Food in Fiction

Gavin's Buffalo Chicken Dip

Gavin’s Buffalo Chicken Dip Image Courtesy of Shannon Stacey.

Has this ever happened to you? Your going along, minding your own beeswax, innocently reading a book and BAM! A character eats something or smells a food and describes it in excruciating detail and your mouth is watering. You just have to have whatever the character is eating and you must haz it now! Nom Nom Nom!!

Sometimes the character is a chef as in the case of Mary Whaley the focus of Lauren Dane’s Lush  or Sarah Morgan’s Élise Philippe from Suddenly Last Summer. Sometimes the characters are just eating a food that sounds yummy. As is the case with Gavin’s infamous buffalo chicken dip in Shannon Stacey’s Kowalksi books. I don’t even really like buffalo chicken, but reading the characters enjoy the cheesy gooeyness that is this dip made me want to stuff my face. *

The principal of Checkov’s Gun says that everything that’s in your story should be there for a reason. For both Dane’s Mary and Morgan’s Élise, cooking was a part of who they were as people. It was their love language, how they demonstrated their passion for others and for life. In the case of Stacey’s characters, the dip was a symbol of caring. It brought people together. It was a balm to fractured hearts and a celebration of the good times.

As I reader if there is one particular food that plays a pivotal role in the story or in a key scene, I LOVE it when the writer shares the recipe. From the writer’s perspective, food can be a handy marketing angle. You can write a blog post about the food in question and include the recipe. Shannon Stacey did that with Gavin’s Buffalo Dip. She turned it into a blog post. I’ve shared the link with several people and now, I’m sharing it with you. If you’ve heard of Shannon great, but if not, hmmm that dip is bringing new readers to her fold.  In my opinion, this is the best kind of marketing, because it is related to the book, but it’s not a hard sell. I’ve shared it with romance readers and non-romance readers, when they get to the site, it’s easy for them to investigate her books or grab the recipe and run.

Image Courtesy of Shannon Stacey

Image Courtesy of Shannon Stacey

You could write about the origin of the food or the recipe. Has it been handed down from generation to generation? Just be careful not start any family feuds (or violate any copyrights)! You could even generate some good natured controversy (do nuts belong in chocolate chip cookies?).

I’m curious, from a reader perspective, do you find it distracting when an author brings food so intimately into the story or do you like it?

From a writer’s perspective have you ever used food as an element in your story? Have you ever used food almost as a character in a story?  What are some of your favorite foods in fiction? By all means if you have links to good author recipes, please share them in the comments. If I’m going to be hungry, then we all should be hungry!

*I made this dip for Easter and it was a HUGE hit. I even had a few scoopfuls!

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at She has been a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors. Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently working on her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.

19 thoughts on “Food in Fiction

  1. I absolutely love it when an author shares delicious recipes in books, especially if they’re easy to make…but then again I also love to collect novels and cookbooks, how can I pass up something that combines the two 🙂

  2. Since I am not into food that much (though I love cooking programs like: Masterchef, MKR, Jamie Olivier, Rick Stein, The hairy Bikers and The Great British Bake Off and such) I love to watch creativity and craftsmanship unfold before my eyes, but writing about it, I think not.

  3. A fun series of mystery novels that involves loads of food is one by Diane Mott Davidson. I’m currently reading Chopping Spree. Her books are fun, well written, and they always make me want to cook or bake. She describes putting together meals so wonderfully, that I put myself there, next to Goldy, the caterer/amateur crime solver. She includes her recipes in the book, and I’ve saved some, but still haven’t made any. I may have to try them to see if they live up to the books descriptions.

  4. A Moveable Feast made me try oysters to see if Hemingway had described them accurately. My vote is yes he did. Have you seen the movie Big Night? Great movie for foodie artists, starring a young Tony Shalhoub. I think of it every time I have a good risotto.

  5. Since a dinner is always part of our book club (now 25 years old with the same five couples) we often cook whatever is featured in the book. It adds an interesting dimension to our appreciation of whatever we happen to be reading. –Curt

  6. O.K. Well, now I’m hungry, too. There was a rather neat TV series called Pie in the Sky and the main character was a detective but also a chef with his own restaurant called . . . Pie in the Sky. Another great foodie series is the Hannah Swenson by Joanne Fluke. I have to go eat something now.

  7. Years ago, I read two or three of a series of mystery novels in which the main character loved to make sandwiches and eat them over the kitchen sink. The descriptions of the way he lovingly fashioned each messy, unctuous combination for his sandwiches made me want to eat them right along with him. And I don’t even like sandwiches that much. I have searched for years to discover who wrote these novels and re-read them, with no luck.

  8. I like it when food is included in a story, I feel like it grounds the tale in reality, especially in fantasy, because it’s something we all do. We all eat, and frequently. I tend to include food a lot in what I write too. But it can make you hungry. 🙂

  9. As a self-described foodie, I love when writers describe food, its preparation, demonstrate a technique, share a recipe. The greater percentage of my writing is on Greek themes, and one of the things we are known for is food– always enough to feed an army! I’m actually working on a scene in a novel right now, where the protagonist’s love interest is coming over for dinner with the family. I’m working in all of her preparations, to how she prepares the dishes, and the conversations with her mother and grandmother, because this is our life, and family, food, and tradition are at the center. I hadn’t thought of including the recipes, now you have me thinking to add them at the end!

  10. I’ve been writing out a story and, looking back over the length of pages that I have created, I can see that I have a pattern of including detailed food and the goings-on in a kitchen frequently throughout my story! Pivotal moments happen in the kitchen and characters reveal themselves through cooking. I didn’t plan the story this way, but wherever it’s going, I like it!

  11. Reblogged this on Miguel Niemtschik and commented:
    Excelente artículo, como amante de las delicias culinarias y de la buena literatura, sobre todo la descriptiva, donde me identifico con el personaje y me pongo en su lugar solo de sentir y vivir sus experiencias como parte de las descripciones de lugares, emociones y sensaciones, no dejo por fuera las gastronómicas, y como lector me apasiona leer como se disfruta un delicioso plato incluyendo todos los sentidos que lo involucran.

    Excellent article , as a lover of the culinary delights and good literature, especially the descriptive , when I identify myself with the character and love to be like in his place just to feel and live their experiences as part of the descriptions of places, emotions and sensations not leaving out the gastronomic ones , and as a reader I am passionate about reading how he enjoy the delicious dish including all senses involving him enjoyement .

  12. You must read THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA–the food and drink (some of which the characters prepare) is um…sorry, drooling again. Magical brandy cooked chicken. Alchemical wines. Mmm….

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