Friday, April 17, 2015

Stories and FOOD

Have you ever thought about the role of food and stories? I often do.

Many of the best conversations occur around the dinner table. Many cultures traditionally celebrate with meals and specialty foods. In the U.S. turkey with all the trimmings comes to mind for not only Thanksgiving but also Christmas for some families. It's a great way to share Grandmother's favorite recipes and new ones.

Summer time vacations and outside play often include grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, potato salad, watermelon and cookies.  I have fond memories of this menu when we visited local lakes on hot summer days. Playing on the shore line, skiing in the wake of the boat, all stimulated our appetite. Some foods are only commercially available at festivals and fairs, so we always love to partake of this special fare (funnel cakes come to mind).
These memories make great fodder for story telling. Place several characters sharing a meal and see where the conversation leads. Make it real by sharing a bit of the menu, the aromas and how the characters use the food to punctuate their words. Does Aunt Mae unsuccessfully hide her rude replies or disapproval behind her napkin?  Does Uncle Joe scold by shaking his fork flipping tiny bits of potato? Is Little Bobby secretly slipping his green beans to the dog under the table? Does Dad always drip something on his shirt? If so, what is there today? These situations make me think of a Norman Rockwell portrait - the reason they were so popular was because everyone could relate to those slices of life.

Food not only is an important part of family stories, but it can stimulate the writing process. My personal favorite snack while writing is hot cinnamon tea and a piece of deep, dark chocolate. These little pleasures pull my focus from the outside world inside, where I find a direct line to the imagination. If I'm eager to write words on the page, I'll use a chocolate as a reward once the scene or chapter is written. It's a very satisfying way to celebrate the words on the page.

Breakfast and dinner with family and friends are often a theme in the stories I write (FEISTY FAMILY VALUES, PATCHWORK FAMILY, EARL DIVINE). It's a wonderful place for interaction, conflict and an opportunity to get to know characters.

As a reader I have to admit that I love to have a latte or tea while I'm reading. It's relaxing and adds to the treat of time alone with a book. Don't ignore the impact food and drink have in a story. Have fun with it. Create new recipes and new traditions or rituals. Enjoy the journey and bon ape'tit!

Comments and recipes are always welcome!


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Bonnie,

I enjoyed reading your post today. It gave me food for thought so to speak. Just like real life families, characters at a breakfast or dinner table are interacting. Great possibilities for vivid scenes. TV shows use this device all the time. Food is basic to our human existence, and so it fits right in with any kind of writing.

Bonnie Tharp said...

Hi Jacqui, Thanks for the comment. For me it's just an excuse to eat something yummy. Just kidding!

Mary F. Schoenecker Writes said...

When I posted my blog yesterday I looked down & read yours. Sorry it wasn't sooner,but I am in the middle of moving & so,so,busy. I did want to say I try to put a little food references or served in my books also, and I do love old traditions at dinner tables.

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