Saturday, September 29, 2012

Food for Thought

The title of this blog is Killer Hobbies, and one of my hobbies is eating. I like to dine out and I like to cook. Many of our social interactions take place around food. We meet friends for lunch, hang out at coffee shops, go on a hot dinner date, or feast with family at holidays and special events. Since it plays such an important role in society, food should be considered an essential element for world building. The cuisine might even be considered a character in its own right. What, where, and how a character eats reveals something about her as a person and how she fits into society.

In Warrior Prince: Book One in the Drift Lords Series, for example, the hero fancies chocolate chip cookies. They’re a treat he’s never eaten before, showing his cultural difference from the Floridian heroine. He compares chicken to a food called pamadore in his region.

Look more closely at my heroes’ interactions with food and note how they show the men’s extraterrestrial origins. Zohar is leader of the Drift Lords and crown prince of the Star Empire. His team has come to Earth to quell an invasion by soldiers from another dimension.

“Bring me a glass of that orange juice, would you?” Dal asked without any regard for Zohar’s rank. “I am plagued by thirst. The food on this planet has too much salt.”
“I can get it.” Borius strode toward the kitchen. “I would like a smack myself.”
“A snack, Borius, not a smack,” Zohar corrected with a grin.
They meandered toward the dining room. Zohar grabbed another cookie from the nearly empty plate. He savored the treat’s gooey center while Borius returned with a glass of juice for Dal.

Unfortunately, drinking that juice has dire consequences for Dal, the team’s demolitions expert.

Being a Disney fan, I loved the idea of sinister theme parks, and so they play an important role in my series. In fact, the action starts in Orlando, where our heroine applies for a summer job at an attraction called Drift World. Zohar explores this mysterious role-playing theme park where western culture continues to befuddle him:

Guests nibbled on a confection called a funnel cake. The sugary aroma made his mouth water. He also smelled the snack called a hot dog, although the elongated meat had nothing to do with the domesticated animal.

You see how his attitude toward food reflects his foreign point of view?

Shear Murder, my latest Bad Hair Day mystery, involves weddings and funerals. Where else other than holidays are rituals more important? In this case, I describe Jewish practices. For example, we don’t send flowers to funeral homes. Usually, people bring food to the family afterward when mourners are sitting “shivah” at home, or friends give charitable donations in the deceased’s memory. Weddings are occasions for feasts, too, and there are two weddings in Shear Murder. It starts out with a wedding and then a funeral, and ends on a highlight of the entire series with a long-anticipated wedding.

Marla, my heroine, will often meet friends or suspects at restaurants or lounges. She also likes to cook, when she has time from her busy duties at the salon and solving crimes. So far, her actual recipes haven’t made their way into my mysteries. At least, not until my current work in progress. This time, I have made sure to include the recipes that my hairdresser sleuth cooks during the course of the story. For earlier titles, you’ll have to go to my website to see what she makes. I have an entire page of Recipes there that are my personal favorites.

What are some memorable food scenes that you’re read? If you’re a writer, how do you incorporate food or meals into your stories?

All commenters during Nancy’s blog tour will be entered into a drawing for a Warrior Prince tee shirt and magnet and a pdf copy of Warrior Prince. Go to for a complete schedule of her tour stops.

Warrior Prince: Book One in the Drift Lords Series by Nancy J. Cohen

When mythologist and Florida resident Nira Larsen accepts a job as tour guide for a mysterious stranger, she's drawn into a nightmare reality where ancient myths come alive and legendary evils seek to destroy her. To survive, she must awaken her dormant powers, but the only person who can help is the man whose touch inflames her passion.

After a dimensional rift in the Bermuda Triangle cracks open and an ancient enemy invades Earth, Zohar—leader of the galactic warriors known as the Drift Lords—summons his troops. He doesn't count on a redheaded spitfire getting in his way and capturing his heart. Nira has the power to defeat the enemy and to enslave Zohar's soul. Can he trust her enough to accomplish his mission, or will she lure him to his doom?

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Author Biography

Nancy J. Cohen is a multi-published author who writes romance and mysteries. Her popular Bad Hair Day mystery series features hairdresser Marla Shore, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun. Several of these titles have made the IMBA bestseller list, while Nancy’s imaginative sci-fi/paranormal romances have garnered rave reviews and a HOLT Medallion Award. Active in the writing community and a featured speaker at libraries and conferences, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets.


Angelica French said...

Charming! Absolutely delightful ('cause I'm a foodie, too) and intriguing. I had never thought of food as part of the cultural world building. See. That's why you can do it and I know I can't. Keep entertaining us with the Drift Lords and Marla!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

We're delighted to have you, Nancy.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Hi, Nancy. Welcome! Just reading your post made me aware that it's nearing dinner time. And I'll ponder even more what my protagonist Lauren Vancouver is eating while she's dining with her friends and love interest!

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Angelica, you certainly can do it. Just think of all the aspects of life as we know it when you create a world for your characters.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Joanna and Linda, thanks for having me here. Food has always been an important element in mysteries. Witness all the culinary themes. But it's important for world building in the romance genre too as shown above.

Victoria Allman said...

My husband says, redheaded spitfires ALWAYS get in the way!

I like the idea of the mythological characters being confused by our food. It is a great observation of what would be real that I hadn't thought of.

I often wonder who looked at escargot the first time and thought "I should slurp that down." In Mexican cooking, the mold on ears of corn is often used (huitlacoche) AND it's tasty. Who, from another world, another time, would look at us eating that and think "yum"?

Great idea to incorporate into the book, Nancy!

Victoria Allman
author of: SEAsoned: A Chef's Journey with Her Captain

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Victoria, as you note, there are enough cultural differences among us humans, never mind aliens from another world. Even regional foods can be used to pepper a setting with details. That's part of the fun in world building.

Mary Ricksen said...

I remember reading a book by, Bertrice Small, one time and she had a whole page of what was on the table. I got the whole point in the first few lines, but I couldn't help but read it all and think about what they ate.
If you have a good recipe for a moist, noodle pudding, maybe you could pass it along!!! I had it once and it was wonderful, but the two times since then I found it dry and not so good. Considering your other recipes, I bet you have a good one somewhere...
I'm wishing you great sales! And continues success, this one sounds great.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Alors! Helix pomatia, known as the Burgundian or 'apple' snail, the most common, meatiest and most palatable snail, was found originally in eastern France.
Heliculture, the 'ranching' of snails, was first practiced by the ancient Romans, who spread their cultivation throughout Europe, north Africa and the Middle East.
Consumption of 'wild' snails must be done with caution, since much of the materiel consumed by free-range snails is already, or can become, toxic. Feral snails fed with cold cooked oatmeal will purge themselves of any inimical waste after 48-72 hours, although some snail gourmands maintain some of the more complex flavours are lost, thereby. Chacun a son gout.
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Read more:

Alana Lorens said...

Having recipes along with the story is a fantastic idea! Great marketing. I'm jealous. :)

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Mary, I do have a recipe for noodle pudding. Go to the Recipes page on my website at Scroll down until you come to the side dishes and look for noodle kugel.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

Joanna, I am glad I don't eat snails after reading your description.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Quite a few mystery writers use food as a connection to readers. It seems to work well. I enjoy cozy novels that include recipes myself.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

So do I, Jacqueline. There's a whole niche for culinary cozies.