I have to confess. I’m one of those people who likes to look in everyone's trolley in the supermarket and at everyone's plate in the restaurant, to see what they're eating. I tell myself it's research, but it isn't. It's nosiness. Food interests me.
It's the same in books. One of the details that adds to my overall enjoyment is how the author handles food. When it comes to reading, I don't just want to know that they ate, I want to know what. I've just finished a cosy murder mystery by Louise Penny, and she is now right up there with my food describer heros. Everything is there, right down to the arugula in the sandwich.
Some authors are taking this thing a step further and printing the recipes along with the story. I've never made anything I've found in a novel, but it's still interesting to know. I probably wouldn't want to be hearing about the precise constituents of the heroine's burger, or exactly the way it was flame grilled, while the hero is trying to propose (over a burger -- what a cheapskate!), but everything in its place. That brings me to a pet hate. Waste of food. Even on paper. I can't count the number of times a meal has just been served and the hero/heroine gets kissed/dumped/shot and the food is never eaten. I realise I'm shallow, but it lifts me right out of the story. This one is the exception to the rule. If they're not going to eat it, then please don't tell me about it.
I know I'm sometimes guilty of too much food and drink when I'm writing. Not me, the characters (okay, yes, me as well.) I usually have to count up to find out how many cups of tea/coffee my characters have consumed, then delete a few. All that caffeine -- they'll be hopping like frogs -- but I had to give the heroine something to do with her hands when she made that tricky speech about ... (Fill in blank here.)
Food is a big part of life, and it's a big part of what goes inside a book. What better way of getting your characters together than over a meal? But if you're inviting me to dinner, via the pages of a book, please let me know what I'm eating!
Footnote. I'm taking to crime at the end of the week. A huge list of British and American crime writers will be appearing at Crimefest, here in the UK this weekend. It's a follow-on from the West Coast Crime Convention that is usually held in the US, but took place over here in Bristol a couple of years ago. The organizers enjoyed it so much they decided to do it again. Louise Penny is one of the guests. If I get some interesting sandwich fillings, along with the writing tips, I'll let you know.