I’ve been vegan for almost three years, and before that, I was vegetarian for seven.
Few of my characters are vegan or vegetarian. The ones who are usually are peripheral, like Kim in By His Rules, and are often ridiculed for their silly, fleshless diets. I mostly write omnivores.
I have a strange fear that I’m going to be found out as someone who doesn’t really “know” meat. Every book I write features at least one scene where characters eat, and I inevitably panic about what to have them eat. It needs to be something people can relate to, something fairly uncomplicated. Something not tempeh.
So I turn to my old standby, the turkey sandwich.
All of my characters love turkey sandwiches. Sometimes they eat them for multiple meals. (See: By His Rules. Aiden orders a turkey club in the café (so does Keaton), then has a turkey sub delivered later in the book. There is also a scene where Keaton makes sandwiches. It’s never specified what kind, but I mean, they’re turkey.) It just sounds to me like what an all-American omnivore would eat.
My brother is the most normal eater I know, and he eats turkey sandwiches. They’re simple, portable, fast. You can eat them at a restaurant or at home. They have meat, but they also have vegetables and bread, so it doesn’t look like I’m trying too hard, the way I worry it would if my characters ate steak, or a rotisserie chicken. I also remember the taste of deli turkey better than other meats. I used to get it on my Subway subs. It was reasonably delicious in my childhood, though now it makes me a little sickish to think about.
I don’t know why I worry so much about the authenticity of my characters’ meat-based meals. It seems like there are other, more pressing gaps in my knowledge and life experience. Sometimes I’ll start to have my characters eat something like beef stroganoff then I’ll raise an eyebrow at myself and say, “Do you even know what beef stroganoff is?”
The answer is no. I don’t know what beef stroganoff is. I can Google images, but it’s not the same as having tasted it.
I’m branching out in Wacky Wednesday, though. I don’t think either character eats a turkey sandwich on-page (though a TS is mentioned). At one point Jayk eats eggs. And Amon eats a Reuben. The real food-focus in WW is crab rangoon, which I have never had. My sister, also a very normal eater, loves crab rangoon. I had her describe it to me in detail one night while I was devouring fistfuls of sprouts.
I’m growing. I’m learning. I’m taking risks.
Maybe one day my characters will eat beef stroganoff.
Until then, who doesn’t love a turkey sandwich?