Using Food to Enhance Story Settings

Today’s post has been written by JPC Allen, friend and fellow author in “Christian Fiction Off the Beaten Path”—welcome to Historical Nibbles, JPC!

Food, like music, is a universal language. People connect with one another over mutual likes, dislikes, cooking techniques, and fond experiences with food. Writers can connect with readers using food to explore characters, enhance settings, and establish plot points.

Explore character

In my YA Christmas mystery, “A Rose from the Ashes”, my main character is Rae Riley, a nineteen-year-old, who is living on her own in a tiny apartment on the salary she makes as clerk at a library. She often mentions food, especially snagging free food at a church lunch or Christmas party.

All these remarks about food tell readers, without actually stating it, that Rae doesn’t have much money. It’s a concern for any young adult, and I hope it makes a connection with readers.

Enhance setting

Two scenes in “A Rose from the Ashes” are centered around food. One is a church lunch. Rae is invited by a grandmother to eat with her family. The aromas of chili and soup make Rae hungry. She stays to clean up after the lunch to see if she can get any leftovers to take home. These activities with food show how Rae is welcomed at the church. The grandmother has given Rae homemade food in the past, demonstrating that she cares for Rae.

Establish plot points

If I need to slow the narrative, a great way to do it is to sit my characters down to a meal. It’s also a very effective way to impart information to the reader as my characters talk while they eat. But I have to be careful and not take this opportunity to dump too much information.

What memorable meals have you read about in books?

-JPC Allen

JPC Allen is holding a book giveaway on her site! Click here for details.



JPC Allen started her writing career in second grade with an homage to Scooby Doo. She’s been tracking down mysteries ever since. A former children’s librarian, she is a member of ACFW and has written mystery short stories for Mt. Zion Ridge Press. Online, she offers writing tips and prompts to beginning writers. She also leads writing workshops for tweens, teens, and adults, encouraging them to discover the adventure of writing. A lifelong Buckeye, she has deep roots in the Mountain State. Join the adventure on her blog.


Book Blurb

Christmas fiction off the beaten path

 Not your Granny’s Christmas stories …

Step off the beaten path and enjoy six stories that look beyond the expected, the traditional, the tried-and-true.

Inspired by the song, “Mary Did You Know?” – a mother’s memories of events leading up to and following that one holy night. MARY DID YOU KNOW? By Patricia Meredith

A young woman seeking her own identity searches for the man who tried to kill her and her mother on Christmas Eve twenty years before. A ROSE FROM THE ASHES. By JPC Allen

Princess, tower, sorceress, dragon, brave knight, clever peasant – combine these ingredients into a Christmas-time story that isn’t quite what you’d expect. RETURN TO CALLIDORA. By Laurie Lucking

Anticipating tough financial times, the decision not to buy or exchanged presents leads to some painful and surprising revelations for a hardworking man and his family. NOT THIS YEAR. By Sandra Merville Hart

Years ago, a gunman and a store full of hostages learned some important lessons about faith and pain and what really matters in life – and the echoes from that day continued to the present. THOSE WHO STAYED. By Ronnell Kay Gibson

A community of refugees, a brutal winter, a doorway to another world – a touch of magic creating holiday joy for others leads to a Christmas wish fulfilled. CRYSTAL CHRISTMAS. By Michelle L. Levigne

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