Food & Fiction – Delicious Together!

food &

by Kristi Rhodes

Beef up your next writing project with a few well-placed food references. I know. Forgive me. Sorry to start with the food words in the very first sentence…

I love to read about food in my fiction, whether it’s a couple sharing a tropical fruit parfait in a Hawaiian romance or a detective devouring a hot, buttery lobster roll in a Maine-set mystery. Including food references in your work can add another enjoyable dimension.

Below are a few easy ways to sprinkle culinary terms into your writing:

  1. Food Words are Delicious Describers:

Looking for that perfect word to add interest to your sentence? How about sticky, steamy, bitter or bubbly? In Kathy Temean’s article, 101 Descriptive Words for Foods, she gives page-after-page of delicious describers. This list makes it easy to add sizzle to your next writing.

Another exceptional find for fabulous food words is in Ingrid Sundberg’s article, The Color Thesaurus. It is a fascinating block of color shades and names associated with them. She uses labels like coconut, for a color that is pinky white, or butter that is just that perfect shade of soft yellow, or honey that is a deeper mix of yellow and brown. 

  1. Foods Words are Fabulous in Simile/Metaphors/Comparisons:

Food words are relatable and common enough to provide easy comparisons for your work. The only caveat is to avoid overused idioms like sizzles like bacon or juicy as a peach, but unexpected food comparisons can delight your readers. Try …quick as the breakfast waitress at Dot’s Corner Café, or …refreshing as cold chunks of watermelon on a ninety-degree day. I’m sure you’ll come up with much more clever ones, but that gives you an idea.


Food is our common ground, a universal experience.-James Beard-2


  1. Food Words Immerse Readers in Time Periods:

Food references can pinpoint time periods. My childhood is full of fond food memories. Jello salad was my favorite at picnics. Pineapple upside down cake meant birthday celebrations. Twinkies were my after-school treat. Fondue was mostly for adult parties, but I loved to sneak a forkful of bread dripping with cheese. My top of the list, though, was banana pudding. The kind with layers of pudding and bananas and ‘Nilla wafers. That was reserved for when my mom really wanted to spoil us. Whenever I see those foods in books, movies or magazines, I’m transported back to the sixties and seventies in my house with my family.

My friend Suzy is writing about twin princesses living in a castle around the Middle Ages. To add authentic detail to her holiday celebration scene, she researched the ingredients and decorations used in making gingerbread houses during that time period.

Food references can help the reader be more in touch with the time period of your work. I know they thrill me when I read them in fiction.

  1. Food Words Reinforce Your Setting:

Food references can make your setting more identifiable. Tex-Mex in Texas, avocados in California or peaches in Georgia – certain foods bring a place to mind. By mentioning the food in your setting you can reinforce that location to your reader. If your protagonist is living in Connecticut, maybe she eats a fresh-picked apple from the tree in fall, or enjoys chowder by the shore or stops at a diary farm for a wedge of a heavenly local cheese. All are opportunities to give a local flavor to your writing.

Splattering your work with food words can enrich your sentences with juicy adjectives, or make your seventies-set novel come to life or have your Florida scene pop.

Do you use food references in your writing? Share your favorite in the comments section.


Kristi Rhodes pic

Kristi Rhodes has been the Treasurer for RWF since January 2016. Her current MS, The Tropical Transformation of Joanie Weston, was recently selected as a finalist in the Women’s Fiction category of the WisRWA Fab 5 contest. In her spare time, she loves to cook and entertain, especially using tropical ingredients. Foodies will enjoy the references sprinkled throughout her work. Contact Kristi through her website, on Twitter or on Pinterest.

Fun Fact: There is a genre in fiction that is called Food Fiction. A list of these foodie treasures can be found here:





6 thoughts on “Food & Fiction – Delicious Together!

  1. This year was Canada’s 150th birthday and there was on-going discussion on the local radio station as to whether or not butter tarts (almost a national food here) should contains raisins or nuts or other “contaminants”. I’m a maple syrup, with raisins, fan myself. Amazing how seriously some people took the discussion and how much fun it all really was.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Happy Birthday Canada and our Canadian friends!
      I’ve never heard of butter tarts! But I can only imagine how delicious they must be. Start with their name – butter – heaven, then tart – scrumptious. Next top them with maple syrup & raisins, there’s only everything to love about them. No wonder they’re nationally famous. Thanks for the interesting foodie information.


  2. Loved this post–made me so hungry! Just read the book, The Simplicity of Cider, by Amy Reichert. I don’t even like cider, but she made it sound great. Her book before that was The Coincidence of Coconut Cake. I don’t need to read books with food in it…makes me want to eat nonstop. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll have to check out Amy Reichert’s books. After moving to the Northeast I discovered cider and am now a huge fan. I can see how a book about coconut cake would trigger a food binge:) Thanks for introducing me to a new author!

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.