Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Eating My Words

I love devising recipes from the books I read, so when I write, I pay attention to what my characters would eat.  Food is an intrinsic part of my worldbuilding, and sometimes, it leaks into my everyday world.

Today’s lunch, for example, was a favorite snack of a minor character in a colonial worlds novel I wrote (and that needs rewriting and editing): guacamole and bacon sandwiches, with sprouts tomato, radish, and cucumber slices, and a dash of pepper sauce. The bread always changed, and sometimes, it had no bread at all, being wrapped in romaine leaves or dolloped into tiny sweet peppers. For lunch, though, it was spread on sourdough bread, and the leftover spread became a pretzel dip.

Spock’s green Plomik Soup.

Elven lembas and Farmer Maggot’s mushrooms from Lord of the Rings

The Chronicles of Narnia’s Turkish Delights

Harry Potter’s chocolate frogs

The Song of Ice and Fire series using forgotten medieval dishes like lamprey pie.

The Liaden series, with the nut of their Tree and their hospitality wines.

These stories are deepened by the food and drink references.

Some authors bypass the need for food with dispensers, replicators, and pills (Riverworld dispensers, Star Trek replicators, and far too many pill stories by authors from Bradbury and E. E. “Doc” Smith to Aldiss and Werfel).

Others view food through an ethical lens, creating cultured meats and yeast vats of food (Margaret Atwood’s ChickieNobs, yeast vats in Asimov, Kornbluth, Gibson, and Pohl novels).

Food is a unifying and divisive device in novels, a tool of mockery as well as an indication of otherness.

So my stories, too, contain food references that add key elements and further the plot and maybe will make their way into the kitchens and bellies of any of my readers.


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I belong to a writer’s group where we gather once a month to critique one another’s works and once a month to just write.

I know I can be rather harsh when it comes to critiquing other people’s writing (and don’t mind harsh critiques on my work – all the ghods know I need it!), so I’ve wracked my brain for ways to soften the blow and better explain what I mean.

I accidentally hit on food.

Yeah, it surprised me, but it works.  A story is a lot like a recipe.  So I started making the foods that I used to critique a story.

One person is writing a memoir about his time as a Vietnam Vet. His story is firm and meaty and a little bit juicy, but kind of dry. When I made my first bacon apple pie, it was a lot like that. It needed more juice, more spices, a touch less meat, and a firmer crust, just like his story, so when I tried to tell him kindly he needed to juice it up with more emotions and spice it up with more personal heart, and maybe bring in some raisins for that unexpected delight, kind of like that bacon apple pie. I think he sort of got where I was going, but not really.

So I baked that bacon apple pie two ways – the way his story was currently written, and the way I’d tweaked it to make the pie something divinely delicious.


Once everyone had eaten some of each pie, they knew exactly what I meant.



The next time we critiqued his tale, it was much improved.

And then there was the sweet little flash fic critique that was nicely written but normal and predictable. I suggested it get something to twitch it up to unexpected, like watermelon pie. Everyone knows pie, and everyone knows a nice cream pie, but watermelon?


Delightful, sweet, exactly what people expected until they bit into it and then – watermelon!

Haven’t read the rewrite yet, but I am anticipating it!

Now, I have to figure out how to deconstruct a lovely sushi platter so all the parts are there, but nothing is connected. There’s a story that has everything it needs to be good, but it’s all in pieces that need to be pulled together into not just a pretty platter, but an exquisite dish that is beautiful as well as delicious. I think he can do it.

And there’s this dense novel that has the most gorgeous language and use of words but it’s hard to digest and not to everyone’s taste.  It’s a fruitcake that’s all fruit, and hardly any cake – no glaze, no rum, some nuts.  I have to make both the fruitcake as written and the fruitcake it could be.

I’ve said I have to give this dense darling some time before I can fully critique it.

The food correlation won’t work with every story, but I think it does help make the critique clear and gives the author some direction without me trying to put words in their mouth.

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I guess I am the McGyver among my friends. I always seem to have just what’s needed to fix something, do something, or make something that’s needed, even if I have to change what it was originally for.

The only thing I can’t seem to McGyver up is my lunch break. I haven’t had one yet, and poor Itzl is about to float away….

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Baklava up close

Originally uploaded by nodigio

I buy donuts every Friday for my co-workers.

When I started doing this, I’d found a donut shop I loved. The owner was delighted about owning the shop and it showed in his donuts. They were light, airy, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The glaze had a hint of almond and cinnamon in it. For three years, he owned this shop, then he passed it on to his children, who saw the donut shop as a job, not as a skill or a craft the way their father did.

The donuts suffered, but were still better than anyone else’s in town.

Then, they started passing the shop around among their relatives and the donuts were simply a way to make a lot of money. The donuts were hit-or-miss for being good. Some days, the donuts were raw in the middle. Apparently, enough people complained that they brought back the son to make the donuts and the quality evened back out. It was kind of rocky for a while there, and I investigated other donut shops in case they continued their downward spiral.

I dismissed Krispy Kreme because I really detest their waxy glaze. My mother-in-law adores them and I know a lot of other people really like them, but I can’t stand the excess paraffin they use to make their glaze firm.

I dismissed Dunkin’ Donuts because they’re out of the way and sort of hard to get to.

There is no Winchell’s anywhere nearby, so that lets them out.

That left only 2 other donut shops that were on the way to work. One is a franchise run by a single man – who makes really good donuts but if some of my co-workers ever saw the inside of his donut shop, they’d gag. He’s not very tidy as he makes his donuts. They are good, though. Almost as good as the first donut shop’s were when the original owner still made the donuts.

The other is locally owned and been passed down in the family. People have aved about this bakery for years, but I’ve never been impressed with them. They’re expensive, they’re sort of rude (not all of them, I’ve met one who was polite – not friendly, just polite), and the items I’ve purchased from them were, let’s go with “adequate”. I’d never bought their donuts, though. Maybe that’s what people were raving about. So I bought donuts there.

Eeew. The worst donuts ever – even worse, in my opinion, than Krispy Kreme! They were small, and hard. You didn’t even have to touch them to know they were hard. They looked hard. The glaze was uneven and laminated in thick flakes. When you bit into it, the donut was tough. It had a thick crust, as if it had been fried in cold oil. The dough on the inside was too firm for a yeast donut. It was almost too firm for a cake donut. It was like they hadn’t had time to rise at all; just mixed, let to rest long enough to roll out, cut, and fried immediately. The flavor was overly sweet. Maybe that’s where the raves come in – the people raving about how wonderful these donuts are like them really sweet.

Me, I like my yeast donuts to be soft, light, airy, melt-in-your-mouth tender, with a thin glaze. This means they need to rise until they are at least doubled in size. They need to be fried in hot oil so they puff and seal quickly. They need to be glazed while still hot so the glaze spreads evenly and thinly and the glaze shouldn’t be too sweet.

I shan’t be returning to the family bakery for donuts, bagels, bread, or sandwiches because I’ve been disappointed in all of them. I’ve really tried to see what it is people love about this bakery so much and I just can’t see it.

But, you know, out of 5 donut shops, only 2 fail to met my standards, so that leaves me with 3 choices (assuming I change my route to work to pass by a Dunkin’ Donuts). Since the original donut shop stabilized again and the donuts, while not as good as the father’s, are good again. Three good donut shops makes me happy.

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