Food and drink and characters and places
In my household we love to cook. Perhaps that’s why food plays a role in my writing. Whether prepared at home by loving hands or a resident chef, or ordered in a restaurant or take-out stand, food is more than a staple of life. It says something about who we are as individuals and as a society. In my Swiss series, I can’t pass up mention of spaetzli or rösti, these staples of a ‘real’ Swiss household. And no one in Switzerland would order ‘a coffee’ in a restaurant. The order would be specific: espresso, cappuccino, latte, café Americano. This is not the land of the drip coffee pot. Actually, hot chocolate should have headed that list. There is nothing better than a real European hot chocolate. Here, despite famed Swiss chocolate, I think the Venetians and the Viennese do it best! Currently, I’m working on a book set in Kentucky. In it, I’ve included bourbon as a food group (actually giving my heroine a distillery). However, there must be food. What to pair with bourbon? A hot brown. This classic open face sandwich was created in 1926 at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. If you’re unfamiliar with it, imagine a slice of toast covered with sliced turkey and tomato, doused with a Mornay sauce and broiled until bubbly and browned. Top with two strips of bacon and enjoy. While this may not feature on the lunch menu at a health spa it sure is good. In fiction, food can evoke a place and time or cause a reader to step outside the story. If a character eats fried green tomatoes on a hot Mississippi day I can picture the smell, taste, even the sight. If this happens at a picnic in Ohio I am suspicious. Did this family move from the South? Soft drink names are another great local custom. Soda, pop, coke (for any soft drink) are regional tells. In and around Lexington, Kentucky you might skip the nationally recognized brands and order an Ale-8. Travel farther south west near Kentucky Lake and expect only RC on the menu. Thinking about food and drink in writing makes we think about creating a menu based on favorite books. I created several menus in Swiss Vendetta compliments of Arsov’s French chef but I’ll have to work on menus for other books now. What favorite book would inspire food for you?