Murder they cooked : the role of food in crime fiction
conference contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by R Franks, Donna BrienDonna Brien, M Usiekniewicz
The idea of analysing the role food plays in fiction is not new. Writers, across a range of genres, have utilised food to generate realism within their works and to communicate a variety of complex concepts – such as love, grief and social standing – for centuries. For these writers, food is predominantly used to signal ‘good’, as it courts, soothes and conveys messages of privilege and wealth. For crime fiction writers, food can represent all these things and more, moreover, in this context, food can also be ‘bad’ since culinary items as innocuous as chocolate, marmalade and omelettes are laced with poison, allowing some characters to dispose of others. Such murders see victims as participants in their own demise, as it is natural for them to think of food as ‘good’ and not realise that food is ‘bad’ until it is too late. This makes poison a particularly devious way to commit murder because, unlike guns, knives or the ubiquitous blunt instruments, there is no obvious danger. This paper examines poison’s complex and symbiotic relationship with the culinary, and some of the different ways poison – and especially poisoned food – has been utilised by crime fiction writers. This paper will also explore poisoning in Murder, She Wrote (1984-1996), as well as explore food and beverage more broadly, within this long-running television production.