#1 – Food in Fiction

When writing a novel, it is important for us, as authors, to know our characters well. We need to know much more about them than we directly reveal to our readers. With that background knowledge of them, their makeup, their likes and dislikes, we hope that our readers will deduce a lot about them from how we make them behave in the story we weave.

One of the questions an author might ask about their characters is what kind of food they like to eat or to cook. Perhaps they are a ‘Foodie,’ cooking up great culinary delights to please their family or guests who dine at their table. Perhaps they are too busy to cook but love to eat good food and dine out regularly, or perhaps they throw together some weird concoctions just to satisfy their hunger pangs, with no sense of pleasure in preparing or eating their sustenance. At one end of the spectrum, we might be writing about a poor damaged soul, with no happy memories of delightful family mealtimes, at the other, a well-adjusted, happy individual who spends much time, energy and money on producing and delighting in delicious food.

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Photo courtesy of Gillian Wightman, Edinburgh

From anorexia to obesity, the relationship your character has with food can reveal a lot about them and their history. You may not choose to discuss it much in your novel or short story, but knowing what that relationship is can go a long way in helping you and your reader get to know your character.

Food plays such an important part in everyone’s life, whether happily or unhappily, that it is fundamental to knowing a person well.

With that in mind, I got to thinking more about the part that food has played in fiction over the years.

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According to The Good Food Guide:

“Children’s literature makes for rich pickings when it comes to culinary descriptions: there’s moment after juicy moment in Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or James and The Giant Peach. The description of Amy’s ‘pickled limes’ in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women – ‘plump and juicy’ in their ‘moist, brown-paper parcel’ with their ‘delicious perfume’ – pops out from the pages. Other mouth-watering moments can be found in John Masefield’s The Box of Delights, or Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, and the fabulous tea party in Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland. C.S.Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe couldn’t fail to prompt a fascination with Turkish delight, and the great feast which magically renews in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is another enduring image.”

The Good Food Guide rounds off with: “one of the most extraordinary ventures in the entire history of catering: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, from the book of the same name by Douglas Adams. The restaurant ‘is built on the fragmented remains of an eventually ruined planet which is enclosed in a vast time bubble and projected forward in time to the precise moment of the End of the Universe. In it, guests take their places at table and eat sumptuous meals whilst watching the whole of creation explode around them.’ Now that alone would merit a place in The Good Food Guide’s Top 50.”

You can probably think of many, many more books where food features in fiction: Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest; Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; Dickens, A Christmas Carol; Chocolat by Joanne Harris; Babette’s Feast by Isak Dinesen; Proust’s Remembrance of Things PastTo The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, and an endless list where food is mentioned in passing or dwelt on enough to make your mouth water.

Please do get in touch through the comments, telling me about your favourite Food in Fiction. Perhaps it’s a passage in one of the ones I mention here. Perhaps something else altogether. Please, do share. Share the part of the book you have in mind and what it told you about the characters. I might even include your thoughts here in

#2 — Food in Fiction

Coming soon.

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By the way, the 2015 Good Food Guide is now available. Wonder if I’ll find more literary foodie treasures there in the coming year.

http://www.thegoodfoodguide.co.uk

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Yolanda Isabel Regueira Marin
    Oct 09, 2014 @ 19:28:51

    What a great take on character development Christine

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. Vishnu B R
    Oct 09, 2014 @ 19:29:53

    why you writing it’s good for you

    Like

    Reply

  3. Vishnu B R
    Oct 09, 2014 @ 19:30:33

    writing lots

    Like

    Reply

  4. cicampbell2013
    Oct 09, 2014 @ 19:38:40

    Thank you.

    Like

    Reply

  5. Lisa Page
    Oct 09, 2014 @ 21:24:03

    Love where you’re going with this Christine! Great idea. I remember reading ‘The Food Taster’ many years ago about the man whose job it was to make sure the king’s food wasn’t poisoned. Don’t remember much about the book, but do remember thinking it was a clever angle!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • cicampbell2013
      Oct 09, 2014 @ 22:06:02

      Thank you, Lisa, that’s great. What a job, eh? Okay if the food was good…which I imagine it might be, since his boss was the king…but dodgy if someone was trying to poison the king. Thanks for sharing 🙂

      Like

      Reply

  6. Zee
    Oct 10, 2014 @ 02:08:39

    It has to be the hatter and hare’s tea party in Wonderland! Though the turkish delights are a close second. I’d never tried turkush delight until reading about it in Lewis’ book 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  7. cicampbell2013
    Oct 10, 2014 @ 02:12:41

    Wonderful, Zee. Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing. LOVE Turkish delight!

    Like

    Reply

  8. Susan Buchanan
    Oct 10, 2014 @ 06:19:26

    Great post and a woman after my own heart! Anthony Capella’s The Food of Love has to be my all-time favourite. Love that there are some foodie books on here that I haven’t read, particularly the Douglas Adams one – look forward to the next post.

    Like

    Reply

    • cicampbell2013
      Oct 10, 2014 @ 10:54:58

      Thanks Susan. Glad you enjoyed the post. Haven’t read Anthony Capella’s book. Can you tell me a little? What kind of food does he write about? How is it used in the book? thank you 🙂

      Like

      Reply

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