Comfort Food for the Bibliophile

06 Feb

I’m staring down a perfect storm of blah this February. Not only did my football team have a lousy season, but their divisional rival is in the Super Bowl. It’s one of the snowiest winters I have ever seen, with drifts that just keep growing—so I promise myself that I won’t leave the house until May. I can’t keep that promise, but the fact that I make it at all is a sign of how fed up I’m getting with winter. Oh, and, not to be left out of the gloom storm, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. That holiday stung me badly two years ago when I was dumped a mere 12 days before Valentine’s Day and left with nothing but my broken heart and the non-refundable ticket that I had purchased so I could see the guy who had dumped me…for Valentine’s Day.

So, with all the doldrums and blah-ness going on, I have decided this is an excellent time to ignore reality and read a good book.

For me, a good mystery is like comfort food, it hits the spot and satisfies my craving. Sometimes I want to branch out and read mysteries by authors I haven’t read before, but when I want a book that won’t disappoint, I turn to books by my tried and true authors. And, I can guarantee myself books by my favorite authors because I stockpile them for just such an occasion. For authors I really like, I try to avoid being completely caught up on their series so that when I need a good mystery by a particular author I don’t have to wait a couple months for his or her next book to come out.

In honor of my comfort food theme, I’ll list books with a food selection. Seems to me that if you need some deep winter comfort, then you might as well go all out.

Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander. This fourth book (five in the series) in Alexander’s series of mysteries featuring Lady Emily, takes place in Constantinople during the Victorian age of the British Empire. In the three books prior to this one, Lady Emily has had to content herself to solve murders as a meddling amateur, but now, accompanied by her new husband, she’s an official agent of the British Empire. Her investigations promise to lead her into the lavish world of the Sultan’s harem and extreme danger. Who says the Victorian’s didn’t know how to have a good time? Alexander has become one of my favorites because she manages to make me feel like I learned something new and interesting about Victorian culture without it feeling like a lecture and without sacrificing good storytelling to do so. Snacking suggestion: I think this jaunt to the Orient calls for tea, Turkish delight, and baklava.

Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill. Dr. Siri Paiboun is once again raising some geriatric hell in Cotterill’s fifth book (seven books in the series) about Laos’ National Coroner. It’s the 1970s, disco is taking the rest of the world by storm, while in Laos the new communist government is trying to keep things under control—but they probably don’t know that their National Coroner, Siri, is conducting an exorcism on a possessed pogo stick and preparing for his wedding. It would likely only embarrass the young communist government to find out that their National Coroner is the reincarnation of a powerful Hmong shaman. What I like about this series is that, for as hokey as the idea might seem that this coroner, a man of science, becomes the reincarnation of a powerful shaman and talks to the dead to help solve their mysteries, Cotterill somehow makes it work. He writes about the country of Laos and its people with humor and compassion as they adjust to changes in their government and world. Snacking suggestion: Although not a Laotian dish, Laos is just across the river from Thailand, so I’m craving pad Thai and spring rolls—maybe some iced coffee too.

The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall. India’s portly sleuth, Vish Puri returns in Hall’s second book (two in the series). Vish Puri (“Chubby” to his friends and family), is India’s Most Private Investigator, a man who spends most of his days vetting potential spouses for wealthy Indian families, but every so often a unique case comes along that taxes Puri and his team of peculiarly-named professionals. I like how Hall’s protagonist bemoans the erosion of traditional India and Indian values at the hands of modern society and technology, all while he uses modern society and technology to solve his cases and try to uphold traditional Indian values. And, Hall writes as if he genuinely loves India, you can feel the heavy, humid air of the monsoon, smell the saffron, and see the vivid colors of the countryside in his writing. Snacking suggestion: In honor of Chubby, I think samosas and a mango lassi are in order.

Well, you know how I’m going to ride out the winter doldrums and why I’m going to have to spend a lot of time on the treadmill and doing Pilates, samosas will sneak up on you. If you have a favorite author and food pairing to share, I’d love to hear it. One can never have too many good books. Happy hibernating!


Posted by on February 6, 2011 in Books


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4 responses to “Comfort Food for the Bibliophile

  1. Purplegrey

    February 14, 2011 at 7:14 AM

    Hi Chin,

    While I really don’t have a type of food To share with my reading, I do love to have a hot beverage (preferably tea or coffee) while I’m engrossed with a good book during the cold months following the season. I’m a big history buff myself so it’s not unusual for me to be buried in a good biography or other non-fictional work when I read. I guess the thing I like about books about historical figures is I like to find out what made them turn out the way they did. Just about all of them have some point in their lives that you can point to as their “moment of truth” so to speak that ultimately shaped their destiny. Being kind of picky, I tend to shy away from books that border on hero worship or ones that tend to be too critical. This causes me to read more than one story on a particular subject and it’s there that I find the true balance of who they really were (if that makes sense). That being said, I don’t go into book stores too often as I have a tendency to spend too much and yes, I have an extensive book collection to prove it. I do however love to browse through shops that specialize in hard to find and out of date books (another weakness).

    BTW, Happy Valentines Day and here’s hoping that sorry SOB who treated you badly two years ago has been getting his just desserts ever since.

    • chinspeaks

      March 9, 2011 at 5:18 AM

      There’s just something that seems so dignified about drinking tea while reading. I think I’m going to have to indulge in some tea/book time very soon. While I like biographies, I like how with fiction when things are bad I can just tell myself it is the work of a twisted imagination–with biographies there is the sad knowledge that whatever depressing thing you’re reading about really did happen. That said, I have Howard Carter’s account of excavating King Tut’s tomb and I can’t wait to finish the book I’m reading so I can start on that. Then I may have to read a biography on Carter, find his “moment of truth.”

      And thank you for the Valentine wishes 🙂

  2. kbirdy

    February 22, 2011 at 9:04 PM

    Books are very much comfort food! And nothing but a good book, and maybe something chocolatey, can solve Valentine’s day glumness…! But chin up, Chin, spring is just around the corner!!!

    • chinspeaks

      March 9, 2011 at 5:21 AM

      Spring is indeed just around the corner. You know how I know that? Because now our snowstorms are peppered with thaws. This is seriously one hell of a winter.


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