Writing Challenge Day 20: Characters' favourite food (and drink!)

Hm, an interesting one…

Let’s start with drink. Carina lives on coffee; she was brought up for her first 24 years in the Eastern United States (EUS) and like many office workers in the early 2000s, she drank industrial amounts of it.

On the way to my desk next morning, I grabbed a coffee from the machine and took another ten minutes to mull over Hayden’s visitors in the light of what Conrad and my grandmother had said.   [INCEPTIO]

A few chapters on when she’s in the Roma Nova legation in her new, distinctly higher status, coffee almost becomes a source of discomfort and tension:

Gaia Memmia knocked on the door at exactly ten thirty.

‘Coffee?’ I waved a mug at her.

She looked horrified.


‘You can’t serve me.’

‘I’m not serving you. I’m making you a cup of coffee.’

‘Please, let me do it.’       

‘Look, this is my kitchen, in my apartment. Here I’ll act like a normal person. Outside, I’ll go along with what you want. End of discussion.’ I added a smile to soften the sting of my words.

I set the coffee on the table opposite my place and sat down. She hovered for some moments, glanced over at me, but eventually took the chair where the coffee was. She sipped and collected herself. Was it going to be this hard with everybody?   [INCEPTIO]

Six years on at the end of a Family Day (all day party), Carina and her grandmother Aurelia share a glass of Brancadorum champagne:

‘Thank the gods, that’s the last of the oldies. Fancy a nightcap?’ She picked up a bottle of champagne from a bucket and two glasses and pulled me along to the small back office. There was some kind of dubious card game going on in the main sitting area off the atrium and rather too much flesh was emerging for her liking, she said. Best to leave them to it.

 ‘A successful day, don’t you think?’ She shucked off her sandals. They were gorgeous: silver with large pearls and semi-precious stones.

I emptied my glass in two gulps and was watching the drops clinging to the inside surface struggling to join and split from the others. Nothing stayed the same for more than a few moments.


‘Sorry, Nonna. Of course, a really good day.’ I set my glass down. ‘I think I’ll go up now. I’m tired.’ I leaned over and kissed her cheek.

‘Everything all right, darling? You look upset, not just tired.’ She scrutinised my face, looking for the least thing. I flushed, but didn’t reply.

‘Well, go and have a good night’s sleep. When they’ve all gone tomorrow, we’ll have a proper talk.’    [PERFIDITAS]


Now, there’s consistently only one favourite drink for Aurelia – French brandy

Back in my Foreign Ministry office, I went straight to the tray and poured myself a stiff measure of French brandy. I should have known better than to rise to Caius’s provocation. Of course, it would be stupid to dismiss his threat but I had my guard and despite being in my forties, I wasn’t a complete pushover if attacked personally.       [INSURRECTIO]

Even amongst her colleagues, Aurelia is known to have a fondness for her brandy as a fortifier, but some things are more important

‘I know you mean well, but I cannot ignore the call of going back. Roma Nova is in my blood, my heart and my head. It’s not simple duty. It’s as if Mitelus himself is standing beside me, from the end of the fourth century. He’s wearing his chain mail lorica, gladius in his right hand, gripping his scutum shield in his left. And behind him all the later Mitelae, armed, ready for their battles.’

‘Have you been at the brandy again?’

‘No, and you know it.’ I stood up. ‘Marcella Volusenia, this is my battle in my generation and I won’t shirk it.’    [RETALIO]

Carina tends to stick to salad, pasta or a sandwich at her desk, but loves going out to the Onyx, her favourite restaurant in the city, especially with her husband, Conrad. There they eat Greek-style food. Roma Nova city offers a great variety of food types.

Both Carina and Aurelia, when on military exercise or operation, will eat field rations. Any serving or ex-military personnel knows that however nutritious they are, their deliciousness rating can be variable!

If based at a temporary camp, soldiers eat whatever the unit cook dishes up and sometimes they can be very lucky. Or not.

But Carina does have one favourite…

Beginning the day with a fresh egg and bacon roll – hot, salty bacon coupled with the firm liquid of a fried egg bursting in your mouth – in the quiet of a pine forest with the sun starting to shed its early light on you took some beating. The cook grinned at me, sensing an appreciative customer. 

‘Like another one, ma’am?’ 

I swallowed the last piece and grinned back. ‘No. No, thanks. Nothing could better that.’

‘Coffee and tea are inside, but come back if you want another,’ and he winked.

I pulled the heavy canvas flap of the mess tent aside and found a few other early souls. Passing on the muddy-looking coffee I filled a mug from the tea urn.   [SUCCESSIO]

Although including food and drink makes the characters human, too much tea or coffee for the sake of it can become tedious. We don’t need to go through each meal with our characters, especially in a story with a plot going at a smart pace. Like all other elements from day to day life, food and drink should be used sparingly and for either of two purposes: to illustrate something about a character or, for thrillers, to drive the plot forward.

Happy eating and drinking!

Writing challenges so far:

Day 19: Characters’ pastimes
Day 18: Characters’ pet peeves (!)
Days 16 & 17: Favourite outfits (combined)
Day 15: The many-hatted author
Day 14: Show your workplace
Day 13: A funny family story. Or not
Day 12: Early bird or night owl?
Day 11: Favourite writing snacks/chocolate porn
Day 10: Post an old picture of yourself
Day 9: Post 5 random facts about you
Day 8: What’s your writing process?
Day 7: Introduce your ‘author friend’
Day 6: How the writing all began
Day 5: What inspired the book I’m working on
Day 4: The setting for the new Roma Nova book
Day 3: Introducing the main characters Julia and Apulius
Day 2: Introduce your work in progress
Day 1: Starting with revealing information

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

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