Food features in a lot of stories... and with good reason. Most stories are shared around a meal, whether it's the dining room table at Sunday dinner or a picnic table during a cookout. Food, of course, is a major part of living and therefore it only makes sense that it is present in the lives of fictional characters. It could be as simple as NYPD Detective Michael Bennett (no relation!) in James Patterson's series stopping to buy a bagel and coffee at Starbucks or it could be as involved as a food-themed series such as Ellery Adams's Charmed Pie Shoppe mysteries.
While I'm not a big fan of "recipes included" novels (though I do love to read cookbooks!), seeing a mention of food in a novel makes me feel at home. And sometimes, it's not even that obvious. Often times, because food and eating is a part of life, we take it for granted that, of course, the characters in a book must eat, too. Grabbing a cup of coffee and a slice of coffee cake from the courtesy table at the Black Horse Campground store isn't exactly an exotic culinary experience... but we can relate to it. Corrie whips up a quick meal of migas, a Southwestern dish of tortilla strips, eggs, cheese and chile, for Rick and J.D. as they take a break from trying to figure out who murdered the victim and why.
Beans optional, but in New Mexico they're a staple!
Meals also help pace the story. Think about it. Can YOU go a full day without eating? I've sometimes discovered that my characters have already put in a 16-hour day of sleuthing and it isn't even lunch time yet. While it's not necessary to list every meal or bite of food eaten, it sometimes helps to have the characters stop for dinner... and it gives them time to talk about the case, too!
Food can also help with the story's setting. Read a Mary Higgins Clark novel and you'll find references to Neary's, an Irish pub in Manhattan (which, I'm delighted to report, actually exists and now I have another reason for wanting to visit the Big Apple!) and meals of fresh seafood on the Cape and fresh pasta dishes. Read a novel by Aimee and David Thurlo and you'll have characters stopping for a meal of mutton stew at their home on the Navajo reservation or for a green chile burger at the Totah Cafe. Those foods and places are very particular to the region of the country where the stories are set. True, you could get lobster in Nebraska or green chile in Vermont... but it seems a little weird!
In the spirit of talking about food, I'm guest blogging today over at Mrs. Happy Homemaker. The owner of the site, Cheryl, lost her husband two months ago. Support of her site and sharing it will help her support herself and her children. There are lots of great recipes there and today, you'll find my recipe for migas! Stop by and, if you like, subscribe to her page and "like" her on Facebook.
Now time to start planning dinner....