Eating is my favourite part of food. Forget the shopping for it, the preparation, the cooking, just put it in front of me!
As the author of contemporary romances, I like my characters to eat well. I love doing the research for their meals since I don't have to cook these, and this research gives me an excuse to spend time in cafes. I delve into cookery books, but only recipes with illustrations are any use to me; I collect recipes photographed in magazines, while wondering how anyone with a busy life and without a professional kitchen could possibly produce such concoctions.
In my stories, sometimes a character may go shopping for food but never with great enthusiasm: one or two have been known to resort to frozen dinners for one, and a 'dateless and desperate' character went shopping on singles night at the supermarket where singles on the hunt used the signal of bananas pointing upwards in the cart. On a brighter note, frequently one character will cook specifically for the other, and in a romance novel this can be a huge turn on.
Picturing the food or entire meal in my head as I describe the particular setting, my intention is that the scene will bring the reader closer to the characters. Personality traits can be emphasised, and further aspects revealed (other than food preferences); the situation may be an occasion for drama, where tensions and conflicts are introduced, or maintained, or resolved, thus adding to the plot. Also, I'd like to think that a reader may vicariously enjoy one of the delicious meals some of my characters cook: in Hot Ticket, Callum makes yummy picnics and dinners for Olivia, whose cooking is limited to whatever can be finished in under ten minutes. That is, until she prepares a meal for him that includes avocados, oysters, salmon and other seafood, aphrodisiacs all of it. Such is part of the lexicon for a romance writer!
There are many food moments in literature of all kinds. A few of the best known instances may be in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, where the Mad Hatter's tea party offers tea, bread and butter; and in Through the Looking Glass, the walrus and the carpenter eat the oysters. The Owl and the Pussy-Cat 'dined on mince and slices of quince'. Dickens' Christmas dinner at the Cratchits includes includes roast goose with stuffing, apple sauce, gravy and potatoes, followed by Christmas pudding with flaming brandy. Shakespeare's plays are full of food, though Macbeth's banquet wasn't much fun. Antony and Cleopatra, Act II, Scene I: 'Eight wild boars roasted at breakfast' (for only 12 people!). The Winter's Tale, Act IV, Scene II: (The clown's shopping list for the sheep-shearing feast) 'Three pound of sugar, five pound of currants, rice...saffron...mace...nutmegs seven, a race or two of ginger...four pound of prunes...'
Kissing Callum in his kitchen full of baking, Olivia jokes that she wants him for his food; George Meredith (1828-1909) wrote - Kissing don't last: cookery do! What an old cynic!
Enjoy your meal!
(As almost every waitperson says)
Sources: Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Lewis Carroll); The Owl and the Pussy-Cat (Edward Lear); A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens); William Shakespeare Complete Works: The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations; various web sites.