The Meaning of Food

Lately, I’ve been thinking about food. I don’t mean in the usual sense, although I love a good meal as much as the next person. During the recent holidays, I didn’t even have to think about food–it just magically appeared before me everywhere I went.

The reason food has been on my mind is because of its role in certain kinds of mystery novels. The publishing world calls these “cozy” mysteries. Typically, owner of a cupcake shop or a bookstore finds a dead body in the freezer or in the alley behind the shop. And it’s an amateur sleuth who shows up the local police by solving the crime. (Think “Murder She Wrote”) Besides amateur sleuths, food typically plays a role in cozies.

Murder in Madden is not a typical cozy, but it does have elements of that genre. For example, the protagonist is not in law enforcement, and she’s a female who is old enough to know better but young enough to get herself into trouble anyway. And then there’s the food that somehow kept showing up in the manuscript.

Which made me start thinking: What’s the role of food in our lives and what meaning do we ascribe to it? I don’t have a professional response, but I do have an opinion. As I said in earlier posts, family relationships play a key role in Murder in Madden. When I think of family, at least the pleasant moments, I often recall family gatherings during holidays, which all things center around huge spreads of food. Or I recall special meals by candlelight to celebrate birthdays. Or I think of my deceased mom’s cooking. As I’ve been writing this novel, family has been on my mind a lot, ergo food has been on my mind.

My point in all this is that once you get past the physiological need for feed on Maslow’s hierarchy, food takes on a different meaning for each of us. I didn’t set out to make food an element of Murder in Madden, but somehow it crept into my writing. Like family, food is primal. It’s basic to life.

Well, enough thoughts about food. I’m going to wrap up this post and join my husband by the fireplace for a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and some freshly baked mushroom and cheese focaccia bread I picked up from the bakery this afternoon. Fire and food and, well, you know … now that’s primal. 


As I talked with Enid this week about her story, the word “redemption” kept popping up in my mind. According to Merriam Webster, redemption is the deliverance from the bondage of sin; emancipation or liberation through payment of a price. Perhaps redemption wasn’t Enid’s to pay. Perhaps it was … well, you’ll have to read the book to answer that question for yourself.

We all pay for our deeds in some way or another. Some might call it karma. As a former life coach, I used to tell clients that what they put out into the universe is returned to them in like kind. I’ve come to realize that the only way to be free of the obligation of our deeds is through redemption. There’s no way to escape the past, but through redemption, we find a way to live with ourselves.

Redemption does play a role in Murder in Madden. Is that why Enid was driven to pursue Rosie’s story? Is that why I am driven to write Enid’s story? What are we trying to redeem?