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Food in Literature: Characters Eating in Story

2 min read

by Sarah Buhrman

One of the more interesting critiques I’ve gotten is that I have my characters eat too much. I find this interesting because, as a reader, I notice and love scenes where characters are eating. I also have found that food in literature is a big thing.

Food, Glorious Food

In Too Wyrd, the storyline goes on for over a week. The characters do a lot of running around and encounter some weird things. So, when they need to dig for details or process what’s happened, they stop for a bite.

This has a major basis in human sociology. We base major events around meals, either retroactively in celebration or remembrance, or as part of an entire day, evening or afternoon.

Weddings have receptions. Graduations have cake and often grilled meats. The Fourth of July, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, family reunions… the list goes on.

Food in Books

This happens in literature, as well. Who could forget the feasts that made up every single meal at Hogwarts? How many recipes are online trying to replicate lamas bread from the Lord of the Rings trilogy? What of the Mad Hatter’s tea party, or the infamous Turkish Delight in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? And let’s not forget the entire cookbook based on meals described in A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka, Game of Thrones).

Romances often feature foods with the woman indulging in a life-long dream of being a cook or baker. Like Water for Chocolate was literally published in installments with recipes. Even the classics – Emma, Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, The Rum Diary by Hunter S Thompson – feature food within their pages.

Why Food Appeals

People sometimes just need to sit down and talk. It is natural to do so over a bite. Whether that is the tea and cakes featured in every parlor scene in historical romance, or a pizza eaten by the PI talking over the case with his partner, food makes sense.

Food also gives us insight into the personalities of the characters. One character avoids the sugary cakes because her mother is always harping about her weight. Another character eyes pepperoni with caution, wondering if his stress-induced heartburn will flare up. Siblings fight over whose green bean casserole should win the coveted spot in the holiday feast.

There’s the cultural aspects, as well. The third-generation Mexican-American can barely speak Spanish, but treasures the tamale recipe passed down from her abuela. An old Jewish man with no family cries silent tears over a secret delivery of Matzah balls during Passover.

These are the moments that food brings us – memories and human connection. So, eat on, my fellow readers.

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