Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Foodie as Writer

When I was a kid, my sister handed me the book Homer and the Doughnut Machine by Robert McCloskey, and I fell in love instantly. Years later I understand that it wasn't just the humor in the story, or the detailed description of the doughnut machine that kept me coming back for more. It was the doughnuts. No kidding. I couldn't eat them, but Mr. McCloskey's description of them -fresh from the doughnut fryer with a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar that exploded in a warm, fragrant cloud with each bite- was enough to get me hooked.

As I look back on some of my favorite books from childhood, I realize that quite a few of them involved amazing descriptions of one of my favorite things on the planet: FOOD. Love A Wrinkle in Time? Check out Ms. L'Engle's description of the turkey dinner that Charles Wallace cannot taste until he opens himself up to IT. Ms. L'Engle included a nearly lethal description of the tart cranberry sauce, the sweetness of the green peas, the tenderness of the turkey, the brown richness of the gravy. But it was her blobs of melting butter on the mashed potatoes that about did me in.

Agatha Christie, my first foray into adult mysteries, has a beautiful description of muffins (warm and buttered) and tea in her book, At Bertram's Hotel.

Mary Poppins was all about food, from the healthy stuff like the fresh fruit Bert draws on the sidewalk with chalk (and that the children were able to pluck and eat, "juice running down" their chins to the raspberry jam tarts Mary shares with Bert on her day off.

As for the Melendy family and their friend Jasper? He of the fresh blueberry pies and the glazed marble cakes? I don't go there anymore unless I've just eaten.

I am thus beginning to realize that my books, while fun and infinitely readable in my own opinion (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), could use a bit more food in them, too. True, Jake and Philip go out for pie and french fries at one point in Saving Jake. And my latest manuscript, still seeking a home, details a sit-down family dinner of Filipino proportions during the course of a friendship in the making. But I think I need to include more than that.

Warm from the oven, gooey, sweet chocolate chip cookies, anyone?


  1. Nice post. I always loved the moment in a Fantasy adventure tale —when the hero is exhausted and finally gets a respite and enjoys a "hearty meal of hard cheeses, wine and cooked meats." My first novel Milky Way Marmalade (the title itself referring to a powerful, tasty looking intelligent gelatin) had many food references. As does my soon-to-be released kid lit novel, Rupert Starbright. I am a foodie and it is fun to read and write about.

  2. Thanks, Bev, food IS fun and I can't gain weight reading about it. "..hearty meal of hard cheeses, wine, and cooked meats..." That sounds great! But heroes should eat more desserts!

  3. Food is definitely fun. Use it a lot in books since it can give a break from the action.