about writing and life and God

Will there be custard in Heaven?

The East Coast of America braces itself for Hurricane Sandy. Businesses in downtown Manhattan have closed, as has public transport, and the Stock Exchange. Even capitalism apparently knows when it’s beat!

Here we’re suffering changeableness. Saturday morning brought a storm of large hailstones. In moments the ground was white.

Then heavy rain followed and the inevitable flooding. But afterwards the sun came out, reminding me of Incy Wincy Spider who when the rain stopped, climbed back up the waterspout. I too braved the day for some fresh air and managed to get home before the next hailstorm descended.

Yesterday was grey. Rainy and overcast and miserable. A day for staying indoors with a good book – normally my idea of Heaven, but strangely I felt cooped up and resentful that I couldn’t get out for a good walk.

Since I had two services on Sunday, I’ve made today my Sabbath – my day off, day of rest. The morning was bright and I took myself off to my favourite seaside town. And it was only as I got near that I remembered today is the first day of half-term. Sure enough the place was heaving with families making the most of this last holiday before winter really sets in.

But I got the last free spot in the car park!

Seizing our opportunities for joy is maybe one of the keys of a happy life. It’s not something I’m very good at but I’ve decided I’m going to work on it. So after my outing, I came home and made myself a proper lunch (funny how hard that gets when you live alone) which included, for the first time this year, a pudding.

Now I don’t do puddings. I’ve never done puddings. I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth. Long ago when I was young, my stand-by puds for dinner parties was an interesting variation on trifle, a hot spiced fruit salad with ice cream, or a platter of good cheese.

Today I threw together a tub of frozen fat blackberries and some chopped-up wizened apples from the fruit bowl in a sauce made from blackcurrant and apple cordial with a splash of cassis I found lingering at the bottom of a bottle in the booze cupboard and bubbled it on the top of the stove till it was syrupy and luscious. And then… now this is the decadent bit! I made some instant custard.

There is something so soothing and comforting and redolent of  childhood/teenage years at home Рfor me in any case Рabout that hot yellow slurpy lava-flow of sweetness that enswathes  its pudding partner in such a loving embrace and fills our tastebuds and our tummies with comfort on a plate.

So, yes. For the first time in years, I made custard. Instant custard.

Will there be custard in Heaven?

How could it possibly be Heaven without custard?!!

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You are what you eat?

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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