Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Lots of my stories revolve around food and mealtimes for a reason. Aside from sleeping, the majority of humanity’s time is spent dealing with caloric intake – preparing food, eating food, cleaning up from food. You may say, what about working? So on the job, the worker starts with his morning coffee, then has a mid-morning snack, followed by the lunch conversation (eat out, order in?) and then lunch, maybe an afternoon snack, and finally thinking about preparing dinner (what is in the house, is a grocery store run needed, or will take out do). And the reason why people work: (1) roof over the head and (2) food on the table. Instead of spending all day out in the field growing food, industrialized people now spend all days in a building making or selling stuff to get money to buy food. Food = survival. I think I can say humanity (as a whole) spends about half to three-quarters of its waking hours devoted to it.
Everyone has a different relationship with food. A different favorite food, a different favorite meal, meals cooked by certain people, food eaten for certain holidays, comfort food, power food, … the list goes on.
Food can even drive a narrative or provide information through show instead of tell.
In the flash “No More Cheeseburgers“, the mom, Heather, uses cheeseburgers as a metaphor for planetary loss providing Gilbert a means to grasp the inconceivable and act.
In the final chapter of Honestly, the following paragraph on food shows the comprises people make becoming a couple.
A big pot of Vietnamese beef pho simmered on the stove. Unlimited pizza for lunch and a home-cooked dinner was the payment offered for help moving. She stirred the noodle dish. She <Kassandra> was tempted to add a little more cilantro and fresh basil, but Troy was cooking. They had reached a truce for meal preparation, he didn’t mess with her chili and barbeque and she didn’t mess with his pho and xoi. Salads and hamburgers were fair game.
In neither case did I consciously plan food to provide an underpinning to the plot, but food is a part of life.
WRITING EXERCISE: What is your present main character’s (MC) favorite food? What is his/her favorite meal? What is the go-to comfort food? Why?
Create a short scene where the MC is either preparing or eating food. What do you learn about the MC from the scene?
READING EXERCISE: In your present read-in-progress find three examples of food being planned, consumed, or cleaned up. How does the food scenes advance the plot, provide character development, or reveal a back story?