It’s interesting that we don’t see more food in fiction. In the United States, we’ve got the holiday that’s almost all about food. Gratitude is the main focus, but we are always grateful for food. And the celebration involves eating as much food as we can. The portrayal of the traditions seem quite unhealthy. But the actual experience is a bit different.
Aspects of the Experience
Humans have the largest variety of food on the planet. Not only are we omnivores, but we aren’t limited to what we find in our immediate vicinity. We eat food from all over the world, and we add to the variety with recipes and different cooking styles.
Because of this immense variety, we associate types of foods to different cultures, seasons, and holidays. Warm soup makes us think of cold rainy days. BBQ reminds us of summer. Pizza is for casual parties and Fridays. Turkey and mashed potatoes are for Sunday dinners and Thanksgiving.
Food also has a strong connection to human emotions. Emotional eating involves chocolate and ice cream. The American Midwest has a tradition of funeral potatoes that somehow became a mourning comfort food. Other comfort foods include mac n’ cheese, pizza, hamburgers, and others.
Food in Fiction
Since food has such a powerful influence in our lives, doesn’t it make sense to use it in fiction? With attachments to emotions and memories, food can add one more aspect to the connection of the reader to the story and characters. Using the sense of taste is another way to make the story real and pull the reader in.
While going into extensive detail about every meal the characters eat is clearly extensive, periodic use can be to great effect. After a character has had a long, exerting experience in the heat, the feeling of cool water spilling on his or her face and down the dry throat is something we can all relate to. The crystal pure and cool water somehow has the most incredible taste in the world, regardless of the fact that water doesn’t usually have a taste.
A bite into a rich cake with thick frosting sends pin pricks of sweetness all through the mouth and then transform into electrical buzzes that go through the brain and suddenly make you feel like your eyes don’t have to close for three days. Suddenly embarking on a new adventure feels a lot more doable. So, as long as it’s soon, a character can jump into a huge undertaking while the sugar high is in effect.
Enjoy your feasts this week, and consider how you experience your food. Maybe you’ll write a Thanksgiving Feast short story.