Book Feast: Eat Your Way Through A Great Book!

The next morning Mrs. Welsch asked, “Wouldn’t you like to try a ham sandwich, or egg salad, or peanut butter?” Her mother looked quizzically at Harriet while the cook stood next to the table looking enraged.

“Tomato,” said Harriet, not even bothering to look up from the book she was reading.

~from Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Books and Food. Food and Books. It’s holiday time and in the Brown house that means a happy family, good books and festive food. But books with food? Sure thing.

This holiday season how about holding a literary feast? It’s yummy. It’s fun. And eating along with your favorite characters brings a story to life in a whole new way. Who didn’t wonder at Edmund’s passion for the exotic sounding Turkish Delight (a candy that tastes, disappointingly, more like the inside of a jelly bean than a treat from an exotic land.) Or Harry’s mug of Butter Beer. Snow Candy with Laura Ingalls Wilder. Chocolate Cake with Matilda.

Curious second graders inspired my first intentionally literary feast. My class fell in love with Sara Pennypacker’s impulsive Clementine but most of the class had never heard of Boston Cream Pie- a mysterious dessert that’s more cake and pudding than pie. Or even Clementine’s namesake citrus fruit. To celebrate the last chapter and the end of the semester we got into the literary spirit with a Clementine feast. Would you believe every seven year old tried- and claimed to enjoy- lentils? Yes! Transformative. It was a book, a meal and a library period that none of us will ever forget.

Reading Because of Winn-Dixie? How about a feast of egg salad sandwiches, Dump punch, pickles and lozenges (I recommend horehound candies as a reasonable substitute for Kate DiCamillo’s mystical treats.) A family reading Kathi Appelt’s Keeper could have a wonderful celebratory meal of Blue Crab Gumbo. Harriet’s tomato sandwiches are straight forward- bread, mayonnaise and sliced tomatoes. Period.

Need a bit more guidance? There are oodles of cookbooks with middle-grade literary connections. Lots of them were even written by the original middle-grade authors. Check out

Mary Poppins in the Kitchen: A Cookery Book with a Story  P. L. Travers

The Redwall Cookbook by Brian Jacques

Jane Yolen and her daughter Heidi Stemple gather dishes from all across the story spectrum in Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook for Young Readers and Eaters

Eat like you’re on the prairie with Barbara Walter’s The Little House Cookbook.

Join the masses of Potter fans with Dinah Bucholz’s The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory–More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Muggles and Wizards. She has also written The Unofficial Narnia Cookbook, with everything from Turkish Delight to Fire Roasted Pavenders (a kind of small fish.)

Or satisfy Roald Dahl fanboys and fangirls with treats from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes.

As a FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES exclusive, here’s my kid-friendly recipe for Momma’s Sour Cream Ambrosia, fresh from the fridge in my middle-grade novel THE MAP OF ME.

Sour Cream Ambrosia

1 packet Jello- cherry or lime are “traditional” but use any flavor you prefer, prepared by packet instructions

3 cups mini-marshmallows

1 8oz container sour cream (may use low fat)

1 8oz container whipped topping such as Cool Whip

1 small jar maraschino cherries, drained

1 small can mandrin oranges, drained

2 cups crushed pineapple, drained, juice reserved

1 cup toasted coconut (optional)

Mix all ingredients except coconut in a large bowl. If necessary, adjust to light moist consistency by gently stirring in some of the reserved pineapple juice. Sprinkle top with coconut.

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold [as the hobbits do], it would be a merrier world.” The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein. So as you settle into the holiday season read, munch, and be merry!

What’s your favorite literary food?


Tami Lewis Brown believes you can never have enough hot buttered toast, whether dining with a hobbit or Mercy Watson.


Tami Lewis Brown
  1. Fantastic post, Tami!! Thanks for all the great ideas – and recipe!! 🙂

  2. Great post, Tami! My mom used to make a wonderful ambrosia salad when I was a kid. Reading your recipe makes me want to try it asap! When I wrote A Smidgen of Sky, I had great fun including mention of some great Southern food–sweet tea, cornbread with buttermilk on top, and sizzling pork patties on the barbecue. I also had great fun using food references as similies. I wonder if that means I think too much about food?

  3. Love reading about food in books! My favorite is Bread and Jam for Frances by Russel and Lillian Hoban. It’s a picture book so it probably doesn’t belong here but it’s my very favorite kidlit book feast!

  4. Clever combination. Other books could be spotlighted for their mention of animals, trees, etc. Learning can take many different paths, based on a good book. Eating happens one we all enjoy!

  5. The book feast party is a lovely idea.

    I remember the honey and penut butter sandwiches from Ida B (unless I’m mixing it up with another book).
    In terms of YA, I remember the descriptions from The Hunger Games series.
    You’ve got my brain churning now because I know there are many. Fun.

  6. Love this post (I think I fell in love with Harriet partly because of her tomato sandwiches!) and absolutely love Lisa’s ideas for a Book Feast party. I have a 7th grade bookworm daughter too, and she would go crazy over this idea. Maybe we’ll do it for her birthday.

  7. What a wonderful idea! We are taking this one home personally – my 7th grade daughter wants to have a Christmas party with her friends, and it is going to be a Book Feast! All of the guests are challenged to bring a food featured in their favorite book – just need to let us know if it’s a drink, side dish, dessert or entree. I’ve come up with a list of ideas from “The Lightning Thief” and we’ve shared a few as examples to whet their appetite (pun intended). 🙂 So that particular book is already “taken” and I plan on filling in the dinner menu from it accordingly – Grover’s Enchiladas, Ambrosia and Nectar of the Gods(some of which may greatly resemble your recipe above), blue foods for Percy, etc… Thanks for such a wonderful idea!!! My daughter and I had such fun discussing foods found in other books as well. Her class recently read “Freak The Mighty” and she asked me what American Chop Suey was – something she never thought to ask before. I’m wondering if I might find a recipe to make for dinner sometime soon! 🙂