlin, he knows he has a big challenge ahead.  Strength, patience and resolve sustain him as the fish pulls him far out into the ocean.  For two days, the fish pulls the fisherman before finally slowing.  But much will test Santiago’s resolve in a series of triumphs and losses.  In the end, the old man remains undefeated in spirit, despite returning with a much lighter haul.  Instead, Santiago simply notes how well the boat sails now that it is lighter.

Old man and the sea pic
Hemingway’s story has inspired a lot of art work. I like this picture by Carey Chen from

Santiago’s respect for nature and the power of his opponent make him much more than a fisherman.  He is part of a bigger scheme and he knows his place.  He feels deeply for the fish, the birds and the life around him.  Santiago’s connection to nature is most evident when he finally faces the marlin.  “Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or a calmer or more noble thing than you, brother,” he says.

And when he finally returns to his village, Santiago may discover how much he is revered by the other villagers and most of all, by his fishing companion, the boy who so tenderly cares for him.

The Old Man and the Sea was published in 1952 and was a huge success.  Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954.  Check it out and see what I mean!

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A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms
Ernest Hemingway

5 book marks

Each time I re-read a favorite classic, I finish with a new appreciation for the story and the author. It was no different this week when I picked up A Farewell to Arms. It’s such a well-known book, it’s tempting to think, “Oh, I already know that story. Why re-read it?” Why? Because each time you are guaranteed to get something different out of it. It had been at least twenty years since I had read A Farewell to Arms and I can’t remember if I’d read it only once or twice before. I have always liked Hemingway’s writing style and find his stories easy to read, but full of deeper ideas and feelings. And who doesn’t like a wartime love story?

This is a love story about Frederic Henry, an American ambulance driver serving in the Italian army during World War I, who falls in love with a young English nurse, Catherine Barkley. Their relationship is just getting underway when Henry is badly wounded and sent to a Red Cross hospital in Milan. Catherine soon follows and the two begin a romance that is wholly defined by the circumstances that surround them.

This is a commentary on war as much as it is a romance, however and Hemingway used his own experiences as an ambulance driver during the war to tell it. He was badly wounded, just as Frederic Henry was, and recuperated for six months in Milan, where he fell in love with an American nurse named Agnes von Kurowski. They had planned to marry, but the relationship ended when Hemingway was sent home and she became engaged to an Italian officer.

Here’s a picture of (a very handsome) Hemingway while recuperating in Milan:


And here’s the (very pretty) nurse Hemingway fell in love with:

Agnes von Korowsky Photo:
Agnes von Korowsky Photo:

In his book, he talks about the Italian countryside in typical Hemingway style, describing the color of the sky, the sparkling water and the mountains above. And then he adds the Italian troops trying to fight against the Austrians, in impossible mountain terrain. Many of his characters question the purpose of the war. One of the drivers puts it plainly, “If everybody would not attack the war would be over.”

Henry sees the war clearest when he returns to duty:

Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates.

It’s this new understanding of the war that drives Henry’s decisions for the rest of the story, and when it ends in a hospital in Switzerland, Hemingway leaves the reader to think about how things might have been different, without the backdrop of war.

I enjoyed all of A Farewell to Arms, but the most exciting scene occurs late in the book and involves a rough trip in a rowboat on Lake Maggiore, which borders both Italy and Switzerland. This picture helped me imagine what would seem an impossible voyage.

Lake Maggiore Photo: Wikipedia
Lake Maggiore Photo: Wikipedia

If you’re a movie lover, you may be interested to know that there are two film versions of A Farewell to Arms:

  • In 1932, starring Helen Hayes, Gary Cooper and Adolphe Menjou. Directed by Frank Borzage. Screenplay by Benjamin Glazer and Oliver H.P. Garrett. It won two Academy Awards, one for Best Cinematography and Best Sound. The film was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Art Direction. Click here to visit IMDb for a full description of this film.
  • In 1957, starring Rock Hudson, Jennifer Jones and Vittorio De Sica. Directed by Charles Vidor and John Huston. Screenplay by Ben Hecht. Vittorio was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Visit IMDb for more information on this later film.

If you’re a Hemingway fan, you may enjoy the following:

The Sun Also Rises
“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”
“Hills Like White Elephants”
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”

A Farewell to Arms, like other Hemingway stories and novels, is deceptively simple, with complex ideas, definitely worthy of a re-read or two! I may soon be returning to other Hemingway favorites. Who are your favorite authors? Do you have a favorite re-read? Has your experience been different each time?

Thank you to the following sources: and

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Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut

5 book marks

Slaughterhouse-Five is hands down, a genius combination of truth and fiction. Kurt Vonnegut’s famous satirical novel is about violence and war and the idea of free will. It’s an autobiographical and fictional mix built into a story about Billy Pilgrim’s time travels on Earth and his visit to the distant planet Tralfamadore. It was published in 1969, in the midst of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and became a best-seller because of its anti-war sentiment. It has been banned from some schools and studied in others and is considered Vonnegut’s most influential work. I think it is excellent in its message, its symbolism and its construction.

Vonnegut’s main character, Billy Pilgrim, jumps back and forth through time and tries to make sense of a life that has been dramatically transformed by his experience as an American prisoner during World War Two. Billy wasn’t meant for war, but there he is. His miraculous survival after the Allied bombing and total destruction of Dresden, Germany is a turning point in his life, a moment he struggles, unconsciously, to understand and beat.

Billy copes in a way no one around him can understand, by retreating inward and traveling in time, past and future and being kidnapped by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. Tralfamadorians tell Billy that there is no real end in time. “All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist.” They tell him that moments in time are like “bugs trapped in amber.” When Billy notes that life on their planet is peaceful, unlike on Earth, they tell him they, too have experienced violent wars, but they have a way to deal with them. “There isn’t anything we can do about them, so we simply don’t look at them. We ignore them. We spend eternity looking at pleasant moments.”

I like everything about this book. Many of characters are symbols of certain types of thought and are precisely depicted through their actions and what they say. When Billy’s daughter, Barbara treats him like a child, I found myself believing in Tralfamadore. When Billy visits his mother at Pine Knoll nursing home, I felt his mother’s tears, as she pulls all her “energy from all over her ruined body, even her toes and fingertips” just to ask Billy, “How did I get so old?” I hated Roland Weary, I felt sad for Wild Bob and the hobo who says, “This ain’t bad. This ain’t nothing at all.” I saw the irony of Edgar Derby’s fate, a teacher of “Contemporary Problems in Western Civilization” and the image of Derby’s face bursting into tears after Billy feeds him a spoon of syrup.

This is one of those books that reads quickly and gives the first impression of a story casually told, but it’s not. Every word is carefully chosen, every character is deliberately included, and every jump in time is purposefully choreographed. And despite the graphic descriptions and language and the ugliness of war, this book has a beauty about it that’s hard to describe.

While this story is about Billy’s personal struggle, its bigger story and strongest message is about war. I think Vonnegut’s description of the Allied bombing of Dresden in reverse is very powerful:

“The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes.”

Vonnegut continues this reverse description back to the beginning of man, where eventually, “Everybody turned into a baby, and all humanity, without exception, conspired biologically to produce two perfect people named Adam and Eve.” All that’s complicated and violent, returning to something so simple.

It took me a long time to get to Slaughterhouse-Five. I don’t think these ideas will ever leave me.

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Very Good, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Just Enough Jeeves

Very Good, Jeeves
Just Enough Jeeves
P.G. Wodehouse

5 book marks

I have a plan, sir, which I fancy may produce satisfactory results.

These words are music to Bertie Wooster’s ears in the second selection of books from Just Enough Jeeves, by P. G. Wodehouse. Very Good, Jeeves is a collection of eleven stories in which Bertie Wooster finds himself caught in a variety of tight spots and is invariably saved by his faithful manservant, Jeeves.

In these stories, Bertie fancies he has the same problem-solving expertise as Jeeves. His solutions to a variety of situations, such as enacting revenge on his boyhood pal, Tuppy Glossop, wriggling out of the clutches of his controlling Aunt Agatha, or saving Bingo Little’s marriage, fall short in logic and execution and Jeeves is always at the ready to save the day or arrange for a quick escape.

Sometimes Bertie is a nettled that no one takes him seriously, including Jeeves. Sometimes Jeeves is piqued that Bertie goes against his advice, but their amusing back and forths during the situation of the moment lead each story to a happy finish. And in the end, an ever-grateful Bertie always gives brainy Jeeves due credit.

You know, whatever you may say against old Jeeves – and I, for one have never wavered in my opinion that his views on shirts for evening wear are hidebound and reactionary to a degree – you’ve got to admit that the man can plan a campaign. Napoleon could have taken his correspondence course.

Very Good, Jeeves is another wonderful escape into the silly world of the upper class English, poking fun in just the right way.

For more P.G. Wodehouse, please visit these posts:

Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse
P.G. Wodehouse – Author Info

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