Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Food and Drink in Writing

Thanks for your understanding while I was away! Now, back from my blogging break I'll say...

photo from 123rf.com
I recently read a novel (THE DIVE FROM CLAUSEN'S PIER by Ann Packer) in which the protagonist liked to drink iced cranberry juice. This has me thinking that it's interesting, the food and beverages we read and write about.

Does Ann Packer herself drink that particular thing? Or was it something that came to her during a moment of inspiration? Did she see a woman with it at the next table in her favorite restaurant?

I'm one who, in my writing, tends to stick with the familiar. My protagonist's BFF drinks Dr Pepper (my own favorite), and her dad eats rocky road ice cream, a common flavor in our house when I was growing up. My characters always tend to eat the things I most like, like beans and cornbread, or veggie pizza.

photo from thepioneerwoman.com
Ree Drummond
I'm considering now, what has stopped me from throwing a quiche lorraine into the mix, or putting a Long Island iced tea in a character's hand? Maybe I will now that I'm conscious of never having done so before.

WRITERS: Do you have your characters eating and drinking the same things you do? Or do you get creative, offering them something you've never tried, something offbeat, or that is displeasing to you? How do you choose? Do their food and drink choices seem inherent to their persona, a given?

READERS: How do you feel when something you love (brownies, Diet Pepsi, Big League Bubble Gum) shows up in something you're reading? Does reading about hunks of hearty meatloaf, or an ice cold beer, make your mouth water?


Karen said...

Janna, my mouth is watering just reading all those things. Yes, when I read about a food I know/like I feel more connected to the story.

Now I'd probably give my antagonist something I didn't like. :P

Diane said...

The one scene I did in my kid's book has them eating things I think most kids would want to eat. Chocolate Chip cookies for dessert of course. :O)

Melissa Amateis said...

Great post, Janna. I have never thought about this before, but yes, my characters tend to eat the same things I do. But that is another important detail that should be looked at to create our characters.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Ohh, I thought I was the only one who loves beans and cornbread. (My husband thinks I'm wacko for making a meal out of them.) :)

I usually put things that I like, even if it's not necessarily my favorite. I figure I have to like it enough to know how it tastes or what appeals to the character who's eating it or drinking it in my wip. :)

Laura@OutnumberedMom said...

My latest protagonist is a Chinese mom. I had so much fun doing research and finding the perfect Chinese peanut cookies to include in the story, complete with the story of the grandmother who taught her to make them.

I've saved the recipe, so if I publisher bites, I'll put it in the back of the book!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

What did you think of Dive? Just picked it up at library book sale.

If my characters drank Long Island iced teas and they resembled me, they'd be trashed after a few sips. :D

I do play with food. I have a wedding scene with baby octopus served as an appetizer.

~ Wendy

Liza said...

I find that I put things that I like to eat...and cook, into my writing. I have always enjoyed reading books that feature food. Robert Parker, who wrote the Spenser series wrote about his big, tough detective cooking good food. It made the character more real to me.

Jessica Nelson said...

My mouth doesn't water when I'm reading but sometimes I give my characters certain likings or dislikings of food. Now that I think of it though, they haven't been particularly unique. Hmmm. I'll have to remedy that. Great observation and thanks for sharing it!

graceunderpressure said...

How can you use food in a story if you don't know what it tastes like, or feels like.. in your mouth, in your stomach (or tragically, in your gut!)
For instance, if I told you I'd had Cornish Pasties, would you know they are the original hot pocket of potatoes and..., and that they sit in your stomach for about 2 years while you try to digest their tastiness? :D Get my point? How would I know what certain hot foods taste like since I *can't* eat them? It's not really fair to use them in the story on second hand info.

Angela Hood-Ross said...

As a writer, I always use the familiar such as food, cars, music, etc. in my novels. When I read another author's book, it's interesting to read what their characters like to eat or drink. Great post, Janna.

Jill Kemerer said...

I love the photo from The Pioneer Woman. I just browsed through her cookbook--can I say YUM?

My current book features a woman trying to lose weight so food is definitely involved!

Deb Shucka said...

It interesting how much information a certain food can convey about a character. We use food for so much beyond nutrition, and our cultural background has an amazing amount of impact on the foods we find both comforting and tasty. Thought-provoking post, as always.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I've had mine enjoy many things that aren't my favorite. And you're right, food is such a great way to connect readers.