Jessica Barksdale Inclán’s Nightstand
Jessica Barksdale Inclán is the bestselling author of Her Daughter’s Eyes, The Matter of Grace, and When You Believe. In honor of her latest novel, How to Bake a Man (we LOVE the title!), she put together a list of the fun summer reads on her nightstand.
I’m so happy to be here writing about what’s on my nightstand, but I haven’t seen mine in years. Not to mention my desk, kitchen counter, or dining room table. I’m surrounded by books, usually by the ones that I’m teaching during the semester. Here’s what’s hanging precariously on the left hand side of my desk right now, in no order but “read immediately and be very smart about it.” I won’t even send you a photo of the right hand side. Don’t even ask!
My latest novel How to Bake a Man involves food. Baking specifically. Sugar, in short. Many artists have influenced my take on writing about cooking and baking. When I think of stories about food, many movies come to mind. Babette’s Feast. Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. Haute Cuisine. In all of these films, we learn that food is a metaphor (usually for love). The visuals are stunning. But the truth is that we eat with our eyes and our nose. Maybe our nose first. Movies can’t really do that for us (though I await surround smell). And a writer can give us what the food looks like and smells like. What the cake feels like as it dissolves particle by particle on the tongue. The pound pound sound of a baker kneading dough, the heels of her hands pushing and rolling. The light airy texture of a freshly sliced piece of bread.
Stories that have given me all that sensory input and love are the ones that have influenced me most.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café is a story about the strong friendship and then love between Idgie and Ruth. But it’s also a love story about the American South (for better or worse). Fannie Flagg celebrates the culture and, yes, the food of the place. If you’ve seen the film from the book, you know what I mean. But for those of you who have not, imagine that plate of glistening hot fried green tomatoes. Smoked ribs with a side of greens deeply sautéed in bacon fat. Honey has a big part in the plot as well. Food is what brings these characters together, most notably at the Whistle Stop Café. Flagg includes the recipes at the back of the book.
Mia King wrote three books about her character Deirdre McIntosh, the first titled Table Manners, a fun, frolicking read, full of food, relationships, and Seattle life. A baker by trade who works for a television program, Deirdre’s in charge of the show’s food segments, and readers are tempted by Deirdre’s creations even as her work and love lives fall apart. At the back of this book are also recipes, but here we have Cassis Truffles and Macarons Chocolat.
Finally, a novel for the soul and senses both, Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remediesby Laura Esquivel. Most of us know it as Like Water for Chocolate because of the film from the book. The main character Tita is able to bring all her feelings and desires into her cooking, and in one notable scene, she makes the wedding cake for her sister, who marries the man Tita loves. Tita puts all her anger and sadness into this cake, and everyone at the wedding who takes a bite bursts into tears. Tita also makes quail and rose petals, leaving her entire family overcome with love and longing after finishing the dish. Like Flagg’s novel is for the South, Esquivel’s story is a love song for the Mexican way of life.
The best part about writing about food is the test kitchen. Write what you know! Isn’t that right? I just don’t want my readers to burst into tears after biting into a cookie! I hope you enjoy the above stories and the cooking and baking they will inspire.
Learn more and order your copy of How to Bake a Man here.
We’d love to know what books are waiting for you on your nightstand. Send a description to us here.
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