Food in Fiction with Charles Yallowitz

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It’s a big pleasure to have the author of the wonderful Legends of Windemere series, Charles Yallowitz, here with me today to talk about one of my favourite pastimes – munchies. I love his dry wit, and the fact that he is always so down to earth and friendly with everyone, no matter how busy his life must be. Thanks for joining me Charles.

Thank you to Jo for offering to host a promo/guest blog. Now to get the introduction and promo stuff out of the way. My name is Charles E. Yallowitz and I’m the author behind the Legends of Windemere epic fantasy series where the latest one is Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue. I also just released a 27-page short story for 99 cents called Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts, so you can get a quick, cheap taste of me . . . whatever. Let’s move on to the fun!

The Avengers post-credits scene
The Avengers post-credits scene

I think many authors overlook the versatile uses that food can have in a story. It doesn’t have to be the central focus like in the manga ‘Toriko’ where the entire story revolves around discovering new foods and recipes. (Great series by the way.) Now that series is an extreme use that doesn’t have to be added to every story. Like in the above scene that occurred after the credits of ‘The Avengers’, you can make a food scene mild and simple. Though, I have yet to figure out what shawarma is or even try it. Staying on topic, here are a few non-central uses for food in fiction:

  1. Cultural Depth– Every region and culture has its own culinary identity. Think of any group and you’ll probably touch on an associated food within the first minute or two. I just thought of Jews and Matzoh Ball soup and Russians and vodka. Yes, these tend to be stereotypical in our world, but it makes the point. In a fictional world, you can create local cuisine that is unique and strange. This can relate to the type of land that the culture comes from too. For example, in Allure of the Gypsies you learn that Luke Callindor’s hometown is a big supplier of honey-based products because it is in an area that is perfect for raising bees. Bor’daruk has a lot of flat breads and giant scorpion meat is a local delicacy. So think of implementing a food scene when characters reach a new location.
  2. Dialogues– This is one of my big uses for eating scenes. Characters need to talk about events and they commonly do so over either a meal or drinks. This allows me to have them do something while talking. Otherwise, it’s a back and forth chat where you get an image of the characters standing like mannequins. Also, I’ve found that how people eat tells a little about their personalities and you can see it when compared to each other. For example, in my series Timoran Wrath eats piles of food and takes his time. Sari snatches food off people’s plates. Delvin is rather simple and casual. Fizzle sits in the apple basket. All of this in one scene paints a bigger picture.
  3. Conflict– Nothing to declare war on, but characters can fight over food in some situations. This can bring in some amusement and development. Yes, I know this sounds odd. Just imagine your heroes ordering a pizza or anything where you can pick toppings. You can go the simple routes with everyone getting their own pie, they decide to order a plain pizza, or have a group of people unrealistically agree on toppings. That last one is severe fiction. Now you can also take a little time to have them argue over what to get. Again, this can demonstrate personalities and roles within the group. It can even lead to some pent up aggression coming to the surface. Maybe that warrior is still angry about his favorite sword being lost by the caster’s clumsiness. Well, they fight over the dipping sauces for the chicken and the rage bubbles into a real problem. Sounds strange, but this happens in real life.
  4. Threats and Villainy– Ever see a movie or read a book where the villain is eating something strange? Maybe all their threats involve eating organs. This relates to one of my favorite parts of a Spider-Man story is in a novel called ‘The Venom Factor’. I don’t remember it exactly and the book is buried in my library, but the gist is Venom threatened to eat Spidey’s spleen. After years of being threatened with brain eating, Spider-Man says he doubts Venom even knows where the spleen is. The villain’s retort, “We can find out. It might be fun.” This may be a minor use of food and a stretch of the topic, but you can also have villains physically eating disgusting things. Vampires are a good one where they’re draining a person while talking.

16 thoughts on “Food in Fiction with Charles Yallowitz

    Chris White said:
    June 14, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Well, you’ve certainly given me some food for thought. (sorry, couldn’t resist) This is a great post.


    The Story Reading Ape said:
    June 14, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    More great information from Charles via the multi-talented Jo Robinson’s blog – What more excuse do you need to call over? 😀


    Let's CUT the Crap! said:
    June 14, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    😀 😀 I haven’t come across such an in-depth discussion on food in writing. Love it. Fantastic! Most of the time characters don’t eat, barely sleep and don’t go to the bathroom. 😛


      christineplouvier said:
      June 14, 2015 at 7:32 pm

      My fictional foodies chow down a lot: about 591 times!

      Perhaps you’ll enjoy a couple posts I did on the topic. The first one listed below includes a link to another blogger’s analysis of food in fiction; the second post includes a “recipe” from the first novel I wrote.


      Charles Yallowitz said:
      June 15, 2015 at 2:19 am

      Bathroom is always a tough one because it comes so close to being obscene. Never really figured out how to do it beyond a few mentions of ‘I have to go’.


        Let's CUT the Crap! said:
        June 16, 2015 at 1:48 pm

        A mention is enough. Dan Brown’s books come to mind. The fast pace doesn’t leave time for anyone to eat or sleep either. 😀


          Charles Yallowitz said:
          June 16, 2015 at 1:50 pm

          It does bring up a lot of questions with high action stories. Especially when a character is still sharp and strong on no sleep.


    D. Wallace Peach said:
    June 14, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    Great ideas, Charles, as long as there isn’t too much “chewing.” I get the shivers just thinking about it (lol).


      Charles Yallowitz said:
      June 15, 2015 at 2:20 am

      That’s an interesting part of it. I rarely added the mention of chewing. Not in any detail beyond saying someone is slowly chewing a food as they think.

      Liked by 1 person

    Kev said:
    June 14, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    Really good pointers here, Charles. I’ve used meal times for character development as well. I think it’s good to mix in the everyday things we can relate to in regards to developing our character and bringing in some background to the story or their story. 🙂


      Charles Yallowitz said:
      June 15, 2015 at 2:20 am

      Very true. Meal times are so relatable too. Not sure if they’re the easiest one to work with, but certainly up there.

      Liked by 1 person

    Jools said:
    June 15, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    Great post on food in fiction here. Food is central to my first novel and I recently posted a different foodie angle on my blog here: Incredible Edibles: 18 ways to use food to illustrate character


    marjma2014 said:
    June 25, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Good post Jo, eating is a bit part of my life so yes it most certainly features in my writing. Being a bit of a foodie enthusiast it was bound to!


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