A couple of last week’s Thursday’s Children posts, specifically Rhiann Wynn-Nolet’s post about fog and Kate Michael’s post on wolves and witches, got me thinking about what themes or elements feature in my own writing. I’ve completed two very different novels. The first, The Butterfly Storm, which I’m publishing in just a few weeks time is contemporary women’s fiction, whilst Time Shifters is a time-travel adventure story for 8 – 12 year-olds. However, there is something they both have in common and that is food.
The Butterfly Storm is partly set in Greece and writing about Greece goes hand-in-hand with writing about food. Anyone who’s been lucky enough to spend time in Greece will know that you’ll be well fed whether you stay with a family or eat out at a taverna. One of the iconic lines from the film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is ‘You must eat!’ (along with the hilarious ‘He don’t eat no meat?’) and it’s a line that’s been uttered many a time by my Greek mother-in-law. In Greece you don’t get a choice of which pudding you want, usually you just get given a plate with a (very generous) slice of all three (or four) sweets that are on offer.
So yes, food does feature frequently in The Butterfly Storm and sometimes it’s deliciously appetising:
Sixteen of us squeeze round two tables joined together on the patio. Spoons dip in and out of salads; forks stab roasted red peppers and juicy chunks of pork souvlaki. The lamb is carried over from the coals, de-skewered and placed on a massive plate in front of Despina to be carved. The meat falls off the bone in great chunks and is passed along the table. Its rich meaty scent disperses into the night air.
and other times not so much:
I poke my head round the kitchen door. Despina, sparkling in a jewelled pink top over black trousers, pulls a dish of kokoretsi from the oven. The stomach-churning smell of liver-filled intestines sticks in my throat. I wrinkle my nose at the delicacy.
For Maisie, Danny and Lizzie, my three characters that are stuck in the past in Time Shifters, food is understandably at the forefront of their minds when they spend most of the time being cold, tired and hungry…
I reached forward and took a piece of dry bread and a chunk of meat. Lizzie popped a piece of bread into her mouth and we chewed in silence for a while. All I could think about was Mum’s lasagne and sweet and sour chicken with egg fried rice from the Chinese.
“I wish this was a double cheeseburger and we were in MacDonald’s instead of here,” Lizzie said and spat a chewed lump of bread onto the grass and ripped off a piece of meat instead. “That bread was off yesterday.”
It’s not all dry bread and rumbling stomachs though, as sometimes they get to tuck into a feast as in this scene in 1471:
Robbie placed himself at the head of the table and Lizzie and me plonked ourselves opposite each other. Another servant – better dressed than we were – entered the hall and set a plate and spoon in front of us. The first servant spooned a mound of casserole on to our plates and I tucked into warm rabbit, carrots and onion. “This is so good,” I said.
“I caught and killed the rabbit myself,” Robbie said and winked.
Lizzie wrinkled her nose but carried on eating.
and again in an Inn on the way to London in 1666:
Our plates were piled high with chunks of roasted pork with carrots and potatoes smothered in melted butter.
“The crackling is amazing,” Danny said, crunching through his mouthful.
Lizzie cut a ladylike portion of roast pork with her knife and fork and popped it and a carrot into her mouth and chewed slowly. “Wow, this is like a proper roast dinner.”
It was better. The meat was tasty and succulent and the vegetables were fresh and seasonal. My dad was an organic farmer and always wanted to convert everyone into eating organic. He would be proud of this meal. Without saying another word we finished every scrap of food on our plates and mopped up the juice with a chunk of whole-wheat bread. To drink we had a tankard of weak ale each, which Danny downed in one. He leaned back in his chair and patted his stomach. “That was the best meal I’ve ever had,” he said.
All this talk of food has made me hungry, so I’m off to get some breakfast.
How about you, does food feature at all in your writing?