I recently uncovered my copy of A Feast of Ice and Fire: the Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook (which I HIGHLY recommend for the historical goodies in there). I did it to gear up for the next (and last, let me cry into my pillow please) season. In the forward, I was struck by how the authors of the cookbook commented on George R. R. Martin’s feasts, and how often he writes them. I never paid much attention when I was reading the books. I was too much in the world, and maybe, just maybe, that’s why author’s put food in their books.
In this new project I’ve realized how important a component food has become. There are whole scenes around meals, which makes sense for a fantasy novel, but isn’t it that way in life? Don’t we have the most amazing conversations over a plate of food, or a glass of our favorite drink (be it wine or grape juice)? We are at our most open when we are sharing a meal, so it makes sense to bring that forth in a written work. There’s hardly an easy out if you are sharing a meal. You either suck it up and stay, or you make a dramatic exit. Either are writing gold. It forces your characters to follow through with their words and actions. They don’t get to swing a sword, slip away, or any other easy out. Not that forcing them to stay is easy writing. On the contrary. The next thing you know, you’re writing a scene you weren’t sure you were ready for, but your characters were. And in the end? The narrative is better for it.
Food always places a culture. For my new project, which I brought up in my last post about world building, my new place has some touches for a Croatian heritage I’m only just now discovering, so I’ve made a conscious choice to use Croatian and similar style foods. Even if people don’t know what burek or kifle is, there’s instantly a feel associated with those words, and that spelling. It’s a feel I want to imbue my story with, not to mention I like the idea of planning a meal around this new tale.
And there is such a rise in cookbooks inspired off of books/tv shows/movies. I have an Amazon wish list full of them. (Arguably, I love historical cooking, so anything that even hints at historical recipes is instantly in my “need” list.) Eating, and socializing around that act, is purely human. Of course, as authors, no matter how “other” our characters are, this will always reveal some sort of truth. Even Turned/Red had some of my favorite, poignant moments, around a table and coffee.
We need food to survive. And the social interaction that it involves, even if it is just one person. If we want to be true to life? Food is on the page, whether we consciously write it, or it just happens.