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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Next Month

Tomorrow’s Fourth of July already?

WHAAAAAAT?

I can’t believe how fast June went by, like Sheldon’s Halloween costume in The Big Bang Theory.

sheldon cooper

So. Crazy.

And get this? I’m leaving next month! No, not the blog. What I mean to say is I’m moving. From Alaska. To Portland. With my two cats. It’s going to be an adventure, for sure. I’m driving down with my mom and my cats and as much stuff as I can stuff into my car… with my mom… and my cats… and me. (Insert Crazy Here)

I just can’t believe I’m leaving next month.

NEXT month.

Next MONTH.

NEXT MONTH.

NeXt MoNtH.

Any way I write it I still get chills.

Now for some people moving is no big deal. I’ve had quite a few friends who’ve done it. They all say it went fine. And I’m sure it will go fine.

But as someone who has lived in the same town for her whole life, moving is more of a big deal than most. How is that possible, you ask? (Okay, maybe you didn’t but oh well.)

When I was younger (think, as a one year old) my family moved to Alaska for my dad since he got a job up here. That was twenty four years ago and we haven’t left since. I did homeschool here, I went to high school here, I even went to the local college in Anchorage (go UAA!). I lived at home throughout my college life. Now, to be fair, I did spend a semester in Montana in 2009, lived in the dorms and such, away from my family. But that was one semester. And my friend went to the school in Montana so it wasn’t that terrifying.

[Now this isn’t… terrifying, per say. It’s just different. And my family and friends can tell you stories of how I deal with change. Hint: Not Too Well.]

But I’ve lived in Alaska for my whole life. Heck, I lived in the same house for my entire childhood and only recently moved out. And even then, I moved into a condo with my sister. That is down the street from my parent’s house. Like really, I can walk to my parent’s house without much difficulty. (Of course, you can pretty much walk anywhere in my little hometown though.) And I get together with my family every week, if not multiple times a week. We’re very close knit. And I’m not complaining, because it’s honestly been great. I consider myself very lucky to have such deep roots in my little hometown and to my family.

Any my friends, too! I’ve made friends here, damn it! Good friends. Nice friends. Best friends, even. Friends who understand my weirdness. Friends who get that my favorite color is in fact orange and I do have a ton of allergies and I really really REALLY hate spiders.

And all the groups I belong to? Two writing groups (Jitters Critters and Writer’s Ink), my reading group (The Living Room), and my book club (The Pages We Turn).

And my internship with Cirque!

And my current job at Michael L. Foster & Associates, Inc. My 8-5 job with a solid paycheck and nice co-workers (some of them have become my friends)!

All of this will change.

So the thought of moving is… well… strange.

But it’s so I can go to my dream school. It’s good to be more independent. It’s good to see who I’ll become when I’m on my own.

And I’m sure, when I get down there, it’ll be great. I will manage. I’ll do better than manage, though, I’ll flourish.

It’s just a change.
Change is scary.
But good.

In the meantime, though, I need to take a bunch of pictures of Alaska. Yes, I have a million pictures of Alaska. And yes I will be back for Christmas and (probably) a week next summer, but really, I don’t know when I’ll be back. I might find an amazing opportunity that is only in Portland and I have to be okay with that. I will be okay with that.

So, to allow me to be okay with that, I will take pictures to PROVE I AM FROM ALASKA.

(Okay, so maybe Portland people aren’t as amazed by that since they are kind of similar, but other Lower 48ers are just astonished by it so I need proof.)

Anyway, I will go camping with my family. I will do crazy stuff with my friends. I will go to a wedding AT THE ZOO! (Which I am psyched about!) And I will take pictures. I’ll make memories here in Alaska to look back at in Portland. (And I’ll make memories in Portland to bring back here, too.)

All in all, it will be awesome.

Because I am awesome.

I hope everyone has a lovely Fourth of July Weekend!
Warmest regards,
Kellie
Post Script – I saw this really cute girl today in passing and I wrote a poem, because I’m artistic like that.

Cutie

I saw a cutie today.
No, not the orange,
The weird tiny fruit made only for children
That are actually kind of good
For everybody.

This cutie walked past my car.
No, rushed really
Unaware of my staring
Not creepy or weird
Just captivated.

In my mind I saw things.
Don’t go in the gutter, I say.
I saw pixie wings and horns
Dragons and beasts and creatures all tamed
By her.

The little five-year-old
In a green shirt, dark pants
Skipping by her father’s side.
A sweet cutie and
Little muse.

– Did you think I was going to write about an adult ‘cute girl’? Well, I did. But not on here. I posted the one about the little girl instead. Am I a little bit evil today? Perhaps…