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List love: 12 foods/dishes I discovered or want to try thanks to books other than cookbooks

I haven't written a List Love post in ages, but while going through some of my files I found a fully written post from several years ago and decided to post it, with a few minor adjustments. 

Note that it was written before I was diagnosed with diabetes, so I would have to make certain adjustments if I was planning to make some of the recipes today. 

This really should go on my cooking blog, but I thought it would be fun to do a cross-over post.

It’s no secret that I like to cook and eat and discover new recipes, and thanks to my reading of all kinds of novels and non-fiction over the space of 40+ years I have come across lots of different interesting foods and dishes.

I am not counting stuff I have come across in actual cookbooks and recipe collections and I am not including any books deliberately written as foodie books, but only books that made me take notice of some particular dish. However, I might do a post on mouth-watering foodie books later. Goodness knows there are enough books to choose from.

For an example, there are plenty of foodie mysteries out there, in series like the Goldie Bear books by Diane Mott Davidson in which the sleuth is a caterer, the three Charly Poisson books by Cecile Lamalle where the sleuth is a chef (and so is the author) and the tea shop mysteries by Laura Childs with a sleuth who owns a tea shop. There are also stand-alones, e.g. Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Cruise & Bob Mayer, where Agnes is a food columnist, and as part of other series otherwise not food-oriented, like Too Many Cooks from the Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout where Nero is a serious foodie and the victim and some of the suspects are chefs. But that's enough about a possible future post. Let's get to the books and dishes/foods:

  1. Chicken Marsala. Min, the heroine of Bet Me, a romance novel by Jennifer Crusie, becomes enamored of this dish after Cal, the hero, takes her out to dinner and orders it for her, breaking the diet her mother has imposed on her. Min has a culinary orgasm whenever she tastes it, whereas I can’t say the earth moved for me. It was okay, but maybe I just haven’t found the right recipe yet. Possibly it was not sensible to use Marsala marked as cooking wine.
  2. Damper bread. Jeannie Gunn’s description of making her first damper, in We of the Never-Never, is funny, and I want to try it - but not to bake in an oven but using coals like the genuine article.
  3. Fried green tomatoes. The book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg is full of mentions of different kinds of U.S. southern food, but it was the fried green tomatoes that stood out, and they proved to be quite good once I got the hang of getting the coating to stay on them.
  4. Mayan hot chocolate. Discovered in Chocolat by Joanne Harris. I am yet to try this, but it sounds delicious.
  5. American pancakes. I can’t pinpoint the exact book where I read about American pancakes with butter and maple syrup, but I do remember I was itching to try them. I now make them occasionally for brunch.
  6. Seed cake. This is mentioned in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, and in such terms as to make it sound like a delicacy. It’s quite a nice cake, not too sweet and a nice change from chocolate cake.
  7. Treacle tart.This I encountered in the Harry Potter books by J.K Rowling. Harry helps himself to a slice of treacle tart at least once in each book (except, I think, The Deathly Hallows). While listening to Stephen Fry reading The Half-Blood Prince one day I suddenly found myself filled with curiosity to try it. I did, using this recipe. It was more like a heavy pudding than a pie/tart, came out stodgy with a weird texture and the two small slices I ate gave me a bellyache. I might try a modernised version as I think the addition of eggs and cream would make it lighter. Gordon Ramsay's recipe looks tempting.
  8. Cassoulet. First heard of in Gigi by Colette, although I suspect it’s more the movie than the novelette that awakened that longing in me. Still haven’t tried it.
  9. Beef tongue. I was an avid reader of Enid Blyton as a kid, and when the Famous Five were having one of their picnics it usually included boiled tongue. This I have tried and liked. It makes a nice alternative to ham in sandwiches.
  10. Tuna noodle casserole. I can’t remember the first mention of this, but it seems when someone dies in American novels, movies and TV shows, the neighbours inevitably bring the mourners this dish. I tried it and either the recipe was a bad one or the whole comfort thing is a joke, because it turned out disgusting.
  11. Macaroni and cheese. Another American comfort food I can’t remember where I first read of. Tried it recently and found it nice, if a little bland, definitely the kind of food you have to discover as a child to fall in love with. However, it has much potential for experimentation and improvement and I intend to try adding different stuff to the basic sauce, like Parmesan, mushrooms, ham and bacon. (The Icelandic equivalent would be macaroni milk).
  12. Durian fruit. I’m not sure where I first read about this, but it may have been in Michael Palin’s travelogue Full Circle, or Anthony Bourdain’s A Chef’s Tour. It’s supposed to smell like a combination of sewer sludge and rotting meat, but taste delicious.

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