It has come to my attention that when a book neglects to mention copious amounts of food, it’s doing itself a horrendous disservice. Food is important! Food is crucial! Food is the one thing the human race agrees on: we need it. And when books also agree on this fact and mention food, then clearly it is on the path of Greatness.
Not convinced? Pfft, you doubter. Well, I have made quite a wonderful list for you of reasons WHY books should mention food. It’s a very important list. It’s very passionate. Because that’s who I am. I probably was a foodie blogger in another life.
1. IT AUTOMATICALLY HELPS READERS GET A FEEL OF THE BOOK’S CULTURE.
If I say “they ate chicken tikka masal with naan bread” you immediately think “OH. MIDDLE EAST. PERSIA. ETC.” And this is absolutely great for fantasy worlds. If you’re basing a culture on China but don’t want to outright say China because hello, it’s fantasy world, just mention sweet and sour pork and rice and egg noodles and soon the readers will get the idea.
2. IF THE CHARACTERS ARE ALL BORING LIMPETS, AT LEAST MENTIONS OF FOOD WILL HELP READERS CONNECT ON AN EMOTIONAL LEVEL TO THE BOOK.
What?! Don’t look at me like that! One can totally connect emotionally to a book based on the food. Especially if the character happens to share a favourite food with you. I am SO much more liable to side with a character, not because of morals — pshht, gosh no — but instead if they happen to have an affinity for chocolate brownie cheesecake. I’ll even side with a VILLAIN* if they have good taste in food.
* Not that I particularly need help to side with villains. I do it often regardless.
3. IT CAN MAKE A BOOK MORE MEMORABLE.
When a certain food reminds you of a book every time you eat it…gosh, is that good advertising or WHAT?! It makes you remember that book permanently. I mean, when all else fades, I’m still going to remember Bruce Bogtrotter and that ginormous chocolate cake.
Also, for instance:
- Blue food: Percy Jackson! He had a weird obsession with blue things, even blue coke, even blue pizza. But hey, the dude was under a lot of pressure from a young age.
- Pasta Puttanesca: Yay for the Baudelaire orphans in A Series of Unfortunate Events! They had to brave all sorts of evil to make pasta for the evil Count Olaf
- Lamb and Plum Stew: Oh, let’s applaud Katniss from The Hunger Games for her love of food in general!
- Chocolate Cake: Whenever I see a ginormous chocolate cake which actually, sadly, doesn’t happen very often and this makes me cry I think of the poor Bruce Bogtrotter in Matilda who was forced to eat the whole thing.
- Yogurt: now reminds me of Blue from The Raven Cycle, who grew up strictly on yogurt (minus the fruit parts which she hated) and no greens. Bless her soul.
- Chocolate pie: I can’t really even think about it without remembering The Help and Minnie Jackson’s, um, dubious secret ingredient.
- November Cakes: Maggie Stiefvater invented these for her book The Scorpio Races and they’re totally the only reason I like this book. HAHA JUST KIDDING. I love the book for other reasons too.
- Blueberries and milk and bread: Because this is all the Boxcar children lived off. FOR MONTHS. I still don’t understand how they didn’t die of malnourishment in that little boxcar, but hey, let’s not squash childhood fantasies.
- Turkish Delight: If this doesn’t make you think of Edmund Pevnsie in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I don’t know what your childhood was like. But it was probably sad.
- Butterbeer: if this isn’t the most famous Harry Potter drink in the universe you may call me a moose.
4. IT CAN MAKE CHARACTERS AWESOMELY 3-DIMENSIONAL.
How do they eat? Are they picky? Do they eat absolutely anything? Have they ever been so starving they couldn’t think? I like characters who feel real and who have backstory. Food can totally help with this. Hey writers. ARE YOU LISTENING? Your liege has spoken. Plus food can really influence how a person acts. If someone’s ever starved, they might hoard food. If a character has allergies it can make them scared of food. And it’s also relatable. Because seriously, who doesn’t have food allergies these days?!
5. IT CAN MAKE A BOOK FAMOUS.
Hello. Can we take a minute to question the rise of fame in The Hunger Games case? OBVIOUSLY THE ANSWER IS FOOD. Plenty of trilogies have had the same potential but have neglected to add in the parts where the protagonist ignores socialisation and goes and eats. That’s how you write a winning book, my friends. That’s how it’s done.
6. IT CAN MAKE READERS DIE OF HUNGER.
I don’t know how this is a positive. But it is.
7. IT CAN TURN YOU INTO A FULL-BLOWN NERD BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO COOK THE FOOD THAT’S MENTIONED IN BOOKS.
Out of that pantry, you bookworm, and into the open. COME EMBRACE THE INGREDIENTS OF DAUNTLESS CAKE. Literature-themed-cook-books are actually a thing. You can cook the entire of Narnia (please don’t pan fry Aslan) or work your way through the collection of weird Harry Potter concoctions.
8. IT MAKES A BOOK RELATABLE.
Nothing is more relatable than the 4 Basic Needs of Humanity: Food, Clothing, Shelter and WiFi. So if a book is set in a wacky place that makes your brain boggle…but…it mentions food? There’s a 87% chance I’ll connect with it still. Food is homey.
The country in Game of Thrones, Westeros, is completely alien to me. BUT LEMON CAKES. I can get onboard with that.
9. IT ALSO MAKES A BOOK GLORIOUSLY REALISTIC.
I’m possibly the most over-analysing pumpkin in the universe, BUT. I really get frustrated when characters skip off on long adventures with little to no food. One needs food to survive. More than that, one needs food to run for your life against massive purple trolls. I never can take a book seriously when they eat exactly NOTHING but manage to commit great acts of strength. Puh-lease.
10. PLUS IT MAKES ME MARVELLOUSLY HAPPY AND WE KNOW THAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT.
Weirdly enough, I have a lot of allergies. I can’t eat a lot of the food I wish I could eat because FOOD ALLERGIES, DANG IT. Therefore I get to live vicariously through books! And that is glorious. Although sometimes the cravings are quite torturous, ultimately it’s worth it.