Jessie: Serving time in book jail on the coast of Maine

You know those times when you start to think about your health? Your allergies never seem to stop flaring? Your energy is flagging? A friend receives a shattering diagnosis? Lately, Ive been thinking a lot about all of those things.  Unfortunately, becoming healthier isn’t something I can subcontract. So, for the past couple months I’ve been making some hard choices and cutting out  things from my diet I suspect aren’t in my best interest.

I feel like it’s been, on  balance, a good decision but there are things that I miss. Especially now that my deadline is looming and the craving for comfort food is like a gong in my head. I’ve managed to muffle it with walks on the beach and glasses of water but every now and again I’m plagued by the desire for freshly baked bread. Or a cheese plate. Champagne bubbles. A reuben heaping with sauerkraut. Buttered popcorn.

Lately, I’ve come up with another sort of solution. I’ve been giving my characters meals filled with all those things I’ve been avoiding. Glasses of milk, slices of cake. Fudge and taffy. The strange thing is how much vicarious pleasure I am taking in their meals. It’s the perfect solution. As I imagine and describe the treats I am giving them I feel like I ate them myself. After a good morning at the desk I’m happy with a salad for lunch. Sweet potatoes taste as good a fries from the Pier when I’ve spent the afternoon allowing my protagonist to have her fill.

Will it always work? Probably not. But for now, I’ll take comfort food any way I can get it.

Readers, do you have any comfort foods you turn to during times of stress? Writers, do your characters eat more or less healthily than you do?

35 Thoughts

  1. I don’t have much stress in my life, but I love comfort food, just for the sake of it… Especially sweets… Being a New Yorker in the summer, I have to get my fill of the good things… NY Pizza, NY Bagels, and of course desserts.. Cake, Ice Cream, Cookies and oh yeah, Pie… The bakeries in NY are phenomenal. And when my author friends add recipies to their books, Well, I just gotta try EM!

  2. I know what you mean about enjoying your character’s food – and it’s calorie free! I’ve had several readers report that reading my books makes them hungry. ;^)

  3. I remember eating taffy as a kid. I loved it! Now I would be afraid of it ripping out my teeth. When I am stressed, I crave Chinese take-out. I’m not sure if it is comfort food or a way not to cook!

    I love that you give your characters the food you can’t or shouldn’t eat.

  4. I’ve had more than one reader comment about Sarah’s eating habits (what’s a girl to do — her friends own an Italian restaurant) so I’ve added a few salads to her diet. Thanks to you, Jessie, I’m usually reaching for sparkling flavored water instead of a soda.

  5. The characters in my Liss MacCrimmon series have terrible eating habits–lots of pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, bacon and eggs for breakfast and the like. Once in a while something healthier is in the crock pot, but I suspect I’m just trying to keep them from spending much time on meal prep so they can be doing other things, like snooping. Whatever the reason for the food in my books, it isn’t doing anything to improve my own diet. I still eat all that bad-for-me stuff too. As vices go, it could be worse. I don’t drink alcohol or smoke. And I have managed to cut back on coffee. Liss and her friends, however, are still completely dependent on caffeine to get going in the morning.


  6. Lots of food details in my books. My characters are what they eat. I’ve been trying to stay out of the cookies and chomp grapes all day, with partial success.

  7. COMFORT FOOD???? Heck yes, anything with pasta and cheese in it. Three cheese baked ziti, Mac and Cheese, Lasagna, Tuna noodle casserole, Cheese ravioli etc, etc, .

    1. Pasta and cheese are such a classic comfort food. I found myself making a big pot for my husband last night since he’d had a long day. I’m pleased to say I did not indulge. But I might feed some to a character today!

  8. My characters are a divorced cop and a single defense attorney. Their diet health is, um, sporadic.

    I get a huge salt craving once a month. Lasts for two days and then gone.

    I have a very good friend who said, “Life is too short for bad food and bad wine.” She is one of the healthiest people I know, but she doesn’t deprive herself of goodies. She just eats one brownie instead of the whole pan. I like that approach.

  9. Jessie, are you heading down my eating path?? Trust me, it gets easy – and soon you won’t even miss the stuff you know is bad for you! Well, except for potato chips….

  10. Comfort food? How timely. In Book 5 in the Maine Clambake Mystery series, Iced Under, Julia is stuck at home with her mother during a blizzard. All the great cooks in the family are off to other places, and Julia and her mother will survive on simple comfort foods.

  11. That’s my kind of solution, Jessie!!! I can’t eat gluten, dairy, or even the tiniest added sodium. Really. So my characters all cook and, even the two with celiacs, enjoy wonderful, delicious food, including things I can’t ever eat again. Do I hear fudge? pizza? cheddar with an apple? 🙂

  12. It’s funny you should write about this subject right now–I recently looked in the mirror and decided I needed to do something about my weight — that and a high school reunion will do it. Fortunately, I’ve lost about ten pounds, just by cutting back, being selective in what I eat, and walking more. Hope I can keep it up. I plan to go back into my manuscript and see what I can add about eating and fixing meals. And, by the way, I looked terrific at my reunion!

  13. I don’t have specific comfort food I turn to. Instead, I turn to food in general. Especially when I am tired, like I am today.

    And I find those meals that characters eat in books make me crave whatever it is (as long as I like the food in general), so living vicariously wouldn’t work for me at all.

    1. I bet it isn’t descriptions of salads and pieces of fruit that turn on the cravings is it Mark? Brownies? Ice cream sundaes? Steak dinners? The fictional world seems at least as full of those things as the real one.

  14. I’ve been eating healthier this summer to lose weight and it’s helping. But my amateur sleuth eats anything she wants though she does tend to lean toward the healthier side of things. Hmmm… Maybe not. She eats cheeseburgers and caramel shakes at Ruthie’s Diner at least twice a week. So maybe she doesn’t eat as healthy as I think…. Fun post!

  15. I am addicted to carbohydrates (she says, munching on a cookie as she writes). There, I’ve said it. Yes, I watch my blood sugar and my cholesterol and all that, but I’m not quitting any time soon. Comfort food indeed! And I will admit to swooning when I find a high-end market, anywhere.

    Having said that, most of my characters don’t care much about food at all, other than to sustain life. Some of them don’t have time to think about cooking. Only one truly enjoys a fine restaurant, but has no plans to recreate their dishes. Art is definitely not imitating life!

  16. I love this post! First of all, I am adding food to the next Clock Shop book. Secondly, so impressed that you are sticking with this during your final weeks in book jail. You know my default during my terms–chocolate, Fritoes, Malbec or seltzer (depending on the time of day).

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