A good meal and a good yarn go together like turkey and stuffing, lobster and melted butter or even peanut butter and jelly. In fact, food plays a starring role in many people's most vivid memories, which often become favorite stories to recount at dinner tables everywhere. Now audiobook listeners can hear taste-tantalizing tales—and the food experiences that inspired them—from three favorite authors. As a tummy-tempting bonus, each of these three audiobooks comes packaged with recipe cards featuring dishes mentioned in the recordings.
Author and poet Maya Angelou serves up anecdotes of soul-soothing Southern food in Hallelujah!: The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories and Recipes (Random House Audio, $19.95, Sept.). Angelou recalls her childhood and the fried meat pies her grandmother, known as "Mama," sold in their hometown of Stamps, Ark. She also regales listeners with stories of how she and her brother, Bailey, would hanker after such treats as Mama's caramel cake or a rendition of what the locals knew as "Mrs. Townsend's Young-Man-Catchin'-Sunday-Afternoon Lemon Meringue Pie."
Thousands of miles from Arkansas, Frances Mayes shares some of her favorite dishes from her beloved Italy on Bringing Tuscany Home: Sensuous Style from the Heart of Italy (Random House Audio, $19.95, Oct. 5). Living part-time in California and part of the year in Cortona, Mayes says she experiences a "symbiosis" of cultures. In celebrating the smalltown life she and her husband have built abroad in their villa Bramasole, Mayes reveals several of the "10,000 joys that attract us to Tuscany." As she describes growing olives in a beautiful grove and pressing their own oil or enjoying a frittata made with just-picked wild asparagus, Mayes soon has listeners swept away to a rustic table filled with friends who encourage "mangia bene."
And returning stateside, listeners can hear South Carolinian Pat Conroy tell how he graduated from stranger in the kitchen to skilled amateur chef (and chief of family dinner duties) with the aid of only a well-worn copy of a cookbook by Escoffier in Recipes from My Life: Unabridged Stories from the Pat Conroy Cookbook (Random House Audio, $19.95, Nov. 9). His recollections range from hilarious (taking cooking classes with the colorful culinary personality Nathalie Dupree) to poignant (finding solace in a sumptuous postfuneral spread of pickled shrimp or Dunbar Macaroni). But throughout, he easily convinces listeners to share his opinion that "cooking and storytelling make the most delightful co-conspirators." Conroy recently spoke to PW about this latest project which is also the first audiobook he has narrated (click here to read the interview).
Stories make a fine complement to food preparation, too. According to the Audio Publishers Association 2001 Ipsos-NPD survey (the most recent available), 65% of audiophiles "listen while doing other things," including cooking. Try merchandising audiobooks, especially those with a food connection, in the cookbook section.