We all have our favourite food scenes from books and movies. Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega bonding over a $5 milkshake in Pulp Fiction. The poor lobsters in Annie Hall. Lady and the Tramp’s romantic spaghetti and meatball dinner. Butter beer and Cornish pasties in Harry Potter. Loretta telling Ronny how he’ll eat his steak in Moonstruck. Every single meal in Louise Penny’s mysteries. Key lime pie and potatoes in Nora Ephron’s Heartburn. The list is endless and adding to it is completely addictive. You could lose yourself for hours just by clicking on this link.
The best food writing defines characters and crystallizes their challenges and desires, allowing readers and viewers into a fictional world that is both familiar and surprising. When we “read food,” we automatically put ourselves into the scene and imagine how we would feel. Loved. Hated. Shocked. Enraptured. Pretty much any emotion can be summoned through food—and immediately, in very few words—if the writing is brilliant enough.
Food plays a key role in Trevor Cole’s Hope Makes Love. In the novel, the female protagonist, Hope, has suffered a terrible trauma. She is functional, but just, and fearful of intimacy. She meets a man named Adnan, and he is gentle. So as not to give too much away, here’s an excerpt from the book. The context: an email from Hope to Adnan, recalling a night they spent together.
“We made—or you made and insisted it was “we”—tarts with roasted cherry tomatoes and onions and ricotta cheese. And two apple, fig and rhubarb galettes. You called this the “food of many centuries, and many lands.” And I teased you for talking like a documentary. Then you rolled out some of the left-over pastry and asked me to set my hand on it, and you took a small knife and traced the shape of my hand very slowly, around my thumb, between my fingers. Then you painted my pastry hand with egg white, and sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar.
All of these you slid into the oven. And you switched on the light inside so I could watch. It was thrilling to see these simple, perfect things that we had made turn golden, start to bubble, become what they were meant to be. It was like watching ideas form, and marvelous to see how confident you were that everything would turn out as you intended.”
Thank you to Trevor Cole for this excerpt, and for this interview. We have compiled a list of other Canadian books with excellent food writing, including works by Rebecca Rosenblum, Kate Taylor, Louise Penny, Mordecai Richler, Carol Shields, Kate Pullinger, Adam Louis Schroeder, Camilla Gibb, Megan Coles, Dani Couture, David McGimpsey, Erin Moure, Mireille Silcoff, and Kelli Deeth. What should we add? What do you want for lunch?