A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Food in Fiction - or why I love to feast my characters

Way back when I was a little girl, we'd go visit my grandparents up in WA.  One of my Granma's favorite things to fix was a good, old fashioned Southern dinner.  My grandmother was whiter than Wonder Bread but she was a real Southern granma (even though she only lived in GA for 10 years) and she learned how to fry, barbecue, and boil/steam everything.  Deep fried catfish, collared greens, corn bread, gator (don't know where she got it back in the '80's in WA state), fried chicken, green beans and bacon, etc. I LOVED dinner at granma's.  When granpa had a stroke, granma stopped cooking the southern way.  It broke my heart because that's my fondest memories.  When granpa died, granma stopped cooking much of anything other than basic stuff like grits or blacked eyed peas and ham hocks.

Why am I talking about my memories of my strange relocated Southern Yankee grandparents?  Because I wanted to discuss food in fiction.  Specifically, the use of food as an evocative tool to give you an idea of what the lifestyle and culture of the characters is like.

NY Times article
Amazon has a list of books!
Meals are a great way to describe relationships
An actual website that offers alternatives for fantasy writers
SFWA even includes diet in its world building questions

These are a handful of links that I found.  Granted, a lot of the links I found weren't as indicative of the subject as I'd like but let's be honest - my Google-fu isn't all that great. :)

I use food with Anneke and Raghnall to indicate the troubles the two of them have adapting to life because their mother is an elf.  Elves, in my world, don't eat meat or any other animal products (butter, cheese, eggs, etc.).  Now where Seda could have died by eating it, her children (who are only half elf) have to adapt to society where things like eggs are a staple.  Turning away food is tantamount to starvation in the wild and brutal land that Anneke is living in.  It's a major insult to not accept dinner invitations when you move in the social circles that Raghnall moves in.  I had to come up with a way for them to eat and not die, so I subject them to the food from an early age to the point where they become adjusted to eat it.

Food is completely different in the area where Anneke lives from where Raghnall lives.  Reidar's diet is completely different as well.  There are foods available to Reidar that aren't available to the other two.  The same thing can be said for what Anneke eats compared to what Raghnall eats.  But I also include how the food is cooked, how it's eaten, where it's prepared, who prepares it, etc.  All of these things can paint a picture of a culture that you wouldn't normally see but is still vital in showing who the characters are.

I'm having fun creating recipes and using things I find on programs such as "Bizarre Foods", reading medieval cookbooks (well, cookbooks that showcase medieval style cooking), and a lot of online research about what people of different cultures might be eating.  I'm hoping to one day have a recipe book full of recipes I'll be using/mentioning in my books.  I might not ever share it with anyone but my family but it'll still be fun to have.

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