Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Food as Psychic Sustenance

Food is central in my life. Sure, I need food for sheer physical sustenance - we all do - but there is something about raspberries glinting in dew or green, yellow, and orange tomatoes sweating in olive oil and sea salt that thralls me. Nothing brings me greater happiness than creating meals from fresh ingredients, especially ones that are local, for the people in my life.***

I come by this love of all things edible from my parents. As a first-grader living in Solana Beach, California, I remember my tastebuds tantalized by corn-husked tamales and chile rellanos stuffed with cheese, sugar-dusted fry bread, Indian curries, and Chinese take-out. My eating horizons expanded when we trekked cross-country to the South and feasted on vinegar and hot-pepper basted chopped pork, Brunswick stew laced with squirrel, hushpuppies, and creole shrimp. Trips to the family birthplace yielded little necks steamed in broth, lobster rolls, Boston baked beans, hotdogs served in butter-grilled buns, and, of course, ice cream.

When any of us journeyed, be it to Chicago or London or , the first question always asked the traveler upon return, is, "What did you eat?"

Food is central in my writing as well. When Jimmy the Prince, fellow writer and dear friend whose fabulous THE DARK SIDE OF THE SOUL is now published, first read BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, he noted, "Your characters eat all the time. And drink too much coffee." Of course, I listened and removed most gustatory references. But not all. Mark Spencer, my first writing instructor, showed me how food and eating can be used to reveal characters' moods.

This past Friday, my father was admitted to the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center. He could no longer swallow. For weeks, his sustenance has come in the shape of cans of Ensure; the tumor made eating too painful to bring pleasure. Now his nourishment will not even pass his lips.

Food as my family lexicon is becoming a memory.


The Reading... Shhhh... my September debut arrived in the mail the day I departed to North Carolina. Still reading, but I promise you this - the story is a damn fine read, and a marked departure from the stuff I usually review. I'll post in a week or so. Also upcoming - one of my debut authors has a new book out, and I'll be giving away a free copy.

The Writing... PURE chugging along. My mind is pretty caulked up with all the emotional stuff going on; however, butt is in chair every morning. Drivel. Sometimes gems emerge from drivel. I'm happy just to keep the routine.

Other news... last week, this wee blog made the Top 25 Writing Blogs by popular vote at Editor Unleashed. I'm honored and amazed to be in the company of so many amazing sites, many of them my own favorite sites. Yay! Thank you readers! I adore you!

Keep writing. Peace, Linda

***Except, possibly, eating those meals and writing about them.


  1. Linda, I'm so sorry to hear about your father's illness.

    Food is so central to our lives. If we're not eating it we're cooking it and if we're not cooking it we're thinking of it and if we're not thinking of it we're dreaming of it.

    I use food in my writing to create atmosphere and setting, and also to aid in characterisation. It's a great tool.


  2. It says to "pontifi'kate" here, so I shall:

    LINDA ~ YOUR WRITING IS SUSTENANCE TO THE SOUL. Your descrips ~ always delicioso. You serve up what food for thought should be more than just swallowed.

    Flavours savoured emanate.
    You're your father's daughter and that's a loving grace for him.

    My thoughts 'round you, like a charger plate at your table setting.


  3. I'm so sorry to hear about your father's illness.
    A large portion of our lives is centered around food, it can bring balance to our psyche.

  4. I wish I had great words of comfort to offer you and your family...but my bowl is empty and lacks them.

    May God's love sustain you all.

  5. So sorry about your father. Words are inadequate. My thoughts are with you.

  6. I'm so sorry about your father! Sending prayers/good energy your family's way. And by the way--your characters do NOT drink too much coffee in Brighter than Bright. They're students. ('nuff said.) ;)

  7. I'm sorry to hear about your father, Linda. My heart goes out to you.

    Nice reminder about food as a emotional cue. It's something we all probably know about ourselves but fail to remember about our characters.

    My wife and I have been reading how some kids on the autistic spectrum may have an inability to process gluten and casein properly, and there's a belief that some of their exhibited behviors can be tied to the foods they eat. It is also believed that the foods release certain chemicals, and that these children actually crave the foods that negatively affect their ability to mentally process the world around them, almost like an addiction. The book, The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook, has been an real eye-opener for us.

    Good post. Keep it up.

  8. Thank you all for your well wishes. Dad's back at home (yay!) and he and mom are figuring out the nuances of eating through a tube. This cancer of his... so many losses of things I take for granted. Like eating.

    I'm back myself, reconnecting with the kiddos and catching up with online stuff.

    Stephen, a good friend has just figured out her son, with his own spectrum of gifts, is intolerant of gluten and casein. In two weeks, a remarkable change in her son. Hang tight... food does color mood... Peace, Linda

  9. Such a good combination of taste and emotion. I love it that your characters are always eating. Peace to you, Linda, and your family!