Foods in
sfpb Fiction

You Gotta Eat Something …

What a character chooses to eat also gives readers insight into their personality. In my stories, characters eat snacks, have lunch, get nauseous. To create engaging, adult commercial fiction, I have characters doing everyday things (like eating food) as well as triumph over conflict.

Characters in fiction can oftentimes be so involved in their ‘drama,’ it seems like they don’t have time to take care of themselves. People eat and sleep and have colds. They are not always plotting their next move. To give my characters more realism, I try to give them ‘ordinary’ stuff to do. Sometimes what a character is eating is part of the setting, or writers can use ‘how’ a character is eating something to convey emotion or foretell action.

What they were eating in
Like Sweet Buttermilk

Sometimes we like weird stuff. Rick Phillips is no exception, as he’s a fan of peanut butter. Well, that’s not the weird part. He happens to enjoy PB&Js with sardines on the side. This actually came out of a dare during Rick’s college days that turned out to have the opposite intended effect. It’s part of Rick’s backstory, but yeah, the dude likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a few of the tiny fish on the side (mustard sauce is fine). He's even passed his love for it on to his daughter, Alna.

And, it’s funny, did you notice: we never “saw” Rick actually eating that weird combination, did we?

No need for a PB&J recipe: if you’re over three, you’ve likely had one in your lifetime. There are ways however to improve upon the lunch staple. Click here for ideas on unique ways to enjoy an old favorite.

One particular food item having some importance in the story: buttermilk pie.

If you’ve read LSB, you know why it’s mentioned several times.

If you haven’t, well, what are you waiting for? Click here to join the S.F. Powell readership.

If you’ve never tried buttermilk pie, click here for a recipe.

And let’s see, there was …

  • the dry Cajun catfish
  • the nachos that burned in the microwave
  • the baked chicken, wild rice, and corn that Rick prepared the night he eavesdropped on Viv’s telephone conversation
  • the subs, onion rings, and fries from Mick’s Carryout where Rick played a master at deception
  • the Southern-style cooking courtesy of Eugene Phillips
  • Naomi’s vegetable soup that she basically ignored as she pursued her interest in her case
  • the spaghetti for dinner the night Rick and Viv ...
  • the cantaloupe Alna ate to stave off hunger while her parents had an, ahem, moment in the laundry room
  • the braised pork chops getting cold the evening the police visited the Phillips' home

Plus many others. Oh yeah, the cast of Like Sweet Buttermilk certainly enjoyed a meal or two!

What they were eating in
Obscure Boundaries

Even with all of the family drama, grief, and mourning going on, the Winthrops still managed to get in a bite to eat. Well, Mallory, Todd, and maybe Ruth got in something to eat. Jeff Winthrop? Well, eating was not a priority for him as the story takes place.

One of my favorite scenes in OB is in Chapter 3, when Mallory and Todd share a Dagwood sandwich in Todd’s room. Use of the Dagwood sandwich is actually an example of the author putting something of themselves into the story, as that food item has personal meaning for me.

As long as there are multiple layers to make it official, a Dagwood sandwich can be as a big (and cumbersome) as you’d like. Click here to check out a sandwich recipe Mallory and Todd may have eaten

Also on the menu for Obscure Boundaries ...

  • the egg and muffin Ruth wanted and Jeff wished she’d eat somewhere else and leave him alone
  • the doughnuts Naomi dreamed about
  • the pizza and Greek salad Jeff and Julia enjoyed years ago
  • the ‘famous’ fried chicken wings that is a specialty of one of the Winthrop neighbors
  • the funnel cake Naomi and Kevin enjoyed at Six Flags
  • the wine and olives from Naomi’s date with Kevin later
  • the fast food Todd enjoyed at the mall’s food court
  • the Ghanaian dishes Kevin’s sister prepared one football Sunday
  • Todd’s love for (the now-defunct) chocolate-covered PayDays
  • and the huge breakfast of Belgian waffles, sweet grits, and eggs, the Winthrops had shortly before their big fallout.

By novel’s end, Naomi had a taste for more Ghanaian food but thoroughly enjoyed Leslie’s version of Banana Upside Down cake.

Click here for a recipe for Okro Stew.

And after that Okro Stew, check out a Banana Upside Down cake recipe to top it off …

Within the world of fiction, there are so many ways to bring a story to life to make it enjoyable. Including a mention of food items is a very subtle, but effective way writers draw the reader in, making the reader comfortable, making them … turn the page.

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