about writing and life and God

You are what you eat?

on October 25, 2012

Yesterday’s ACFW blog on understanding our characters’ needs and weaknesses was very helpful. But being a foodie, I got to wondering (as I pondered what to make for dinner) what my characters would eat?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m happier as a veggie and can be perfectly happy eating vegan. (I’m thinking I need to order the Happy Herbivore Cookbook from Amazon.) But I think most of my novel’s characters will be old-fashioned Scottish carnivores.

They’d start their meals with thick Scotch broth or potato soup, and follow it with mince and tatties or plain poached fish served with melted butter and potatoes. Just like my mother used to make. She also did wonderful puddings which provided internal hot water bottles for daughters making the trek across town to school after lunch, braving the winter’s gales. Suet puddings, sweet with apples, and ladlefuls of hot custard. (I like mine runny.) Creamy rice puddings with plump raisins and spicy with nutmeg. (And no skin from the top, thank you!)

Enough! My mouth is watering. But what of famous fictional characters?

I see Jane Austen’s ladies (and Georgette Heyer’s) picking daintily at crisp toast for breakfast, and thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches in the afternoon. No doubt, the only way to keep those wasp waists!

My current fave detective is Philip Dryden in Jim Kelly‘s Ely series. Dryden is a journalist and eats… irregularly, is the only word. His coat appears to have gamekeeper’s (or poacher’s) pockets as they serve as his larder – storing sausage rolls, mushrooms, and a variety of other delicacies to be washed down with the miniatures of spirits kept in the glove compartment of Humph’s taxi.

I’m a fan of Donna Leon‘s Commissario Guido Brunetti but the descriptions of the amazing food distracts me so much I’m not surprised there’s now a Brunetti’s Cookbook!

Human beings have to eat, but do our fictional characters? And can we use their food habits and preferences as a way of providing more information – showing rather than telling?

For example, what if Sherlock Holmes had a passion for marshmallows? Dracula a hidden desire for lemon meringue pie?

Or is Holmes more a steak and kidney pie man? And Dracula….bortsch?



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