Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Food in Novels?



Since this is the season to eat and be merry and let the diets begin in January, I thought I might mention a criticism I received lately regarding food in one of my novels: Death by Salsa. Of all the things one could criticize me for, I thought that one was weird for this particular book. Granted my characters in most of my books do seem to eat a lot but I had no idea that there are readers who object to it. After all eating is one of the enjoyable perks of life and fictional people should enjoy it as much as “real” people.

But salsa is a central part of the plot of Death by Salsa and the fact that my two heroes spend most of their time looking for the best peppers, it never occurred to me that a reader might object. But object she did and complained about all the eating my characters did.

When I read her critique, I immediately thought of the culinary mysteries that are so popular these days and that many of those authors publish recipes at the end of their books. I also published recipes after each book in my (Human) Zoo Trilogy: The Pig Farm, The Pool Lizards, The Groundhog Lounge. Therefore I had no idea that eating was such a sin in mystery novels.

And then I remembered two of my favorite authors, Dick Francis and Lawrence Sanders, whose main characters actually found time to eat. In fact, Dick Francis gave me the idea for one of my favorite breakfasts: an egg scrambled with mushroom soup on toast. And in the Deadly Sin series by Lawrence Sanders, his protagonist is forever making delicious sounding decadent sandwiches. I have even copied those down and included them in my own personal recipe collection.

So will I let the person who criticized me for having too much food prevent me from feeding my characters in subsequent novels? Of course not. Besides, she (or he?) gave me the idea for this little essay.


6 comments:

Patricia Gligor said...

Proof positive that you can please some of the people some of the time but you can't please all of the people all of the time! So, as Ricky Nelson sang many years ago, "You've got to please yourself."
Food is part of life so, of course, it's bound to be included in the novels we write. Just a thought: Maybe the person who objected to your use of food is obese and struggling to lose weight. Or maybe, he or she is one of those people who has to find fault with everything. Either way, you're wise to ignore them. LOL

Marja said...

Personally, I like the characters in a book to do something normal, like eating, as part of the story. What are they supposed to do? Starve themselves? Thankfully, no one has complained about chocolate being in my stories. : )
Marja McGraw

Palmaltas said...

So very true, Patricia, and thank you. This person didn't like the novel at all but I think I got something positive from it--a good conversation! I just wonder what she or he thought a book with salsa in the title would be about if not eating food with salsa.

Palmaltas said...

Thanks, Marja, and I can't imagine reading your books and not finding chocolate! This critic seemed determined not to like the book but she or he did give me something to write about. And fictional characters should be allowed to eat once in a while.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Pat,
I love reading about characters enjoying one of life's principle delights. My characters certainly like to eat, both at home and in restaurants. So many of our favorite holidays center around dining with friends and loved ones. Happy Thanksgiving!

Palmaltas said...

Thank you so much, Marilyn. I agree completely and Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.