Thursday, September 26, 2013

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Catherine Astolfo, Author of The Emily Taylor Mystery Series

It sounds incredible, but the appearance of food in a novel really can portray personality, plot, setting, culture and emotion. I really like this quote from Gale Encyclopedia of Food & Culture: Food in Literature:

Because food customs call forth such a labyrinth of associations on the part of individual writers, and because the inherent sensuality of food involves not only the senses of smell and taste, but also the other senses, food is capable of evoking an avalanche of memories and feelings.” *
In my first four novels, which are part of a series, I noticed that my protagonist drinks a lot of red wine.  However, the imbibing is often accompanied by food.

In The Bridgeman, Emily Taylor is introduced as a small-town principal who discovers the body of the caretaker in the basement of her school. Who can blame her for indulging in a stress-relieving lunch?

 "Let me tell you our specials to get our minds off all this tragedy." And he [Bill Percival, the Inn’s owner] recited, with something close to passion, the tempting list of dishes that [chef] Theodore Lavalle had created for the day.

Once May and I had chosen—she a creamy pasta dish with shrimp and crab and I a small pepper steak with roasted vegetables—Bill went away and left us sipping our drinks and nibbling on bread. Nick returned to the table right next to us. I tried very hard to ignore the fact that he appeared to be listening over my shoulder.”

In the scene above, I employ the meal as a vehicle to introduce a host of suspects to the plot, as a classic mystery must. The passage also reveals something of May and Emily’s personalities; the latter is always watching her weight, while her friend is far more easy-going.
In Legacy, I used two very different perceptions about food to juxtapose evil and good.

That evening, the little group partied and celebrated, putting the serious issues behind them for a while, focusing on the positive, the energy, the possibilities and their friendships. Two long tables had been placed from the dining room clear through to the living room. Their faces lit by candlelight, the smiles reflected in the huge picture window.

From the outside, their faces were smudged by the glow of the candles, their mouths opened and closed without sound. The person watching them was incensed by the flagrant display of decadence. The food was drenched in oily sauces, the meat red and dripping, their mouths twisted and churned as they masticated. Sometimes they even laughed, showing lumps of fetid ground-up fodder. Now red faced with a repulsive alcoholic glow, they lifted the glasses of iniquity. They were irreverent, self-indulgent and gluttonous. The watcher’s fists clenched, mouth grimaced in anger.”

Amazing how the simple act of “breaking bread” can lead to such insight into the novel’s plot, characters and setting!

 Thanks for stopping by to share
      your food for thought, Catherine!

       You can find Catherine Astolfo,
        all her links, and all of her 5 novels here: 


  1. Very interesting read Catherine! In most cases, food really has a way of opening our thoughts toward the person or scene being described. Loved your article!! Karen Clouter - Writer

  2. I always like the juxtaposition of how an event is perceived depending on the character's personality, the emotional connection they have with the event or even their state-of-mind at that moment.

  3. Catherine, I very much like the subtle way you bring food and its associated ambience of goodwill into your stories. Adds to the satisfaction of a great read!

  4. Always be suspicious of people who don't like eating- or drinking. Good point Cathy