Readers Will Eat It Up
I’m running a little late with this post. I’ve been busy finishing a few things after my great Killer Con weekend in Vegas. Sent off a couple of proposals to agents and publishers I met. Today, I want to talk about food. I’m a retired chef, so I love food. If you saw me, you would say I love it too much and you would be right. Everyone has their favorite comfort food, a dish that brings back fond memories. Mine is meatloaf, mash potatoes and brown gravy. What is it that enhances those memories – the taste, the smell?
Our sense of smell is probably the strongest sense we have. It is part of our sense of taste. As a chef, I learned that first, you smell food, then you see it, and then you taste it. In Italian restaurants, I would carry a sauté pan full of freshly cooked garlic around the dining room before we sat out first table to whet people’s appetites. You would be surprised how many people took a deep whiff and ordered something with garlic in it.
As a writer, I use food often in my stories. Restaurants, picnics, dinner tables, bars – all provide a good location for relaxed conversation. No action, no threats (Unless it is overindulging), no long, boring Shakespearean soliloquies. I often use foods particular to the country or city in which the story is set. A character’s choice of food can tell a lot about them, as does the way they eat it, the way they dawdle over it, or the way they play with their food. If a food can evoke memory, a good description of it might evoke a reader’s memory; enfold them more deeply in the characters and storyline.
Food and drink can be weapons – poison, or provide comic relief – food fights, spilling a plate, etc. Food can distinguish class and upbringing more poignantly than dress; Peasant or simple food as opposed to lavish meals, eating with the fingers as opposed to using a knife and fork, eating to satisfy or devouring to excess, eating food or consuming human flesh (For you zombie lovers).
Matched closely with food is drink. Whether a character prefers water, tea, wine, beer, ale, or liquor can tell a lot about them, as does drinking to excess or sipping slowly. Characters like Rooster Cogburn in the movie True Grit would not have been the same as a teetotaler. Certainly, a sober Pap Finn would have sent The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin spinning off in a different direction. A besotted Otis, the town drunk, in Andy Griffin or Falstaff in Henry IV provided comic relief; whereas, Nicholas cage in Leaving Las Vegas was just the opposite, a determined drunk set on self extinction.
Try whipping up a little repast in your writing and see if it adds depth to your story or character.