Friday, June 24, 2011

Writing with Taste

In L. M. Montgomery's Anne of the Island (pausing so all of us dedicated LMM fanscan collectively applaud), Phil says the following:

"The [Pickwick Papers] always make me hungry...There's so much good eating in it. The characters seem always to be reveling on ham and eggs and milk punch. I generally go on a cupboard rummage after reading Pickwick. The mere thought reminds me that I'm starving. Is there any tidbit in the pantry, Queen Anne?"

Y'all know exactly what she's talking about, don't you? Rowling's description of Honeydukes comes to mind. P.D. James mysteries inevitably make me want to go get a coffee (even though the caffeine puts me over the edge) and something with curry in it. Most epic fantasies end in me cooking beef stew with a loaf of crusty bread and a wedge of cheese. What scenes make you want to rummage through your cupboards and hunt up a tasty snack?

Including good eats in our writing is an easy (and enjoyable!) way to heighten the detail of a scene. Why not add a quick note about what your characters are eating when they sit down to discuss the latest gossip? Give her a bag of Doritos to munch while she's contemplating Big Problem in her life. Have her peel potatoes in the kitchen or sneak a taste of a just-made cake's frosting while she chats with her mom.

Just make sure you've gone grocery shopping before you work on these scenes. You don't want to go on a vigorous cupboard rummage and come up empty-handed. ;)


  1. Yes! My novel is set in New Orleans, and over time, I've had to take a lot of food references out, but I still have plenty. I love it when books include food descriptions that make my mouth water.

    Fun post!

  2. It's funny that you mention this because I just cut out several descriptions of meals in my current revisions. Not that you're point isn't a good one, I'm just too long winded and always have to cut.

    Plus describing more than ten meals in a single novel is probably a bit much.

  3. Tere - Yes! I love when food connects with a sense of place, too. When I was young, reading about teatime always made me jealous - I thought it was just an afternoon snack where you could have cake and cookies - ha! I could see how a New Orleans setting would have plenty of mouth-watering food.

    Matthew - Ha! Definitely not trying to make you second guess your edits...yeah, ten meals could be overkill...but of course now I'm curious as to what was in them!

  4. My little brother was a big fan of the Redwall series, but commented once how the author is always describing food, and it can bog down the stories. It did lead to a Redwall cookbook though, so I thing maybe Brian Jacques was on to something! I think it's a matter of the reader's taste, no pun intended! I swear! ;)

  5. I know it's YA, but I liked the food descriptions in Cindy Pon's book. I was hungry for a week!

  6. Ohhh, what a good point! I think junk food works especially well when you're writing for the lower age group. :)

  7. Hilary, we have that Redwall cookbook. Now we just need to make something from it. My characters eat things I would like to eat but usually don't, like pancakes and doughnuts. I had fun making plum dumplings for Wolf Storm, because I wanted to use a reference to some authentic food from Eastern Europe, and it was a good project to try to make them (kids approved).

  8. I LOVE hunting up recipes from things I read in books. And, yes, Dee I do that, too! Not that I wouldn't want to eat those things, just that I don't think I can handle it. I'm forever cramming dessert down their throats. Probably need to take Matthew's suggestion and start editing.

    I haven't read the Redwall series (gasp, I know!), but I did get the Harry Potter cookbook. Pumpkin Pasties=perfection.

  9. Harriet M. Welsch was always drinking chocolate egg creams, and that sounded like the most delicious and exotic thing ever to me when I was a kid. I still haven't tried one! What's wrong with me?

  10. Found your blog via a FB post on the Scrivener giveaway, but stayed to scroll a bit (I already use/ LOVE Scrivener). And here I find food. One of my favorite topics. My forthcoming novel GLORY BE is set in Mississippi so there's Red Velvet cake, and a few other southern favs, but my editor did delete numerous references to pimento cheese, sadly.

    (RE: Scrivener giveaway. Unless I misunderstood, you said it's for Macs only? I thought there was now a PC version. )

  11. Hi Augusta! Welcome to PM! :)

    I think the licenses we were given were only for the MAC! Maybe some day soon we'll get some PC ones!!!

    PS: Red Velvet cake is my FAVORITE!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!