I don’t know about you but when I am reading my brain makes connections between characters and objects that are impossible to break. For example, bumble bee tights will always be associated with Louisa Clarke, red shoes are Dorothy’s unless they are ballet slippers and then they belong to Hans Christian Andersen’s ballerina. Sometime it is places, the Yorkshire Moors will always conjure up images from The Bronte sisters but most of all it is food.
Food plays a large part of my bookworm life. Not only are there cookery sections on shelves to tempt me, fiction is littered with references to it. It is a dieter’s nightmare. No one writes about being ecstatic over a carrot except Eric Carles in The Hungry Caterpillar but he was excited to eat everything. While reading, my taste buds tingle, my mouth salivates and my stomach grumbles along with the characters until my will power shatters. I have been known to eat cheese on toast, bacon butties and cake at midnight purely because of a book I was reading. I am glad I live in a tiny village with no open takeaways otherwise I will be eating chips too. It adds a whole new dimension to the eating and reading experience. To feel the velvety texture and warmth as chocolate melts in your mouth at the same time as your current heroine is divine. Or to rip into a freshly baked loaf while indulging into the adventures of Polly Waterford in the Little beach Street Bakery . Some authors are more responsible for my unhealthy eating habits than others and have perfected the art of food descriptions to a tee. Eating is a multi-sensory experience and talented authors capture that so turn the pages into a scene from Nigella Lawson cookery programme. They make me taste, feel and smell the food. No wonder I find my diet impossible to stick to.
Sometimes it makes me more adventurous, to try something new. I remember as a teenager fantasizing about Twinkies (I tried them last year and sorry they weren’t as nice as I imagined) and being fascinated by fried chicken, cornbread and potato salad that would always be taken to barbeques on 4th July, especially in Nora Roberts books. While I can leave the chicken and cornbread potato salad has become one of my must-haves in the summer now. Every Autumn I buy a pumpkin insistent this will be the year I find a pumpkin pie recipe that lives up to the mind-blowing experience described in many books.
Fried breakfasts in cafes always remind me of Diana in The Discovery of Witches where she is served mounds of it after a rowing session. Pouring loose leaf tea from a pot reminds me of Marthe in the same series. Jelly Tots will be forever linked to Lily from Sunflowers in February and although hot chocolate is a favourite of many, it will always associated with Taryn Leigh’s description in Perfect Imperfections. The way she makes it is heaven. Baking occurs in many books for its relaxing properties and business opportunities and I am always grateful to kind authors who supply recipes in the final pages. I have not made many but there is a sense of comfort knowing if I want to I can indulge, just like character x on page 45.
Authors and books that tingle the taste buds
- Flavours of Love by Dorothy Koomson
- Chocolat by Joanne Harris
- The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
- Jenny Colgan – all of her books. Visits to the traditional sweet shop visits will always be connected to Rosie’s Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams.
- Isabella May tempted me with cake in Oh What a Pavlova and now she is delving into the world of cocktails with The Cocktail Bar which is out this month. I need to stock up on the Blue Curacao.
- Valley of Secrets by Charmian Hussey for its tempting Cornish apple turnovers
- Lost for Words by Stephanie Butland – chips at Whitby are bliss.
- Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Definitely not The Twits nor George’s Marvellous Medicine.
When I think of my own WIP, food connections are lacking unless you count the warm spicy Parkin baked for Amber’s dragon hunting adventures or Mrs M’s cookies left on the side as a treat. No one would suddenly crave rabbit stew or fried Ellfaenian grubs so maybe in my next project, food should play a central part. Researching woud be fun.
What food do you connect with characters? Does the mention of food enhance your experience of the book?