I often use food in my stories which reflect my favorite foods including pizza, tacos, ice cream, pie, and other tantalizing foods. I came to that realization recently when editing my second young adult novel, A Dance Out of Time. The nineteen year old Jake Hanlon is a bit of a foodie, except he doesn’t gain the weight that many of us worry about when we indulge a bit. So, he can chow down on burgers, fries, and ice cream and still look gorgeous since he’s young and works out. Georgina Claythorne, the lead character, an eighteen year old psychic/ghost hunter and Jake’s girlfriend, enjoys similar fare but is more cautious about the calories, not an atypical response for many females. She indulges, however, in one of my favorites: rum raisin ice cream with caramel sauce as served up at her favorite (and mine) Ocean Grove restaurant and ice cream parlor, Nagle’s. Despite a busy summer of ghost hunting, helping out at her family’s bed and breakfast, and doing art, Georgina enjoys decorating and making home-baked desserts like peanut butter pie.
In Angels Among Us, Kay Lassiter, a psychic artist in Nutley, New Jersey, is in jeopardy and guided by her guardian angel who tries to help protect her from a madman. When Kay meets with her brother, a detective, and Lydia, her best friend, she serves up homemade Irish stew and a blueberry pie with ice cream. Rather heavy fare but comfort food.
In Sacred Fires, Casey McConoughy, an investigative journalist, enjoys a romantic dinner with Miguel Stephen, a rogue customs agent, in Mexico while working on a case together. Meals are often traditional Mexican and include one of my favorites: shrimp with garlic sauce.
Wildflowers, a western historical romance set on the Oregon Trail, features food that pioneers could put together while traveling across the plains and mountains including berry pie, biscuits, beans, beef jerky, or rabbit stew since they lacked the modern conveniences of refrigeration, stoves, and microwave ovens. They had to be frugal about it. However, what they had provided enough to hold body and soul together. Meals were communal times too.
In general, I find that food works its way into my stories for a variety of reasons. It shows characters’ preferences and cultural backgrounds, living conditions, gives time to socialize, work on conflicts, and even fall in love. It’s a little bit like real life.