Friday, March 21, 2014

Starving for Details in a Novel or Movie

I’m a foodie – I love to cook, bake and eat; I collect cookbooks and leaf through them for fun; I visit more often than most websites.

As a reader and a writer, I find it fascinating when food is central to the plot. Is food plentiful or not, and why? Do meals reflect the state or region? Do the foods featured give us an idea of the character’s upbringing? Are meals used as a device to bring characters together?

I just finished reading “The Dinner” by Herman Koch. The entire book takes place at a restaurant over the course of a meal. Two brothers and their wives are the diners. The restaurant is quite posh and this provides tension, as one brother is wealthy and the other is not. I love how the book is segmented by courses, from aperitif to digestif. Of course, this is all background to a truly horrific story involving the couples’ sons but food is a central character in my mind.

Food plays a major role in every book I write. In FACING FIRE, the 16-year-old protagonist loses her sense of taste and smell because of a traumatic event in childhood. For her, food is about texture and temperature only. Eating is a chore instead of a delight. It affects her health and her relationships.

In the book I’m writing now, THE LAST SUPPER, the protagonist is a cook in a Louisiana prison in the 1950s. She’s obsessed with creating the perfect last meals for death row inmates. The planning and preparation of these meals helps her avoid the trauma of her father’s death and the execution of his murderer.  This same character is also worried that she relies too much on her senses of taste and smell, and that her other senses will suffer if she doesn’t exercise them more.

When there is no mention of food (or meals or hunger) in a book or movie, I find it quite odd. Food is such an important part of the human experience.

Do you have a favorite book or movie where food is a leading character or where food is noticeably absent?