Monday, November 22, 2010
Food for thought
I love food, and if I like you, I'll feed you. If I love you dearly, I'll probably make your little waistcoat buttons suffer, because if you don't eat I'll assume that terribly hurt look. It's easier to eat until you explode than to suffer that, most people tell me. Even if it something I merely think you should like and really you'd kill for a MickyD burger instead of mysterious tentacly bits snurgling out of vicious red soup or things that have entirely too many legs. Ask Kate. I subjected her to a couple of kilos of spiny lobster which she found... um, yes, well. You thought the evil bits in Impaler were from a tortured mind, not indigestion?
So: naturally food finds its way into my books. Yes, I know, terrible habit. Sticks the pages together. But I love my books so I must feed them. This becomes particularly interesting when you're doing historically accurate as possible writing, which, being me I try to do. And of course much of what we think of stereotypical regional food... wasn't once Italian food... pre tomato?(Heirs books) Greek food - pre lemons? What color were carrots in the sixteenth century? (answer - not orange. White or purple.)
As someone who reads recipe books for fun I pick up a lot of this and add it into my mine of useless information, but of course there is also a fair amount of research. Food - particularly in historical books tells you such a lot about the people and the setting. Besides it gets me stimulated to go and cook something. Seriously, food is second only to sex (and the relationships that weave around that)in the interests of most people. No we will NOT discuss combining them or whether sushi should be served off naked human platters. (Sushi is wonderful. If you take it home and fry it it tastes just like fish.) But there are deep psycological and anthropological reasons why men take potential partners out to dinner.
Anyway, that's just my mileage - that good books have good food descriptions. Of course I love food and love cooking it, so there is bias. (I've always thought men who worried about food and cooking being too feminine, may have reason to worry about being percieved as feminine. I'm hairy-faced enough for you to tell the difference.) And like the other tedious bits (technical descriptions of sf weapons that this practical scientist sees large flaws with in concept, let alone calibre) - one can always skip it. Food writing is of course quite demanding on the visual and other sensory inputs being translated into words...
The waiter appeared from the smoky kitchen after a spell that didn't even try Benito's empty stomach's patience too far. The man seemed bent on proving that, besides being a waiter in a sky-high priced taverna, he had all the skills of a juggler, or could at least do the balancing act at the local fair too. He carried a carafe of wine, a bowl of bread-rings, a platter of chargrilled baby octopus redolent of thyme and garlic with just a hint of bayleaf, a jug of extra sauce, and some olive oil and vinegar. He brought a plate of Melanzane alla finitese next, the crumbed aubergine slices bursting with hot melted cheese. "Eat up. The cook gets upset if you aren't ready for the swordfish the minute it arrives. And do you need more wine?"
(This Rough Magic)
Anyway. Food? Or Micky D?
And does it add to your readng pleasure?