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It’s hard to imagine Italian food without tomatoes. Or German food without potatoes. Or a summer in Indiana without sweet corn, salt, and butter (and by butter, I mean real butter–you know, that stuff that comes from a cow).

What these examples all have in common is a blending of the Old World and the New, the ultimate in fusion cooking.

Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes appear in my garden but not in my stories about the Middle Ages.

Food is a challenge and an opportunity for the historical novelist, especially as she guzzles coffee in front of her computer and realizes her medieval characters had neither of these. Food is a part of culture and a great way to show time and place.

The challenge is not to introduce an anachronism and jar the reader. I was jarred when I saw a character in Return of the King eating cherry tomatoes. Even though J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth is fantasy, not historical fiction, the feel of the story is medieval, yet tomatoes are a New World food.

The Food Timeline with its many links about items that make it to the dinner plate is a wonderful site about food history. One hazard: The info is so interesting, the author gets distracted from writing and then gets hungry.

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