Novelists are rarely famous for their culinary descriptions. While food is often only the necessary garnish on an emotional or provocative scene, there are a few writers whose fictional foods have left readers salivating. Modernism gave us the memory-inducing madeleine of Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past and the triumphantly-perfect boeuf en daube of Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, but more recently novelists have turned their attention from fictional to nonfiction foods.
Barbara Kingsolver's experiment in eating locally produced her charming memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Moving from Arizona to Virginia, Kingsolver and her family resolved to eat only what they could grow themselves or what they could purchase from neighbors within a ten-mile radius of their home.
A somewhat related experiment can be found on Brushfield Street in London, where British writer Jeanette Winterson runs an organic grocery called Verde's. The author of Oranges Aren't the Only Fruit says, "I won't change the eating habits of Britain, though I'd like to try."
Also trying to change the world's eating habits is novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, who mixed genres last year with his nonfiction book Eating Animals. Foer's reflections on vegetarianism, investigative reporting on the meat industry, and ethical considerations of the rights of animals are a moving meditation on what we eat and why.
This article was originally published in June 2010, and has been updated for the
April 2011 paperback release.
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