Edible Books: a literary feast

Quinoa has become so popular in North America, I hear, that people in South America who have been eating it for millennia can no longer afford it. Would this have happened if some nutritional expert hadn’t dubbed it a “superfood?” Unlikely.

It’s the same with books — left to themselves, readers happily consume book after book of genre fiction, whether romance or fantasy or mystery, just as most folks are content with fast food or KD. After all, genre fiction and mass-produced foods are familiar and predictable. Only when an “expert” says that quinoa or chia or something is the key to weight loss and immortality do people rush to try it. Only when Oprah or some award-bestowing committee brands a different type of book as a “must-read” do they rush to buy (and maybe even read) something they would normally never touch.

Buying books (print or electronic) is as easy as buying groceries — easier, in fact, because most people don’t buy groceries online. That’s what the purveyors of these products, whether foodstuffs or words, want you to do. Once the purchase is made, the award or endorsement has done its job. Then comes the potentially tricky part — cooking and eating, or, in the case of books, reading.

So think of an award-winning, highly-touted literary opus. Maybe it won the Booker. Then think of kale.

What would my books be, if they were foods? Hmm. The Herbert West Series is an entire feast.

The Friendship of Mortals, with its early 1900s New England setting and librarian narrator Charles Milburn, is like a good steak dinner — juicy, medium-rare, little roasted potatoes, apple pie a la mode for dessert, finished with coffee and brandy. The two volumes of Islands of the Gulf, with four narrators (actually three, but…) is a buffet. Here you will find Acadian specialties like fricots and meat pies, courtesy of Andre Boudreau, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding (Margaret Bellgarde), a selection of Italian dishes (Herbert West), and maybe something a little exotic, such as octopus, oysters or truffles (Francis Dexter). The final book, Hunting the Phoenix, set largely in Providence, Rhode Island and narrated by the provocative Alma Halsey (with a little help from Charles Milburn), is definitely lobster. With lots of melted butter and Baked Alaska for dessert.

March 3-9 is Read An Ebook Week. Islands of the Gulf, Volume One will be available as a free download for that week only, and The Friendship of Mortals is always free. So sit down and partake!

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