Food for Thought - Jenny O'Connell

Much about Thanksgiving revolves around food - the planning, shopping, cooking, hosting, eating, cleaning up. As much as I love turkey and mashed potatoes, I am not a person who cares very much about food in general. I basically eat so I don't die. Not that I don't appreciate really good food (I could eat out every night at a restaurant and be very happy), I'm just not someone for whom food has mattered much (nor for whom a balanced diet has ever been a great concern).

Last night my husband asked me to name five foods I would eat all the time if it meant I would never gain weight or feel bad about it. I rattled off the five without even thinking: chocolate ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, cheese, bread and filet mignon. That's what I'd need to be culinary-ily happy.

But for some reason, food plays a role in all of my books. In Local Girls, one of the characters works in a bed and breakfast and comes upon a co-worker who loves to bake. I so enjoyed writing about the muffins and pancakes and special syrups and desserts the girl made for the B&B guests. In the course of my research I looked up menus for B&B all over country, learned where the character would shop (mostly farmer's markets) to get the freshest ingredients, and had a blast doing so. The main character's parents even own a deli, and once again I got to create the sandwiches that they sell (and the names of the sandwiches, which was fun).

In my adult book The Cake Whisperer, I spent time in an actual French patisserie learning how pastry chefs create - from the mats under their feet so they don't get fatigued, to the tools they use to ice a cake, and the different types of frostings a wedding cake can have. I bought books about wedding cakes, and selected each cake that would appear in my book (there are about 15 cakes in the book, complete with various flavors of batters, fillings and frostings).

In the sequel to The Book of Luke, a summer ice cream stand plays a big role, and so do the ice cream creations that are made there.

For someone who doesn't really care all that much about food, I sure do enjoy writing about it. And I think that one of the reasons is that food can convey a lot about a person (much like the pastry chef in The Cake Whisperer believes she can predict if a couple will be happy or break up based upon the wedding cake they select). It can also convey a lot about a situation, and the way characters interact over a meal or snack. The girl who bakes in Local Girls? She is not a soft, sweet person. In fact, she's the opposite, and the last person you'd expect to be selecting blackberries for scones at a farmer's market.

I expect food to always play an important role in my books, even if at home I'm as happy eating cookie dough as I am a roast turkey and gravy. In fact, I'm eating cookie dough as I write this blog.


  1. That's too funny! I'm really not much of a cook, but I love to read descriptions of cooking.


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