Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Food for Thought

I don't cook. Well, I can't cook very well, so generally, I opt out when there's an option. The husband recently changed shifts and I am now in a position where I have to cook dinner. Every night.

 
Did I mention I don't cook?

 
It's been a couple months now and pretty consistently, I've been making dinner on week nights. So far I haven't killed anyone. Great news, right? And no one's even gotten sick. Just a bonus on top of the no one dying thing. Sweet!

 
Why am I talking about this, you ask? Well, aside from my general randomness, as I was making dinner the other night I started thinking about how many books include meals. Homecooked or takeout, food's important. In one of my revision-state mss, there's a scene with some takeout, though the food isn't specifically described, one of my crit-buddies asked what was in my MC's takeout box.

 
Then I started thinking about how sometimes it is the most minor of details that I remember. It may not be completely pivotal, but how much does the "scent of those chocolate chip cookies wafting through the kitchen" ground your scene and make it just a little more real?

 
Off the top of my head, I can think clearly of at least 3 different scenes involving cooking where the scenes were vivid enough to stick in my head, despite how long ago I read the books.
  • City of Bones: Isabelle's making some funky fish soup when Clary brings Simon to the Institute.
  • This Lullaby: All the gourmet food is burnt on the BBQ when Remy introduces Dexter to her family.
  • Wicked Lovely: Seth and Aislinn are making spaghetti during a pretty important conversation.

So what's the menu like in your projects?
 
Because, yanno, breakfast (and lunch and dinner and mid-AM/PM snacks) is/are the most important meal(s) of the day. Oh, and a character's gotta eat!

19 comments:

Nisa said...

Haha! I love this! I need to put in more details like this. I have a tendency to graze over it. I just read Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn and food is a big deal in the beginning of the book as the character Vin goes from being hungry all the time and saving food for later to eating meals as a noblewoman. Yes, it's important!

I like to cook if someone is in the kitchen with me. I'm such a social sponge. (Does that phrase work?) lol

T. Anne said...

My characters mostly eat sushi. lol. Because I happen to luv it! BTW, it doesn't have to be cooked!

Dominique said...

Oh, my God, I think I just realized that there is no food in my book. I think the only thing my MC ever eats when the "camera" is on her is a french fry she grabs off someone else's plate. This is disconcerting.
Thanks for the post. I'll have to remember this post when I edit.

WindyA said...

Nisa - Social cooking is def super fun!

T Anne - I <3 Sushi. It's one of my food groups. And I actually prefer the raw stuff!

Dominique - French fries count!

Stephanie said...

Food always comes into play in my books....usually it leads to something embarrassing...my MC gets sick on bad Sesame Chicken and vomits all over her new man. Now that I think about it...they do a lot of eating in that book....LOL!

WindyA said...

Stephanie, that's hilarious! For me, food just grounds a story. Whether it is actively in a scene or just mentioned in passing, it makes it all the more real, because everyone's gotta eat!

ElanaJ said...

My characters are always starving because they're always running away from something. So food is always a problem. Where are they going to get it? How? Do candy bars last that long? How long is that, even?

UGH.

WindyA said...

Elana, I do have to admit, though. The bit of food in your stories always make me hungry. The chicken over the fire in the cave...

L.T. Elliot said...

There was this one book I read a long time ago where these soldiers on a campaign talked about the various camps stews they had to eat. I craved beef stew for a month. Seriously.

WindyA said...

Mmm, beef stew... I'm so hungry now.

Kate Hart said...

In one scene, my MC is arguing w/ her parents at breakfast and staring down at a pancake garnished with blueberries in the shape of a flower.

Angie said...

Those are great little details. I think my WIP includes fresh strawberries, canned peaches, homemade cookies, and yummy breakfasts. Also, tasteless nauseating mush. Mmmmm.

WindyA said...

Kate - Yum, blueberry anything is one of my faves!! But that sounds like a great scene - very ironic with a happy flower focal point in a scene filled with conflict. Exactly one of those things that may appear to be minor, but I (personally) always remember those sorts of things.

WindyA said...

Angie, if you toss the fruit on top of the mush, that could be delish ... maybe??

Stina Lindenblatt said...

This was too funny! Yeah, I'm not much of a cook, either. I'd rather write. Fortunately my kids and husband don't expect much. And Fortunately my husband cooks on the weekends (and on holidays).

I have lasagne in my novel. But I think that was because I was craving some of my husband's great lasagne at the time I wrote the scene. :D

ali said...

Very good question Windy! As I read your blog I was thinking of my ms out on submission and I think there's only ONE mention of food - oops two! (just remembered) There's the smell of steaks barbequing at a party, and a plate of chocolate chip cookies, fresh-baked that are gooey and yummy and stuff.

I totally remember the fish soup and spaghetti scenes too!

WindyA said...

Stina - isn't it funny how those little bits of our real lives sneak into our stories?

Ali - Mmmmm steaks ... and cookies ... (to be heard in the voice of Homer Simpson)

Theresa Milstein said...

This fall, I heard Judith Jones, the woman who discovered Julia Child, being interviewed on NPR (which I listen to balance out all of the bad reality TV I watch). She talked about the importance of authors having food be a part of their fiction since food is a pivotal part of our lives. Judith even mentioned a famous author who scoffed at her idea, but then added a food part in his next book. I wish I could find the link!

Adding tidbits about meals gives clues as to my character's class and other aspects of him or her.

WindyA said...

Theresa - I completely agree! Food preferences makes the story more real, seeing as people, yanno, gotta eat and what not. :D