Food in fiction #amwriting

When you love food as much as I do, it’s not surprising it turns up a lot in my writing. As a freelance copywriter, I pounce on jobs that have a food element to them—I’m currently writing a lot of copy about mushrooms for one client, and I’ve written and edited a few books about diet and lifestyle.

In my other blogging life (I’m sorry to say I two-time you, dear reader, with another blog), I create a lot of low-carb recipes for those who want to follow that way of eating. But where I get the most pleasure writing about food is in my fiction. There, I create the best versions of chocolate cake, cheese-topped pizzas, crisp, triple-friend chips, risottos and more. Call it food porn if you will, especially as I often write about the dishes I don’t eat that often what with the type 1 diabetes getting in the way.

Anyway, here are a few examples of the dishes I have featured. If I’ve done this properly, once you’ve finished reading, you’ll find yourself desperate for cake/pizza/risotto or whatever. Two of my favourite food writers are Nigella Lawson and Nigel Slater, whose descriptions of often very simple dishes are mouth-watering. If I can write about food half as well as they do, I’ll be delighted.

Pizza and chips

From Highland Fling: When the pizza arrives, I’m not sure what to do. Should I eat it with my fingers or a knife and fork, or do we just dig in and rip it apart with our fingers? Ryan was funny about sharing food. He hated me taking chips from his plate and if I ever asked for a taste of anything he was eating, he would sigh, spear up a tiny bit of it with his fork and dump it on my plate. The pizza comes with chips wrapped in fake newspaper and a garlic dip.

You go first, Gaby,” Jack says, and I pretend lady-likeness. My mum once told me that when she was a teenager, girls weren’t meant to eat very much and especially not in front of men. Jack watches me spear a chip with my fork. He shakes his head and tips half of them onto my plate, dolloping spoonfuls of garlic dip on top and handing me the slice of pizza that is most generously covered in melted cheese. Oh heck. This is doing nothing for the campaign I wage where I persuade him Kirsty’s his one true love. I count up the chips he tipped on my plate and realise it’s not half the portion, more like two thirds.

He gave me two thirds of his chips, Katya. My best friend gets it straight away. Jeez, Gaby. He’s a keeper.

From Highland Fling: I grin at Ryan. Chips are our nemesis. He ordered them. I didn’t, therefore the chips are solely, exclusively Ryan’s. Last time I nicked chips off a man, he gave in with good grace. I move the bowl towards me and he yanks it back before remembering himself. It is pushed, begrudgingly, back. I adopt the same beaming smile and dig in, ignoring the tic in his jaw as I bite into and swallow chips number four, five, eight, ten, the last used as a stick to swirl through garlic mayonnaise, scoop up the biggest blob of it and plank it in my mouth.

Cake and chicken wings

From Highland Fling: Pink icing, the exact colour of the Blissful Beauty branding, holds together five layers of dark sponge, the lot covered in a ganache that sparkles with edible silver glitter. The chef has studded the top of the cake with stars made from white chocolate and piped a perfect BB in whipped cream on the top. We pick up the cake forks in unison, waiting for someone to fire the starter pistol.

Katya breaks the cake stand-off, using her tiny fork to scrape off a ginormous helping of cream and chocolate ganache. Mhari and I follow her example, and the three of us are silenced as smooth, rich cocoa flavoured with hazelnut, vanilla and what might be brandy hits the backs of our throats.

From High Heels and Pink Glitter:

Still sniggering to himself, Ryan headed back to the kitchen. There was a packet of coated chicken wings in the fridge that only needed heating up in the oven. He tipped the lot out onto a roasting tin and then decided one was not enough. He added the second packet to the tin and shoved them in the oven. He’d once been at the flat when Matt and Jamie embarked on a drunken discussion about the amazingness of chicken wings, and whether the ones you got from the supermarket could ever match those from KFC or Wetherspoon’s. Conclusion? No. The discussion had lasted roughly 15 minutes.

Seafood and fish

From Artists Town: I’m gonnae try out a new dish of the day today,” Mick said. “Would you two taste it for me?”

The dish he presented to them looked beautiful, reminding Daisy of the food you got in French restaurants. When she told him this, the grin he gave her split his face in two. The dish was seafood crepes, thin pancakes folded over a creamy sauce with prawns and scallops and garnished with watercress in a balsamic dressing.

Daisy took a generous forkful. It was as delicious as it looked, and she didn’t need any encouragement to take another mouthful.

From A Sandwich At The End of the Night: Daniel blushed faintly and then shrugged. He grabbed two thick slices of the bread that had been made in the shop that very afternoon and buttered them thickly. He added in the cheese savoury filling (a blend of grated cheese and home-made coleslaw with chopped onion) and added in an extra spoonful of mayonnaise and some sliced tomatoes. The poor girl |looked so thin after all.

From A Sandwich At The End of the Night: Years ago, when Cate lived in London fish and chips had been a weekly treat on a Friday night. Her cabbie father would pick them up for the family at the end of his shift, if he wasn’t working too late.

She recalled those happy Fridays. “Catey gal I got fish and chips!” he would chirp as he came in. By that time, the minutes they had sat in a cab added up to ten or 15, and they were soggy. Cate never minded. She and her mother received those newspaper bags of sodden fish and chips gratefully. As an only child, Cate had been a daddy’s girl and that smell – fried fish and potatoes – reminded her strongly of her father and Friday nights.

She remembered vinegar-saturated batter and chips. Warm and steaming in the newspaper, she loved the starchiness of the batter and the taste of potatoes off set with tongue-tingling acidity. Even the mushy peas were a welcome addition to post-war rations lack of variety. With a liberal helping of salt and malt vinegar they made the perfect accompaniment to fish and chips.

Meringues: Delicious to Eat, Best Avoided as a Dress

Ahem, part of me really loves this dress…

You wouldn’t really believe this is supposed to be a wedding blog would you, given that I’ve been writing it for approximately three months and have made scarce reference to the WEDDING DRESS.

There are many, many talented fashion bloggers out there so I felt my own attempts at describing a dress or attempting to correctly name different parts of it (fishtails? Peplum? A-line?) would just be embarrassingly bad. So, I desisted and contented myself with the odd trail through wedding dresses for sale online.

They all looked very similar – sleeveless, strapless, kind of column goes into wide bit at the bottom thingie. [It’s that kind of keen fashion observation which guaranteed that Vogue’s editor with a job offer wasn’t going to materialise.] And blimey, the amounts of money you could spend on a dress that really can only be worn once was incredible.

The charity Oxfam have wedding dresses in 11 of its stores (sadly, I live nowhere near any of these shops) and there are various online options – second-hand dresses for sale, eBay etc. I hummed and haw-ed with a non-wedding dress option and found a fabulous red dress at www.sexyher.com. I even tried it on, it was a fab fit and pretty flattering.

But at the end of the day, the pink, frothy tidal wave that is weddings has sucked me up. I think I need to go and try on dresses in a shop while taking advice on shapes that will suit from an assistant who will no doubt manage to persuade me to go for a garment way beyond the price I had initially imagined. (£100. Yes, seriously.)

To this end, a girly weekend beckons. I’m off to Dragonfly Designs and A.N Other (I’m not being coy, I intend to be spontaneous and head to one of the shops that doesn’t do the appointment thing) armed with my fab mother, sisters, a good friend and their sage advice.

[Wee aside – sister in the middle is bitterly disappointed that DD doesn’t do the whole glasses of champagne while trying on dresses thing; she’s an avid watcher of Don’t Tell the Bride so she knows the whole wedding routine thing like the back of her hand.]

Finally an update on Nigella. The coffee ice cream was absolutely lovely – gorgeous flavour and lovely texture. I decided to try her Tuscan fries recipe. ontroversially, she puts chips in cold oil and heats them up. I wanted to believe, I really, really did. The chief taster (not moi, as a wee bittie frightened of fried carbs) opined that the chips did taste nice as they were helped by the addition of garlic and herbs to the oil. Crisp chips though, they were not…

The Toast of the Town

I couldn’t have said it better myself…

The working week brought a tale of two different public speaking experiences. Firstly, I ran a training workshop. My audience was small and select – I felt confident, articulate and knowledgeable.

The following day, I attended a meeting. I didn’t agree with what one of the speakers was saying and raised my hand to clarify – at which point he invited me to come up to the mike. Argh, disagreeing with someone in public and then being asked to explain in front of roughly 100 people. Soothing it was not.

I’m talking about public speaking as I’d rather like to make a speech at my wedding. I plan light-hearted and hopefully witty words no longer than five minutes and possibly a multi-media presentation (!). I’ve been planning this speech for a while now and I’ve got a KILLER last line.

But should one voluntarily add the stress of public speaking to one’s wedding day, when there is a get out clause – I could follow tradition where the bride is supposedly the centre of attention, but remains oddly silent. Standing up to speak in front of a lot of people is a bit of a scary prospect. What if I muck up the jokes or I get heckled?!

If an approaching wedding adds incentive to all sorts of self-improvement plans (I will be thinner, more toned, clearer of skin, tighter of triceps, free of diet coke), then public speaking practice and confidence is possibly the most worthy of those goals. Not to mention the enhancement it gives my future career prospects…

And finally – I’ve been enjoying Nigella’s latest TV offering and today made her super-easy coffee ice-cream. I permitted myself a tiny lick of the bowl pre freezing and it’s FAB. I don’t even like coffee either.

 

The (Mucho) Joy of Chocolate

Ridiculously proud of the shine on those chocolates…

Friends, I experimented with the idea of home-made favours. I took my Lakeland chocolate mould, I made whisky truffles and I filled said chocolate mould (beforehand coating the moulds with a thin layer of plain chocolate) with the truffle mixture and I sighed in a Nigella Lawson style domestic goddess ‘I make my own’ stuff type contentment…

I did NOT. Yes to filling the chocolate mould, yes to the making my own truffles, but absolutely no to the ‘sighing in contentment’ thingie. Two-thirds of the way through lining the chocolate moulds I got bored and shortcuts were taken. The blasted truffles did not seem to stick together. My hands got seriously dirty. Chocolate worked its way underneath my nails and made me look like a dedicated gardener (reader, that could not be further from the truth).

In short, the whole exercise was a lesson in why people buy chocolates for their favours. Mind you, in true chef privilege style I did taste some of the truffle mixture and it was a bit wow-ee. It’s pretty easy too so here goes…

225g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids and above naturally)

75ml double cream

3tbsp whisky*

1 tsp vanilla essence

Finely chopped hazelnuts (or other ideas, see below)

Break up the chocolate into small pieces and place in a non-metallic bowl in the microwave. Put on for 30 seconds at a time until the chocolate has melted. Stir well, add the vanilla essence and leave to cool till room temperature. Add the whisky, then use an electronic whisk to beat the mixture for five minutes until it seems lighter and is paler in colour.

Cover and refrigerate for an hour or so until firm. Roll the chocolate mixture into balls (about walnut-sized shape) and then roll in either cocoa, chopped nuts, grated white chocolate or icing sugar. Eat within four days. They should be kept (covered) in the fridge.

If you do make them, please let me know and tell me what you think! You can substitute the whisky for Cointreu or Bailey’s too.

 

 

*I want to love whisky. It’s such a romantic drink. Think whisky, think sitting in front of a roaring log fire having hiked four or five hours up and down hills, think ancient clan chiefs sneaking the distillery away from the excise men (and Rabbie Burns was one!). Unfortunately, it still tastes pretty cough mixture to me.