#3 — Food in Fiction

In Part One, we gave some thought to some scenes in novels we’ve read where food played an important role, and we talked a little about how their attitude to food can reveal things about your character’s character.

In Part Two, we looked at a couple of examples of that, and also talked about how important food is in our lives and, by extension, the lives of our characters.

In Part Three, I thought it would be interesting to think about food as a central character. For instance, in Chocolat by Joanne Harris, chocolate plays the most important role. Without it, there would be no story.

When an exotic stranger, Vianne Rocher, arrives in the French village of Lansquenet and opens a chocolate boutique directly opposite the church, Father Reynaud denounces her as a serious moral danger to his flock – especially as it is the beginning of Lent, the traditional season of self-denial. As passions flare and the conflict escalates, the whole community takes sides. Can the solemnity of the Church compare with the sinful pleasure of a chocolate truffle?

What I love best about the story is that Vianne finds the chocolate that matches the person’s personality best, demonstrating that, just as the foods we have our characters choose can tell a lot about them, so the character’s personality and the role they play can determine the food we might choose to have them eat in our story. I mean, would you really have your romantic hero eat tripe and onions? Or give his lady-love a box of frozen peas bound with a ribbon?

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The chocolates in this photo are my husband’s chocolate gingers. Anyone tell me what kind of personality Vianne would match those to? Then I’ll tell you if its a good match.

Writer Teagan Kearney, http://writingmynovelnoworkingtitleyet.blogspot.co.uk says, “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!”

As one Amazon review puts it, “Chocolat is an utterly delicious novel, coated in the gentlest of magics, which proves–indisputably and without preaching–that soft centres are best.” –Lisa Gee

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Similarly, in The Sweetness of Forgetting, by Kristen Harmel, there would be no story without the delicious sweets and pastries, inspired by Rose’s youth in Paris, and passed on to her daughter and granddaughter, and, again, the main character, Hope, matches pastries to people, offering them those she thinks will please them.

This is a tale of baking, love, hope and faith across generations.

The North Star Bakery has been in Hope’s family for generations, the secret recipes passed down from mother to daughter. When the bakery runs into financial trouble and Rose takes a turn for the worse, Hope’s delicate balancing act is in danger of crumbling entirely.

Then Rose reveals a shocking truth about her past and everything Hope thought she knew about her family and the bakery is turned upside down. At her grandmother’s request, Hope travels to Paris, armed only with a mysterious list of names. What she uncovers there could be the key to saving the bakery and the fulfilment of a star-crossed romance, seventy years in the making.

The Sweetness of Forgetting now comes with added book club discussion topics and inspirational food ideas created by the author.

Now, this is a book I can heartily recommend to you. I read it a while ago and can actually still remember much about it, because I thoroughly enjoyed it and the recipes are delicious.

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And, now, as a special treat for you, here is a short story written by my good friend Sharon Scordecchia, in response to my request in Part One of this series for observations on the part food plays in the books we have read.

The book she remembers is Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, and the part played by luscious, red strawberries, ripe for the picking.

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Dear Tess,
I read your story years ago, when I was seventeen. I hated that Alec d’Urberville. I hated you being in the greenhouse with him. I was fearful when he insisted on feeding you those strawberries. I wanted to shout out to you, “Don’t eat it, Tess! Don’t let him put it to your mouth.”
I read your story for my English lesson. Mr S was our teacher, S for Strawberry or Seduction or Sleaze? S for Squirm. Mr S sat, his never-ending legs stretched out before him, crossed at the ankles, talking about your ‘luscious lips’, hissing the ‘s’ of each word, the sounds snaking their way around the classroom. He licked his huge lips making them shiny and wet and he laughed, his large straight teeth exposed in a leer as he held your story aloft in his great hands, while he educated us. We sat in a semi-circle around him, behind our desks, not knowing where to look. When it got too much, all his talk of strawberries being forced to luscious lips, I stabbed my pen into the grain of my desk, gouging inky disgust into the wood, defacing Alec and Mr S.
My class had a weapon though, Tess, something we used frequently to combat all that talk of strawberries and luscious lips. Each lesson, before Mr S arrived we would nominate the class’ best actress to sit in Mr S’ seat. She became Mr S. She licked her lips and leered at us and lolled back in Mr S’ chair stretching herself across the floor, holding the invisible piece of fruit, “luscious lips” slithering from her mimicry.
We sat behind our desks, our heads thrown back in bursts of raucous laughter, holding onto our sides, laughing till we cried.
If only you’d resisted the fruit, Tess. The outcome may have been different, better. But then, I was only seventeen, what did I know? I was still learning that truth is stranger than fiction.

Sharon Scordecchia

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Please, do keep them coming, observations, reviews, poems, short stories, whatever — all about Food in Fiction. Your prize? I may well share it here on my blog in #FoodinFiction

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Zee
    Oct 23, 2014 @ 01:17:29

    You had me at Chocolat 😉

    Love the book, love the movie, love this post. Food as a main character… how interesting! I always wondered what chocolate she’d choose for me. Maybe Turkish Delights.

    Hmm… chocolate gingers. Sharp and witty, and assuming it’s *dark* chocolate, a mature personality with an acquired sweetness.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. cicampbell2013
    Oct 29, 2014 @ 01:51:25

    What a great chocolatier you are, Zee! 🙂

    Like

    Reply

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