In which I devour “Voracious”

One awesome thing (among the many) about being a book lover: We are everywhere. You meet us in all walks of life. We’re baristas and hairdressers and rock stars. We’re actors and athletes and foodies. Sometimes we’re writers or college professors or artists. We might be wide-eyed babies or angst-y teens or multitasking moms or serene middle agers.

Basically, books are for everyone.

I love this about books.

Where things get extra fun: When a book lover who is also a [pick-your-passion] gets creative and makes a book that blends talents. That’s how you get titles like Peter Mendelsund’s What We See When We Read, or Dinah Fried’s Fictitious Dishes, or Samantha Hahn’s Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heroines.

Or Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti.


I can’t remember where I first saw this book, but I loved the idea – to create recipes for dishes that appear in, or are inspired by, memorable reads. As Nicoletti eloquently explains, cooking and eating a fictional meal transforms the imaginary into the material. It allows us to share a sensory experience with our fictional counterparts, deepening our understanding of and connection to them. (The idea reminded me of a cherished bookish wish I had as a child: that the characters I read about could step out of the pages and become human.)

Last month, I requested Voracious from my local library’s e-collection, and it finally arrived last week. I devoured it (see what I did there?) within a day.

Nicoletti, who has been a pastry chef and is now a butcher, features fifty books divided into three sections: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Titles run the gamut, from children’s literature to classics to popular and literary fiction. Each entry includes a short essay that blends memoir with literary analysis, specifically about the food scenes that inspired the recipe.

Anyone who grew up loving reading and seeking comfort in books will relate to her bookish stories. She writes beautifully about the personal experiences that connected her to the books she chose. Through her literary analysis, food becomes a means of adding insight into each book’s larger themes, ideas, and characters.

I adored this book. Some of the recipes, which strike me as brilliantly conceived, might be a little ambitious for me personally (I make a mean tuna fish sandwich…). But if anyone could inspire me to give my food processor a whirl and figure out how to turn on my oven, it’s Nicoletti.