I’m one of those people who assumed I wouldn’t like recipe stories. I thought they were a bit too formulaic and predictable to intrigue me. Besides, I’m not one who enjoys following recipes, so why would I like my fiction in a format I can’t stand in the kitchen?
But recently I’ve decided to give a few recipe shorts a try. Surprise surprise, I actually enjoyed them. I think it takes a lot to pull off a recipe short and make it fresh or attention holding without falling into the cliche. But when an author does it, the story can be that much better for its homey, hearth-related format.
Start With a Handful
The first story that absolutely turned my opinion around was A Handful of Dal by Naru Sundar. It was originally published in Lightspeed in 2016, but I had the pleasure of listening to S.B. Divya narrate it on Escape Pod.
A friend in my writing group suggested this story back in the summer, when I was still struggling to pay attention to audio narrations. I listened to it several times, reading along the first time. The story told through a changing recipe throughout the years touched me. It was able to capture how culture changes to fit situations and how we hold onto our identities in a way I don’t think any other format could come close to.
Find Special Holiday Treats
Perhaps the only time I actually follow recipes is during the holidays. I will look up how to bake a pumpkin pie or roast a turkey. I just don’t hold that information in my head year round. So a recipe story that showcases the holidays makes sense to me.
It also seems a little hokey. Like, sprinkle on love and cuddles, right?
Except Tara Campbell managed to pull off the holiday recipe without being hokey in Sweet and Sour Christmas: A Recipe published on the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. This story has just enough personal detail to make it feel sincere and yet remain universal. The title is perfect, too, as it really is a bittersweet tale that captures the loneliness, the love, the stress, and the joy of the holidays.
These are my two favorite recipe stories, and they are the first works I will point people to when they want something with an alternative narrative style. What are your favorite recipe stories? Or your favorite alternative narrative styles?