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Rachael Berkey Headshot

Read This? Drink That

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I am plowing through book after book in my mission to get through the To-Be-Read (TBR) pile. A few months ago, it submitted notification that it would actually topple over while I was sleeping and smother me if I didn't get my act together and read some of it.

I'll have you know that I am now nearly caught up -- I've gotten through the things that I brought home from Cleveland at Christmas.

I'm on to the things that my dad has sent me since last summer. He used to be a newspaper clipper but with his discovery of The New York Times online and email, I now just get the occasional priority mail envelope with two or three paperbacks, a short note and the occasional $20 bill. For a 75-year-old man, he's been reading a lot of John Green this year because two titles now grace my Dad pile.

Regardless of where I am in my TBR pile though, the changing seasons in the northern hemisphere have me again preoccupied with my inexplicable urge to pair books with food and drink the way you pair food with good wine. I don't know what it is about changing seasons -- I go through this every year.

In the fall, I have a hard time reading without a hot apple cider in my hand.

In the spring, I want gin fizzes and madeleines even when I'm not reading Proust. Ok that's not always true. If it's really hot, and I'm reading something set in Africa or around the Mediterranean, I crave crisp fruity soda waters and citrusy shellfish-centric meals.

So here are a few things on the influence right now. If you're without a book, give one a try.

If you're looking for a light, summery read, try the book A Thousand Days in Venice. A love story from St. Louis to Italy, with a love-at-first sight catalyst, this will have you sipping lemon fizzes, find you haunting local farmer's markets for the freshest produce, and wishing you lived in a place that allowed you to wander through cobblestone streets and sample olive-oil saturated foods. You might also up and move to Italy just because of it.

Did I mention that I read it in transport from Washington DC to Cape Cod one summer? I literally opened it on the subway to the first page, and closed it on the bus from Logan Airport to the Cape. It's super fast and super entertaining, and if you're not cooking by the end of it, something is wrong.

If you're looking for a heavier summer read, skip the movie theater, pour yourself a gin and tonic or a glass of champagne, and read (or reread) The Great Gatsby. The subtle sparkle of sequins, the fluffy characters and New York in the 1920s. You'll want angel food cake, strawberries and cream, and champagne in traditional, Marie Antoinette glasses. (Did you know that the squat champagne glass is actually modeled after her breast? No I'm serious.)

I read it first sophomore year of high school and have revisited it more than once. It always puts me in a particular mood and makes me crave cucumber sandwiches, tea and any pastry that is light and airy.

And for a third and final book to set you on your summer culinary adventures, dip into something I'm sure I have recommended here before: Summer Sisters. It was the first "adult" novel by Judy Blume that I attacked as a teen, and I did nothing but consume things like hot dogs, hamburgers and cola drinks for the week it took me to read at seventeen. Blume is able to make me crave beach BBQ, cola drinks and lemonade. Also really horrible cheap beer.

So give one of these three books a try and see if they spark your taste buds the way that they spark mine. I'd be surprised if you're not at the supermarket by page 50.