I recently finished reading Ilona Andrews’s SAPPHIRE FLAMES. And when her protagonist, Catalina, was stressed, she cooked. She made wonderful food for her family–her mother, grandmother, sister, cousins, and whoever else was around. I really enjoyed those scenes because I often do the same thing in my books. In the Jazzi series, Jazzi cooks for her family and friends every Sunday, and Ansel helps her. Her cousin, Jerod, and his family are always the first to arrive. But by the time Jazzi and Ansel load food on their kitchen island for people to serve themselves, buffet-style, twenty people circle the table. And usually, Jazzi is knee-deep in a mystery to solve, and they talk about the suspects and witnesses and often come up with a new clue for Jazzi to follow. Jazzi’s Gran has the gift of “sight” and occasionally “sees” something significant for Jazzi to look into. And of course, Jerod teases her as often as possible.
To me, meals are a time for people who care about each other to come together. Just like there’s a difference between cooks and chefs, there’s a difference between people who enjoy food. Gourmands concentrate on the food itself. But mostly, in my family, we enjoy the food, but we also enjoy each other. The food’s just part of the meal.
In my Muddy River series, even though the protagonist is a witch and her mate is a fire demon, the same thing happens. Hester often invites her coven and their families to her house for meals. That’s when they catch up with each other and discuss whatever enemy they’re fighting at the moment. It’s a time to talk strategy and bond together.
In SAPPHIRE FLAMES, Catalina was a sophisticated cook. She made a dessert I’d never heard of. It’s kind of fun to glimpse a little more about a character by the food she chooses to serve. A guy who throws a burger on the grill makes an entirely different impression from Catalina who made roasted lemon chicken, rosemary potatoes, and a shaved Brussel sprouts and kale salad, besides the dessert. So many little things can be telling about characters. Food’s just one of them.