‘Tis the Season (for Feasting!)

OK, so maybe I’m only thinking about food because I finished the last of my Thanksgiving leftovers for breakfast this morning.  (What?  You don’t think that cranberry sauce goes in oatmeal?  Then you haven’t experienced the best oatmeal of your life!)

But thinking about food made me think about food-in-writing.  My novels tend to have a lot of food – a group of my readers regularly calls my Jane Madison series (about a librarian who discovers that she’s a witch) the “Bakery Series” because of all the treats my heroine consumes at the Cake Walk Bakery.  (And yes, I maintain that tea at the Four Seasons was tax deductible research!)  I even found a way to make cupcakes a crucial plot element for my upcoming vampire novel….

Of course, there’s a long history of food in fiction.  As a kid, I loved the scene in The Hobbit, where the dwarves arrive for their meeting and eat Bilbo Baggins out of house and home.  And I enjoyed the medieval feasts described so lovingly by Katherine Kurtz in her Deryni series.  I was even fascinated by the blood wine in Anne Bishop’s Jewels series.

So?  What about you?  What food and drink do you most recall from the speculative fiction that you’ve read?

Mindy (exercising great restraint in *not* mentioning the food-for-zombies in Mira Grant’s wonderful FEED, the last book she finished…  Oh.  Wait.  I did mention it.  Well, hurry up and comment, so that’s not the last image in people’s minds when they finish reading this post!)

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  1. 1. Deborah Blake

    I’m trying to remember if I’ve ready anything in the SF/fantasy realm lately that had food in it. Maybe S.M. Sterling’s post-apocolypse series, which actually has a Pagan bunch and some feasting…

    But in non-SF, I’ve just been reading an amazing author named Barbara O’Neal, who practically makes food another character in her books. Wow.

  2. 2. Elias McClellan

    Ooo, I savor this topic, Ms. Kasky!

    I loved the banquet scene in Herbert’s “Dune.” Another fine bit of food writing is Jacqueline Carey’s “Kushiel’s” series, which lovingly renders lavish descriptions of fine and low dinning one would expect from a novel set in an alternate France polulated by the descendents of angels.

    Both authors lovingly describe foods I would’ve never considered eating (Herbert’s Hare and Carey’s Squid in ink, come to mind) otherwise. The greatest gift is their detail depections have made me increasingly epi-curious.

    I haven’t always enjoyed my experiments, (grasshopers) nor would I necessary repeat ones I did enjoy, (sweatbread). But thanks to these authors I’ve usually learned something from each gourmet-gambit. Even found that squid isn’t half bad, squab is excellent, and foie gras is wonderful. I still don’t get the appeal of gnocci though, go figure.

    Can’t wait to read the recollections of others and pick up new tips for books and food.

  3. 3. Sarah McCabe

    My husband and I like to joke around that it’s not high fantasy unless there’s stew involved. The amount of novels that feature characters eating stew, even as a roadside meal while traveling, is quite staggering. And always makes me hungry.

  4. 4. L. Jagi Lamplighter (Wright)

    Historical books tend to have a lot of food scenes, where we are reminded of the dishes of the past. I had fun writing one for a book I never finished.

    I once got to attend a banquet on the Island of Gotland, in Sweden, that was served as we would have eaten it in the 12th century with traditional Swedish delicacies. What a wonderful experience that was, and so useful for food scenes. ;-)

  5. 5. Stevie Carroll

    I can’t imagine writing a story that didn’t feature food and drink in vital scenes. It’s not a properly British novel if secrets aren’t revealed either over a cup of tea, or down the pub.

    I was reminded today of how much I enjoyed ‘The Chocolatier’s Wife’: I need to reread that sometime soon.

  6. 6. Olivia

    My most recent (and first) MS’s food consisted mainly of whatever I smelled cooking at the time, plus jokes such as “I’d never met a teenage boy who didn’t love bacon,” (therefore they ate bacon).
    The one I’m working on now, however, contains frequent mentions of sausage bread for no reason whatsoever other than my own amusement. Is that okay?

  7. 7. Mindy Klasky

    Deb – I agree, that there’s a lot more food in other genres. I’m out to change that! :-)

    Elias McClellan – Let’s see… We’ll have to agree to disagree on the foie gras – it’s never been a favorite of mine. Now, squab I’ve never tried. Maybe I’ll have to set up a meal or two as a research expense!

    Jagi – I agree that historical novels *tend* to focus more on food than contemporary ones. I suspect that’s related to the fact that so few of us have time to do our own cooking these days… (At least, interesting, creative cooking. Or maybe that’s just me!)

    Stevie – I truly regret that we don’t have the equivalent of “pubs” here in the States – the social function is completely lacking. I haven’t read The Chocolatier’s Wife, but it sounds as if I should add it to my list!

    Olivia – I, too, incorporate private jokes about food. As for sausage bread – amuse thyself! :-)

  8. 8. Elias McClellan

    Ms. Klasky, as long as you’re expensing, I suggest Hugo’s in Houston, where the specialty is central Mexican cuisine. I delight in their sqab on a bed of Swish Chard, black rice, and mushroom tamal.

    Most importantly, though is the chipotle chocolate cake and cafe de olla, which has saved my marriage on more than one occasion.

  9. 9. Marie Andreas

    LOL! Great post :) . Ok, I have to admit I was tickled to see I’m not the only food obsessed reader out there. I STILL want a “Bubbly pie” from Anne McCaffrey’s books!

    Interestingly, I don’t seem to put much food in my books. Something I didn’t notice until now. Nor, do I see that level of loving detail in alot of current titles. It’s sad really- food can be a great way to anchor the reader in the setting and world and yet I think many writers are moving away from that type of detailed writing.

    You know, I’m going to work on getting more food in my own stories :) . (And I do like the tea as a tax write off idea ;) )

    Thanks for a great post!

  10. 10. Elias McClellan

    @9, Ms. Andreas, I agree there is too little, lovingly-depicted food in contemporary titles. This spans all genres and I think it is an example of screen writing informing book writing.

    As scintilating as film and television may depict people, spaceships, and worlds, food is an after thought and usually looks like a cheap prop. Only a handful of scenes invoke a/any response for the food depicted and only one of those scenes originate in an American movie.

    Food resonates in print sooooo much stronger in print than on screen largely as we have the luxury of a 1000 words (as long as they are compelling words) to their single picture. Excellent observation and I hope you will share your favorites, if not here, then in your work.


  1. On Food… | Mindy Klasky, Author

Author Information

Mindy Klasky

Mindy Klasky is the author of eleven novels, including WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD and HOW NOT TO MAKE A WISH in the As You Wish Series. She also wrote GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL, and MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL, about a librarian who finds out she's a witch. Mindy also wrote the award-winning, best-selling Glasswrights series and the stand-alone fantasy novel, SEASON OF SACRIFICE. Visit site.



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