WritingLife: The Little Detail Of Food

Food. It’s something we need to survive. It can be a rustic fair or a fancy creation, but regardless we all need to eat. Food does more than that, though, it can bring a family around a dinner table or open the eyes of an outsider. It can hint at how wealthy an establishment is. It can also showcase what’s in season in that area and what’s valued in that culture. Food can do so much. So why does it sometimes get passed over in our writings? Why do these little details so often get overlooked?

For example, I’m a freelance editor and as such I have the lovely opportunity to work with some amazing writers. One such writer kept mentioning food but wasn’t specific to what the food actually was. I pointed it out, and they replied saying I was “too obsessed” with food. But really, those little details were actually important. The story was set in Japan and food is a huge part of their culture (of any culture, I’d wager) and vastly different than our own. (For example: In Japan it’s common to have cooked rice with a cracked egg overtop for breakfast.) Instead of saying “XX had breakfast” and move on, adding in that small detail would ground the reader in this setting and in this culture. It was an interesting back-and-forth, and eventually the writer understood where I was coming from and added those details in. I believe the setting is stronger because of that.

And I’m here to implore all writers to include this sensory activity in their stories. After all, food is important, regardless of race. (Unless…you have a race that doesn’t eat, but that opens up a whole new set of experiences!) Now, that’s not to say every page has to have some kind of food on it. Don’t overboard the reader with an onslaught of meals, as that would probably get boring. But don’t forget them either.

Like I said before, food can help build the setting and tone of your story. A meal in a post-apocalyptic world would be vastly different than a meal set on a spaceship or a meal in historic Japan. A sit-down meal surrounded by family sets a different tone than a quick meal on the run or a hearty meal in a pub.

Food can help solidify the reader in a character’s POV. Is the soup too spicy? Is the bread too soft or salty or filled with nuts they don’t like? Does the juice from that purply-green fruit drip down their chin? Burst over their tongue? Scorch their throat going down?

Food can also help shape your characters. Do they miss certain foods from back home? Do they like certain spices or sweets? Do they even know what meats or vegetables are in the soup they’re currently enjoying?

These things may seem tiny among the “bigger details” like the plotline and the character arcs and the overall setting, but these little descriptions ground the readers in your world and your character. These little descriptions make the place seem real.

What do you think? Add a comment below!

Hope you have a lovely 4th of July weekend!
Until next time!
Kellie

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What To Make For Dinner: A Writer’s Late-Night Quandary

It’s happened again. Like so many times before, I got caught up in writing a scene, or a page, or a chapter, that I neglected the time and when I finally looked up from my Word document it’s 9:50pm. Way past dinnertime. So, what’s a writer to make? Here are my quick and easy top five dishes to prepare when in a late-night quandary:

*note: these dishes aren’t sanctioned by any nutritionist. They are merely what I gravitate toward.

  1. Pasta – Yes, pasta, it’s fast and simple, throw a pot of water on the stove, wait a few minutes for it to boil, then throw the pasta in. I like mine plain with butter or olive oil, some herbs, and parmesan. But if you like sauce, just throw some in a pan and call it good. Quick & Easy Score: 8
  2. Leftovers – Just like the pasta, only with less variety because you probably had this for dinner the night before, just throw the leftovers in a pan (or in the microwave if you’ve got one) and heat that sucker up. Quick & Easy Score: 9
  3. Frozen Veggies – Don’t knock it till you try it. I’ve had many a night where it was too late to even heat things up and I just go ahead and eat the veggies frozen. I like the broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower mixture. (I’m not weird…you’re weird!) Quick & Easy Score: 10
  4. Baked Potato – Okay, so this one may seem weird for a late night, but think of it this way. The time it takes you to actually bake the potato (for me that’s between 20-50 minutes depending on how I prepare it) can be used to finishing up that scene! I like my potatoes to be the sweet variety, but any type of potato will do. Quick & Easy Score: 7
  5. Cookies – When the time ticks past ten or eleven, I just call off the dinner plans and go straight for dessert. Sure, I’ll be super hungry in the morning but I also don’t want to eat too much late at night. Bonus points if you have milk to go with it! (I’m sure you could substitute cookies with, say, an apple or some other fruit and some peanut butter—and sometimes I do!—but I have a real hankering for a cookie right now.) Quick & Easy Score: 10

So there you have it. Five quick and easy dinners for your late-night quandary after a long evening of writing. Sometimes time gets away from you, but your eating habits don’t have to suffer. (Much!)

What are some things you like to eat after your writing consumes you?
Warm regards,
Kellie