Feeding the Hungry Reader

French Comfort Food, by Hillary Davis, one of my favorite cookbooks,    How would you like a buttery grilled cheese sandwich filled with Cheddar cheese, tomatoes, and bacon right now? Or perhaps a tuna melt on rye bulging with melted Gruyere? Maybe a plate of creamy macaroni and a combination of three cheeses, not one? Too plebian? We could add chunks of lobster.            Not feeling savory at the moment? Could I get you a plate of warm chewy chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven? Or a piece of apple pie with feathery light flaky crust? No? I could dish up a piece of moist golden cake with homemade chocolate buttercream frosting if you’d prefer.            If you aren’t hungry by now, you may not be human. Just the very description of these foods, often categorized as “comfort food” is enough to make a reader salivate, which is why most readers and writers are captivated by food in stories. Food helps to create atmosphere and lends authenticity to an environment. I defy you to read Barbara Ross’s Maine Clambake series and not crave lobster. When Stone Barrington cuts into a steak at the legendary, now defunct, Elaine’s in Stuart Woods’ wildly popular series, most readers find their mouths mysteriously open.            Food enhances reading. Food enriches writing. Food brings joy to life. Cozy mystery writers have long understood this. Joanne Fluke (Blueberry Pie Murder), Diane Mott Davidson (Sticks and Scones), Lucy Burdette (Killer Takeout), and Edith Maxwell (When the Grits Hit the Fan) all have written popular series with variations in food themes.            Other mystery subgenres feature food regularly. Olivier cooks up a gastronomic storm at his bistro in Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series, while Clara serves comfort food to friends at her kitchen table. From Steak Frites with Mayonnaise to Coq Au Vin with a Hint of Maple, readers feast on Canadian specialties when not merely content to munch on a steady diet of buttery croissants.            Readers, myself included, have been driven to patronize restaurants featured in books. Margaret Truman’s books enticed me to try the old Le Lion D’Or in Washington D.C. when my daughter was in college there. My husband didn’t get it, especially when the tab arrived. He was on board when we headed to a Spanish restaurant in Harvard Square where William Tapply had his protagonist, Brady Coyne frequenting.            Writers use food more than gratuitously. It can be part of the plot as in Tana French’s recent release, The Trespasser, where a romantic dinner prepared by the murder victim but never shared, became an integral part of the story.            In Permanent Sunset, I chose the bride’s choice of her wedding menu as a window into her soul. I later used the wedding meal, which was never served to guests due to the untimely death of the bride, to color a police officer corrupt and to paint a portrait of the surviving family members.            I happen to love writing about food, possibly because I love reading about it (I own a few hundred cookbooks and this is after “downsizing”), only slightly less than cooking it. For me, it is as much pleasure deciding what to serve my characters as it is what to serve guests in my home. I recently created a meatloaf dinner for my grieving protagonist, which she quite enjoyed.            Fortunately, calories don’t count when you are writing about food. Only pleasure. What brings you please when you read or write about food?                       Dessert from Hillary Davis                       

Tags:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent Posts

Fatality in F
  • February 21, 2019
The More You Know…
  • February 20, 2019
Fool Me Once…
  • February 18, 2019
First pages.
  • February 13, 2019
First lines.
  • February 12, 2019
Lots of counting in writing
  • February 11, 2019
How Do You Even Brand?
  • February 8, 2019

Search By Tags