Thursday, 12 December 2019

The Importance of Food by Vanessa Harbour

I can remember hearing the wonderful Barry Cunningham talking about the importance of food at a Golden Egg Academy workshop many years ago and it is something that has stuck with me ever since. He spoke about how food and meals are something that a child can empathise with. Children understand food.

Food can be used as a powerful tool in writing. It can illustrate so much so easily, adding depth. Regardless of what sort of genre your story is that you are writing – realist, historical, fantasy, sci-fi etc – you need to consider your food or how people are going to be sustained. Use it effectively and it can have a real impact. Lifting your narrative. Food can be used to show social standing, poverty, wealth, celebrations, emotions etc.

I believe J.K. Rowling with her Harry Potter stories is the master. I get my students to read her work to see how cleverly she uses food and meals. Think of the meals at the Dursleys in comparison to meals at the Weasleys. One might not have as much money but the meals are full of love. Then, of course, there are the feasts at Hogwarts.
Image result for harry potter and the philosopher's stone book

Elizabeth Goudge’s The Little White Horse is another author who was brilliant with food. I remember it from when I was a child and there was a tea scene that stuck with me. Her description was extraordinary and so evocative. I dreamt of having a tea like that. (It never happened)
Image result for the little white horse

I love the way Vashti Hardy describes food. She is another one who writes really evocatively: ‘Their parents made delicious pumpkin soup and pie, spiced with cinnamon; it tasted like autumn.’ (From Wildspark published by Scholastic, 2019)

Wildspark: A Ghost Machine Adventure
When I write I try to ensure that the reader can get truly involved in the experience and it is something they can relate to. It is part of the dramatization. With Flight, I did a lot of research into what they might be eating at the time. My current work in progress I have been writing some scenes where the characters have been involved in preparing food.

I am sure you all have your own favourite ‘food’ books perhaps in the comment section below tell me about them.

I was going to write a different post today as it is election day. I felt I ought to write something about hope but in all honesty, I am terrified. I am worried about today and what is going to happen. All I am going to say is that we have got to keep writing children’s books that show there is hope, there is a way out and that there is a way that they can take control. There are stories they can escape into.

 Keep writing and may today’s result be the one you want it to be.

Dr Vanessa Harbour


catdownunder said...

I have always wanted one of Marmaduke's afternoon teas!

Brenda Daniels said...

I wrote a children's book whose plot was driven by food. My protagonist is tasked with finding a lost family recipe that will help the ailing chef of a famous hotel keep his job. After trialing three recipes and failing, the main characters meets a simple local man who shares his ethnic food with her. This becomes the winning dish.

Ness Harbour said...

Yes, the afternoon teas did sound delectable.

Brenda your story sounds fascinating. Food is such a leveller.