Hello, Muse Readers.
This week's musing comes via Muse authors: Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks.
If you remember, we spent some time with our sense of smell. Now I don't know about you, but there's not a large leap from scent to taste. Last week's roast chicken had me hungry long before I saw or tasted it. And Saturday's pizza teased my taste buds.
What about food and writing. Does what our characters eat or drink tell us anything about them? What emotion is brought alive when we use food/drink in a scene. How important can food and drink be in a story? Comforting? Off-putting?
We'll wait for you while you go grab a bite before we dig into this week's musings.
ANNE ROTHMAN-HICKS and KEN HICKS, authors
In our middle reader book, THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM, one of the main characters (Arthur Whitehair) was turned into a pigeon 180 years ago and is now living in Central ark where Jennifer and James discover his situation and hope to help him. We do a lot with the idea that Arthur is always hungry and in a scene near the beginning of the book, Jennifer gets him to behave by promising him some bread pudding.
“How about a piece of bread pudding?” Jennifer asked nonchalantly, giving him a sidelong glance.
Whitehair half hopped, half flew to Jennifer’s shoulder.
“What? Really? You have bread pudding?”
“Our mom makes the best bread pudding in the whole world,” James said.
“Yes,” said Jennifer. “She uses real vanilla beans and homemade bread. And if you keep quiet and behave yourself, maybe we’ll give you some.”
“With butterscotch sauce,” added James.
“Bread pudding and butterscotch sauce? Oh, my sweet young friends! How long has it been since Esmeralda served me just that dish? Oh, I think I’m going to cry.”
“Just do it quietly,” Jennifer said.
“It’s time for s’mores!”
Kate lanced the marshmallows onto the hangers and instructed Jenny on how to cook them until golden brown on the outside and the consistency of pudding on the inside. Then she put part of a Hershey bar and the hot marshmallows between two graham crackers, causing the chocolate to soften and the mixture to squeeze out at the first bite. A look of pure bliss crossed the girl’s face. They each had another and a third for luck, huddled slightly on the blanket while they gobbled the delicacies down.
Kate sighed, patting her stomach appreciatively.
“You know, guys, I’ve found that it takes a few women alone together to have a really good time eating. You’ll see I’m right when you get older. All of your best food experiences will be with women. I don’t know exactly why. But I suspect it’s something our mothers taught us and our grandmothers taught them: Never let a man see you eat a lot, or he’ll think he can’t afford you, or that you’ll grow into a blimp, or devour him, or smother him, or sicker stuff than that, if you want to listen to this old bird called Freud. But you don’t want to do that, do you?”
Jenny had been trying hard to follow. She wrinkled her nose and shook her head so seriously that Kate laughed.
“Good girl. Gimme five! It’s a rule to remember: ‘Never listen to an old bird!’ It’s like, ‘do not take candy from a stranger’ and ‘don’t trust a man who says he loves you on the first date.’ There are others, but they can wait until you are older, along with the exceptions to the rules.
SUSAN BERNHARDT, author
In The Ginseng Conspiracy, Sweet Marissa's Patisserie is the crime-fighting headquarters where the protagonist Kay Driscoll and her friends, the free-spirited herbalist Deirdre and the untamed modern woman Elizabeth discuss clues over tea and pastries.
There are so many descriptions of pastries, cakes and other sweets delights, that many readers have written to me suggesting that I write a companion cookbook for The Ginseng Conspiracy. Yangsze Choo, an Oprah Author of the Week started the suggestion off in a review she wrote for my mystery.
PAULINE (P.M) GRIFFIN, author
All my characters like to eat, and meals or snacks are mentioned with some detail in most of my books. These range from full gourmet delights to simpler fare. Desserts of fruit and sweets are popular (gurries love sweets). So are caffeine-rich beverages. Jack Dundee loves to cook. Varn doesn't but will do so as a part of his duty or as sort of a willing sacrifice to thank his comrades or show his regard for them.
CHRIS MANNINO, author (HAPPY DAY EARLY B-DAY)
I think it's fun to add food and taste details. It's another sense to more fully involve the reader. In School of Deaths, the characters often eat "gorgers" a food that takes on any taste the user dreams of. If I had one now, for example, and pictured some mouth-watering chocolate-covered strawberries, I'd bite the gorger and taste the chocolate-covered strawberries.
And now I'm hungry... On a side note, tomorrow (April 28) is my birthday- I really hope someone got me some chocolate-covered strawberries. :-)
BARBARA EHRENTREU, author
Actually my entire novel is based on reaction to food. First of all my main character loves to eat and her food choices are part of the story. The story starts with her being offered a piece of chocolate cake. She eats a chocolate chocolate chip muffin for breakfast. Jennifer Taylor has a love hate relationship with food and during the novel I detail the kinds of foods each character eats. I think food is very important in understanding who a character is and it makes us feel closer to them when you can identify with their food choices. Actually I have been influenced by Laura Ingalls Wilder who wrote about all the food her characters ate and described it in such detail you could almost taste it. I guess that’s why I add so much food.
Also seeing how characters eat shows you their emotions. How do they react when they’re not familiar with the food or how others are eating it? How people eat shows their social class and that is also very important to the story. As I’m thinking of it, food is part of almost every scene in my book. Also it is probably part of almost every scene in my upcoming book When My Life Changed.
G.L. (GWEN) MILLER, author
I seem to have a lot of eating and/or drinking, in both my novel and WIP sequel. Since most of the eating is when either the family or friends are together, I think it adds to the sense of companionship and gives the characters something to do while they are talking. And, since a lot of it is done right after school, it seems a natural for hungry children.
Happy Birthday, and I hope you get your chocolate-covered strawberries!
MARGARET FIELAND, author
In Relocated, my aliens are vegetarians. They don't allow any imports of foodstuffs in order to protect their ecology, and this is a point of conflict with the Terran Federation. In one scene, my main character, Keth spots someone buying a bird in the market, an act which is illegal among the aliens, as the birds are sacred. Keth doesn't realize until later that the man is the antagonist.
MEG AMOR, author
I have a lot of food in my books too. All three of my MC are good cooks. I'm a foodie and food just goes with everything. :-) Most of my travel photos include a ton of shots on what we ate. So, my characters are always making something. :-)
Gumbo, perfect poached eggs, bacon/tomato/cilantro hash, home fries with Georges mix on them, NZ lamb marinated in a Provencal mix of rosemary, thyme, sage, lemon juice, oil, bay leaves, juniper berries - YUM!! Thai Chicken marinated in coconut milk, fresh basil, ginger, cumin, fish oil, chillies - YUM. Fingerling potatoes in a mustard cream sauce. Salads with strawberries, blue cheese, avocado and bacon in them...the list goes on. :-)
Charlie runs a restaurant and then owns a Club, so he's always cooking something.
They all like to cook together, trying out new recipes.
Both Izzy and Charlie have a love of French cuisine and the wonderful sauces the French make. This goes with a past life they've all had in France. Izzy thinks the 3 main cooking ingredients are butter, wine and cream. Charlie is given an old French cookbook for Christmas from Izzy and it turns out to be one that he was given by her in another lifetime.
They all like to eat out too. Set in New Orleans, their life revolves around eating and good food. When they visit Hawai'i, I showcase all the most fabulous fusion restaurants we have at home and go through their menus. The same on the NZ visit. :-)
I love good food!!!
I hope you get the strawberries too Chris. One of my favorite memories of France, is Aaron and I buying Tarte Fraise pastries everywhere we went. Delicious...
JAMES HARTLEY, author
I did a short story in which the aliens are not just vegetarians, but vegans ... no animal food products whatever. But their house is just down the street from the backyard where the annual July 4th barbecue is being held, and when the smoke and fumes of all that grilling meat drifts in their direction, all Hell breaks loose ...
Actually, on thinking about, I don't do much poetry, but here is one that fits this thread:
Ode to Rare Beef
by James Hartley
Ground up cow, Ah! There you are,
On my plate as Steak Tartare.
Health Board says I shouldn't eat,
Such unhealthy, uncooked meat.
Health Department, I say "Shove it!"
Steak Tartare, oh yes, I love it.
Your one-sixty cooked degrees,
Yields shoe leather, does not please!
Rare roast beef is lovely, too,
Stick the fork in, hear it "Moo!"
Burger suntanned on each side,
Rare when broiled, rare when fried.
Some poor folk, I know get fussed,
Watch me eat this with disgust.
I just think it's my affair,
I'll have steak, and make it rare!
And on the planet Oz, circling the star Eta Cassiopeia, one of the characters reminisces about the few times he has been able to get Quadlingbeast Tartare.
J.Q. ROSE, author
You can well imagine Pastor Christine Hobbs in my cozy mystery, Coda to Murder, gets in on plenty of opportunities to enjoy meals as a pastor. Potluck, a.k.a.covered dish, dinners are staples of churches. Delicious food and conversation allow people to fellowship together. Socializing over the food prepared by the woman who is famous for her delicious cakes or the gentleman who bakes the prized lasagna just naturally fosters friendship and community. Pastor Christine makes good use of the dinners to casually access conversations and keep in touch with the hearts of her parishioners.
As well as potluck dinners, funeral luncheons served in the church basement or fellowship hall are another reason to get together. Usually the ladies of the church provide the same meal after every funeral service to allow people to come together and celebrate the life of the recently departed. Memories and comfort are shared over plates of ham buns, potato chips, veggie sticks, and donated cakes.
JAMES CROFOOT, author
Food can tell alot about the time your character is set in. IE fuedal, Sci fy. The old west. I think also the character's beleives or preferences. Perhaps A sci fy character longs for the 'good ole days' so refuses to eat the processed protien packs of his time. What do you think about a brown loaf of nutbread? Warm from the oven. Or some raw Klingon food still moving?
And drink? There is definitely a difference between sitting down to drink a tankard of rich brown ale or sipping on a mint juluip. Sorry if I spelled that wrong. The difference will tell you as much as downing a glass of synthahol or a warm cup of saki. Think of what came to mind when these things were mentioned?
Braking bread has always been a very personal part of soceity. Don't ya think? peace
ANNE STENHOUSE, author
I write romance and as romance readers know, the dinner date is all important. It allows two people to have private time together in their otherwise impossible schedules. Also: the frock - her; the wine-buff - him; the influence in restaurants- him; the too emotionally overcome to eat a crumb - her; you get the scene...
In my debut novel, Mariah's Marriage, I use the result of having eaten rather carelessly to point up the elegance of Mariah's admirer, Toby.
'Of course Tilly would be interested in the earl’s tailored wool coat with his spotless waistcoat and carefully tied neck cloth. The men who normally visited here wore ill-fitting garments which were often stained with food.'
As a person whose dressing-gown frequently attracts soft boiled egg, I should sympathise, but in fact those men will never be seen again.
HEATHER GREENIS, author
Food, eating and drinking. I think it keeps our characters human. Who doesn't eat?
My characters in The Natasha Saga enjoy a glass of wine while relaxing.
They get together weekly to socialize while they enjoy a meal. It's
HEATHER FRASER BRAINERD, author
I must really love to eat, because I seem to write about food an awful lot.
In Dream Shade, main character Sarah spends a lot of time in the kitchen. She loves to bake; it seems to relax her. This teen certainly needs some down time after her frequent tangles with ghostly visitors!
In the José Picada, PI series, main character Josie is surrounded by gourmet food. Her roommate owns a fancy restaurant. Their friend is the restaurant's head chef. Despite this, Josie prefers pizza and beer. Could this be a comment on Josie's down-to-earth, no-frills nature? Perhaps. Or maybe my co-author and I just really like pizza and beer. :)
SUSAN A. ROYAL, author
My characters seem to spend a lot of time eating and drinking... talking about eating and drinking...or wishing they were eating or drinking, lol.
In Not Long Ago, Erin is surprised at the quality and variety of the food served at the castle. She attends a medieval ball where they offer wild game and roast pork and a wedding. She samples bread fresh from the oven and delicious pastries at the fair. At first she turns up her nose at the ale, comparing it warm spit, but after a while, it grew on her. In the second book, From Now On, she spends most of her time on horseback, searching for Griffin and dines on quail and fresh fish.
In my young adult fantasy, Lara samples a strange fruit called Bliss and finds herself having an out of body experience.
I suppose all my characters are like me. They have healthy appetites and love to eat. As an author I love using the sense of taste to engage the reader as well as all the others.
DAWN KNOX, author
Details about food and drink can be used to add to a scene or character or even an era. Compare the following: "He crammed the stale chunk of bread in his mouth and quaffed a tankard of ale." with "She sipped from a delicate champagne flute and nibbled canapes." Other than their gender, we're told nothing about the characters but I think most people would form a mental picture of them and realise they are not at the same party! In DAFFODIL AND THE THIN PLACE, the food is very meagre, reflecting the poverty experienced by the lower classes although Mrs. Fisher, the doctor's housekeeper, somehow manages to acquire her fill of cheap gin!
Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.
If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman at MuseChrisChat@gmail.com