How has food changed, and why do we care?
Welcome back to Elle's Kitchen. I know, it's been ages since I wrote the previous newsletter, and I can't even claim to be prepping for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)!
Last month's official site contest was "Quotation Inspiration: Official Contest" , which required entries to be set in the early 1600's. I had an idea, and was in the midst of writing "Sophia" when I needed to write that my character grabbed some food from the kitchen before leaving. What food was available in France in the early 1600's? I had no idea. At first I wrote that she grabbed some fruit from a bowl on the table - something which would go unnoticed in modern literature, but then I started thinking... How readily available was fruit in the 1600's? Was it something only found in warmer climes? Was it affordable for the lower classes? I ended up writing that 'Armed with a bag containing several carrots, half a loaf of bread and a hunk of cheese, Sophia ventured out the front door.' You could reasonably expect to find cheese, bread and a variety of vegetables in the home of a lower class family in France in the 1600's... At least, as best I could find out. Thanks Google!
ANN Counselor, Lesbian & Happy goes one step further than me in her entry for the contest, with "Invalid Item" specifying that the poor ate black bread.
If your stories are set in a time period other than the present, have you ever considered what food your character would eat? That might be something to think about with NaNoWriMo coming up next month. Food has even changed within our lifetimes, and definitely within our parents' lifetimes.
Sometimes major events, such as war, famine and plague affect the foods that were available to our characters. Have a look in the recipe section below for a recipe for 'wartime butter' which comes from Dodgy Steve 's great-grandmother. Butter, something which we could normally assume was available in the 1930's and '40's, was scarce during WWII and housewives had to make do with alternatives. Next time you're planning a story that isn't set in modern times, consider what foods were available, and what circumstances would affect supply and demand.
Here are some old fashioned recipes. Think on how they differ from modern recipes.
This is a traditional English recipe, so famous in the region it orginates from that there is even a pub called the 'Ock n Dough'.
"Wellingborough Hock & Dough"
Dodgy Steve 's great-grandmother believes this recipe for wartime butter is even more nutritious than regular butter. What do you think?
These recipes were designed to use up cheese that was going stale, a necessity when households didn't have refrigerators.
pumpkin looks back on one family's food history.
'And food trends change, due to methods of preservation (remember when TV dinners were a novelty?), method of cooking (old enough to remember when microwaves were new?), lifestyle changes, and advertising. Our grandmothers would be envious of the nice hot and cold carrying cases for casseroles, the food processors, and the easy clean-up tools and products. They’d be appalled at how much we throw away, both food and utensils.'
Odessa Molinari smiling 's character enjoys some traditional English food, including breakfast in a wealthy home...
'Gladys knocked at my door then entered with a breakfast tray which she set on the table. "I hope everything is to your liking Miss." I surveyed the plate of bacon, kidneys, tomatoes and mushrooms. Then there was a dainty silver toast rack filled with hot buttered toast and a pot of coffee and a tiny jug of cream. Such luxury for someone used to porridge. "Thank you Gladys. Have the children had their breakfast?" I enquired as I tucked in to the fine repast before me.'
Have you ever wondered how some foods that are commonplace now might have come to be? dwarf2012 writes on the origins of the humble hotdog.
'Opa’s sausages were home-made from an old German family recipe. He made his own dog cart and usually sold them to the starving college students during the week, and baseball fans on weekends. '
ChrisDaltro-Chasing Moonbeams writes of meals from Adolf Hitler's point of view.
'While sitting in the corner of the dark dining room he thought about vegetables. Why was the main course always vegetables? Why was he forced to eat them? He wanted to eat meat sometimes. Are we basically born… cannibals? Vegetables… always those damned vegetables. They said it was because of all those wars going on all over the world. The Second Boer War, the American War and something about an Opium War. Fascinating. No, not the vegetables… the wars.'
In the next newsletter, I'm going to look at the foods characters might eat in a fantasy or science fiction story. If your characters live in an alternate reality and you've put some thought into what they might eat, do share it with me. I'm always looking for somewhere to put these pesky Food/Cooking merit badges!
That's all for this week! I hope you've enjoyed this edition. Don't forget, if you have an item for inclusion in a future newsletter, a topic for me to investigate and discuss, or if you'd like to be a guest editor for an edition, please let me know here: "Elle's Kitchen Newsletter Suggestions" .
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