Food is an important part of the plots of these stories, but it’s not always the focal point. They have characters who are shopping for food, cooking it, talking about it or eating.
“Rain” by Sangu Mandanna
Anna’s mother was killed a few months ago in a car accident. Her aunt Mynah invites her and her father to come visit for a while. They make the trip from England to America, where her aunt lives on Hungry Heart Row, a neighborhood with many food establishments. Anna’s relationship with her father has changed due to their grief.
This story can be read in the preview of Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love. (14% into preview)
“The Speciality of the House” by Stanley Ellin
Laffler takes Costain to Sbirro’s, a dismal looking restaurant. Laffler has an extremely high opinion of the establishment. Costain is the only person at work who has shown an appreciation for fine food, so Laffler wants to share this experience with him. There are no menus. Occasionally, a special is served. Their meal begins with a rather bland broth.
This classic mystery story can be read in the preview of The Speciality of the House. (18% into Kindle preview)
“The Mysterious Anxiety of Them and Us: A Stoku” by Ben Okri
A group is gathered at an open-air feast on the grounds of a mysterious host. Some are seated at the table and some stand behind. It seems that there isn’t enough food for everyone.
This very short story can be read in the preview of Cooked Up: Food Fiction from Around the World. (46% into preview)
“Tea” by Saki
James, a bachelor, feels the public pressure to settle down and find a wife.
This is the third story in the preview of The Toys of Peace and Other Papers. (69% into preview)
“The Misplaced Attachment of Mr. John Dounce” by Charles Dickens
A group of men, ‘Old Boys’, organize their days around their eating and drinking. One evening while returning home from eating, drinking and socializing, one of them notices a new oyster shop with a lovely young woman serving.
“A Bunch of Broccoli on the Third Shelf” by Lara Vapnyar
Nina goes vegetable shopping every Saturday morning while her husband sleeps in. She’s been in this habit since she came to America two years ago. She plans on cooking them over the weekend, but they always go bad. On Saturday nights she goes to parties with her husband with other Russian immigrants. Nina’s sister says that she was her husband’s ticket to America.
Read “A Bunch of Broccoli on the Third Shelf” (New Yorker)
“Indigestion” by Anton Chekhov
A court counsellor sits down to a lavish meal and fills his plate with rich food.
Read “Indigestion” (New Yorker) (This is the whole story. It’s less than 320 words)
“The Manager of ‘The Kremlin’” by Evelyn Waugh
The narrator relates a story told him by Boris, the manger of The Kremlin, a restaurant. After serving in the Russian army, he found himself with little money. He had to decide how he was going to stretch it out to buy his food.
“Babette’s Feast” by Isak Dinesen
Two aging sisters keep their late father’s church going and minister to the poor in a town in Norway. At the request of an old beau, they take in Babette Hersant as a maid after she flees Paris.
“Sorry Fugu” by T. C. Boyle
Albert, owner of D’Angelo’s restaurant, reads a review of Udolpho’s, a favorite restaurant of his. It was written by Willa Frank, a caustic restaurant reviewer who hates everything. Albert’s restaurant hasn’t gotten a review in a major publication yet. He wants Willa Frank to go to D’Angelo’s.
“Lillian” by Erica Bauermeister
Lillian’s father leaves when she is four. Her mother turns to books for escape. Lillian takes on much of the housework and eventually discovers cooking. By age eight she takes over the cooking duties.
“Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen” by O. Henry
An older, upper-class man has a tradition of treating a local destitute man to a hearty Thanksgiving meal. One year the poor man arrives at their meeting place in a state that puts their tradition in jeopardy.
“The Luncheon” by Jeffrey Archer
A struggling writer gets roped into taking the wife of a famous movie producer to lunch. He only has thirty-seven pounds in his account. She makes their reservation at an expensive restaurant; he is worried about being able to cover their bill.
“Witches’ Loaves” by O. Henry
Miss Martha is a forty-year-old woman who owns a small bakery. She has a regular customer, a middle-aged man who always buys two loaves of stale bread, never anything else. She takes an interest in him, and tries to find a way to get to know him.
“Pet Milk” by Stuart Dybek
The swirl in the narrator’s coffee from the evaporated milk reminds him of his grandmother. It also reminds him of the swirl in a drink he used to get with his girlfriend. He remembers their young love.
“The Language of Men” by Norman Mailer
After failing at a variety of assignments, Carter becomes an Army cook. He does well and is promoted. After a while, he puts more effort into the meals, improving the taste and quality of his dishes. He doesn’t think the men appreciate what they’re getting.
Read “The Language of Men” (Esquire)
“Simple Recipes” by Madeleine Thien
The narrator relates some memories from his boyhood. He learned a special way of cooking rice from his father. His mother worked at Woodward’s. His older brother is more distant with his family. They immigrated to Canada from Malaysia before the narrator was born.
“The New Food” by Stephen Leacock
The narrator hears that a researcher has developed a pellet with all the nutrients people need. He imagines an incident where this could prove disastrous.
“A Piece of Pie” by Damon Runyon
The narrator is having dinner with his friend Horsey in Boston. They overhear a man say he would make a large bet that Joel Duffle could outeat anyone. Horsey knows a man, Nicely-Nicely Jones, who he knows can outeat anyone. They agree to a large wager. Horsey and the narrator go looking for Nicely-Nicely Jones.
Read “A Piece of Pie”
“The Siren” by Anton Chekhov
Justices of the court withdraw to the chamber. The Presiding Judge disagreed with the others. His dissenting opinion must be recorded. Everyone is hungry and eager to leave. The secretary starts talking about food.
Read “The Siren”