Friday, January 28, 2011

Does Anyone Actually Eat?

I don't read much in the way of fiction, but what I do read, I like and thoroughly enjoy about 99% of the time. However, it's that 1% that I don't enjoy that will be the topic de jeur for today.

There really isn't any easy way for me to intro this question, so I'll get right down to the nitty gritty and ask it.

Does anyone actually EAT?

I mean, it seems like no matter what book I've read, the characters throughout seem to survive on nothing but their own body. I mean, literally, they continue to do things that take a great deal of energy to do, yet nothing in the way of sustenance actually passes into their mouth.

Granted, fiction is an escape from reality, but I find it hard to believe that includes having the characters not eat.

Because I find that a creative mind is a terrible thing not to 100% tap into, let me tell you what kind of neat interesting thing that I've tried to do with most of my finished and unfinished books/stories.

I've made sure at few key points in all of my works to have my characters eat food. Whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner, I made sure that they actually ate. Of course, saying that your characters are gonna eat is one thing, but showing what they've actually eaten is another. That's were my handy dandy imagination came in.

What I'm about to show you is a few examples of what I've created for meals/appetizers for some of my stories. Please keep in mind that all of these have, to a certain degree, my personal tastes written into them.

1} Mushroom caps stuffed with capers, cilantro, sweet onions with a dash of jalapeno hot sauce, topped with melted brie, and a bottle of Chablis. I wrote a short story called, "The Grid". It's a story about revenge that has the final scene taking place in an upscale restaurant and this appetizer is featured prominently at the end.

2} Southern Double Surprise (two kinds of meat, seven kinds of veggies and three different kinds of condiments), spicy home fries and to wash it down, either a Jolt Float (cola and chocolate ice cream with three shots of Old Grandad) or a Root Beer Tart (old fashioned root beer with lemon shavings). I originally started writing a novel version of my second self pubbed book about two years ago, and this is what the couple had when they were traveling through Virginia on their honeymoon and stopped at a hamburger stand for lunch. Unfortunately, I neglected to state just exactly what the ingredients were, so please use your faves to make the hamburger special.

3} Bacon and eggs, with sweet potato hash browns, onions, hot sauce, toast and garlic juice squeezed on the eggs. One of the few things I got right with my first self pubbed book was creating meals for the main characters.

In my novel Line 21 is where I really found my groove for food. Because I was trying to make this be as real as possible, I made sure that my main character Jeannie, ate at least two normal meals per day. To make things relatively easy, for the most part, I keep the meals at what I consider to be good comfort food.

Usually bacon and eggs with coffee for breakfast and Chinese for dinner and leftovers for snacks. Lunch is where I got a little creative. Because I wanted to leave just a little bit of me with one of the meals, I drew on a few local eateries for inspiration. I had Jeannie stop at a local deli and buy two Reuben sandwiches (yes, the classic), homemade coleslaw with oil and vinegar, sour pickles and to wash it down, homemade colas (yes, we have two very good local bottlers here in Connecticut: Avery Beverages and Hosmer Mountain).

And believe it or not, as I got to the final scene, in which Jeannie meets her uncle at his restaurant, I ran a contest asking what would be a good meal for them to have, of which the prize was that I would use their meal in the story and write them in as a character. Two of my readers won, Lisa and Jane, and I used their suggestions for the final scene.

So to wind up this little foodie post, here is what Jeannie and her uncle order for their meal at the fabulous Dragon Emporium: for Jeannie, she ordered sweet and sour chicken balls with curried pork fried rice and wonton soup; for her uncle, he ordered butternut squash stuffed ravioli with steamed vegetables, a house salad, and long grain wild rice with bruschetta on the side.

And you just know that there's a question attached to this post.

"Does something like this bother you at all when you read a story/book? Or is it just something you either put up with or simply overlook?"


  1. What about going to the bathroom?

  2. I actually have thought about that, because, you are right, some books just never mention food in particular.

    There is an author I used to read, Lawrence Sanders, and his Archy McNally series had major descriptions of his meals.

    The Janet Evanovich books describe the character Stephanie Plum's meals, even if it is just a peanut butter sandwich.

    So good idea to do that, G. If they made that Jolt Cola with diet coke, I'd so be right there. :)

  3. Once in a great while I'll see a fictional character eat but almost always they eat very little or can't finish a meal because of something going on. I did have Ruenn and Rannon eat sandwiches in one of the Talera books, and mentioned it a few times. I should do more.

  4. I can only travel into an imaginary world if there's a realism to it and food plays a great part in creating that. I love writers that put normal activities into scenes without over-forcing them...and eating and drinking is part of that. I've also been inspired to cook something after I've read about a character eating it in a book - lol!

  5. This was actually one of the problems I always had with the show "24," which I watched for about two seasons. It really started to annoy me that in a show supposedly set in "real time," NO ONE ever ate or used a bathroom. I'm sorry, but in the span of 24 hours, you're going to have to eat and use a bathroom... :)

    As far as fiction, I think it probably depends on what type of book you're reading. For instance, in the Harry Potter series, the characters ate all the time -- giving J.K. Rowling a chance to write about all sorts of fanciful, magical culinary creations fit for witches and wizards. I'm reading a book right now that is set in Hawaii in the 1800s, and there have been many mentions of poi, roasted fish, etc.

    But eating seems to be much less common in action/thriller-type books. Maybe, in this case, if a character stops to eat it's too much of a break in the action? Perhaps that's why no one ever ate on 24, either... :)

  6. Bearman: Very good question. In a few of my longer stories and my recently completed novel, I do have my characters spend some time in the bathroom doing what comes natural, being completing their toiletry, showering/bathing and/or the other thing.

    Lynn: I always found doing the little things like that in a story makes that much more enjoyable to read.

    I remember back in the mid 70's, I read a few murder mysteries in which food was a featured item in the story. Even something as old as the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries often featured food as part of the story.

    As for using Diet Coke, give it shot and let me know what its like. :D

    Charles: I can understand how a particular type of story a character would have problems in eating/finishing a meal. I just find it a bit annoying when in a general fiction type of story, the characters don't eat.

    Lisa: I think in t.v. its a given that characters don't eat unless the show revolves around that particular component. Even with some of the modern shows, a restaurant is simply used as a transitional scene in which nothing of note happens.

    And I agree, certain types of fiction have a tendency to lend themselves to not eating. Just doesn't really make it as believable as it should.

  7. excellent point. there are certain elements of life we seldom seem in fiction. Sometimes I regret it...others I celebrate it

  8. Darth: Thanks.

    Fortunately, food is one of the few versatile items that you explore all kinds of emotions with.

  9. You know, that is a really good point. I have never really thought about it...most of the fiction I read has people meeting for coffee or drinks, but when the hell do they eat? My fiction is mostly children's stuff but they do eat, as you know...they even try to get their cat to eat their vegetables.

  10. M: Thanks.

    I really do find it wierd that characters don't eat. In two of my favorite fiction novels (yes I do have some faves and they are chick lit/romance), even though there are a few restaurant scenes, the setting are more for moving the plot along than having the character eat anything.

  11. UConn is trying to give this one away- all Louisville does is shoot 3's and they don't guard it - they need this win

  12. Ryan: That is what UCONN does best sometimes---they give it away.


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