For a Happy Stomach

'Tis the season for great food -- and lots of it. But here's a low-cal alternative: novels that serve up marvelous meals, with no guilt attached. Let me know what dish you'd add to this literary buffet.

1. Joanne Harris's "Chocolat," about a single mother who moves into a repressed French village. It contains the most sensual descriptions of chocolate I've ever read.

2. Laura Esquivel's "Like Water for Chocolate." Okay, so it's obvious what my weakness is.... But there's more than just sweets in this charming Mexican novel: Each of the 12 chapters begins with a recipe. (Esquivel's book was a flop before her husband made a beautiful film of it.)

3. Diana Abu-Jaber's "Crescent" is a refreshing mix of Iraqi and American ingredients. Best of all, this delightful romance comes with a marvelous side order of Arabic cooking.

4. John Lancaster's "A Debt to Pleasure." The narrator of this deliciously wicked novel travels the world to prepare the quintessential food book, but beware: This gourmand has some deadly tastes.

5. Phyllis Richman's "The Butter Did It." This is the first murder mystery in a witty series by the Post's legendary restaurant critic. Her heroine, Chas Wheatley, can detect the subtlest flaws in a gourmet meal or a suspect's alibi.

-- Ron Charles

By Christian Pelusi |  December 7, 2007; 7:20 AM ET Ron Charles
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To this respectable list, I'd add "La Cucina: A Novel of Rapture" by Lily Prior, set in Sicily. In fact, I gave my copy away and am hungry to read it again.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | December 7, 2007 11:22 AM

Tom Jones!
Ancient novel by Henry Fielding.
Full of food and sybaritic pleasures.

Posted by: marcy | December 10, 2007 2:28 PM

"Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder - I still remember the wonderful descriptions of the stacks and stacks of pancakes Almanzo's mother served up in the mornings.

Posted by: R | January 10, 2008 3:24 PM

All of the Diane Mott Davidson mysteries about Goldy Bear Schultz, the caterer (e.g. Death By Chocolate, Tough Cookie, Sticks and Scones). Also, Monica Pradhan's Hindi Bindi Club.

Posted by: Susie | January 13, 2008 8:19 PM

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