How to use food to flavour your writing – Carla Caruso

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By Carla Caruso

When an editor was going through my latest novel, The Right Place, she blamed the characters’ passionate discussion about spaghetti for making her head to a fresh pasta place near work for lunch. Rather than frugally making a sandwich like usual! (She wound up tucking into the bacon-y carbonara casarecce.)♥

A reviewer also blamed me for her eating chocolate in bed while reading the book!

Whenever I hear comments like these, I feel like a proud nonna, watching someone devour the cuisine I’ve just produced. (The Right Place, by the way, revolves around a young Italian-Australian woman who inherits her late grandma’s market garden. Flashbacks from her nonna in the ‘50s, plus traditional recipes, are also included.)

The aim of writing is to evoke emotions in people — to stir something within them, to make them ‘feel’ — and food can be a fantastic way to do it. Though it shouldn’t read like a grocery list; fare in fiction should have all the pizazz of a special guest star.

Take for instance this romantic fettucine-making scene in The Right Place, reminiscent of the pottery wheel one in Ghost …

After they’d machine-kneaded each strip of dough several times, Nella feeling ever antsier, Adrian moved aside to lay out the final sheet on the lightly floured bench.

‘Now what?’ Nella spun around, now hungry for only one thing, which involved more than seeing Adrian’s navel. The anticipation had only intensified the feeling.

Adrian tilted his head to one side, as though giving it some serious thought. ‘Well, next we’ve got to roll each sheet through the machine, so they’re even thinner, then cut them into strands. But first we have to allow the sheets to rest for about twenty minutes.’

At that, she lunged forward, grabbing a hold of the front of his polo shirt, not caring her hands were slightly mucky. Did Demi? ‘That’s enough time for me.’

Adrian’s eyes glittered as he lifted her up, twisting around to prop her jean-clad derriere on a spare bit of bench, joking, ‘Someone likes their pasta with sauce.’

She ripped his top over his head, something she was start¬ing to make a habit of. ‘Faster pasta’s for idiots.’

And here’s another sassy foodie scene — from my new novella, Outback Shimmer (Luminosity Publishing), which surrounds a jewel-thieving burlesque troupe on tour in the desert.

Charlie took another bite of her chocolate salted caramel tart and unleashed an orgasmic sigh. Yeah, Liam was jealous of the pastry. “This tart is out-of-this-world.”

“Bet it doesn’t compare to this,” he teased, holding up the paper bag he was eating his raspberry cheesecake slice out of. “Anything with berries always reigns supreme.”

“No way,” Charlie exclaimed. “It’s anything caramel-style that rules. Or banana-flavoured. Trust me. Here, try this.” She turned to hover the tart near his lips, and he succumbed to a mouthful, enjoying the rush of sugar, salt, and wickedness.

Somehow the pastry reminded him of Charlie. He swallowed and feigned a so-so gesture with his hand. “It’s okay.”

She elbowed him in the side. “You are so lying.”

He grinned, the sun, sugar high and isolation lulling him into a false sense of security. “Hmm, maybe another taste would prove me wrong.”

She baulked. “Well, you’ll just have to lick the remnants off my lips …”

As the modern-day heroine in The Right Place says: “Nonna had been right about one thing: food, the kitchen table, brought people together.” Perhaps food could also be something that helps draw people into the world of your book?

Carla Caruso was born in Adelaide, Australia, and only ‘escaped’ for three years to work as a magazine journalist and fashion stylist in Sydney. These days, she writes fiction in between playing mum to twin sons.

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