Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Art of Food


When my writing partner and I received revision notes on our first Heartwarming, one task we had to do was cut down the number of times our romantic couple ate together (with specific food details).  To my surprise, I realized our protagonists ate dinner or lunch more than eight times in the first ten chapters alone!  Was I obsessed with food or what?

The answer is no . . . and yes . . . but with good reason. 

Since I was old enough to read, I would glance through my mother’s women’s magazines and note the ever-present diet plans, alongside mouthwatering recipes for chocolate cake and other high calorie dishes.  The tradition still continues in Woman’s Day, Ladies’ Home Journal, and the like.  I believe we women have grown up to be schizoid about food.  There are very few of us who don’t want to lose a pound or ten, while at the same time we are drawn to reading about food or looking at full-color photos of easy-to-make chicken enchiladas or fettuccine-something. 
 

 
However, either one of these dishes – enchiladas or fettuccine – is far more exotic than the fare I grew up with.  For supper on a farm (dinner was lunch), we could always count on meat, potatoes, and some kind of overcooked vegetable.  My mother had never heard of fettuccine or baked ziti or ravioli.   She made spaghetti a couple of times because there were cans of Chef Boyardee available in the grocery store but you could find little else, in comparison to the wealth of choices in the 21st century.
 
 

Nowadays, food and cooking has become something of an art.  There are imported delicacies available in grocery stores ranging from fresh-made sushi to hand-ground Indian spices.  Even in the small town I came from, once home to nothing more than a couple of burger joints, there is a Chinese restaurant, a Mexican café, and a Greek diner.  On TV, I can watch topnotch chefs face off and classically trained amateurs try to outbake or out-boil each other with hand-decorated cupcakes or beautiful deviled eggs.  Everyone seems to know how to “plate” (see “fine art” version of a Polish sausage with fruit, hot peppers, and ketchup below).
 
Food as art
 
And isn’t writing an art, commercial or otherwise?
Anyhow, the thing is, I’m giving myself a higher level excuse for including eight meals for the hero and heroine in ten chapters, okay? 
The truth is, I am not sitting around dreaming about food.  And I really am not obsessed with food every moment.    
But I do have a subscription to Food Network Magazine which I read every month, yet have never made even one of its recipes.  And I do love amusing food sites such as “Cake Wrecks” which features everything from misspelled messages on cakes to for-adults-only edible creations.  Furthermore, I watch every Top Chef competition on Bravo, though I don’t want to eat everything the top chefs create.  I would never order a “crudo,” raw meat or fish, and I’m not interested in decorative citrus/salt “foam” on top of my desserts, thank you.
I’m a food art appreciator.  And so are our heroes and heroines, as well as, I suspect, a large number of our readers.  In modern day society, made international by the Internet and nation-wide cable TV, food is a visual and an actual feast. 
Furthermore, I believe society is moving toward more gender-equality, even with food.  That’s why we had the hero in at least half of our books cook meals for the heroine.
Happy post-Valentine’s Day!    

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 


 










 
 

 

21 comments:

  1. I know how easy it is to repeat a thought while writing. In one story I wrote, I had the hero walking the dog about twenty times, using the exact same words each time. Thank goodness for critique partners.

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    1. That fictional dog was probably fictionally happy!

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  2. The repetition of a activity is making me smile - both your meal eating and Marion's dog walking. It really is easy to do! I have to admit I have a love/hate relationship with society's food obsession these days. I love to cook and to eat and to try new dishes. In my daily life, I stick to mostly healthy stuff, but just like you mentioned above, we're constantly inundated by images of fattening and delightful-looking dishes as well as sugary treats! How can you not give in once in a while? Great post!

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  3. The repetition of a activity is making me smile - both your meal eating and Marion's dog walking. It really is easy to do! I have to admit I have a love/hate relationship with society's food obsession these days. I love to cook and to eat and to try new dishes. In my daily life, I stick to mostly healthy stuff, but just like you mentioned above, we're constantly inundated by images of fattening and delightful-looking dishes as well as sugary treats! How can you not give in once in a while? Great post!

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    1. Love/hate for food is 100% modern woman. I bet men aren't worrying that much about it, though they have gotten more aware . . . there's the book, "Eat this, not that."

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  4. I'm more of a baker than a cook, but I love to watch the Food Network. I had to laugh about cutting down on the meals your characters ate together. Just last night, I read a note from my editor saying "There's too much winking going on between them in this scene." It made me laugh. :)

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    1. Wow, lots of winking, huh? That made me smile.

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  5. I grew up on a farm, too, where dinner was lunch. We ate a lot of hamburger dishes and always had a pot roast and baked potatoes on Sunday. Nowadays, most of the food I make is Mexican, Italian, Indian, etc. Only occasionally do pork chops or chicken fried steak with a side of mashed potatoes make an appearance.

    It's no wonder your couple got caught up in meals - eating is our most social time of the day, and food choices tell a lot about who we are.

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    1. I bet our grandparents would be shocked at the meals we make. Not that I make that many, since I live by myself. :>)

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  6. I loved this post, Lynn, because I'm right there with you. I watch all the chefs and marvel at their talent. During the week I eat healthy, but when I give a dinner party, watch out!! Splurging once a month--at least is what makes life sweet!! So all those fabulous recipes don't go to waste! As an author and human, I find that conversation over food, is quite revealing of true personalities. I'm guilty of the same thing. Throwing those folks together at a barbecue or wedding.. Is life.
    I loved your food photos. So now I'm hungry and off to the grocery store.

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    1. I'm jealous that you can actually execute fabulous recipes.

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  7. I've often received the same criticism. "They eat too much." or "Too many cookies!" I love food, too, though I'm a terrible cook. Not a bad baker, though. Ron and I have a lot of intimate conversations over food, even if it's oatmeal, so when it comes to creating scenes, including food seems so right. In New England, lunch was dinner, and dinner was supper, too. We had Gus'Diner, Mai Ling's, fish and chips wrapped in the New Bedford Standard Times, and the Casablanca, for seafood. Haven't thought about those places in years. Thanks, Lynn!

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    1. The only seafood we had when I was growing up was fish sticks.

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  8. I read Rachelle Ray's magazines and seldom seem to get my act together to actually break out of my food rut. Woe be it to Mr. Curtis at the dinner hour

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  9. Mercy, I do love food, and I can enjoy the "eating too much" list of writers. And everyone in my books drinks coffee--I think it's to go with Muriel's cookies! I enjoyed your post.

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    1. Yeah, coffee. We had too much coffee being served in our latest book . . . revision notes.

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  10. I've had those eating comments, too. :-) But it is the way we socialize, at least here in the South. Great post!

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  11. I chuckled when I read that you receive the Food Network magazine and never made a single recipe from it. I used to get it too, for a couple of years, and don't remember making anything from them either. But it's such an appealing magazine. As a reader I enjoy scenes of people eating together and conversing. I never really thought a writer could include too many of those scenes. Maybe that's because editors call attention to it and have it corrected before ever we read the book. Interesting post.

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    1. The Food Network Magazine has gorgeous photos.

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