F is for Food – Alphabet Challenge
I once read an historical romance wherein there was a medieval banquet. It was a helluva feast, too, and each and every dish on the tables was minutely detailed in the book. I felt like I was reading someone’s grocery list, which was pretty dull. A little color would be great, but how much detail is necessary, and what is just plain filler?
I like food in books. I like to write some into my books. Ace-High Flush includes a scene where Ace gets to eat his first real NY kosher bagel. I didn’t lovingly describe the thickness of the cream cheese, or the color of the lox. I think we all can imagine cream cheese and smoked salmon without a reminder of what they are like. But the food was there. Unless you’re writing a cookbook or, like Jeffrey Steingarten (The Man Who Ate Everything), are writing a food adventure or criticism, there’s no need to describe every dish on the table right down to the salt and pepper. I might say that they’re “eating Chinese food,” or “munched on sugary cereal,” but I’m unlikely to say they ate chateaubriand, medium rare, with béarnaise sauce and asparagus tips wrapped in a colorful red bell pepper ribbon, unless I’m trying to make a point that it was surprising to the character and that every detail was a new revelation. There has to be a point, otherwise, “fancy steak dinner” ought to be enough and the plot should be moving along without getting into the victuals.
That’s my take on food in fiction. How do you experience fictional food? Is it filler for you, or is it your awesome-sauce?
For your hopping convenience: