Last updated on September 23, 2011
The places we eat can be as ubiquitous and generic as the golden arches. Food can be something you shovel into your mouth when your stomach tells you to, or food and the places we get it from can take on layers of meaning that fill your story with all the richness of a delicious, cream-filled snack cake. (Anybody else hungry now? You’re welcome, haha)
I use food to communicate in my stories. I don’t even do it on purpose, it just happened that way until one day I noticed that in most of my stories, my characters spent at least one scene i,f not more, in a position where food played a part. Whether it was the Best Sandwich Ever Made, Incredible Coffee, or Cakes and Tea with the Lord of the Dead, my characters have found ways to express meaning through food.
Eating together is one of the most basic social bonding experiences. Since the first caveman noticed the second one gnawing on a bone and figured out a way to say, “Hey, you eat meat, I eat meat, let’s share that bone, huh?” people have been eating together.
Some of our most visceral rules of hospitality involve breaking bread to avoid breaking heads. What you eat, with whom you eat, how you eat it, and where you eat it, have all been addressed through sometimes very strict societal rules. Jewish Kosher rules have been observed for thousands of years. Certain meals in many religions and cultural practices have extra significance. It only makes sense that our characters and the worlds we build will have ascribed some significance to food at some point.
Between characters, a meal can be an intimate dinner, or the most awkward experience they’ll ever face. Food can reveal character. If your male lead still sits at the Kids’ table when he’s 34, either he’s fun-loving, good with kids, or Peter Pan.
Even something as basic as a favorite food can reveal a lot about a character. Pate de Foie Gras probably won’t show up in your lower middle class character’s list of faves. Fast food might be a guilty pleasure of a slumming rich kid.
Go ahead…play with your food and you just might find out something new about your story.