Food in Stories

The Bluestocking

Bloody Mary in Blue
Joined
Feb 20, 2014
Messages
1,356
Location
The Afterlife
#1
I have been told that certain scenes in my stories make folks hungry and one of my writing group buddies suggested I write a companion cookbook for my storyverse.

It's my love of cooking, baking, and eating good food peeking through occasionally - I use food in a variety of ways in my stories from sharpening a character portrayal to instigating a riot in a pub to facilitating criminal misadventures.

Anyone else here write about/include food in their stories? :giggle:
 

Cathbad

Level 30 Geek Master
Joined
Dec 9, 2015
Messages
8,750
Location
Everywhere.
#2
I love to cook, but I use other people's recipes. ;)

There are (at least) a couple of mystery writers that add recipes of the meals/desserts they mention in their stories. Seems to add to the stories - or at least the sales. :D

Okay, a quick look shows there are several mystery writers doing that!

Okay, in answer to your question (finally), there is only one storyline I mention eating/food on a regular basis. It's unlikely to make anyone hungry, though, unless they like raw meat, like my dragon Darganau!

:lol: :rolleyes:
 

The Bluestocking

Bloody Mary in Blue
Joined
Feb 20, 2014
Messages
1,356
Location
The Afterlife
#3
I love to cook, but I use other people's recipes. ;)

There are (at least) a couple of mystery writers that add recipes of the meals/desserts they mention in their stories. Seems to add to the stories - or at least the sales. :D

Okay, a quick look shows there are several mystery writers doing that!

Okay, in answer to your question (finally), there is only one storyline I mention eating/food on a regular basis. It's unlikely to make anyone hungry, though, unless they like raw meat, like my dragon Darganau!

:lol: :rolleyes:
Yah - but I was wondering if other SFF writers do it. Some Cosy Mystery authors do write great stories revolving around food.

So far, my characters have had meals which range from lasagne to mochi to dim sum. The food riot was triggered by someone using a handful of mashed potatoes as a missile (and accidentally hitting the wrong person with said mashed potato missile. Oops). My little kitsune tends to get hangry... :giggle:
 
Last edited:

Cathbad

Level 30 Geek Master
Joined
Dec 9, 2015
Messages
8,750
Location
Everywhere.
#4
Well, I'm a failure at writing Sci-Fi. *shrugs* But, seeing as I like reading the mysteries revolving around food, I'd imagine I'd love it in the Sci-Fi I read. Food makes the story more real.

And food fights are a blast!! :LOL:
 

The Bluestocking

Bloody Mary in Blue
Joined
Feb 20, 2014
Messages
1,356
Location
The Afterlife
#5
Well, I'm a failure at writing Sci-Fi. *shrugs* But, seeing as I like reading the mysteries revolving around food, I'd imagine I'd love it in the Sci-Fi I read. Food makes the story more real.

And food fights are a blast!! :LOL:
I write Fantasy, not Sci-Fi. Would be an abject failure at writing Sci-Fi too.

Yep, food fights are a blast. And very, very funny :ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:
 
Joined
Jun 19, 2018
Messages
488
Location
Nirvāṇa
#6
My current work revolves around food. The government and all domestic production is focused upon it. The 'U.S.D.A. Agricultural System of Population Consolidation, Management and Control' is the system that dictates how the nation operates and is based upon food. Minimal amounts of food can purchase 'anything' and the people are all about... well, food ;)

Naturally, what the majority has to eat is delicious;
"The yellow N-blocks or ‘gese’ as pastoral residents called them, felt like plastic in your hand and wax in your mouth. Almost pungent tasting like old cheese, they had the aftertaste and smell of rancid grease that had turned in the garbage."

K2
 
Last edited:

scarpelius

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2018
Messages
187
Location
Bucharest
#7
Eating yes, cooking no.
I will rather describe a warp engine or how to stage a coup d'État than chopping vegetables or meat.
 

scarpelius

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2018
Messages
187
Location
Bucharest
#9
So... cold sandwiches only? ;)
IRL, I can make hot sandwiches as well.
In a story if needed I can describe a meal, but I would probably focus on character interactions than describe the food and the taste. I see no point in focusing on the food, when the world is burning down in flames :)
 

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
Joined
Apr 9, 2016
Messages
1,973
#10
Yeah, I write about food a lot. There's two reasons for this

1) I am a very greedy man

2) Food is very evocative and culturally significant. When in the business of writing secondary worlds and bringing them to life, those are the sort of details you want. Details that draw people in and give out little nuggets of what it's like.
 

RexEynon

A hero is a hero, but everyone love a good villain
Joined
Jan 20, 2019
Messages
2
Location
North Wales
#12
I'd love to include more about what foods my characters eat (agreeing that it would add tons to world building to show what foods the characters eat) but I'm not the greatest with food in real life which doesn't help. For reference, I don't mind heat and go meals.
 

Plucky Novice

Eat sleep write repeat
Joined
May 11, 2018
Messages
122
Location
UK
#13
I use food quite a lot in my YA fantasy. In part this is to world build (they're not eating big macs) but I'm primarily using it for the cooking process. It's a really social experience in my book and provides a great opportunity to explore characters in dialogue and join the dots between pacier scenes.
 

Dan Jones

Free Omar!
Supporter
Joined
Nov 14, 2014
Messages
2,735
Location
Here, Now
#14
Yes, I also love making a point of highlighting the food in my stories. As Peat says, food and drink can add, er, flavour and colour to cultures, whether real or part of the world-building process, and tell us - in a visual manner - more about the world or region and its people than a page of description might.

It’s also worth remembering that eating together is the second most carnal communal act and so it comes loaded with symbolism, ritual and meaning. The Eucharist is arguably the most famous example of this but in reality there are probably too many to mention (from chinking glasses as an act of goodwill, to addressing a Haggis). Adding food and eating and drinking to stories, for me, is evocative and important.

In Man O’War the MC is a jellyfisherman and I included a scene where he cooks up some of his catch This scene was picked up by quite a few readers because of the care with which he prepares and eats his food. I didn’t really consider this at the time - I simply thought a scene with him cooking would be a very natural extension of his working life - but some readers took this scene as a key bit of world building.

I also seem to remember the opening scene in Jo’s book Inish Carraig featured a line about a recipe for cat stew (or possibly soup) which captures the desperation of the scene and character more than a page describing how hungry he was.

In my current WIP there are synthetic eggs cooked in chili sauce, kebabs made with artificial meat of questionable origin, and enough cheap crappy coffee to sink a large skiff. And lots of whisky. Because whisky.
 

Teresa Edgerton

Goblin Princess
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 1, 2004
Messages
13,354
Location
California
#15
I sometimes use the foods available to help characterize a place or culture (or for foreshadowing, like the candied spiders in Mirizandi), or the food and drink that somebody serves at their table to help characterize an individual ... things like that. But these tend to be brief mentions and I don't go into the details of how foods are prepared. The closest I come to that is creating a sense of intimacy by showing two characters heating wine over a campfire, but again that's still very brief.

Certainly food preparation can be used effectively as "stage business" mixed in with the dialogue to keep the characters from coming across as talking heads. I used to enjoy experimenting with new recipes, baking my own bread, etc. but by the time I got serious about my own writing I was pretty much burnt out on cooking for a family with diverse and very, very picky appetites, so I no longer was interested enough in cooking to write about it.

I don't mind reading about it, and although probably nobody ever got hungry reading my books, I can think of books I've liked a lot that made me hungry reading them.
 

CTRandall

I have my very own plant pot!
Supporter
Joined
Jan 4, 2018
Messages
449
Location
North-east England
#16
I mention food, and characters eating, but don't go into huge detail. It was done to death in the Redwall books, and Game of Thrones, and the Soldier Son books and I just skim read all that.
This is generally how I react. When writers go into immense detail about exotic fantasy foods, I don't get a sense of how rich and wonderful the world is. Instead, I get a sense that the writer is trying desperately to show me how much they've thought about their world. In short, rather than immersing me in the story, it reminds me I'm reading a book.

And yet...

In my current WiP, I deliberately set out to play with several common fantasy tropes. Hence, exotic food and drink. Especially drink. Lots of drink. Which leads to another fantasy trope, the bar fight. A massive, all-consuming brawl that dominates an entire chapter while having no effect on the main story. And yet it is one of my beta-readers' favourite scenes.
 

Plucky Novice

Eat sleep write repeat
Joined
May 11, 2018
Messages
122
Location
UK
#17
When writers go into immense detail about exotic fantasy foods, I don't get a sense of how rich and wonderful the world is. Instead, I get a sense that the writer is trying desperately to show me how much they've thought about their world. In short, rather than immersing me in the story, it reminds me I'm reading a book.
One of the tactics I employ in an attempt to avoid this is to focus on the reactions of the characters to eating the food. I find this an effective way of conveying what the food is like to eat and it fits comfortably into dialogue.

Show me a plate of food and it might taste lovely or it might not. Show me someone eating it and I know.
 

The Bluestocking

Bloody Mary in Blue
Joined
Feb 20, 2014
Messages
1,356
Location
The Afterlife
#18
The food my characters prefer is part of how I flesh out them out as individuals. My little kitsune loves her Japanese snacks - mochi, matcha milkshakes etc, my very zen half-Chinese reaper is all about Chinese tea drinking rituals and traditional Chinese almond cookies on the side etc.

I also have scenes where a meal at the table together is where my characters discuss plans etc. Also helps with emphasising familial ties (by blood or otherwise).

It's all about using food as a motif/vehicle appropriately. It would be very boring if I went into all sorts of long-winded details about the meal. But passing the salad and lasagna while talking about how to deal with a problem says a lot about the relationship of the characters to one another.
 

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
4,329
#19
I suppose I've written a whole book based around tea (God Emperor of Didcot). A large part of the Britishness of the Smith books comes from the food, and the characters get through industrial quantities of curry, tea and biscuits. There is also a running joke about the badness of "space food" centred around a synthetic ham product called Sham and its artificial bacon derivative, Facon.

With Up To The Throne and its sequel, I've been quite careful as to what the characters eat. Since they're in not-Italy, I've been quite careful to dodge the stereotype and they seem to subsist on bread and dubious stew.

Recently, I wrote a story in which two characters travelled across space, staying in a lot of hotels. One, a robot, didn't eat, and I was surprised how much of an impact this made on the story, and how it removed an opportunity for them to talk in a normal way.
 

chrispenycate

resident pedantissimo
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
7,148
Location
West Sussex
#20
One of my principal characters was living in the early stages of colonisation of the solar system (not just exploration, but actually settling) and found himself in a society of microwave prepared meals and processed algae. In self defense he learns to cook 'Earth style', then develops gadgets to allow for a microgravity environment where atmospheric pressure is too low to make decent tea without a pressure cooker. Oh, grows his own herbs, but is rich enough by this point to import ingredients sent out from Earth, or the various farmed habitats, and flexible enough to use almost anything edible as a starting point. This makes his soirées something rather special, but I rarely specify particular dishes.
 

Similar threads

Top