The tune from the classic musical “Oliver” floated into my head when I posted a strange, and very informal, survey on Facebook. I asked my regular Facebook friends (a fun mix of longtime connections, Tango dancers from all over the world and extended family) to reply to the following query. I asked the cooks to list the 10 ingredients they always keep in their kitchens. And I asked the non-cooks what 5 ingredients they keep on hand to assemble meals & snacks. I received some very intriguing and revealing answers.
What am I looking for?
People in real life — and characters in fiction — reveal themselves in the choices they make. I’m experimenting with using a character’s kitchen as a way of showing the reader important things about the character’s life. I live in a city that’s notorious when it comes to food. There are thousands of restaurants, delis, supermarkets, gourmet stores, farmer’s markets, specialty ethnic food shops and food trucks. Add small kitchens and frenetic schedules, and people here eat out, take-out and order out a great deal. Still, some of us cook, too.
It’s about choices, priorities, tastes and trends.
Sounds like fashion doesn’t it?
I’ve read many books with characters defined by clothes, hair and make-up so why not food? A refrigerator that holds “doggy bags” from high-end restaurants, wine and butter tells ones story. While a pantry full of kale chips, soymilk and almonds tells a completely different tale.
A kitchen that always features: extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, anchovy paste, butter, cheese, pasta, Italian tuna, sundried tomatoes, onions and wine is going to be a comfortable fit for one character. While a second kitchen with eggs, bacon, bread, beer, milk, coffee, frozen peas, corn flakes, raisins and oatmeal, will suit another. You may be wondering about the frozen peas, but an athletic breakfast eater may keep them on hand as a malleable ice pack for athletic injuries
Every kitchen tells a story!