What your characters are eating and how they eat it can be an integral part of the story. Sometimes (as often seems the case in the “Game of Thrones” books with their loving and intense details around the dinner table, deep enough to have inspired a cookbook) the food itself is a reflection of the characters’ tastes and their lot in life. Other times, their interaction with the food serves to underline their personalities (as in this piece about “When Harry Met Sally” that showcases Sally’s fussy, detail-oriented way with eating). Food can be a goal in itself (finding the perfect burger, for example, or stealing that crust of bread to feed your family as in “Les Miserables”) or an important prop (think a carefully wielded banana cream pie). As anyone who survived the “clean plate club” era of parenting knows, it can be a battle ground just for being present. Next time your characters sit down to a meal, take a good look at their plates and see if there’s any material there.
POST NOTE: NPR featured a story about “iconic meals in literature.” The web page features sumptuous photos of 8 top plates.