Hello February!

‘Tis the month for love and romance and all things heartfelt. That includes good books and good food! In fact, what better way to kick off Valentine’s month than with pairing some great love stories with great food!

The titles below feature love stories flavored with rich, robust writing. Also links to a culinary idea or two you can savor before, after, or while you’re turning pages.

Some of these titles may be familiar. Some may be new. Some may surprise you. Just don’t get so engrossed in the plot that you neglect to mind the stove, okay?

Ready? Set? Grab your book. Head to the nearest kitchen and Let’s Go!

1. Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy – Frances Mayes, 1996.

Chockful of picturesque settings and luscious scenes, this delicious memoir introduces us to Italy via the author’s restoration of an Italian villa, Bramsole. Part autobiography, part history, part travelogue and part cookbook, Mayes treats readers to the sights, sounds, textures, and tastes of the lovely Tuscan countryside and culture on every page, revealing their glory one paragraph at a time. What’s not to love?

Pair With:

Tuscan Style Chicken and White Bean Arugula Salad and crusty bread. For an entire cookbook chockfull of the hearty, rustic fare from central Italy, check out Lori de Mori’s Savoring Tuscany. Que bella! (No movie trailer here. Saw it. Ugh. One of the worst films ever. Don’t waste your time. Read the book instead and savor the author’s love for all things Italian.)

 

  1. The Bridges of Madison County – Robert James Waller, 1992.

I know, I know. Sappy, sappy, sappy. But it’s also one of the best-selling romance novellas of all time.

Set on an Iowa farm in the 1960s, Bridges tells the story of a lonely Italian-American woman (war bride) who meets a traveling photographer while her husband and children are at the state fair for the weekend.

Intense, poignant, and beautifully written, the story became a beloved film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.

Call me a sap, but I cried.

 

Pair With:

Grab some tissue and sit down with Robert Kincaid and Francesca Johnson over hearty Iowan fare like tangy Herb Roasted Pork and Fresh Corn Salad or Garlicky Summer Squash & Fresh Corn.

3. Nights in Rodanthe – Nicholas Sparks, 2002.

Abandoned by her husband for a younger woman, 45 year-old Adrienne Willis is struggling to care for her sick father and raise her teenage children alone. She spends the weekend at a North Carolina inn. A storm is brewing. While there, Adrienne meets a divorced father and former surgeon running from his past. Set in Rodanthe, North Carolina.

I’d stock up on tissue ‘fize you.

 

Pair With:

Start with Sparks and end or continue with some favorite North Carolinian fare like Sweet Potato Biscuits and Country Ham or Crook’s Corner Shrimp and Grits. Be sure to save room for some Banana Pudding or Moravian Sugar Cake.

 

  1. Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds – Joy Adamson, 1960.

A profoundly moving story of the remarkable bond between an orphaned lioness, Elsa, and the humans who loved her enough to set her free.

 

Set in Kenya, Born Free is the true story of one of the most heartwarming relationships between humans and animals ever put to print. Beautifully illustrated with evocative photography.

I first read Born Free in 1969. I re-read it again last summer, 50 years later. I still love this story. A true classic.

 

Pair With:

Wind down your Kenyan safari with Elsa and the Adamsons with Kuku Paka (Kenyan Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce) and Githeri (Kenyan Corn & Beans) or Sukuma Wiki (East African Greens Simmered with Tomatoes).

 

  1. Two From Galilee: The Story of Mary and Joseph  – Marjorie Holmes, 1972.

Frightened, alone and in love, a teenage girl and a young carpenter must withstand family conflict and a hostile world in order to carry out a responsibility that will change human history.

A compassionate, evocative tale of divine love for young and old and anyone who finds beauty and wonder in the timeless story of events surrounding the first Christmas. A best-selling classic.

 

Pair With:

Serve up a sumptuous Christmas feast celebrating this book with Dry-Brined Lemon Rosemary Roasted Turkey, Roasted Maple Pears With Cranberries & Thyme, Green Beans With Orange & Almond Gremolata, and Sour Cream Mashed Potaotes and Bacon Crumbs. Or try Pineapple-Glazed Ham.

 

What pairings are your favorite?

 

 

 

Banana pudding image credit: Flickr.