What She Ate: six remarkable women and the food that tells their stories by Laura Shapiro (Penguin Random House Publishers) evoked all kinds of questions in my mind.
The book describes the eating habits of Dorothy Wordsworth, Rosa Lewis, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eva Braun, Barbara Pym, and Helen Gurley Brown. Their eating habits displayed their belief systems. It is fascinating, really, to understand that food always talks, if we will only listen.
What we eat defines us as people. For instance, do you always eat the heel of the bread because you can’t live with waste and no one else will eat it? Do you deprive yourself of things you like in order to make the family meal time around other peoples choices? What does your portion size say about you? What emotion does your food create in you? Does your food honour who you are? What does your food say about you or your characters?
We are missing the opportunity to add great detail to our novels by not adding food details into our stories. Is your character depressed? Instead of saying so, why not have her eat the bedraggled greens from the fridge?
Is she celebrating? What about serving food that says so? Got a chunky heroine? Her weak character may be displayed as she gorges on food while complaining about her size.
Demonstrate that a person doesn’t care about himself by having nothing of worth in the kitchen.
For more inspiration, I suggest you read What She Ate and be inspired for yourself—and your characters!