Monday, April 13, 2020

You Are What You Eat

So much of our time at the moment seems to be spent on quartermaster duties. We're not in the 'shielding' group but the government, and more importantly my family, have been insisting that we self-isolate as much as possible. Finding a supermarket delivery slot is a full-time job on its own, and then finding what isn't out of stock and planning for three weeks ahead when you've been used to trotting down to Sainsbury's (within Zimmer distance when the time comes) every two or three days is very distracting.

My family is always asking, 'What did you have to eat?' when someone's been out for a meal so perhaps we're over-interested in food any way. But can I ask you, how often do your characters eat? It worries me when they don't.

There was one particular book I read that had a great plot, very tense, and I was eagerly reading on until the woman with her three children fled to this wooden cabin for refuge. The backwoodsman welcomed them and they stayed there, but then there was absolutely no mention, for the rest of the book, of anyone actually eating anything and it totally distracted me. Presumably he went out and shot stuff, but there was no mention of cooking it, no mention of a vegetable garden (which actually seemed unlikely) or a visit to a local store. I was so bothered about those poor starving children that the rest of the book was wasted on me.

DI Marjory Fleming is famously a hopeless cook, but I do see to it that other people provide her with regular meals. DCI Kelso Strang is quite handy in the kitchen. DS Tam MacNee's pie-and-beans habit wasn't exactly healthy and DC Livvy Murray can't resist a doughnut. It's an important part of the character shorthand for me.

Perhaps it was Ratty's picnic in The Wind in the Willows that made me feel food was an essential element to any book. We know Ratty intimately after that first colddchickencoldtonguecoldhamcold
beefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscresssandwidgespottedmeatgingerbeer lemondesodawater...'


Christine said...

It is really extraordinary, the way everyday stuff seems to be taking up so much time.And BTW I am interested in what people eat, too!

Susan D said...

One of my favourite memes lately popping up on FB:
This is a public service announcement - You've already eaten.

Aline Templeton said...

Food does become ridiculously important at the moment. Today I was quite excited to get my favorite supermarket bread. Before this, I didn't know I liked it so much.

Roland Clarke said...

My wife and I are playing the food juggling game at the moment, planning has become pot-luck - days when the tinned cat food might be on the menu. However, as a former organic fruit and veg wholesaler, I'm always feeding my characters. My current MC is from Welsh farming stocks and her mum cooks often, as does my MC's partner who produces Tamil dishes. Food is part of the substance in some scenes, so why ignore it.

Aline Templeton said...

I love the sound of that, Roland. Your MC sounds very like my DI Fleming, a farmer's wife, who has a mum who bakes and a Polish cleaner who also makes wonderful food like bigos and piroshki. When reading, I feel a sort of motherly agitation if the characters aren't eating properly.

Rick Blechta said...

What a delightful post! Thank you.

Roland Clarke said...

In Book 2 of my series, the mum of my MC's friend makes 'pirogi' - the Welsh Romany version of piroshki. Characters must eat wisely.