October 13 – 19: “Is there room to eat amidst all the chasing?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5We’ve covered weather, descriptions, and settings. This week we cover food, as ITW Members M.C. Grant, Rob Brunet, Alex Shaw, Karen Traviss, Eric Red, Mauro Azzano, Robert Boeder, Rex Burns, Colin Campbell, Tom Wither and Alan Jacobson discuss the role of “food” in contemporary thrillers. Is there room to eat amidst all the chasing?

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Autumn Fire by Tom WitherTom Wither is 25 year veteran of Air Force intelligence, with a Master’s degree in Computer Systems management, and intelligence certifications from the NSA and the Director of National Intelligence. He lives near Baltimore. His second novel is AUTUMN FIRE, a sequel to THE INHERITOR.  In AUTUMN FIRE, America’s deadliest enemy returns—and he’ll stop at nothing to carry out his catastrophic plot against the U.S. to restore the Islamic Caliphate.  As the man known only as Aziz carries out his brutal attacks, the dedicated intelligence and special ops force assigned to stop him—David Cain, Sergeant Thompson, FBI Agent Johnson, and navy SEAL Lieutenant Mathews—relentlessly pursue him across the globe in their covert operation, codenamed AUTUMN FIRE.

Adobe Flats by Colin CampbellEx-policeman. Ex-soldier. International tennis player. And full-time crime novelist. Colin Campbell is a retired police officer in West Yorkshire, having tackled crime in one of the UK’s busiest cities for 30 years. He is the author of UK crime novels, BLUE KNIGHT WHITE CROSS and NORTHERN EX, and US thrillers JAMAICA PLAIN and MONTECITO HEIGHTS featuring rogue Yorkshire cop Jim Grant. He counts Lee Child and Matt Hilton among his fans.

 

IT WAITS BELOW book coverEric Red is a Los Angeles based motion picture screenwriter, director and author. His films include The Hitcher, Near Dark, Blue Steel, Cohen And Tate, Body Parts, Bad Moon and 100 Fee. His first novel, Don’t Stand So Close, is available from SST Publications. His second and third novels, The Guns Of Santa Sangre and It Waits Below, are available from Samhain Publishing. His fourth novel, White Knuckle, will be published by Samhain in 2015.

Death Works at Night by Mauro AzzanoMauro Azzano was born in Italy, north of Venice. He grew up in Italy, Australia and finally Canada, settling with his family on the west coast outside Vancouver, Canada. He has a broad experience to call on as a writer, having worked as a college instructor, commercial pilot, IT specialist and a number of other unusual occupations. Currently, he is writing the Ian McBriar Murder Mystery series and training as a distance runner.

 

Spectrum_v2_72dpi_smNational bestselling author Alan Jacobson’s twenty years of research and training with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, DEA, US Marshals Service, SWAT, NYPD, Scotland Yard, and the US military bring unparalleled realism to his stories and characters. Jacobson’s thrillers have made numerous “Best Books of the Year” lists, they’ve been published in a dozen countries, five have been optioned by Hollywood…and James Patterson, Nelson DeMille, and Michael Connelly have called series protagonist FBI profiler Karen Vail one of the most compelling heroes in suspense fiction. Visit him on Facebook and Twitter: @JacobsonAlan

Cold Black ENDEAVOURlowresAlex Shaw spent the second half of the 1990s in Kyiv, Ukraine, teaching and running his own business consultancy before being head-hunted for a division of Siemens. The next few years saw him doing business across the former USSR, the Middle East, and Africa. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers organisation, the Crime Writers Association and the author of the Aidan Snow SAS thrillers. Alex, his wife and their two sons divide their time between homes in Kyiv, Ukraine and Worthing, England.

 

grey#1 New York Times best-selling novelist, scriptwriter and comics author Karen Traviss has received critical acclaim for her award-nominated Wess’har series, and her work on Halo, Gears of War, Batman, and other major franchises has earned her a broad range of fans. She’s best known for military science fiction, but GOING GREY, the first of her new techno-thriller series, is set in the real world of today. A former defence correspondent and TV and newspaper journalist, she lives in Wiltshire, England.

 

crudeAmong Rex Burns‘ 18 books, The Alvarez Journal won an Edgar, and another, The Avenging Angel, became a Charles Bronson film. His articles appear in periodicals and anthologies, and his series of Aboriginal short stories runs in the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. His latest novel, Crude Carrier, was published by Mysterious Press (print, e-format, audio) on 7 October 14.

 

Beauty With A Bomb by M.C. GrantM.C. Grant is Grant McKenzie, an award-winning screenwriter, editor, and novelist. He is the author of SWITCH and NO CRY FOR HELP (both published by Bantam TransWorld UK). His short stories have been featured in the First Thrills anthology edited by Lee Child (Tor/Forge), and Out of the Gutter and Spinetingler magazines. His first screenplay won a fellowship at the Praxis Centre for Screenwriting in Vancouver. As a journalist, he worked in virtually every area of the newspaper business, from the late-night “dead body beat” at a feisty daily tabloid to editor at two of Canada’s largest broadsheets. Born in Glasgow, Grant currently resides in Victoria, British Columbia.

Stinking Rich by Rob BrunetRob Brunet’s award-winning short crime fiction appears and is forthcoming in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, and Out of the Gutter. Before writing noir, Brunet produced award-winning Web presence for film and TV, including LOST, Frank Miller’s Sin City, and the cult series Alias. He lives in Toronto and loves beaches, the bush, and bonfires.

 

 

coverRobert Boeder is the author of two thrillers, Red Star Over Pattaya set in Thailand, and Zambezi River Bridge that takes place in Southern Africa. He has also published the prize winning historical novel The Chinese Laundry and Silverton Burning, both set in Southwestern Colorado as well as two non-fiction works on long distance trail running, Beyond the Marathon and Hardrock Fever. Boeder divides his time between Colorado and Thailand.

 

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30 Comments
  1. Dixie loves food. She also likes whiskey and cigars, but food is her go-to. Head strong, whip-smart and fearless, Dixie Flynn is the protagonist of all the M.C. Grant mysteries. She loves her city of San Francisco, the smells, the people, the dark and the light. Although eating food on the run gives her pleasure, it also gives the reader insight into her mood: stress eating, panic eating, conversation eating, yearning for a normal life, etc.
    Food can provide pleasure, set the scene for conversation, or, in many cases, provide an opportunity for humor.
    The first time I noticed food being used effectively in a novel was when I read The First Deadly Sin by Lawrence Sanders. Police Captain Edward X Delaney loved his sandwiches, and his creations allowed him time to process the clues, etc., that he had gathered that day. The joy that he had in describing each work of sandwich art simply made him that much more likeable. I have never forgotten that.
    For me, food allows Dixie an opportunity to visit interesting characters and show mood, but it can also set a scene or provide additional information. For example, in Beauty With A Bomb, Dixie stops off at a Polish bakery before meeting a unique band of amateur vigilantes. The act of buying these particular sugary Polish delicacies allows Dixie an opportunity to learn a little more about Polish culture, and also acts as an effective ice-breaker when she meets the ragtaggle gang for the first time.
    Leaving a half-finished sandwich on a park bench – or wolfing one down without tasting it – can tell the reader a lot about a character’s current mood, anxiety level, etc.
    Food doesn’t play as large a part in the stand-alone Grant McKenzie thrillers as it does in the M.C. Grant mysteries, but it is still used for all the reasons that we have in real life: to show love, panic, stress, joy – and even economic status. If one character is picking up a plastic-wrapped, breakfast burrito from 7-Eleven, while another is sprinkling pink salmon roe on his Eggs Benedict – the reader instantly knows they come from different financial worlds. In The Fear In Her Eyes – Grant McKenzie’s latest edge-of-your-seat, no-holds-barred thriller – for example, the lack of food in the protagonist’s fridge reflects the hollow emptiness he feels as his life crumbles around him. Sometimes Not Eating can be just as powerful in setting mood – as does its description. If soup is just soup, then you know the character is merely eating to survive. But if the soup is a Boston Clam Chowder with a sprinkle of homemade bacon bits floating on top, this could spark an important memory to share with the reader – and maybe even a clue or two.

  2. “Is there room to eat amidst all the chasing?” Absolutely. I’m not what you call a hard core foodie, but I think sporadically having some of my characters pause for a meal provides room in the story to provide an additional dimension to the character having the meal reflected in his or her food choices. It also serves as a great mechanism to allow the character(s) to reflect on their current or future circumstances and interact socially. All of this works, in my mind, to make the character ‘more real’ to the reader and provides an opportunity to advance the story. One of my characters, Vladimir Repin, expresses in my books a preference for McDonald’s cheeseburgers, and likes to cook Filet Mignon. The cooking and dining on the Filet in THE INHERITOR gives him an opportunity to reflect on how he came to be on the edge of initiating a series of terrorist attacks, while also allowing me to expand on his character as he rationalizes the deaths he will cause, and reexamines his personal reasons for choosing employment with the terrorist mastermind Aziz. Generally speaking, you can’t have the characters stopping every few minutes to grab a meal, but used judiciously, I think having one or more characters eating provides great opportunities for a writer to flesh out a character, insert back story elements, and even advance the plot (i.e. sit down to a meal and somebody shoots up the restaurant). I’ll be making use of a meal in a forthcoming novel to show my readers what it’s like for our men and women in the military to celebrate a holiday away from loved ones and family when they are on a mission. Hopefully it will provide a better sense of what the men and women in our military experience as they serve today, and just as importantly what their families go through. The scene itself will likely only last a few pages, but I think it’s a great opportunity to highlight something very important for my readers who have never known military service or had a loved one serving, and will allow them to bond with some of my characters at an emotional level as the scene unfolds. So yes, I think there is room for a meal between all the car chases, explosions, and firefights.

  3. Be honest: how many times have you looked in the basket of the person ahead of you in the supermarket queue, and come up with a snapshot of their lives based on the food they’re buying? We might guess wrong, but the food that people choose can tell us a lot about them – their income, their health concerns, the nature of their family, their culture, and even their state of mind.

    Food is central to our lives as individuals and a major component of any culture, be that ethnic, national, or professional. So I take the view that food is an essential part of world-building and characterisation. Food features in all my books. It’s not set dressing – it matters to the characters and imparts a lot of information about the lives they lead, so it matters to the reader. When I wrote SF, I’d come up with traditional foods for alien cultures, and some readers actually managed to recreate those by devising recipes based on the descriptions. In my more recent books, food features as indication of the characters’ concerns.

    In GOING GREY, Royal Marine Rob gets homesick for British brands now that he’s based in the USA and finds comfort in ice-cream when deployed to Africa; teenager Ian crams down protein shakes because he’s anxious to fill out and put on muscle. The solitary, secretive geneticist Kinnery lives largely on frozen meals for one; business between the scientist and a senator is done over an Italian meal, and Kinnery observes not only what the senator eats but how he eats it, and forms an opinion of him partly based on that. None of it is there for colour. Every mouthful (or glass, in the case of another character) tells the reader a great deal about them and their world.

    When I give talks to would-be writers, I often tell them that if you know your characters well enough, you could probably do the weekly grocery shopping for them without thinking too hard about it. The trick, I think, is not to shoehorn in food detail for the sake of it, but to identify each character’s attitude to their food of choice (or even what they’re forced to eat in less than ideal situations) and the meaning and purpose it has for them. What do we notice about other people’s food habits in real life? The snatched coffees, the urge to eat a hotter curry than everyone else at the table, the half-eaten meal, and the longing for childhood comfort food all tell stories of their own.

  4. Good to have your comments, and to see the use writers can make of the role of food as a narrative tool. I gave the topic a cursory google and found a range of articles dealing with “food and literature.” These include books of recipes going back to ancient Rome, and lists of dishes presented as badges of ethnic identity. Bloggers, too, offered sites for discussion of food and literature; Brenna Layne’s web site lists and evaluates almost a dozen such blogs, while “Goodreads” offers a collection of over 1200 quotations from literature that refer to food and its pleasures. The subject of food in literature ranges from its presentation in popular culture such as comic books and children’s tales to academic studies of its presence in tomes of serious literature as a device for establishing the chracters’ social class or the historical influcnce of global politics, such as Indian food in Victorian and Edwardian novels. And here I was thinking it was just fun to write a dining scene and listen to the characters talk.

    But the kitchen and dining table are tools for narrative, as eloquently stated above, and I do use such scenes for crucial narrative pivots wherein characters reveal their psychologies, and actions are forshadowed. They are also good for contrasting competing points of view, for modulating the pace of a tale’s movement, commenting on social and human foibles, and even commitng the occasional poisoning.

  5. I was just talking with James Rollins about this—actually, about characters using the bathroom. It’s just something we don’t usually build into our stories. It might merit a mention at some point to keep things “real,” but you can’t really get creative with a character using the restroom (no comments, please). But food is different. Depending on the story you’re writing, it can be both useful and important. I set No Way Out, the fifth book in my FBI Profiler Karen Vail series, in England. Exploring the cultural differences, where possible, was a worthwhile mention at strategic points in the story. It also provided me with terrific opportunities for humor because the British “menu,” and its vernacular, is quite different—and funny, from an American’s point of view. Vail’s fiery personality and dry sense of humor lends itself to that sort of thing.

    I am fond of using settings as characters in the story. Food can be part of that setting because there are often nuances to local fare and if done well, it strengthens that sense of place—such as by having your character eat in a real, well-known restaurant. In such instances, it lends a verisimilitude to the story because it puts the reader into the setting. In Crush and Velocity (a two-part story), Vail is pursuing a serial killer in the Napa Valley. How could I set a thriller in wine country and ignore the wine and Napa Valley food culture? Instead, I used it to help establish the setting. If I chose to omit it, I’d have missed out on a tremendous opportunity of putting the reader “there”; otherwise the novel could’ve been set anywhere else. But it can’t be, because the story is intertwined with, and feeds off of, the wine culture. As a result, readers felt like they really were there, in Napa. Those who’d previously visited the valley remarked that they felt like they were back there, while those who’d never been there wanted to go, and some planned trips around the places mentioned in Crush and Velocity. I’m certain that the food and wine helped put them there.

    In Inmate 1577 (Vail #4), my characters, who are doing hard time on Alcatraz, eat a meal in the cafeteria. It’s where they planned and plotted their escape (and in reality, this was true). Mentioning the food they were served allowed me to showcase the one redeeming characteristic of what was otherwise a horrible existence: the food on The Rock was exceptionally good because of the fresh fish the staff caught off the island in San Francisco Bay. As with Napa, I helped achieve authenticity through food.

    While it certainly depends on the story you’re telling, food can absolutely play an important role in a well-told thriller.

  6. Food-obsessed Thailand is the kind of country where heated debates on the virtues of particular brands of fish sauce can go on for hours without being resolved. Food is such an important part of Thai culture that any novel that doesn’t discuss local cuisine isn’t worth purchasing. Readers of RED STAR OVER PATTAYA who have been to Thailand connect immediately with Private Investigator, Wilson Smith, who starts his work night by devouring sticky rice and barbecue chicken at a streetside food stall. Messy, delicious, and a great way to get involved with a thriller character.

  7. OK, so when I was asked to comment on the relative merits of an ageless protagonist versus one who ages in successive works, I thought that this was a topic specifically tailored to me.
    Now, however, I’m happily adding my two cents’ worth to the discussion for this week; the importance of food in our oeuvres.
    As for me, my Ian McBriar character is passionate about food. He worked as a cook in his father’s restaurant before moving to Toronto, then he worked in various restaurants while studying for the priesthood.
    This of course has to come from a position of intimate personal experience. Growing up, my mother was a caterer for Italian weddings. This, to a great degree, came with its own double edged sword.
    While I came to appreciate homemade lasagne, fresh cannoli and crisp salads, I also grew up believing that everyone must also have twenty pounds of veal parmigiana in their refrigerators.
    As well, it made me an extremely discerning ( a polite term for it ) restaurant patron.
    As far as the literary use of food to advance the storyline, I have the same philosophy as I had when I was helping my mother prepare pasta dough.
    Timing and subtlety are everything. Being too heavy-handed with meals and dishes, besides sounding snobby and elitist, has the unfortunate effect of often distracting the reader, and taking attention away from the plot.
    Using terms that many don’t recognize, be it ‘deglaze’ or ‘bain-marie’ will similarly throw readers off the story.
    I used those terms intentionally, because I bet hard money that some people are Googling them right now.

    Back to the food business: in my books, I use meals as a focal point, just like in a real Italian household. Getting my characters together to eat gives them an opportunity to compare notes and bounce ideas off each other. I also use foods as a ‘trigger point’ in the plot at times, giving the reader a heads-up that a milestone has been reached.

  8. I thought about this and can’t help coming back to James Bond. Ian Fleming went into great detail describing the meals 007 ate. It helped define him as a character with good taste but I think spoke more of the author. Ian Fleming was a food snob, no doubt about it. Me, I’m a “food is fuel” kind of fella who wants to get it out of the way and onto something I like doing. Or have to do. To be honest, I used to skip the food bits and move on to Pussy Galore and Oddjob. For the same reason I tend to include food only as a necessity for the characters or a place for them to meet. And perhaps comment on the size of American portions for my English protagonist.

  9. Food, its preparation, the way people eat, and what happens when they do—all offer a natural way to get into characters’ heads. Does a guy who’s otherwise a health nut eat and run? Does a thug have a soft spot for cooking? Is everything in someone’s kitchen pre-processed?

    In Stinking Rich, the relationship between a pair of antagonists is painted in their opening scene when one biker two-finger shoves a chocolate muffin slathered in marmalade in his mouth and spews crumbs into the face of the other. By the time he sniffs his fingertips and wipes them on the other guy’s shoulder, you know what they think of each other. And you know the brute’s not coming for breakfast at your home anytime soon.

    Like every other aspect of a story, food references can be part of the action. I use bananas, beet soup, a stolen stale tuna sandwich, a perfectly greasy breakfast, and an extra spicy mound of nachos and cheese, just to name a few. Occasionally, major plot points hinge on the food people eat.

    The thing to watch out for, I think, is using a meal as a crutch to put two or more characters in the same place at the same time so they can share information. Can something else be going on during the meal? Does something about its setting drive the story? Readers can forgive one or two scenes in a non-descript diner—and diners are among the best places to character scout, aren’t they?—but overdo it and your protagonist may as well be chewing an energy bar at a bus stop. And what fun is that?

    1. My Answer: While working at a newspaper in Victoria, a new restaurant opened around the corner that served the most delicious breakfast sandwich I had ever had. This resulted in a bit of a breakfast sandwich competition between my books. The good sandwich appeared in one of Dixie’s adventures (Devil With A Gun) prepared by the partner of her bookie, Eddie the Wolf, while one of the main villains in No Cry For Help has to suffer with a crappy, fast-food breakfast sandwich.

    2. When I needed to make a seemingly nasty protagonist more likeable in the opening pages of a story where events sent him spiralling out of control, I used lasagne. Not just any lasagne. His mother’s lasagne with his favourite sauce. ‘Cause when I want to show my friends how much I love them, spending an afternoon making that dish for them is one of the best ways I know how.

    3. Well, first I’d have to pin down a favourite, which would be tough. But in one of my SF books, in a bar scene, two of the characters struggle through a rock-hard, salty bar snack which most Brits would recognise as pork scratchings. (One of my weaknesses. But then I have many.) They’re not sure what the stuff is made from, though, which is probably for the best.

    4. I don’t know about “favorite” but a recipe which I use in life and whcih one of my protagonists, “Gabe Wager,” uses in fiction is what I call the Marine Corps Omelet–the recipe is based on memory and approximated: eggs and anything else that can’t crawl out of the frying pan. Sometimes it even tastes good . . .

    5. Oh yes. The example I cited above included a variation on cooking my favorite meal – Filet Mignon. I like to sprinkle a bit of myself in various places within my books, and Repin’s meal was a natural place to do that. I also share his enjoyment of cheeseburgers.

  10. My Answer: While working at a newspaper in Victoria, a new restaurant opened around the corner that served the most delicious breakfast sandwich I had ever had. This resulted in a bit of a breakfast sandwich competition between my books. The good sandwich appeared in one of Dixie’s adventures (Devil With A Gun) prepared by the partner of her bookie, Eddie the Wolf, while one of the main villains in No Cry For Help has to suffer with a crappy, fast-food breakfast sandwich.

  11. Meals and food play an important part in my novels, The Riviera Contract and The African Contract. Along with the descriptions of the countryside and cities of France and the countries of Africa, the local cuisine fills out the backdrop these areas provide for the reader. The descriptions, smells, and tastes of a Parisian meal, the bouillabaisse of Marseille, the fufu with rice and shrimp in Liberia and the bobojtie, the Cape Malay dish of lamb, nuts, raisins, and chutney, with a baked egg topping in South Africa, all add to the feel of place.
    The writer must be careful not to overdo the use of food or the story could turn into a travelogue. Still, having your characters appreciate certain foods helps in their development. The judicious placement also gives the reader a breather from the action sequences.

  12. Good point Rob, about getting in a character’s head. I go back to the movies for this one. Michael Caine in The Ipcress File. Making coffee during the opening titles (great music) or buying a tin of champignon when Colonel Ross suggests cheaper button mushrooms. Cooking an omelette for a girl before bed. All showing that Harry Palmer is a gourmet cook and not just a thug.

    1. I’ll watch anything with Michael Caine in it, Colin, and if he’s playing a bad guy, all the better, so I’ll keep an eye out for The Ipcress File. The omelette before bed sounds like a nice touch.

      1. Rob, you’re in for a treat. I wish I could watch it again for the first time. Google The Ipcress File opening and watch it on You Tube. I grew up on this and James Bond. Coolest theme tune ever.

  13. Is there room to eat amidst all the chasing? Well I have yet to have any of my characters running with a mouthful or burger in NY City or chasing a terrorist whilst munching on a piece of sushi in Tokyo but I do wherever possible feature local food and drink.

    Food and drink plays an integral part in making a thriller feel authentic. That’s why getting it wrong is such a ‘no no’. I am quite lucky in the respect that I have been to many of the places I write about and in some cases actually write on location (whilst sampling local drinks). I read a novel a while ago that was going well until the author had the central character eat completely the wrong food, a food that in fact was not available in that country at that time. This was error led on to others.

    In the ‘real world’ we eat and drink, therefore in thrillers we need to as well – but only if doing so adds to and does not detract from the narrative.

    As well as adding to time and place food also tells us much about our characters, showing a man imbibe Saki in Tokyo is not unusual but showing a western man do the same in London is. We want to know why he drinks Saki, is it for the taste, to impress, the exotic excitement or is he a Japanophile? My hero Aidan Snow drinks Ukrainian Cognac and Ukrainian Vodka because he loves Ukraine.

  14. It is interesting how each writer uses food in different ways, but it seems clear from reading everyone’s posts that food, in all its various guises, plays an important part in setting scene, location, mood, etc. When I was a wee lad growing up in Scotland, I loved the Just William books written by Richmal Crompton (first published in 1922, believe it or not – fortunately I had a time machine back then, before I misplaced it . . . darn). In those books, William and his best friend Ginger used to sneak off into the woods, lit a small campfire, and grill up whatever they had found into a snack. It was always weird stuff, but the one I remember the most was: fried Cat Food and other things: worms and dirt perhaps? But it shows how food in a novel can definitely stick with you.

  15. In my novels, I use the food people eat, particularly at home, to flesh out the main characters, just like the books on a person’s shelf or music listened to tell us something. One character took up cooking as a hobby to take his mind off his dying son’s illness and bought every imaginable pan and gadget in the process. Another was just a smoking and grillin’ guy, a carnivore with tendencies to match. Same with clothes worn. But, as someone who cooks a lot, I like to use what I’ve learned along the way to make a statement who my character is.

  16. Adding to my prior post:
    After they left Canada and retired to Itsly, my parents owned a restaurant/bar in a small town northeast of Venice.
    I’ve been back there numerous times, and whenever we went wit the children, when they were younger, we’d try to take them somewhere different and interesting. My son got hooked on risotto in a little place in Gemona Del Friuli, my daughter has fond memories of a sandwich and wine place in Venice, and my father and I enjoyed a memorable lunch in a small trattoria on the shore of Lago di Garda. Whenever I think of that day, I always pair the meal with the memory of eating outside, under lemon and olive trees.
    It’s impossible for me to dissociate experiences from the meals that accompanied them. I use food in my books, especially when they occur in unusual locations, to stir up memories of culinary experiences in the reader.

    1. Nice – and that is why we use food isn’t it? To stir up a memory that allows the reader to make a connection with the character. After all, food is a universal delight for most of us: the smell of it cooking, the sound of sizzle, the sight as a plate passes by our nose and making us wish that, perhaps, we should have ordered that dish . . .

    2. I’m with you, Mauro, and there’s something about food in Italy that resonates particularly strongly. When our children were younger, we took them there for an extended vacation and I returned to Canada about a week and half before the rest of the family. Their final stop was in Pescara where my son (about eight at the time) enjoyed a few lunches at a little hillside trattoria with my brother-in-law. Apparently, they served the best sauce he’s ever tasted. Much as he loves his mother’s tomato sauce, when she makes a particularly delicious batch and asks, “Is it as good as Pescara?”, the best he can give her is, “Pretty close.” Because nothing will ever erase his memory of that special time he shared with his uncle on a hillside overlooking the Adriatic.

  17. Oh yes! I use food in my novels. In Gemini, my protagonist, a forensic psychiatrist and a NYC player guy comes down to rural central Fla. To visit his parents. He meets the country girl, the love interest and she takes him to a rustic restaurant. As a health conscious eater, he goes through the menu dismissing all of the country favorites, as foods that would be a heart attack waiting to happen. When Vicki’s dinner comes of AUCE ribs, not only does he tease her about it, she plays with the ribs in a very sensual manner, setting up their first sex scene in the next chapter.
    She’s also a fabulous cook which is a point of envy with the hero’s mother.

  18. Food can definitely be used for effective thriller and horror effect, because people have fears about what they eat. In my screenplay for THE HITCHER, I got a lot of mileage out of The Finger In The French Fries Scene where the hero thinks he has escaped from a serial killer and is relaxing with a cheeseburger and French fries at a diner. He doesn’t notice until it’s too late that it’s a severed human finger he’s nibbling on, not a fry.

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