NaNoWriMo – Day 7: Food for Thought (and for Your Characters!)

I love including references to food in my novels – after all I love eating (who doesn’t?) (okay, well, some people don’t). I have several research books on food (as an author one has to be prepared for everything and anything!):

  • Kate Colquhoun, TASTE: THE STORY OF BRITAIN THROUGH ITS COOKING
  • Bruno Laurioux, TAFELFREUDEN IM MITTELALTER (about food in the Middle Ages; I’ve had this book for 14 years and have never once used it, but you never know!)
  • Maggie Black and Deirdre Le Faye, THE JANE AUSTEN COOKBOOK
  • Kristin Olson, COOKING WITH JANE AUSTEN
  • Jane Pettigrew, A SOCIAL HISTORY OF TEA
  • Claire Masset, TEA AND TEA DRINKING (Shire Library book = always good, with many, many illustrations!)
  • Ivan Day, ICE CREAM (another Shire Library book)
  • Krista D. Ball, WHAT KINGS ATE AND WIZARDS DRANK: A FANTASY LOVER’S FOOD GUIDE (also quite interesting for the writer of historical fiction; includes such gems as: “My eighty-three-year old father has been hunting most of his life and he offers his advice to the hero wanting to hunt rabbits while being chased by orcs: go hungry.”)
  • Marcus Gavius Apicius, DE RE COQUINARIA (cookbook in Latin and German; have never used it either, but you never know!)
  • MRS BEETON’S BOOK OF HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT (two different editions, both sadly lacking the colour plates – hmph)
  • Gervase Markham, THE WELL-KEPT KITCHEN
  • William Verrall, RECIPES FROM THE WHITE HART INN
  • Agnes Jekyll, A LITTLE DINNER BEFORE THE PLAY
  • Hannah Glasse, EVERLASTING SYLLABUB AND THE ART OF CARVING
  • Charles Lamb, A DISSERTATION UPON ROAST PIG & OTHER ESSAYS

In addition, I also own two books on the history of chocolate, but they are both on top of one of my kitchen cabinets (aka far away from my desk and my computer, and I’m really lazy right now and don’t want to get up and walk to the kitchen and climb onto a chair and fetch the books)

(Goodness! I do own a lot of books on food, don’t I? I didn’t know how many until I’ve just hunted them down in the research section of my home library.)

I also own various other books on tea-ware, on china (various books on china, in fact), and a history of Burleigh. Moreover, food is also mentioned in several other research books that are not specifically about food. (Survival guides are particularly good if you want to learn about skinning fish.) (Why would you want to learn about skinning fish, you ask? Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps in one of your books you have a  heroine who feels the urgent need to talk about skinning fish while dancing with the hero at a high-society ball. Just saying…)

The internet is also a wonderful place for doing research on food in the past – try looking on Google Books for old cookbooks! Personally, I really like Frederick Nutt’s THE COMPLETE CONFECTIONER. Bergamot drops for your hero? Nutt has ’em!

In the current chapter of my NaNoWriMo project, my heroine is attending a dinner party, so of course, I had to include at least some throw-away references to the food that is served at this party. And because I knew that Mrs Beeton is unbeatable when it comes to visual guides on how to present food in the nineteenth century, I did a search on Mrs Beeton and fowl and ended up with the picture above. Isn’t it splendid? Especially the way in which the roast partridges and pigeons and fowl are holding up their little roast feet! That was just too good not to use:

Fran stared at the roast pigeons on their splendid silver platter in the middle of the table, daintily stretching their little roast legs up in the air, and thought she might be sick.