Saturday, July 3, 2010

Don't Make Me Eat My Words

When I was in Spain two months ago, I enjoyed oodles of pastries, delicious hake (left) served with shrimp with their heads and tails intact, tortillas (which are similar to omelets) with asparagus, and delicious ham and cheese croquettes (right).

In the “Supermercado” I saw rows and rows of fish and shell fish, as well as these interesting looking ham hocks. 

In El Fontan (a local farmer’s market) I saw a young woman behead and gut a fish in less than a minute, and a window full of more sausages than you could count.

But this isn’t a food blog so what am I doing telling you about my gastronomic adventures?

Because food is as important to us as writers, educators, and readers as salt and pepper are to cooks.

Consider this. What writer doesn’t reward her muse by the promise of a treat at the end of a finely-honed paragraph or page? In an informal survey of fellow writers, I found that some keep themselves on task by placing a bowl of popcorn at hand, others depend on tea or coffee. Sandra Warren admits, "There's something about the excitement of putting words to paper or computer screen that gets the juices flowing and adrenalin pumping; a physiological shift that demands a sweet reprieve. Carrots, celery even with peanut butter just doesn't cut it the way a freshly baked or even a frozen chocolate chip cookie or piece of dark chocolate can."

And of course, teachers and parents have used food for eons to motivate. But not only can treats reward good behavior, but as this lesson plan shows, a book like Lilly’s Chocolate Heart can teach students how to write with prepositional phrases and adjectives.

Speaking of chocolate, here are some wonderful quotes about this luscious treat that has been known to keep many writers plugged into their keyboard.

Kathleen Purvis, the food editor at the Charlotte Observer, once told me that food writers are some of the best journalists. And that was before the advent of food blogs such as this one.

What about fiction? How important is the food that your favorite characters eat? Consider that the recipe for Harry Potter's butterbeer received 3.445 hits the day it was first sold at the new Wizarding World  at Universal Orlando. 

Not only food itself, but customs about eating can add depth to a novel. I am working on a scene for my historical novel which takes place in Charlotte, NC in 1950. My main character, Kate, is eating cookies in the kitchen with her grandmother's cook, Esther, and Ester's granddaughter, Lillie. Kate notices that, "After they're finished Esther washes out hers and Lillie’s glasses and puts them on a separate shelf alongside of two chipped plates and a couple of bent forks and spoons." 

Food and literature go together like hamburgers and buns. So, please don't make me eat my words. I've acquired a taste for finding food references in books and all of this has been grist for the mill. You might think that writing a blog like this is as easy as apple pie, but trust me, there were many times when I felt as if I had bitten off more than I could chew. But, bottoms up and come and get it. This blog has cut the mustard, is done to a turn, and is now ready to be served!

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