Shenandoah’s new issue is featuring a piece of flash fiction by Nicholas Roerich Prize winner, Sharon Hasimito, entitled “Vindaloo.”The piece contains cancer, a subsequent death, and food. You would think that the first two would be the more attention worthy, but surprisingly it is food that takes center stage (or in this case center of the table). Hank Teroka remembers his wife through the meals that he has experienced with her. We are given very little description about her physical appearance and specific personality traits, but the types of food that she wants to eat and wants her husband to eat tell us everything we need to know. We find out that she is adventurous, caring and vivacious. Her husband, Hank, on the other hand, is more cautious and pragmatic. The fact that he is willing to try the things that she loved reinforces both the fact that he loved her and the fact that even after death his own decisions remain subject to hers.
I particularly liked this story because I’ve always said food can tell a lot about a person. I pay particular attention whenever eating is involved in a story and perhaps it is just my obsession with all things food related, but I like to think it helps me to develop a better understanding of the character. Like “Vindaloo” it can show whether a person is willing to try new things or not, but it can also tell a lot about a person’s background. For example, if a person only likes to eat McDonald’s perhaps they grew up with blue-collar parents who worked all of the time or if their comfort food is black-eyed peas and collard greens, you can bet on some type of Southern origin. Having the character eat something unusual is another tool that helps to create a more three-dimensional character and allows the author to segue into another aspect of their character’s personality.