Yum! Why You Should Use Food in Your Stories

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Sushi

Photo by Kirti Poddar

If you love food as much as I do, then you might put a lot of it in your stories. Food can be a nice touch for any kind of writing: fantasy, non-fiction, mystery, anything! (Is anyone else getting hungry)? Here are three ways to incorporate food into your writing.

1. Represent Your Character’s Culture

Are your characters Hispanic? Vietnamese? An alien from a different planet? Do the readers know that? If not, food is a good way to slip that bit of information in.

Have your protagonist sit down to a delicious homecooked meal made by her Japanese mother: sushi and gyoza.

2. Reflect Your Character’s Personality

Maybe your character is feisty and hotheaded. Mirror that by having her eat a plate of extremely spicy enchiladas. Maybe he is playful and energetic. You can hint at that by having him slurp an ice cream cone by the poolside.

Sure, this one's a little on the nose, but it's something to at least consider.

3. Believe It Or Not, Food Can Be The Key To The Plot

Yes, food can be the key to your plot. Think about Les Miserablés. Jean Valjean would never have gone to jail if he hadn’t stolen that loaf of bread. There are so many different possibilities to use to your advantage. Why not have food play a part in your story?

Have you ever used food in a story?

PRACTICE

Write for fifteen minutes about a character that is cooking a big meal for a group of people. They could be relatives, friends, their boss and coworkers, anything you can “cook up.” What goes wrong? What surprises are there in store for your character?

When you're finished, post your practice in the comments section. Have fun and don’t forget to comment on a few other people's practices!

The Magic Violinist is a young author who writes mostly fantasy stories. She loves to play with her dog and spend time with her family. Oh, and she's homeschooled. You can visit her blog at themagicviolinist.blogspot.com. You can also follow The Magic Violinist on Twitter (@Magic_Violinist).

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16 Comments

  1. Denise Golinowski

    This scene is to help establish the relationships at Aces Down, my heroine’s bar:

    Delicious scents filled the kitchen as Pete finished scrambling eggs with jalapenos,
    sausage crumbles, and cheese—eggs a la Pete. He directed a shout through the open door to the bar. “Come get it while it’s hot!”

    I pulled down three plates and he shoveled the eggs onto them. After he set the pan back on the stove, he sprinkled a little salsa over each mound of eggs, added a sprig of green, probably cilantro, and pushed the plates toward the opposite side of the table.

    Malcolm and Peter were already tucking into their plates, talking about last night’s
    baseball game. Since I didn’t follow baseball, their conversation was pretty much Greek to me, but the familiarity of the morning recap was soothing.

    The eggs were heavenly, light and fluffy, not greasy. I savored every bite, congratulating myself once again for hiring Pete. He was my “ace in the hole” to
    turn this battered old bar into a more family-friendly restaurant.

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

      Mmm, those eggs sound delicious! 😀

      Reply
  2. Puja

    It was her only refuge from the criticisms of her tightly braided hair, the saris she wouldn’t cast off, the white Texan people staring at her when she went to the market (“Grocery store,” Gautam would correct her). The only cooking Gautam had ever picked up was boiling pasta or making Maggi noodles at his American college (“Ramen noodles, Geeta”). He left the kitchen to her, and she would have spent all her time there if she could. In rolling out dough for layered paratha, the bread baking until it was crispy and golden, she could excel, even if she still had trouble converting rupees to dollars. In seasoning aromatic dal, the red lentils simmering happily, she did not stumble; it distracted her from remembering that the only temples here were not for Ma Durga or Krishna or even Allah, but instead Jesus and the Christian God (“There aren’t many Hindus in Tyler, Geeta.”).

    She stirred the browning mutton, the scent of coriander and caramelizing onions rising before she replaced the lid. Geeta tried to tamp down thoughts of her last argument with her husband. Gautam would not speak Bangla to her. He said she had to learn English better, that her accent was too thick and she kept referring to men as “she.” She told him she wished she had anyone to talk to, in any language. He had shaken his head. “We have so much more here, Geeta. I brought you here for a better life.”

    A better life is not without my sisters and parents, my Amma teaching me to make sweets, my college friends speaking to me in my language. That is what she wanted to say.

    “I know,” she said in English before disappearing back into the kitchen to start on Gautam’s favorite rice pudding and Bengali sweets.

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

      My mouth is watering just from these few paragraphs! I could almost smell all of the food!

      Reply
    • catmorrell

      I could feel her anxiety and frustration with all the changes and her sense of loss.

      Reply
  3. Spycacher

    When he finished with purchasing, he headed to the sweet merchant. He knew he would give him a treat. Approaching the old man, sitting beside his stall, greeted him:

    ‘Salaam Alaikum, Ghareeb. What brings you here today?’

    ‘Salaam Sheikh! I came to shop and, as every day, to visit you’ – He answered squatted down at his side. ‘I want to learn more of your wanderings.’

    ‘Nanu. Tea.’ He shouted with a harsh voice at the old woman, showing two fingers indicating two teas.

    Her name, which also means: beautiful, the sheik used the dual sense to mischievously flatter her. She laughed brightly showing all missing teeth and came with a huge, sooth-covered teapot and two bean-cans that served as cups. Holding the teapot high over her head, she let, with a loud noise, the boiling-hot, over-sweetened tea cascading into the cans.

    ‘‘You dirty old git, first attend your five wives and twenty children before you buy
    a new problem!’ she said still laughing and handing each a tin with tea. They
    had to hold it from the rim to avoid burning their fingers. The old man gave Ghareeb a sweet basbousa – a kind of cake.

    ‘Shokran!’ – Ghareeb said – “Thank you Sheikh!” and started gobbling down the cake and, at the same time, sipping the tea into his now full mouth, almost choking.
    The old man knew that he would not give up until he begins with the narrative; so he started with a new story while enjoying his tea.

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

      I could picture these people very vividly. The mix of dialogue and description was perfect!

      Reply
  4. catmorrell

    I am a newbie so a little worried about posting. However, nothing ventured nothing learned. This scene is part of a fictional retelling for my grandchildren of the move my father made from Kansas to Oregon during the dust bowl. Target audience age 10-14.

    ***

    “Ma, Is this the cook stove.?” Annabeth peered under the stove at the empty spaces. It looked light enough to float. This stove was so different from the giant cast iron wood burning cook stove that kept them toasty warm in winter and broiling hot in summer.

    Ma’s eyes sparkled. She rubbed her hands together then shoved both sleeves of her house dress to her elbows before picking up the booklet resting on the back shelf of the slightly used electric stove. “Land sakes, Buttercup, I do believe it is,.” She thumbed through the book. “It’s an Electric Chef.”

    Annabeth peered over her Ma’s shoulder. “But it’s not big enough to cook everything.”

    “That’s okay. Canning will be a breeze in the fall. No more roasting ourselves out of hearth and home over that wood monstrosity in Kansas. Besides we can use the wood stove in the living room for warming food. This is a gift.” Ma looked up and closed her eyes. “Thank you Jesus.” she whispered.

    Ma turned a dial on the oven to 400 degrees. “Get the flour, lard, sugar and that jar of peaches. We’re making a pie.”

    “Right now?” Annabeth said as she scurried to a box in the livingroom. “We haven’t even unpacked.”

    Annabeth found the necessary ingredients, took them to the kitchen, then went outside to the truck to find the box with the pie tin. She told the boys, certain Ma could hear the whooping clear in the comfy little kitchen with the almost new electric stove.

    Amazingly, the promise of delectable odors of peaches, cinnamon and nutmeg wafting from the oven to be followed by bowls of simmering peach pie energized the formerly tired movers. Annabeth realized Ma knew what she was doing.

    Reply
    • Puja

      I liked it! Love the descriptions, particularly in the final paragraph. Reminds me a little of the “Little House on the Prairie” series 🙂

      Reply
      • catmorrell

        Thank you so much. I listened to these stories from my Dad for 40 years and yes, Little House is pretty much how they lived in Kansas. It was a big change when they moved to Oregon.

        Reply
    • themagicviolinist

      I’m glad you posted this! I can hear their voices so clearly in my head! I also loved the descriptions.

      Reply
      • catmorrell

        Thank you for the encouragement. You all are very gentle.

        Reply
  5. MishaBurnett

    Food is very important to James in Catskinner’s Book, since he has to eat a lot to make up for the energy that Catskinner burns up. In fact, there is a scene in which James nearly dies because Catskinner pushes his body too long without food.

    Reply
    • themagicviolinist

      Wow! I’ve never heard of that book, but that sounds really interesting!

      Reply
  6. eizybuyonlineshop

    We had ordered lunch Daily Meal Islamabad a few times while on the islamabad visiting family and friends. The servers here are just wonderful and have great memories it seems. We took food in time and hot and enjoyed the food with our delicious juices and lunch. Must try!
    link is giving https://www.facebook.com/dailymeal.pk/

    Reply

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