Food; ‘You canna live wi’out it, Jim.’ SciFi fans will recognise Scottie from Star Trek here. But food is rarely discussed in the genre.
I began Blood Red Dust as a one-off story about a possible future on Earth if we fail to stop climate change. But I ‘spect it just growed,’ like Topsy and became a trilogy. The other two books are traditional, but Blood Red Dust is unusual with its mix of ‘reports’ gathered from multiple sources to fit the mood of the time in which it’s set.
Mars, where most of the story is set, is a hostile environment where food will be a problem for a long time if we ever make it there in person. For the first colonists it’ll be the stuff they eat on the International Space Station until they can grow their own. Ain’t no fancy eateries on that there red planet!
Madonna, a brilliant colonist specialising in robotics, enters the mess room late one morning, ‘I fixed myself a coffee, well, what passes for coffee here till Anni’s got a proper handle on growing the beans.’
Later, in a report from Anni, a genius botanist, the group discusses fantasies, ‘I miss…a warm Mediterranean taverna, with ouzo flowing free and white wine cooling in carafes on chequered table tops. Olives laced with oil and garlic. Seafood caught from the sea that morning. Honey drizzled over pure white yoghurt.’
As the story progresses, food improves and group doctor, Zaphod (yes, named after the character in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) includes it in his report: ‘We’ve eaten: a delicious meal of sweet potato, fresh root vegetables and simple roast chicken, followed by fresh fruit salad. The only ingredient missing was wine.’
Including food in a story helps give atmosphere and lets readers appreciate setting. Like clothes and sex, it provides clues to how characters live, and is therefore essential, even if sometimes a little sparse.
My characters have a little more on their minds than what to eat, as they’re battling lunatic extremists as well as the hostile environment, but they do love food and it brings a bit of humour to the story, too.
Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Stuart!
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