I’ve been blogging for just over two years now—crazy! It’s been great fun, not arduous at all as I had once worried that it might be. The process is inspiring and motivating in terms of how it complements my other writing, and I’m delighted by the people I’ve come to know through the blogosphere.
Scrutinizing my stats page recently, however, I realized that it’s usually just recent posts that get visitors. Past posts are only occasionally stumbled upon by the odd Internet search for something esoteric that one of my entries seems to fit.
With 27 months of writing accumulated here now, that means a lot of unread words. And I like some of my older entries. There are themes I revisit—and the odd one that makes me think, Hey, I’ve moved on from there—or not. 😉
Anyway, long story short and all that, I’ve decided to recycle some of my past posts. I’ll still post new content, of course (maybe even more regularly, as I’m aiming to have a new post up every Monday), but I hope readers will enjoy perusing past thoughts and not think it’s a cheat or anything. So without further ado, here’s this Thursday’s déjà vu!
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Souping It Up
Originally published here on Write Here, Write Now on February 24, 2010 – so almost a year ago. Must be something about this time of year (brrr!) that makes soup extra appealing to me!
I’m a bit of a soup addict. Whenever I’m stressed, inching toward depressed, or feeling blue about something, I make soup. Chopping and grating, bringing to a boil, simmering. . . tasting. The steamy aromas of mingled garlic, onion, occasionally ginger . . . Mmm.
There’s something Zen about cooking in general, and making soup from scratch especially. And like my aunt says, even if you can’t cook, it’s hard not to make great soup, so long as you use quality ingredients. It will sound corny, but I think she’s right only to a point. Something of yourself has to go into the pot too—your love, your affection, your hope, your well wishes . . .
Yesterday I made salmon chowder (from a Spring my son caught last summer) and while I consider myself a decent cook, I impressed even myself. I was wowed by the scrumptious creamy, savoury results. I used a recipe from Allrecipes.com, then modified it (as is my style) ‘til the concoction in my pot could never be recreated using the recipe card sitting on my counter.
As I cooked (and tasted!), my mind wandered all over the place, but especially back to the novel that I’m working on. In the last scene, written just shortly before I started dinner, my MC was making soup. And there were soup references in my last novel too. The books aren’t the type that will be marketed at gourmands, with recipes in the back (though I do love those). In fact, the scenes are very brief—I don’t know if a reader would even consciously remember them, but they are, I realized, symbolic.
Soup is the epitome of comfort food, belonging and home. Every culture has its own variations of the dish, and while soup can be whimsical, there’s nothing trendy or passé about throwing things in a pot to simmer and blend all together into something, always a bit different, always good. Soup, regardless of its name, is as old as the human race.
And what does my character want and crave, but not have? Family. A sense of belonging. A home.
Food and eating of all kinds (not just soup!) has weighty (no pun intended) positive and negative connotations for the character as an individual and within his/her relationships. What your character eats or doesn’t eat, and the way they eat—standing over the kitchen sink, or with wine and candles even when alone—says a lot about their personality, their desires, their family background, their financial situation and so much more.
The way characters prepare food (or don’t) also shows who they are, how they perceive themselves, and how they want to be perceived by others. I don’t know what this says about me, but when I make soup, I feel like a good mom. What does your character feel like? A house elf? A slave? A fortunate soul to be able to cook when so many people in the world can’t put food on the table?
We shouldn’t make every scene about drinking tea or buttering fresh baguette, but we should remember that all humans everywhere eat—or need to eat—and have strong feelings about food. Sneaking in small sensory details about this primal need can be a great way to reveal information about your character.
So how about it? Have you ever considered what the food references in your story might be saying about your characters? Would adding some details about eating somehow enhance your characterization?