Brassey Weddings Masthead

Midnight feasts and mouth-watering meals: Our favourite food books

Michelle Brotohusodo

Earlier this year I was privileged to be on a Taste Text panel with Marion Halligan and Bryan Martin (facilitated by Fergus McGhie) at Muse Canberra, talking about food and food writing.

One question that was posed to us was “What are your favourite food books?”

While the others were able to answer sensibly, talking about their favourite cookbooks (pretty much anything by Elizabeth David), the first books that came to my mind were The Magic Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Those of you who’ve read them know that they include incredible descriptions of the most fantastical foods. I’d add to that the midnight feasts described by Enid Blyton in the Malory Towers series, and of course the start-of-term feasts at Hogwarts in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.

I know a lot of my fellow HerCanberra writers are also avid foodies and readers, so I thought it would be fun to find out what their favourite food books are. Here’s what they had to say.

Belinda Neame
My life is just one big cookbook really! My favourite is What Katie Ate by Katie Davies. I love it because of the depth and darkness of the photography; it makes me feel happy and inspired to cook. I also adore Topped with Cinnamon by Izy Hossack for similar reasons, except it has some awesome basic recipes in it. It’s one of my favourite coffee table books. Away from food books, I love Lisa Genova’s stories. I can relate to her writing and stay engaged for the whole book. Takes a bit for me to finish a book but Lisa Genova always manages to get me over the line!

Heather Wallace
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel! Oddly enough I never liked Joanne Harris’ Chocolat though.


Ros Hull
Like Water for Chocolate—it’s the relationship between human emotion and food, passion so strong you could ignite. Also, I only tried Turkish delight because of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, and have been addicted to it ever since.

Beatrice Smith
Eat Pray Love! The way Elizabeth Gilbert describes food in Italy is phenomenal—I feel like I’m there eating with her. I also love the way she uses food as a pathway for healing and growing. Her meal of salmon and antipasto when she’s sitting on the floor of her apartment is probably my favourite ‘literary food moment’…other than the moment they walk into the candy garden in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, that’s pretty amazing too.

eat pray love

Martina Taliano
I sort of want to go into the Harry Potter books to drink Butterbeer even though it sounds disgusting.

Ashleigh Went
I love The Healthy Life by Jessica Sepel—so many healthy takes on traditionally naughty classics like pizza, chicken schnitzel and pasta. She also does great healthier desserts, dips, dressings and smoothies.

Josephine Walsh
Recipes for a Good Time by Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate of Porteño in Sydney. I don’t cook from recipes. EVER. But I do from this book! Their South American pavlova is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever eaten in my life, it’s now my ‘thing’ to cook for people when I want to show them I love them as it takes about a day to make. And the deep fried Brussels sprouts!


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Amanda Whitley
I have always loved cooking (and food in general). My sentimental favourite is the Australian Women’s Weekly Dinner Party Cookbook—I cooked my first ‘dinner party’ for my family when I was 11. My main course of Steak Diane became my ‘signature dish’. I just loved spending hours poring through its pages, planning the perfect meal. For the last 10 years, my go-to cook book has been The Food I Love by Neil Perry—it taught me how to cook meat and is full of amazing, flavourful recipes. And in terms of ‘foodie’ books, The Hundred Foot Journey is one of my favourites.

Alison Senti
I was given Donna Hay’s Basics cookbook as a wedding gift 13 years ago and I refer back to it time and time again. As a child, the Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book was trawled through all year until it was my birthday and time to choose one (Mum would groan…!). [Note: if you also have fond memories of the AWW Birthday Cake Book, PANDSI is holding a cake off of all 103 cakes on 7 May 2016. More information is available here.]


Michelle Brotohusodo

Michelle moved to Canberra vowing to stay for two years, tops. 10 years later, she’s a bona fide Canberra convert. When she’s not working in her day job as a public servant, she’s enjoying Canberra’s culinary delights or finding fun things to do/see in and around town. More about the Author