Thursday, April 18, 2013

Characters at Breakfast: Alex and Friends - Worldbuilding and Food

This is the third and final post in my series on Characters at Breakfast.  I've talked about the limitations of writing food in an historical series with Mick and Casey at breakfast, and about the relative freedom to use food for characterization in a contemporary setting with George and Karla at breakfast.

This time I'm going to talk about the third option: food in a made up world.

Cuisine is an important part of world-building for fantasy writers.  It's limited by the culture and geography of your location.  Of course, most fantasy writers base cuisine on some model in real history.  Western high fantasy is often based on Medieval Europe, for instance.  On the other hand, some science fiction writers will construct a very detailed and unique cuisine based on the other elements of the world they create.

Last summer's serial story, The Case of the Misplaced Hero (and the upcoming The Case of the Misplaced Baroness) is an Alternate Universe story.  In this case, though, the alternate world is not an intentionally built world. It's more a "dreamed" world -- based mainly on the often inconsistent way the real world is depicted in old silent movie serials and adventure stories of around 1910-1925.  It's a world that's been with me for a long time, and borrows from a whole lot of other sources.

So in some ways, this made up world gives me the same freedom as a contemporary story.  Furthermore, with that first story I wrote last summer, I added a connection between that world and this: a pair of characters from modern-day Michigan.

As a result, I have all three approaches to food going on in the story.  The nation of "Awarshawa" is made up, and though it has a certain Balkan feel to it, I can do what I want with the geography since it stands in for all those "exotic foreign lands" in adventure fiction of a hundred years ago.  And since Imperia is really a stand in for the more familiar England, I can use period appropriate cuisine there.  And for my travelers from Michigan, I have real modern cuisine.

At Breakfast in Awarshawa, Michigan and Imperia

Character Name: Captain Akio "Kosha" Rozinshura
Book or series: The Perils of Plink (The Case of the Misplaced Hero)

Location/Setting: Awarshawa, an alternate universe, cartoony country, which is always in a state of revolution. The current government is an Anarcho-Bureaucracy (a form of socialism...sorta).

Captain Rozinshura is a "District Faciliator," which means he is a bureaucrat in charge of redistributing the wealth -- a good position for eating well. He is something of an avuncular trickster, who looks after his district and his people. (Unlike many officials, he represents both the Anarcho and the Bureaucracy sides of his revolutionary beliefs.  He knows all the rules, and is very good at breaking them.)

Usual breakfast: Whatever is being served at the canteen, or made for him by his cook -- which would usually be some sort of gruel or solid mush (like polenta), cheese and fermented goat's milk to drink. Sausages if there are any (which there usually are for him - he's inmportant).  And probably some form of blootchkes, which are the national food of Awarshawa, and consist of something wrapped up in something else.  For breakfast, this would most likely resemble a tamale. (I.e. mush wrapped in a leaf.)

Oh... and beer.

What he'd make for himself: Rozinshura would never make breakfast for himself.  If he were on his own, he'd seek someone to make breakfast for him. (A more accurate description: he would help himself to someone else's breakfast ... but only in the most polite way.)

Fancy or special breakfast, Restaurant: It's a special meal if it involves chocolate or a quantity of meat.  But more often: "skillet blootchkes," which are like crepes, would be a special treat. His cook is very good at skillet blootchkes.

Breakfast on the Run:  Probably an apple. He is fond of apples. But if there were no apples available, whatever can be stuffed in a pocket.


Character Name: Professor Artemis Thornton, aka "Old Thorny"
Book or series: The Perils of Plink (The Case of the Misplaced Hero)

Location/Setting: Thorny is from Michigan, but he makes an accidental trip to Awarshawa.

Thorny is a burnt-out old professor who's just going through the motions these days.  Also a bit of a drunk. (We don't see him eat breakfast -- or anything else -- within the story, which takes place in one afternoon/evening. These answers are what he would eat in Michigan.)

Usual breakfast: Egg McMuffin.
(NOTE: this assumes he is actually awake for breakfast, which he won't be if he doesn't have to be.)

What he'd make for himself:
left-over Egg McMuffin and beer. Also, Doritos. Maybe a donut.

Fancy or special breakfast, Restaurant:
It depends on who is picking up the tab.  If he's paying, he'll order the cheapest meal. If someone else is paying, the most expensive.  He likes rich and unhealthy foods, so Eggs Benedict would probably be his favorite.

Breakfast on the Run:
Egg McMuffin.


Character Name: Alex Nichols (actually Nikolinshe)
Book or series: The Perils of Plink (The Case of the Mispaced Hero)

Location/Setting:  Alex is a college student from modern day Michigan, who also makes an unexpected trip to Awarshawa.

In Michigan -- and this world in general -- Alex is incredibly bored with everything.  He doesn't much care about what he eats.  (He is the "misplaced hero" and doesn't really belong in Michigan.)

Usual breakfast: Whatever the dorm serves.  None of it tastes particularly good, so if he's not that hungry, just toast and coffee. If he's hungrier, scrambled eggs.

What he'd make for himself:
  Cocoa Wheats.  Cooked thick, so that a spoon stands up in it.  With a little extra sugar and goat's milk.  It's one of the few foods he really likes, because that's what is Aunt Flavia used to make. 

Fancy or special breakfast, Restaurant:  Meh.  Whatever.  Well, okay, he does kinda like fancy pancakes, you know, crepes.

Breakfast on the Run: Maybe an apple.  Granola bar.  Muffin. Whatever.

(You'll note that what Alex prefers to eat has some resemblance to Awarshi food.  There is a reason for that.)


We don't really see much of Lady Pauline in  The Case of the Misplaced Hero.  But she is the central character of the main series and of the next serial, which will begin at the end of the month.

Character Name: Lady Pauline, AKA "Plink" (More formally: Lady Pauline Anne Marie Tritt-Woolsey Beethingham Smythe, the Baroness of Beethingham.)
Book or series: The Perils of Plink (The Case of the Misplaced Baroness)

Location: Pauline is from Imperia, a rival country to Awarshawa -- more or less a cartoon version of England.

Pauline has just come of age, 21, and also has just come into her hereditary title: the Baroness of Beethingham, a title she holds in her own right.

Usual breakfast: Generally the servants put out a big buffet of what we would call an "English breakfast" (an "Imprish breakfast"?).  Though she is a bit of a partier who stays up late and often wanders in late for breakfast, she is a hearty eater.  She will likely have something of everything the servants put out, but she is especially fond of the breakfast meats, and also of jam.

What she'd make for herself: Make it herself?  How jolly exciting!  She'd well ... she'd make... bread and jam!  (It's the only thing she knows how to make, but she also happens to like it very much.)

Fancy or special breakfast, Restaurant: There is nothing particularly "special" about eating at a restaurant.  It's never as good as at home .  However, she is more likely to have poached eggs.  For some reason they never have poached eggs at Beethingham Hall.  She's never asked why. (It's actually because her great great grandfather hated them, and nobody has ever questioned tradition.)

Breakfast on the Run: She's never heard of such a thing.  If you're running, how can you eat?  Perhaps some biscuits?

This post was more fun to write than the rest -- maybe because it was more speculative.  The serials here are often "bump and go" and I don't always have time to play with full details like this.  Also, since the characters are more cartoony and outrageous, that gives more room for playing with their eating habits.

This was fun. I hope you'll consider answering the Characters at Breakfast Challenge with a blog post of your own -- about your own characters or characters from favorite books you've read.   A few others ahve written posts.  Be sure to check them out: Kyra's Breakfast Post 1, and Breakfast Post 2.  James D's Breakfast Post. Watch the comments for others.

(The Case of the Misplaced Baroness is now running on this blog -- you can see the first episode here.)

See you in the funny papers.


Kyra said...

This does sound fun, the combination of invented world and contemporary real world offers the widest range of possibilities. love "blootchkes." (have nabbed the book from Amazon; sounds like a lot of fun. Lady Pauline sounds Jeeves-and-Wooster-ish, which I love.)

Along sort of the same lines, I think the most fun I've had writing about food (besides Professor Rossony at breakfast) has been in Sailor Moon fanfic. You have the combination of (seemingly) normal teenage girls (most of them unencumbered by excessive parental supervision) in modern-day Tokyo, which allows a fun mix of Japanese and western foods (pizza and sweet bean dumplings for breakfast? why not?), and the other-world villains, some of whom hate Earth are are content with fungus and roast mystery beast or whatever would be served where they're from, and others who are determined to get the full Earth experience, Ferarris and gourmet food and all.

thanks for the challenge; it was fun!

The Daring Novelist said...

LOL, yes, this does make her sound a bit like Bertie, doesn't it? She really isn't clueless, it's just that she has never had to think about things like making breakfast. (But she's game to try anything.)

Yes, the Sailor Moon fanfic does sound like it offers a lot of fun opportunities.

This was fun. We may have to "do lunch" sometime the same way....