In my new book, Caramel Hearts, there are real cake recipes throughout. These recipes structure the book and are weaved into the story.
The book is about a teenage girl with an alcoholic mum, trying to find her way in the world. When she finds a handwritten cookbook that belongs to her mum, she decides to bake the recipes and begins a journey of discovery. Here’s the blurb:
Can a book full of secrets reveal the past?
Liv Bloom’s life is even more complicated than that of your average fourteen-year-old: her father walked out on the family when she was young, her mother is in a recovery centre for alcoholics, and her older sister is struggling to step into Mum’s shoes.
The only person she can turn to is her best friend Sarah, who gets her out of scrapes at school and is a constant source of advice and companionship. One day Liv discovers a book of recipes written in her mum’s handwriting, which sets her off on a journey towards self-discovery and reconciliation – but a theft, a love rivalry and a school bully are just some of the many obstacles on the way.
So why did I add recipes to Caramel Hearts? Basically, the recipes were integral to the story. I love food and I love books and I think they work really well together. Food is a vital part of everyday life and it evokes such emotive responses; as soon as someone describes something they’ve eaten, your taste buds tingle and you can imagine the smells in the air. Food stirs emotions and brings back memories. Likewise, books have the same powerful impact, and when I came up with the idea for this book – with the handwritten cookbook at its centre – I wanted to combine the two to create a truly emotional journey.
The idea is not a new one, and I love to see food in books and stories. Here are a few of my favourite food in fiction moments…
A House made of sweets! – Hansel and Gretel by Brothers Grimm
Although the tale is very dark, the idea of a house made of gingerbread and other sweets is so enticing – would you be able to resist it? I’ve always loved art and the description of the house in the book – and sometimes, accompanying illustrations – inspired many hours of designing bizarre and unusual structures made of clouds and tinned sardines!
‘Snozzcumbers’ – The BFG by Roald Dahl
I was smitten with snozzcumbers from the minute I read about them – disgusting vegetables that smelled really bad sounded strangely inviting. As a child that loved weird food (my favourite foods were winkles and olives), I was convinced that I would actually like snozzcumbers. I still want to try one! I also loved the inventive name.
‘Funny but delightful supper’ – The Railway Children by Edith Nesbitt
When the family moves into their new home, they have only the bits and bobs that they packed up from the store cupboard. The meal is strange, but a sense of hope and resilience pervades. ‘There were biscuits, the Marie and the plain kind, sardines, preserved ginger, cooking raisins, and candied peel and marmalade’. Doesn’t it sound delightful?
‘Drink me, eat me’ – Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll
I was always a curious child, desperate for adventure, so the idea of food making you grow and shrink so you could pass through ‘off-limits’ doorways blew me away. And then of course, there’s the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – such fun! I used to dream of characters I would invite to my own.
‘Please Sir, Can I have some more?’ – Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
As much as food is emotive, lack of food says so much more and this scene really sticks with you. Poor Oliver! But the scene shows how brave he is, and it means you can really root for him throughout. It gives you a hint that things will get better for him in the end.
‘I’ll Grind His Bones to Make My Bread’ – Jack and The Beanstalk
This scene always has me on the edge of my seat. I loved the rhyme as a child; it was so simple and yet so threatening – perfect for games designed to scare your younger brother! The atmosphere is so tense, I often reread this scene when I’m writing, to compare. If my scene isn’t as tense, it needs more work.
‘Turkish delight!’ – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
My favourite sweet as a child was Turkish Delight – it’s still one of the only sweet things I like! I was so jealous of the Turkish delight bribe as we were only allowed sweets on a Sunday when I was growing up. I did consider whether, like Edmund, I would betray my family for some of rose-flavoured deliciousness; I have to admit, I thought it was a fair trade!
Looking at this list, it’s quite clear that I’d have been an easy target in a storybook or fairytale! I’d love to know, what are your favourite ‘food in fiction’ moments? Is there any food that evokes special memories when you see, smell or taste it? And does anyone else love winkles and olives?!