I have just sent my occult detective short story off to the editor and his first comment was on the part food plays in it. Lovely John Linwood Grant made the same comment about my other short stories in an interview I did with him recently, only he mentioned the other F word…fertility, more of that at a later date.
It got me thinking, because food does play an important part in my stories. I think what a character cooks and eats is important to understanding them and can give you as much insight as what they wear, where they live and what they believe. Chances are if they don’t eat pork, they are from one of the Faiths of the Book which forbid it, or if they don’t eat beef, they maybe Hindu. If they don’t eat meat at all, they maybe vegetarian or vegan, either by conviction or faith again.
Some of us are heathens with the moral values of a vulture and eat almost anything…I’m not judging, I’m just saying, cos I suspect I may have to put my hand up and be counted in this group.
Maybe this is the moment to mention my favourite food apart from bread and butter, because I don’t get to eat it very often and if you just happen to have a tin which needs a home, I would like you to consider me first.
I digress… back to food in stories and the insight they give to character. For example, if an individual breakfasts on raw chicken gizzards with a side order of hot caramel sauce, the chances are they are either the villain or not playing with a full deck.
I couldn’t find a picture of raw chicken gizzards, so here is one of tentacles. I would most certainly eat this, but not with a side order of hot caramel sauce.
On the other hand, Mrs Lillicrop, my occult detective breakfasts on porridge and kippers and has a fondness for afternoon tea. Already you are getting the picture of middle class respectability and you would be right, apart from a tendency to attack poltergeists with nothing more than a pince-nez and a stern word of reproach.
I sometimes visit a site where young authors ask for advice, often it has to do with what name would be best for their characters and what hair colour to pick etc etc. I think it would be a far better if they first worked out what their creation likes for lunch…see previous about breakfasting…a tuna sandwich with no mayo says more than sea green eyes and dirty blond hair imo. I’ve not suggested any of this to them, because they would probably regard it as grossly frivolous.
As you probably know, or have guessed, I like to cook and I like to cook things I have never cooked before, especially if I can use ingredients I haven’t tried. I also like to read about cooking down the ages, because the evolution of food and cooking technics reflects the evolution of mankind. It is part of our history, all of us, no matter where we come from, how we eat and how we cook it is the result of thousands and thousands of years of experiment and enjoyment. Tastes differ all over the planet, but very few of us eat what we don’t like, although plenty of us eat too much of what we do like, and yes, I’m guilty of this…warm crispy bread and lashing of fresh butter…mmm.
What people don’t like to eat can tell you more, Mrs Lillicrop is off to Scotland in my next (work in progress) story, but she will not be eating haggis. Why? Because I hate it, can’t stand it, its up there with cabbage and beets, my other two top hates. I will now sit back and await the comments of haggis lovers, including no doubt my husband who adores it and has to cook it himself if he wants to eat it. He is lucky I don’t make him do it in a fire pit in the garden. He likes cabbage as well, I sometime wonder why I married him.
However, what those around Mrs Lillicrop do eat on her Scottish adventure and what they don’t eat will provide much to explain them and their thoughts, tastes and motivations.
BTW, he doesn’t like lobster either, I have to eat his share for him, it’s so hard, but someone has to do it.