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F is for Food #atozchallenge

Anything important in our lives usually includes food:

  • Many relationships begin with a first-date dinner.
  • Holidays bring us together with loved ones where food plays a large role.
  • People give food as gifts on various occasions.
  • Weddings, baptisms, and even funerals have food.
  • Food can be used as reward or punishment.
  • Eating habits and relationship to food reveal a lot about a person.

I enjoy playing around with food in my stories. In some stories it features more prominently than in others, but it’s always there.

In Storm Lake, it was presented from the children’s perspective, and at one point, Rachel thinks about one meal as if it were their last.

Food pokes its head up periodically in The Experiencers as first something shared communally, and then later as something to be acquired to sustain life.

From the beginning of A Ring of Truth, food is used as a bribe and a tool to manipulate. Later it features as something simple to be shared and enjoyed.

In Injury, Dani’s insecurities and low self-esteem were evidenced by her relationship with food. When the story begins, she’s just starting a healthier relationship with food. Cope and Dani’s relationship evolves with their meals. Some meals they have in public places where something as simple as going out for dinner becomes a media circus.

Gillian, in Gillian’s Island, uses food at various times as comfort or as a shield.

In Walk-In, Viktoria eats to be healthy, so she wants to be careful with what she eats. But her family is Hungarian, and Hungarian food is traditionally rich and heavy.

Part of what I consider important when I map out a character is understanding how that character relates to food. A lot can be shown by simply having a character declare she or he refuses to eat meat. In A Ring of Truth, meat repulses Carolyn. Why it does is significant.

Scenes where people are eating reveal a lot. Who mows down without speaking? Who talks their way through a meal? Who tries to hide that they’re not eating? Who can’t eat because they’re too upset?

Obviously, these scenes must move the story forward or they shouldn’t be there, but I find an author’s use of food in a story fascinating.

The first food scene in a story that got me thinking about this is from The Lord of the Rings, which I first read when I was fourteen.

In chapter four, “A Shortcut to Mushrooms,” the Hobbits visit with a farmer whose mushrooms they used to steal when they were younger. Hobbits love mushrooms and can’t get enough of them.

I used to hate mushrooms.

But after I finished reading that chapter, I would have killed for some mushrooms. Since then, I’ve found that I can’t eat certain kinds of mushrooms (shiitake and oyster mushrooms will give me violent stomach pain), but I do enjoy the other types.

Chocolate was always my weakness. When I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a kid, I loaded up on chocolate first. Don’t get me started on Chocolat.

Another favourite series where food features is The Narnia Chronicles. Boy was I disappointed when I finally tried Turkish Delight after reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Nora Roberts also uses food in her novels, and one of her books even included some of her favourite recipes at the end.

I’ll never forget the main character in Margaret Attwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale buttering her hands, or how Atwood used food in The Edible Woman and The Robber Bride.

What novels have you devoured that feature food?

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5 Responses

  1. “Soylent Green” springs to mind! And your mention of Hungarian food reminds me of Emylia Hall’s The Book of Summers. The author does not include recipes in the book but she does have a website that includes recipes of some of the food featured in it.

  2. Like Frank, ‘Soylent Green’ is the first one that came to me. In reality I’m not a ‘foodie’ and, when at my part-time retail job I feel totally left out when the conversation turns to food.
    When asked, I usually say, ‘I eat to live … I don’t live to eat.’. 🙂

  3. Nice insight into the ways food and food issues reveal a lot about a character! Hmm…the MC in my mysteries spends (far too much) time munching on espresso brownies…I’m pretty sure I know what that says about her 🙂

  4. […] Sex scenes, if they’re not gratuitous and move the story forward or provide character development, add a level of complexity to a story that enriches the reading experience. What a character thinks during or about sex is enlightening. Characters’ sexual relationships are as telling as their relationship to food. […]

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