Food in Fiction

I’m always impressed when authors put a lot of thought into the foods in their stories. Harry Potter is the first example that comes to mind because of the sheer creativity of its chocolate frogs and pumpkin pasties and sugar quills and butterbeer. But even simpler descriptions, like the specifics of smelling cardamom and honey and tea or the characters having pumpkin stew and garlic flatbread in The Sky Beyond the Storm are enough for me to appreciate the effort the author put into their food choices. And I think the reason behind being so impressed is because I have no idea what to include when it comes to food. I have some automatic go-tos, like stew. Always stew. Or meat and potatoes. You know, things that I eat. I struggle with it, and I know it’s something I need to work on.

So, when I started writing “Spirits of the Sea,” which is inspired by a Dutch tradition where draft horses are ridden down to the sea, I wanted to include super Dutch foods. And I wanted to try really hard to add in a wide variety of different things and get specific with the details.

Well, lucky me, I’m Dutch and have regularly gone to Holland since moving to the States back in the late 90s. Not to mention that my dad always brings back a suitcase full of food or asks us to bring a ton for him if we go without him. So finding very specific foods to write about was easy, and I had a lot of fun with it, especially with trying to figure out how to describe and translate what it all was into English.

And now, obviously, I have to show some of my hard work. Here’s a little snippet from during the ride (Now I just need to include nice specifics like this into everything else I write):


They paraded through the center street, weaving their way toward the sea waiting beyond the grassy dunes. Cheers went up as the horses passed. People shouted at those they knew. The scent of fries and deep-fried and grilled meats, herring and smoked eel, and freshly baked pastries and sweet cotton candy wafted over the riders and gathered crowd of people watching.

Veerlie’s stomach rumbled as the wind whipped the scent of her favorite deep-fried, raisin-stuffed, powdered-sugar-covered, fritters toward her. They were only ever made the week of the sea ride. Now that her nerves were under control, she realized how hungry she was and wished she’d eaten a better breakfast.

“That smells so good,” Marysa said wistfully, looking over at the mini-pancake stall standing in front of a dark-windowed store. A line of people wound its way around behind the gathered watchers.

“On our way back, we should stop to get food. I’m starving,” Veerlie said. The sweet, buttery scent hit her and sent her stomach rumbling again. Her mouth watered at the idea of the puffy palm-sized pancakes coated with powdered sugar.


What I wrote over the last week

Chapters fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen of The Children of Oher.

What I’m reading right now

The Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir

Red Dust and Dancing Horses by Beth Cao

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Brown & Dave King

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