Thursday, July 8, 2010

Writing Our (Food) Region

Thanks so much to Jennifer for letting me blog during her spot this week!
I’ve been thinking about barbeque a lot lately. My Delicious and Suspicious released last Tuesday, July 6, and it’s centered around Aunt Pat’s barbeque restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee. Plus the fact that it’s summer, which is prime grilling season…and we just had the 4th of July last week (a day which is kind of like the barbeque Holy Day.)

Writing about barbeque in Memphis was a no-brainer. If there’s one food that Memphis is known for, it’s pork barbeque. Memphis even hosts the world championship contest each May with cooks from all over the world competing. Barbeque is serious business there. Of course I’d include barbeque in any book I set there.
Actually, the South is all about really can’t escape it down here. As a
lifelong Southerner, I have to try really hard to think about what folks from other regions of the US, or world, think about when Southern food is mentioned.

I think they think about this:

And probably this:

Folks might think that we drink these things down with a lot of this:

They’d be right. :)
Food can help create a mood in a book. The reason we drink so much sweet tea in the South is because it’s a refreshing way to combat our hot days— the heat adds a little extra conflict to the book because sleuths have a hard time even thinking when the weather gets hot. How can they solve a case when the humidity makes them feel they’ve run into a brick wall as soon as they walk out their back door? When the protagonist is slugging down the sweet tea, it drives the heat home to readers.
There’s a lot of emphasis on comfort in Southern cuisine…it’s fried, it’s hearty, it’s filling. If you like cornbread, fried okra, gravy (on a variety of different things), greens, and peach cobbler, we’ve got you covered.
I think comfort food and cozies go hand in hand. :)
In the South, food is also about friendship and community. There are church and Scout barbeques, potluck dinners, and picnics. Southerners like to gather around food. This makes it easy for writers who need characters to interact —find a spot where food is served and our characters have an easy opportunity to argue, drop clues, or murder each other.
What foods is your region known for? Does food play a part in your book?

Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Berkley Prime Crime as Riley Adams and blogs daily at, which was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010. Delicious and Suspicious released July 6, 2010.