Eating Good in the Neighborhood (or not)

Published May 3, 2012 by caitlinnicoll

Ah, the cultivation of food. What would we be without it?

I don’t even want to think about it. Please don’t make me. *Whimpers in corner, clutching coffee* My Preciousss. It is minesss. Mines by rightses! *pets*

Ahem. Right. Where was I?

Agriculture is a huge part of society, because you know, it deals with food and how we get it. In fact, I would say it is the most important part of civilization.

There are many theories as to why we started to grow delicious food crops, which is likely due to our inherent laziness*, but I’m not going to get into that. I’m not even going to talk about the cultural, environmental, and societal impacts agriculture has had on us. I’m going to talk about how it pertains to you. Or more specifically your book. Or even more specifically, your characters.

In every fictional society, whether one set in Ancient Egypt or a futuristic colony on Pluto, your characters need to eat. And the food they eat will vary depending on where (and when) they are. For instance, in your futuristic Plutonian colony, why do they eat the foods they do? Why does one crop grow better than another? Is it the mineral and PH make-up of the soil, the accessibility of water, the hardiness of the plant? Have they been genetically modified to survive in the alien environment?

Not only that, but how do they cultivate their food? Is it in above ground greenhouses with special glass to absorb the weak sunlight, or are they underground with artificial lamps? Why did they choose to do it one way over the other. Weather, environment, and technology play a huge role in deciding these questions.

If you are writing historical fiction, you should consider not only what they had, but what they didn’t have. If your story takes place during the Tang Dynasty, obviously your characters will not be eating chocolate, because you know, they didn’t have it. Also, chocolate was originally a drink served frothy and delicious. MMM, chocolate…

Anyways, food. It’s important. And so isn’t how your characters get it.

*Purely unscientific assumption



4 comments on “Eating Good in the Neighborhood (or not)

  • Every time I hear about writing about food I think back to what my nutritionist said when I was going to her. “These people who write a lot about food do it because they’re hungry, or have been at some point in their lives.”

    And she’s right, because they did a study back in WWII on soldiers who had been starved in camps and some went on to become chefs and wrote cookbooks and so on (from what I can vaguely recall reading in this research) because /they could never get full/. They put on so much weight because they had been so hungry before.

    Basically, the gist of my rambling is, a trap that some writers can fall into is the “omg are they eating /again/?” Like I used to because I had starved in more than one point in my life and obsessed about food. Explaining it, detailing it, /talking/ about it.

    So very interesting post! But yeah, it always makes me think about my nutritionist when people talk about food. 😀

  • This is why my MG story is set in the current time. And at a school. That way, the day is structured. I know where my MC has to be and the school has to feed him. My brain has it all figured out. My YA fantasy, however? Yeah. They apparently don’t eat. 🙂

  • Such a great point. So many times I need to stop and research for a day about what I’m going to have my characters eat/how the got it/what they called it/how it tasted. Historical fiction is so difficult for these reasons. You get a page down and have to stop again to check something out.

    I enjoyed your A to Z challenge so much, I just had to nominate you for the Beautiful Blogger Award! No worries if you’re all nominated out, but I wanted everyone to see how informative your blog is.:)

  • My WIP is set in Ancient Rome and while it seems easy (They just ate pizza right?) I find myself checking many things about life in Rome. I spent some time finding out what type of drink the soldiers drunk (Posca) for one small sentence where my main character ‘has a drink’ – it gets very tedious.

    As an aside, I noticed on almost every page of The Hunger Games, there is reference to food, which I guess is reflected what the author was going through (who was obviously hungry at the time of writing) and what Katniss’ endures in the book.

    Thanks for this awesome post. It was delicious 😛

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