Mar 24, 2011

Food in stories - do you find it stimulating?

Reading: “Story” by Robert McKee and a selection of glossy magazines
Listening to: Lionel Ritchie & Guy Sebastian, All Night Long 2011 release for the Chch Earthquake & QLD Flood relief (get it from iTunes)
Making me smile: The cutest little 8 month old we have staying with us for a couple of days!

Two great passions in my life are reading and food – although I must admit my cooking has sometimes been ruined by my reading! And I think you'd be hard pressed to find a book that doesn't reference food or eating at some point! From kids books on, food features - 
remember in all the Famous Fives how the kids ate something every other page – ginger beer, and sandwiches and lashings of whipped cream; Noddy had his jammy buns; Harry Potter and the others have fabulous feasts at Hogwarts. Food, or recipes, have been used to structure novels (like a ‘recipe at the start of each chapter’ style) and  favourite characters' food choices have spawned crazes for certain foods!

Image by Ambro.
And of course in romances so often we have the hero and heroine dining together – it’s a pretty popular thing to do on a date after all! And I confess to loving it when the hero cooks for the heroine (wish fulfillment anyone?!). It can be such a great way to show caring and the development of a relationship. And it can be a very sensual experience too – the sating of one kind of hunger while tempting another... Often authors even have recipes up on their websites for the dishes referred to in certain books – which can be so fabulous and fun.

But sometimes, I must admit to struggling with what the hero and heroine are actually eating. Now, it probably makes a difference in that I’ve been vegetarian for twenty years and am currently vegan  - so yes, detailed descriptions of lamb racks or lobster don’t really do it for me! And yes, it’s going to rule out a lot of recipes that other people would be melting over. So when I’m reading and hit scenes where I’m not so fussed on the menu, I mentally swap the dish for one of my own choosing...

When my first book came out, all my friends tried to tell me the heroine was actually, truly me because she liked all my favourite foods (in particular pineapple and raspberries). So, indignantly, (because that heroine was absolutely  not me) in my second book I made the heroine a total carnivore! Since then my characters have had lots of meals that might or mightn’t be meaty – like soup or pizza – and left it for the reader to put on their own topping  say – but one of my favourite things to have my characters indulge in is, of course, dessert. I figure most people enjoy pudding!  Then there's - ahem - breakfast, which to my mind is the best meal of the day! ;)

And then of course, there’s that other great passion that you can link in with food -  in the book I just sent in, my heroine decides to do some wicked things with her bottle of maple syrup...

In WALK ON THE WILD SIDE – out now in Australia/NZ and in April in the US, there’s a phase where Jack turns up at Kelsi’s door every night and cooks her dinner – using the excuse that his kitchen is undergoing repairs, but really, it’s because it’s the one way he can spend some time with her. She knows the inoperable kitchen thing is an excuse, but she believes he’s only cooking for her because he’s concerned for their unborn baby... intentions, motivations, subtext... are really so much more important than what’s actually on the table ;)

But, let’s talk about it anyway – does it bother you at all when you’re reading a book and the characters are eating something you don’t fancy? Do you like reading detailed descriptions of what they’re eating or do you not notice so much? Have you ever read about a meal in a book and wished you had the recipe - even gone to an author’s online home to find such a recipe? 

Is is possible for fun foodie scenes to stimulate your senses as much as some of those other scenes might?

Now, there aren't any recipes at my website yet sorry, but do head to my Facebook page  
- occasionally I talk about the wicked things you can do with fruit leather ;)


  1. Hmm, most things I don't mind one way or the other except for maybe mayonnaise. I can't stand the smell so the thought of it during a romantic moment makes me gag. Okay and maybe marmite/vegemite too, but chalk that up to me being from the U.S. where we don't grow up with it. ;-)
    I did notice all the food in the Hunger Games. I guess it was meant to contrast the luxury of the heroine's current life against her deprived childhood. All I know is that it made me hungry

  2. Okay Jill - no mayo! LOL. Hmmm I agree marmite isn't very sexy either... and interesting about being left hungry after the Hunger Games - so reading about lots of food can definitely get your tummy rumbling!

  3. Just the thought of oysters make me gag, and reading about it even more so. Certainly wouldn't be titillated to read about offal either LOL!! I quite like the probably overdone 'sharing the same spot on the glass' effect =))

  4. Fruit leather? Now that sounds interesting =)
    Recently I had the heroine saying that she liked escargot, but only at a particularly wonderful cafe in Paris. So not me! (The snails, not France:) )

  5. I love knowing what the hero and heroine are eating, so long as the descriptions aren't too long. You know one of my favourite books of yours is the "Soup book". I can't remember the real title, but your heroine had a gourmet soup business and I loved it :) Soraya

  6. In two of my fav books - Food of Love by Anthony Capella and La Cucina by Lily Prior - food plays a pivotal role. Although the parts describing the preparation of offal didn't really do it for me (liver...eeeewwwww) both books are sooo romantic and sensual and I love, love, love them (she writes whilst devouring orange chocolate chip ice cream in a cone!!!!)

  7. I'm with Robyn - fruit leather does sound... interesting! ;)

    I'm a little on the fence with food. I'm not so much interested in what they're eating as what else is happening at the table or in the kitchen.

    I haven't come across a book where I've thought yuck about a food scene - but if anyone ever does a scene with tripe, I'm soooo going to have to skip-read those pages! LOL


  8. Mel - but aren't oysters supposed to be an aphrodisiac?! My guess is they must crop up in a few books... I like the shared spot on the glass thing too - very cute ;)

  9. Oh golly Robyn - escargot! Love that it's only from a particular Parisian restaurant though!

    And fruit leather - oh yes - the stuff is very, VERY good ;)

  10. Soraya - it was Bought: One Night, One Marriage - think they had lots of soup and pizza in that one! ;)

  11. Ngapera, you've hit on a whole other blog topic - WRITING while eating.... LOL... I have it down to a fine art ;)

  12. Sharon, you may be skeptic, but really, fruit leather rocks! ;)
    There's a certain brand from sunny Nelson that just cannot be beat.. if I ever make to to conference in Oz one year, I'll bring you all some...

    Agree its what's really going on in the scene over what they're eating - and yes, definite no to tripe! ;)

  13. Fabulous post, Natalie! I do love reading about the food people are eating -- it adds a dimension to a scene. Unless, of course, it's something I don't like, like Coke, and then I'm gagging and going "euw"!

    Fruit leather from Nelson....? I'm in Nelson, and I don't know about it!

  14. Emily, it's Annies Fruit Leather - you know it? Can get all sorts of yummy flavours in the supermarket - !00% yum fruit :)

  15. Natalie, I usually try to edit out the food in my head when I'm reading, since I'm a vegetarian of 20 years too. :) And since I don't find meat sexy, my characters eat a lot of desserts!

    Fruit leather sounds fab. I had dried mango once and it was divine.

  16. Chocolates in stories, now that's another thing!

    Well I don't actively go looking for recipes but if food is mentioned, I just keep reading. Doesn't make much difference either way.

  17. LOL Rachel - yes, the desserts get a work out in mine too :)
    And yup, dreid mango rocks - mind you, it usually has a dusting of sugar - which puts it into my 'deadline sugar rush munch food' category!

  18. Hi Nas! You're so right about chocolate - always works, doesn't it?!