Food and Literature Pairings

The culinary world is full of pairing guidelines: food and wine pairing, flavor matching, even complex rules for how to put together an entire dinner menu. For all this abundance of guidelines, though, there’s still one hole left in the food canon, and that’s literature and food pairing. If you’ve ever wondered what snacks to prepare for when you’re curled up with short stories, what drink goes best with the classics, or the perfect dessert for your gothic reading pleasure, look no further. You’ll find the perfect literature and food pairing guidelines right here.


Little Women: Homemade soup and bread

Step into the world of the March sisters by enjoying a modest bowl of chicken soup. Due to the economic strains of the war, this soup only requires a few ingredients; however, the amount of love put into the dish makes up for its simple flavor. This soup pairs well with homemade bread and tastes best when shared with your loved ones. When you’re finished, bring the leftovers to your neighbors, especially the ones in the need.

The Great Gatsby: Save room for the champagne

Enjoy an array of light hors d’oeuvres served with bottomless champagne brought to you by your host, Jay Gatsby. The bubbles in your drink will pair well with the excitement and lively crowds of Gatsby’s famous parties. If you don’t fancy champagne, he will graciously provide your drink of choice; he loves to please his guests.

Ethan Frome: Gruel

Are you looking for a depressing classic that will leave you emptier than when you began? Look no further than Ethan Frome, paired with a nice bowl of watery gruel, sometimes called “porridge” by those who want to be fancy. Perfect for surviving a long winter while stuck at home wondering just how your life went so wrong so quickly.

Matilda: Best with desserts

Of course, the classic option here would be a massive, rich chocolate cake complete with a thick helping of chocolate icing, but Matilda goes well with other desserts, too. Try channeling Miss Honey with a light angel food cake paired with strawberries and cream, or Matilda herself with some gingersnaps – sweet, but with a kick. Just make sure not to eat your dessert all in one sitting.

The Secret Life of Bees: Iced tea with honey

Beat the South Carolina heat with a cool glass of iced tea, the perfect beverage after a long adventure. Make this refreshing drink even sweeter with a spoonful of honey from the Boatwright sisters’ bee farm. Not only is their honey the sweetest in town, but the love and care they put into their products makes their honey even sweeter.

The Jungle: Steak tartare

This raw beef dish is sure to please, as long as you don’t question where the meat came from. Don’t be afraid if you discover some undesirable contamination in your meat—maggots, miscellaneous animal parts, or even human fingers.

The Time Machine: A deconstructed meal 

Wells’ futuristic tale pairs well with a deconstructed meal. Often found at the latest “hipster” restaurants, this short read will fit right in with your deconstructed omelette while at your favorite new brunch place. If you want to read this at home, you can make a deconstructed omelette in the comfort of your own kitchen, or as I like to call it, scrambled eggs with some extra toppings.

The Odyssey: Perfect for enjoying alongside a Greek feast

No piece of writing requires an entire feast as much as an epic as renowned as The Odyssey. Read with several courses, including a plate of olives, cheeses, and bread for an appetizer, salted fish, grilled chicken, and stuffed grape leaves for the main course, and figs, honey, and baklava for a decadent dessert. Oh, and what reading of a Greek epic would be complete without plenty of wine?

Rebecca: Angel food cake 

Pair this gothic novel with a deceptively innocent angel food cake. The cake is as white as Rebecca’s famous gown, and it’s so light and springy no one will ever suspect just how much effort and scheming was required to get it to this point. Add a raspberry glaze for an extra touch of drama.

The Picture of Dorian Gray: Dark chocolate and green tea 

Sources have said that these foods will maintain your youthful glow. Sip on some green tea out of your favorite literary mug and snack on some dark chocolate. If you don’t spook easily, I’d recommend pairing this snack with this Oscar Wilde classic before bed.

Truth & Beauty: Pair with soft foods

Overcooked spaghetti, pudding, soggy cereal, and melted ice cream are just a few options to dig into while reading Truth & Beauty. Plus, Lucy won’t feel left out, because those are some of her favorites. And we all know Lucy always has to be the center of attention.

Frankenstein: Scavenged food and bread

Construct your own franken-meal out of the raw materials you can dig up from your local cemetery. Or maybe just take a look outside and see if you can find any acorns or wild raspberries. Pretend you’re the monster who’s been left to fend for himself in the middle of a forest. If all else fails, bring some yeast back to life and make a nice loaf of bread.

Of Mice and Men: Canned beans and ketchup

Pair this emotional classic with none other than canned beans and ketchup. Take a trip out in nature and cook them over a fire, just like George and Lennie. While this might not be the most satisfying meal, cooking them over a fire and finishing a good book will give you a unique sense of accomplishment.

Iraq + 100: Enjoy with a variety of Iraqi foods

This anthology of short science fiction reflects the past through a futuristic lens, so it calls for small dishes that do the same. For each story, prepare a different traditional Iraqi food with a technological twist: kafta kebab bites made with lab-grown meat, 3D-printed falafel and Samoon bread, a Soylent-shai hybrid – steaming and nostalgic, yet packed with all your daily nutrient needs.

Where The Crawdads Sing: Grits and fish 

Have you ever visited the marsh lands of the Carolinas and fished these beautifully green backwood spots? Me neither. For an experience without leaving the comfort of your home, open this masterpiece by Delia Owens and enjoy a meal the main character, Kya, eats on a regular basis. This classic is sure to satisfy your hunger while reading this captivating mystery novel.

Water for Elephants: Welcome to the circus

Step right up and experience the culinary magic of the Benzini Brothers, brought to you by the group’s ringmaster, Uncle Al. Enjoy some warm popcorn topped with a salty butter glaze or treat yourself to something sweet with Uncle Al’s special cotton candy. Whatever you decide, be sure to bring plenty of spare change; Uncle Al’s special circus food comes at a hefty price. Oh, and this is offered only to circus visitors. Performers can wait in line for breakfast made by the circus crew. If you miss that, help yourself to the sawdust in the train carriages.

The Hobbit: Breakfast, and second breakfast

Start your morning with this adventurous classic. In true hobbit fashion, read a chapter for breakfast, then another chapter for a second breakfast. Pair your breakfast of choice with some tea and you might as well be a resident of The Shire.

Kitchen Confidential: …

You know what, don’t even bother. No matter what food you try to pair with this book, Anthony Bourdain will find a way to make you feel bad about it.


This post was a collaborative effort by Hayla Alawi, Kaitlyn Fox, Madison Fri, and Stephanie Sorter.

All images were sourced from Pixabay.