Food and Drink in #Writing #WritingCommunity

The concept of “show don’t tell” is drilled into us from the first day we begin learning the craft of writing. And, as we grow and improve our storytelling abilities, it becomes an integral part of the process. But there are many ways to “show” character traits, beliefs, desires and ideals.

As strange as it may sound, one such way is through food and drinks.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Let’s say you have a character who thrives on cold pizza and soda. That alone tells me loads about this character, whether male or female. #1 – They don’t like to cook, or don’t know how. #2 – They are not a health nut. #3 – They are always in a hurry and needing to grab something on the go.

Just that one food scenario says a lot.

In stark contrast, if you have a character who enjoys gourmet meals either at home or out, it is going to let the reader know something specific about him/her. Most likely, they are refined and possibly came from money. There are thousands of examples but you get the idea.

In my newest book, “Ghostly Interference,” my male character’s mother, Charlotte, is vegetarian. One of the meals she cooked was squash stuffed with rice and drizzled with cashew sauce. That showed her earthiness, but also creativity. Have you ever made cashew sauce? It’s not an easy process for sure. I had one reader who messaged me and said they actually tried making this dish and it turned out quite delicious. ๐Ÿ™‚

The protagonist in my current WIP, is a rancher who operates a horse sanctuary. Of course, he is a big beef eater. Nothing else would fit him. But in contrast, the love interest in the story is a vegetarian. An unlikely combination, it will create some humorous moments between them. The contrast also gives me the opportunity to reveal more about each. Why did she decide to become vegetarian?

And it works with every character. What they eat or drink can show the reader more character depth and detail without having to tell them a thing.

What about coffee drinkers? The type of coffee you order may reveal more about your personality than you think.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Research found that the black coffee drinkers were straight up, straightforward and no-nonsense individuals. The double decaf, soy, extra-foamy folks tend to be more obsessive, controlling, and detail-oriented. The latte drinkers tend to be neurotic and people-pleasers, while the instant coffee drinkers had a greater likelihood of being procrastinators. Finally, those individuals who order sweet drinks are the overgrown kids who retained the taste buds and sensibilities of children, while being young at heart. Interesting, huh?

Let’s talk about alcohol. Our character’s go-to drink can be just as much of a statement as the outfit he/she chooses to wear. Something about their alcohol preference (or strong aversion to) alludes to a deeper connection to their character, personality, and behavior.  The go-to drink for my protagonist in my current WIP is whiskey. He is a man’s man. She likes wine. So, what does that say about each of them?

Image Courtesy of Pixabay

The wine drinker is the one who asks the kinds of questions that cause you to choke on your drink a little. Expect this group to add spice to the conversation when neededโ€”but be ready for anything with them. We rely on their social prowess for as long as we have the wine lovers, but we all know the compatibility between wine and sleepiness. Most wine drinkers tend to go to bed early. We could go into great detail between white and red wine drinkers, but I’ll leave that up to you in creating your character. Wine drinkers are considered more intellectual types as opposed to beer drinkers who are in it for the party.

We really have two categories for beer drinkers: the traditionalists and the craft beer drinkers. The line can be blurred at times between the two, but more often than not, weโ€™re talking about entirely different people here.

Starting with the traditionalists. These are our stubborn ones. They simply do not care about your double-IPA, fruit-infused beer; give them their mass-produced, generic beer, and leave them the hell alone. This group isnโ€™t swayed by conformity; instead, theyโ€™re driven by loyalty. Theyโ€™ve been drinking the same old beer for 20-plus years now, and theyโ€™re not changing for anyone.

The diehard craft beer people have one plan and one plan only every weekend: go to a brewery. A flight of beer brings tears to their eyes. The real craft beer drinkers have a knack for detail. In 2020, theyโ€™re the new wine snobs. Out with tweed coats and in with scruffy beards and flannels. 

Then we have the whiskey, vodka, tequila, and gin drinkers. Whiskey drinkers tend to know their way around alcohol and have a respectable tolerance for it. With vodka, itโ€™s less about what your favorite alcohol says about you and more about your preferred cocktail that makes the real statement. Tequila drinkers are plain and straightforward, in that they all love to party. The saying, โ€œIโ€™m here for a good time, not a long timeโ€ fits. Gin drinkers love the fact that you canโ€™t get a read on them, and theyโ€™re honestly probably just drinking gin to confuse you even more. This groupโ€™s usual label is the โ€œintellectualโ€ tag.

I know there are tons more alcohols and foods we could explore, but the purpose of this post is to look at how we can use them to give our characters multi-dimensional layers.

It is really fascinating, and simply another tool to help us “show” the readers who our characters are and what makes them tick without telling them.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and some of the ways you have used food and drink to show your characters’ personalities.

68 thoughts on “Food and Drink in #Writing #WritingCommunity

  1. Jan, I wrote a piece where the woman drank black coffee and the man drank sweetened, green tea. I used the beverages to illustrate how he was an empath, while she was more no nonsense. You’ve given me so many ideas with this post. Thanks! Now, I’m off to mix that gin!๐Ÿ˜†

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A very informative post, Jan. You are so right, food is such an integral part of life and many feel passionate about their eating styles. I admit to not having used this valuable tool very much in my writing, but I will make a point of it now. Thanks for the information. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such a fun post, Jan. We certainly can tell a lot about a person by the things they eat and drink. As I look around, I could see many individuals who can’t afford fine dining would eat a lot of carbohydrate to fill their stomach. As far as coffee, I used to drink black coffee. Ever since I had acid problem with my stomach, I drink it with creamer. I used to drink coffee the English way, with cubes of sugar, but for the last 10 or 15 years, I’m sensitive to processed sugar, so no more sugar for my coffee. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, Jan. My husband used to put half a glass of ice in his drinks. He seems to use less lately. I drink hot water as a habit and he finds it less shocking to his stomach first thing in the morning if he drinks a glass of warm water first before any cold drinks.

        We surely make changes and change out habits especially as we, I, aged. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Good post, Jan. Sometimes, a little nugget provides great insight into a character. Now, what conclusions can we draw from a guy who has to have at least three cups of coffee a day? He spends a lot of time in the bathroom. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In my latest book, The Red Dress, my main character, Eve, a bestselling author, doesn’t take much time to cook at first. She prepares ready-made meals for her husband and three children, who tollerate them. But as the book progresses, she learns to cook dishes from scratch that her family loves. Thank you for sharing this interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Jan. I will say this. Your thoughts of fashioning a character by knowing what they drink makes for a great writing experience. And it’s so true to life as well.

    Thanks for sharing your expertise. I really appreciate it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t use a lot of food in my medieval-style fantasy romances, but I have used how it’s eaten when my born-a-lady but raised-in-a-household-of-men debates how to eat a sausage in the presence of a very disapproving and proper future mother-in-law. She’s already in hot water for dressing as a boy and wielding a sword; will stabbing a sausage with her knife and biting off a piece make things any worse?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderful post. I admit to having done some of this myself. From an old cop who only drank Laphroaig, to a certain young woman who thrives on energy drinks and food trucks, but drinks boxed wine when sheโ€™s home.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Enjoyed the post, Jan. I liked the idea that gin drinkers can’t be typecast. Gin used to be my go-to, but I have branched out since moving to Texas. Yup, tequila, bourbon, scotch are now on the menu with gin. I don’t get vodka at all. My drinks have to stay tasty, not hidden somewhere, I don’t work too many eating and drinking scenes into my stories, but your post causes me to wonder why.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found that interesting, John, that gin drinkers couldn’t be typecast. ๐Ÿ™‚ And why am I not surprised that gin used to be your go-to drink? Because you can’t be typecast! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This was a very fun post, Jan. I enjoyed the glimpse into all the various personality types based on food and drink preferences. I’ve used them a time or two myself. I had a character who liked mustard (not ketchup) with his French Fries. In another book my MC loved grape soda. He was a quirky kind of individual so I thought his preference for grape soda was a good match. I’ve also had a character avoid alcohol because of an having an alcoholic mother.

    Lots of good stuff in this post today!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those are all great examples, Mae. Using odd food choices or combinations helps to show the quirkiness of a character. I cringed at the thought of dipping french fries in mustard, but hey, it may be delicious. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your experience!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. This was a fun post, Jan. I liked your comparison to personality types and food or drinks. So true about sone of them. I have some of those beer drinkers in my family, both types…lol. It does add to the character by the food they eat and give more insight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Denise. It’s interesting when you can see the character types signified by what they eat or drink. I love observing. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

  12. I have to admit, I’ve never thought about food or drinks playing a part in a book like this, Jan. Maybe it’s almost a second nature for some writers. But this is such a neat article! I’m going to have to keep all of this in mind!! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I write historical romance so I need to know what was avaialble and when. I often use making a meal or sitting around the supper table a time for characters to ‘reveal’ themselves. This was often the only time people were together and I used mealtime to show how they play off one another. What they ate is as important since it was based on economics more than anything else. Loved to reserch what plants were used and how they were stored or preserved. I use it all to set the characters and get them a place in the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love this comment, Susan. I can see where in writing historicals, the food and drink available at the time would play a big part in the story to make it believable. And yes! Mealtime is a great place to have interactions take place. Thank you so much for stopping by and chiming in!

      Like

  14. Character development lies at the core of successful stories and this post says it all about the strategies that could craft loving characters. Food and drinks add so much charm to a book. Well done Jan!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Interesting post, Jan. I do use that for character traits as well. I also use regional foods for the different stories. For example, my Alaskan stories have a lot of salmon featured, and my Arizona story has more beef featured.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. A wonderful post, Jan, and I totally agree with you. I’m a huge fan of using food and drink in my stories. There are varied ways to convey/show action with food and/or drink. In my recent release, the hero’s increasing frustration led him to throwing his cup of ale out an open window, paying no heed to where it landed. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I’m a little embarrassed to say, this never occurred to me. You can bet I’ll be adding the food and drink preference to my character bios from now on. Great post, Jan!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Loved your post, Jan! So insightful! I realize I have instinctively used food to telegraph traits, as in my first novel where my main character chooses cheap, generic breakfast tarts, but gives her beloved cat expensive name-brand canned food. Who does she value? Not herself! You have provided us with great “food” for thought. A wealth of insight and information!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Maura Beth! That is such a great example of how you can show a very deep character trait just through that action. Thank you so much for stopping by and I’m happy you enjoyed the post!

      Like

  19. I never thought about it although, of course, our eating/drinking habits say a lot about the person that creates them. It is very interesting to see, how you also created your characters and them matching their food. A very good detail that shows how closely you look and how sensitive you are. I think, regarding food, I am a bit of a mix. I can eat almost everything when even I prefer fresh and healthy food. I just thought of my sister who eats vegan… and is a bit of a difficult person to deal with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Erika, and leaving a comment. So, you can see where incorporating food and or drink habits into our stories can show the reader more about our characters, right? Interesting observation about your sister and I have to concur. Every true vegan I’ve ever known has been a bit difficult to deal with. Hmmmmm. Food for thought. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I see the importance and subtle information of the character. I love that!
        Haha… so there is something about them… lol Yes, food for thought ๐Ÿ˜„

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Well done, Jan. After reading your descriptions of coffee drinkers, I wonder about my obsession — organic coffee with just a touch of organic half-n-half. ๐Ÿ˜Š This was a fun read!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol, Gwen. I am exactly the same way. Organic coffee with just a touch of half-n-half. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think it says we are basic down to earth people who don’t need many frills and want to really experience the flavor of the coffee instead of covering it up. Thank you for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. This is such an interesting post, Jan. I had no idea there were so many differences between beer drinkers. I enjoy adding layers to my characters by using food or drink as a quirky character trait. Recently, one of my most enjoyable scenes to write involved the hero and heroine making a meal together. Using food can definitely spice things up!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Interesting post, Jan. I tend to write food/restaurant scenes in my books. I wrote a scene this week with two minor characters (who will become the main characters in book two of my series). He’s a meat-eater. She’s not a vegetarian but “prefers” to eat healthy and her diet doesn’t include red meat.

    I once had a female character who enjoyed wine and a good margarita. Her love interest didn’t drink at all because of a family history toward alcoholism and his own experience of having a low tolerance.

    Liked by 2 people

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