|A young Brazilian friend, filling up on |
rice and beans at lunch.
What do your characters eat? People in different places enjoy different foods. A hard boiled egg, aged to a mottled purple, brought back delightful childhood memories to my Chinese friend while I made it a point to breathe through my mouth. My friend assured me that what gets called “century eggs” these days weren’t really that old. “Probably no more than forty.”
For those of you living outside the US, making us smell and taste your foods in your writing (and creating the same emotional response you would have to it), is a good way to draw an American audience into your character’s world. There is nothing like a Christmas cookout/braai/barbie at the beach to let your readers know they are not in Kansas.
Food preparation plays an important role in women’s socialization in many cultures. I once watched a Mozambican woman glide gracefully across our churchyard with a five-gallon kerosene can of water balanced on her head. Her arms swung easily at her sides, and she never spilled a drop. A little girl of about eight followed with a restaurant-size butter tin of water on her head, held with one hand. Behind the little girl came a toddler, clutching a soup can to her head with both hands. Water sloshed out at every step.
|Me, trying my hand stamping grain in tandem|
with the ladies at a church conference
Food preparation can provide a background activity while your characters carry on a conversation that reveals character or moves your plot forward. The preparation itself will give readers insights into the setting. The way a character wields a knife, pounds a chicken breast, or responds to a spilled glass of milk can demonstrate aspects of your characterization. (I once heard a lecture that defined spiritual gifts based on response to spilled milk. The giver says, “Don’t worry; there’s plenty more,” and jumps up to refill the glass. The helper grabs a cloth and mops up the spill. The encourager says, “That’s all right; I know you didn’t mean to spill it.” A teacher like me irritates her kids by saying, “Next time set your glass further back from the edge so you don’t bump it with your elbow.”)
|Brazilian "salgadinhos" ready for a party|
So how have you used food in your writing?
If I were to write about your region, what are some foods or food-related activities I should mention to make my story sound authentic?
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books for young people come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will impact lives. You can find out more about her books and travel adventures on her website and blog.