#2 — Food in Fiction

In Part One of this Food in Fiction Series, we talked about the books we remember where food plays a role, either strategically or casually. Some of you were kind enough to mention books I had not thought of.

Lisa Page remembers the book The Food Taster, about a man whose job it was to taste the king’s food. Interestingly, she remembers it was “about the man whose job it was to make sure the king’s food wasn’t poisoned.” But she goes on to say, “Don’t remember much about the book, but do remember thinking it was a clever angle!” This shows that the food in the fiction made an impression, more of an impression than the rest of the book.

In some ways, this shouldn’t surprise us, because food plays such an important role in our lives. Let’s face it, most of us in the developed world eat three meals a day, sometimes four if you count your bedtime supper as a meal, plus snacks and treats. How much time does that take? Add the time we spend thinking about what we are going to eat, buying the ingredients, preparing and serving the food, if that’s our role. If it was possible to count it all up, I reckon it’s a huge proportion of our waking time — for most of us — I know not everyone thinks about food as much as I do —  especially when I’m trying to cut down.


The fact that Lisa remembers the title and the clever angle shows the effectiveness of said title and angle. I found a novel by that name, written by Peter Elbling, the blurb of which says, “Ugo DiFonte is the duke’s food taster: the duke loves Ugo’s daughter, the daughter loves the cook, and Ugo alone can save them all, though any bite could be his last.”

I don’t know if this was the book Lisa referred to, but it certainly is a clever angle. One reviewer said,”The bulk of the detail is reserved for descriptions of the outlandish dishes the food taster must sample in his role as poison detector.” You may or may not enjoy the book, and I haven’t read it myself so offer no recommendation or otherwise, but I’m sure you’ll agree it seems to illustrate well one role of Food in Fiction.

Wendy Janes (http://wendyproof.co.uk/)  remembers, “the amazing picnics that the Famous Five had in the Enid Blyton books that I read as a child.” She goes on to say, “Bringing things bang up to date, Susan Buchanan’s books Sign of the Times and The Dating Game feature food and drink that forms the backdrop to some great scenes between her characters.”

Susan Buchanan (http://www.susancbuchanan.blogspot.co.uk) herself comments that Anthony Capella’s The Food of Love has to be her all-time favourite. That one is described as “A delicious tale of Cyrano de Bergerac-style culinary seduction, but with sensual recipes instead of love poems.” Hmmm … interesting … this one gets you on two sensory levels! Good ploy!


As you can see, the topic Food in Fiction, brings quite a variety of books to mind.

The fact that eating is something we all, without exception, must engage in, gives it an importance in real life that can be reflected in fiction. In Part One, we chatted about how much we can tell about a person by their attitude to food, and how we can use that understanding to get to know our characters, and, subsequently, help our readers get to know them too.

I gave some thought to the main character in my novel, Family Matters, and the kind of food she would probably cook. As a single, working parent, bringing up two children on her own and with a small income, I reckon she’d be frugal, cooking well-balanced, nutritious meals. Her concern would be with producing good food at minimum cost and with minimum expenditure of time. Winter soups and warming casseroles in the winter, I would imagine. Simple, tasty salads like this tuna and boiled egg salad in the summer:


or this smoked salmon, prawn and feta cheese one if she felt a bit flush after payday:


I think Sarah would care about the presentation, She would want it to be colourful and appetising as she placed it in front of her children, and what that would show about her character is that while being a hard working, busy Mum, she still makes time for the niceties, the aesthetic, artistic pleasures in life, she is meticulous in things, is affectionate, and takes pride in what she does.

Why not read Family Matters and see if you agree.

You can download it FREE on the 15th and 16th October.



Please keep your thoughts coming. It’s great to share them and I already have some more friends’ memories to share with you in Part Three of #FoodinFiction 



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Teagan Kearney
    Oct 16, 2014 @ 07:20:34

    Great topic, Christine. I think my all time favourite novel featuring food was ‘Chocolat’ by Joanne Harris, especially the passages describing the preparation – as a chocolate lover they had me drooling!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow cicampbellblog on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: