I have noticed a recurring element in my books, which certainly hasn’t been intentional, but has been consistent nonetheless. I have a tendency to write quite a few meal scenes. I began to wonder if I’m often hungry while writing *g*, especially since while writing I don’t put much thought into keeping myself fed, other than randomly scrounging something up to keep me conscious. And yet for my characters, meals become a significant part of the story, and at some point in the story, an emotional connection or reaction to a food goes beyond physical nourishment–becoming a reflection of the soul that hopefully provides a deeper understanding of the character.
In MUSTANG WILD, Skylar savors the creamy taste of butter during a brief stay in a town, and for her, butter is a representation of having a stable home. There weren’t any butter churns out on the cattle trail. She finds delight in cooking on the trail, because it provides a slight connection to the feminine life she longs to lead. The hero does the cooking in BRIDE OF SHADOW CANYON, and his dried peppers take Rachell back to her childhood and the Louisiana spices she’s missed for so long–a time when she used to feel safe and secure. In MAVERICK WILD, Cora Mae literally cooks her way into the hearts of the men on Chance Morgan’s ranch. She tells how she cooked favorite home recipes of the girls in her boardinghouse, to help ease them into mill life by giving them some familiarity of home. Chance certainly has a favorable response to Cora Mae’s cooking, the familiar dishes reminding him of a time when life was simple. The heroine in my upcoming release THE GUNSLINGER’S UNTAMED BRIDE is a business woman who can hardly open a can of peaches, much less bake any sort of pie, but throughout the story, as she’s being dragged and chased all across the Sierra Nevada Mountains, she has a constant, desparate longing for her hot chocolate. For Lily, hot chocolate was her one sweet escape during a long period of bitter struggle and heartache. When she’s finally reunited with her chocolate pot toward the end of the book, it’s a rather tender moment. While thinking about all of these scenes, it struck me that comfort foods are something I definitely identify with, and perhaps that’s why I use food as a way to reveal insights on the pasts of my characters’.
There are those foods that transcend the ingredients, flavors and scents that touch the heart. Both of my grandmothers were amazing cooks—how I wish I’d gained an ounce of their kitchen wisdom. Both had their signature dishes…when you walked in the door, the scent of Grandma Love hung in the air. Peach cobbler for one grandma, and chicken & dumplin’s for the other. When I think of them, those scents swirl up in my mind, taking me back to many happy memories of sitting in warm kitchens. For my husband, that food is crêpes, his Russian grandmother made the sweetest paper-thin crêpe she’d roll up with some fruits and a ricotta-like cheese and dust with powered sugar. Whenever we happen upon a place that serves traditional crêpes, his eyes light up and the ten-year-old sitting at his grandma’s kitchen table surfaces. Growing up my mom’s feel-good recipe was chocolate pie…likely why chocolate is my favorite comfort food 🙂
What are your favorite comfort foods? Is there a nostalgic taste that takes you back, takes you home…takes you to a special place in time? Or perhaps a certain memory that carries the scent of a comfort food?
I have to run out today, but I’ll be back around 2:00 (CA time) to reply to posts. One lucky poster will win The Farmer’s Wife Comfort Food Cookbook, full of blue-ribbon-winning recipes! So give us a shout – recipes are welcome 😉