November 24, 2011
When I think of Thanksgiving I think of my mother's cooking – the taste of her macaroni and cheese, her stuffing, her sweet potato pie. I was watching the Food Network's two hour Thanksgiving Live special and, when Rachel Ray started talking about her stuffing recipe, I was instantly transported to all those holidays when I helped my Mom prepare hers and we shared the food with friends and family around my dining room table.
It's funny how certain foods evoke memories of events. You see a turkey or cranberries, you think holidays. I smell sage and I think of Mom's stuffing.
In fiction, novice writers tend to rely more heavily on sight and sound and touch to trigger memories or to make an event more real. Two powerful but underused senses we could use to make scenes more palpable are taste and scent. A scent or a taste could trigger a memory into our hero or heroine's mind that could serve as the vehicle for inserting much needed backstory into a book. The scent or taste of garlic or spices or beer could trigger a memory of a vacation to Italy or India or of having been stationed on an army base in Germany or of helping a parent or a spouse prepare a meal.
Scents and tastes could also be used to make settings more real or to establish facets of characters. For example, the scent of paprika or cumin or curry could be used to make a scene in a Hungarian kitchen or a Mexican marketplace or an Indian restaurant more real. The taste of coconut milk and ginger in a dish could be used to make a scene in a Thai restaurant or kitchen more palpable or hint at a cook's Thai or Indian heritage or connection to those places.
These are ideas that popped into my head while in the process of editing my novels since I am bombarded by the scents and tastes and images of the Thanksgiving holiday. I hope you find them helpful.
I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving. May you enjoy and savor the opportunity to spend the holiday with friends and family and create new memories.