Food, glorious food. The need to feed.

Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

Does food play an important part in your writing? How about sharing a favorite recipe of one of your characters, or maybe one of yours? (We haven’t done this in forever!)

You might think that food is not the most important thing in Science Fiction adventures. Or even that it barely deserves a mention, amid all the space battles and futuristic intrigue. I would disagree, food is part of the future, in space or on Earth. In fact, it may be crucial to our advancement as a species.

If climate change disrupts growing and pollination, there might be wars fought in the future over crops or civil unrest over a countries ability to feed its people. That might sound extreme but as Vladimir Lenin so correctly said, “Every society is three meals away from chaos.”

Perhaps part of the answer lies in finding new worlds and learning to live on them? That includes producing your own food, it’s a long way back to the local supermarket on Earth!

As I’ve said before, when you’re world-building you want to make your creation as realistic as you can. Adding little touches that people are familiar with can help to produce a world that feels right. And everyone’s familiar with food and its associated rituals.

There are several ways to incorporate food into your fiction. One is obvious, so I’ll deal with it first, before I get to the more esoteric ideas.

My heroine, Andorra Pett, opens a café in her first adventure, Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café. It was the perfect place to base a mystery and as I have knowledge and experience of baking for commercial sale in cafés, there was plenty of chance to make it realistic. It also meant that I could include baking as part of the plot, use it to give clues, make it part of the action. In such a setting, there’s the opportunity to have a large cast of diverse characters, customers, workers, suppliers. All of them can be good or bad, red herrings or the person of interest.

I’ve also managed to use food, or at least the production of it, in other ways in my world-building. Because the one thing that every space traveller needs is something to eat. Of course, it has to come from somewhere.  When I started thinking about it, a space station needs a food supply, just as much as a planet full of people does. To avoid the need for a constant stream of spaceships loaded with food, I devised a farm for the space station, a feature that I first used in my short story, The Orbital Livestock Company. My idea was to remove the need to grow food on Earth, for whatever reason, either the land was needed for housing or perhaps climate change had made it impossible. I found out a lot about artificial farming in my research and came to the conclusion that an orbital farm would work as a basic concept.

I felt justified in adding farms on many an airless planet and otherwise unsuitable location in several of my other stories.

The Orbital Livestock Company features in my collection Flash Fiction 2 but you can get a copy by clicking the button.

Apart from farms and cafés, there are plenty of food-related snippets you can introduce to give your writing depth. Things like square coffee cups, so you can easily carry more than two at once. And self-heating food packs, for a hot meal in any situation.

Or a character’s predilection for a particular food, which can start a whole new plotline, like a character in the Dave Travise universe called Stu did.  Here’s an extract from Myra

“The smell of bacon and coffee made me feel better immediately, and there was another odour that I hadn’t expected this early. Tracking down its source, it gave me a clue as to why the man was called Stu. And I had thought that it was short for Stuart.

Ardullah saw my gaze and grinned. “It’s all he ever eats,” he explained as Stu shovelled the food in, arm like a metronome. “He got the taste for it in a mining camp; it’s a nightmare because now we have to get the same brand, tonnes of it in ration packs to keep him happy.”

Stu raised his head and stopped shovelling. “Mornin’, lad, want some?” He waved at his plate. The sight reminded me of Navy food, it had the same consistency but the smell was slightly more appetising. Seeing my expression, he roared with laughter, “Well you can’t have any and don’t let me catch you sneaking a…”

Mitch slapped him round the head. “He’s new here, don’t tease him.”

Stu, and his favourite food, has a recurring role through the Dave Travise series.

Unfortunately, I have no recipes to offer you. Instead, I’ll leave you with Andorra Pett.

“You’re not serious are you?” said Cy as I walked around the tables to the far wall. “We can’t run a café.”

I stopped and turned back to him.

“Why not, Cy? It’s perfect; remember what that bloke said on the shuttle. There’s only one other place selling leisure here, all we have to do is pretend it’s the shop in London, just coffee and cake instead of clothes.”

“Can you bake cakes, Andi?” He had a point; he’d tried my sandwiches once. He reckoned that I wouldn’t be able to do toast without a recipe and a video. I’d show him.

“Yes,” I said with confidence, and then I thought about it, “No… sort of; how hard can it be?” My mum had taught me and she’d never killed anyone.

Until next week.

Let me know what you think about this week’s subject.

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9 Responses

    • Richard Dee

      That was what we were always told. Personally, I prefer a full English (you’d need a very large pill for that).

  1. Daryl Devore

    Great idea – creating a farm at a space station. Yes, aliens and humans alike all need to eat.


    and now to do my weekly math question – 🙂

    • Richard Dee

      It always struck me that the was a plot hole in some books, about how everyone got fed. The farm was a logical response.

  2. Lela Markham

    I’m always trying to sneak in food references. In Transformation Project there’s no question of how what little food they have is there — they’re surrounded by cornfields and farmers with chickens and cows. In Daermad Cycle, the first person Padraig encounters on his return to Celdryan from the Kin lands is a farmer’s wife. But you’re right, so many scifi stories seem to neglect that detail. I’ve asked that question on the discussions on my Facebook page — “Any idea where your food comes from?” “How about your water?” “Your electricity.” Surprisingly, a lot of people don’t know even the basics.

    • Richard Dee

      I must admit to an obsession with world-building, making it all seem like I’m describing a real place.

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