Mysteries and food belong together. Why is food an essential element to the mystery novel? They belong together like peanut butter and jelly or macaroni and cheese.
The joy of food balances the sadness of murder.
At the funeral feast, people gather to celebrate life and to share a meal as a community. Dr. Christine A. Jackson, author of Myth and Ritual in Women’s Detective Fiction, says: “After untimely death unleashes chaos in fiction, recipe rituals, meal routines, and dining etiquette offer a semblance of civility to restore balance.” Participating in a meal gives you a sense of normalcy and a feeling of control after an intense loss. Death represents darkness while food represents light.
Food elicits positive emotions.
We eat comfort foods when under stress. What kind of foods does your character choose? Her food choices can help to reveal character as well as shed light on ethnic backgrounds and regional settings. Food brings back memories that often have a positive connotation. This means food scenes can play an important role in revealing character and illuminating the setting.
Offering a meal can be an expression of love.
We want our children to thrive, and so it pleases us to feed them. This nurturing instinct can extend to the community. One way of showing that we care is to offer food.
People often socialize around food and drinks.
This is especially important in a mystery. Food scenes allow the sleuth to:
• Review suspects with a friend
• Question persons of interest
• Discuss personal issues that deepen characterization
• Vary the pacing by giving the reader a break from tension
Culinary mysteries are a highly popular subgenre.
Food is the antithesis to murder, so what better pairing is there for these stories? In A Bad Hair Day Cookbook, I’ve included excerpts from my books after each food category. These scenes all relate to food, showing how important they are to the mystery genre. Whether or not the central theme in your series centers on food, you’ll be including scenes at restaurants, coffee shops, bars, or inside your sleuth’s kitchen at home. These scenes are integral to the mystery genre, or really, to any work of fiction.
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