When people ask me about my hobbies I always say I love all things relating to storytelling: reading, writing, movies, theater, and cooking. There’s always a pause when I mention cooking. I get it, cooking doesn’t seem like it belongs on that list, but to me cooking and, food in general, is another way to convey a story to someone. Usually a very personal story.
Everyone has a favorite food. I’d bet when you think about it you remember more than just how good it tastes. You remember the people you shared it with, or who first made it for you. Maybe it’s something your grandmother use to make or the meal you shared with your partner on your first date. There’s a story that goes along with the food on the plate. And that’s why I firmly believe that cooking is just another form of storytelling.
It’s also why I always include food in my books whenever I can. The obvious reason is that the characters need to eat to survive and it gives them something to do instead of just standing around talking all the time, but there’s always a deeper meaning to it. Food can help enrich the world your story is taking place in, especially if it’s exotic. It can also tell you a lot about the characters.
Take Grady for example and the fact that he is constantly eating food off of Crystal’s plate. That one simple act tells you so much about the relationship the two of the have. Or the fact the Desi shies away from any of the native Neophia food, preferring the comfort food from Earth gives her while serving on another planet. Then there is the heartbreaking connection between Crystal and French fries that is revealed in Book 2, Family Binds.
In the story I’m working on right now, Cleansing Rain, there’s a moment when Zoe is at rock bottom and she begs her kidnappers to allow her to do something useful. They let her cook. She makes homemade perogies and I’m able to reference my own grandmother’s recipes as Zoe shares her history with the dish. It’s a small moment in the story, but that connection to her history is enough for her to take a chance and move the story forward.
And thus, I stand by the fact that food and cooking and a powerful storytelling device. What are your favorite food/cooking moments in books?