Hello everyone! I’m very pleased to have Michael Baron, author of When You Went Away guest posting on Peeking Between the Pages today. Because of the events of the past month and a half at my house I’m behind on some of the reading I needed to have done so I’m just starting When You Went Away but I have to say I’m already hooked and my review should be up sometime early November. The best thing is that Michael is a ‘foodie’ like many of us and his guest post is all about Why Food and Fiction Mix so settle in for a great guest post!
I’m a fairly serious foodie. I think about food a great deal. Far more often, to be honest, than a healthy person probably should. For instance, just now, when I should have been focusing on this piece, my mind drifted to what I was making for dinner. For the longest time, this didn’t have much of an impact on my writing career. I wrote nonfiction books, they weren’t cookbooks, and therefore food rarely entered into the equation. However, when I sat down to write my first novel, When You Went Away, the food references exploded on the page. I edited out several of these (it is not, after all, a food novel; I’ll get to one of those eventually), but those I left all have symbolic value. An early cooking scene shows my protagonist Gerry trying to do this normal thing in the face of hardship and even though he is only cooking for himself. A later one allows Gerry’s sister-in-law to care for him in a way that sends echoes of a now-lost home. Still another hints at renewal. Even the very first present-day scene in the novel involves food, though it’s a baby bottle (Gerry is a widow with an infant son).
Obviously, I write about food so often in my fiction because I care about it. But I think I do it for another reason as well. I think I do it because it is essential. Food represents sustenance at one level and sensual pleasure at another — both things that we all need. In any piece of character-driven fiction (the only kind I write; I don’t have the plotting chops to attempt a plot-driven novel), the “things of life” are central. Therefore food serves as a fundamental metaphor for living and being alive. Interestingly, in my next novel, Crossing the Bridge, food plays a much smaller role, but for precisely the same reason. My protagonist there, Hugh, is untethered. A tragedy ten years earlier has left him feeling lost. I make very few references to food in the first act of this novel, and when I do, it is purely as fuel. Then, in the second act, Hugh makes an effort to reach out to the woman who has been haunting him, and he discovers a roadside diner that brings his taste buds alive. When he cooks for this woman, even though he’s a stranger to kitchens, it’s an announcement that he’s moving forward with purpose.
In my next novel, cooking has a central place in the story of one of the main characters. He will make several dishes right on the page. This, of course, has driven me to take the food-as-life metaphor even further. I’m trying to determine the specific symbolic qualities that different ingredients have. What message does a tomato send? What about pork? Does the shoulder have a different emblematic function from the loin? These mysteries still lay in front of me. But I will make it my mission to uncover them. And I’ll get started on it as soon as I decide on a side dish for tonight’s meal.
Fantastic guest post Michael! Thank you so much for joining us at Peeking Between the Pages and sharing with us today.
I’m pleased to say that I have 2 copies of When You Went Away available for giveaway courtesy of Joy and the publisher-thanks so much! What do you need to do to enter…
- For 1 entry leave me a comment with a way to contact you.
- For 2 entries follow my blog. If you do, many thanks and let me know please so I can make sure you get the extra entry.
- For 3 entries blog or tweet this giveaway to spread the word.
This giveaway will be open to US & Canadian residents only (no PO boxes) and I will be drawing for the winners on Saturday, November 21, 2009. Good luck to all!