|[Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons, cuttlefish ]|
Whether it be a molding old hamburger or haut cuisine - what your characters eat, or do not eat, is important in world building - well I think so anyway.
In fantasy and paranormal romance, food is sometimes a forgotten entity. I have read entire novels where the characters seem to require no sustenance at all. That's not to say you should harp on about eating all the time - that would be annoying, but the occasional mention of what your characters are eating can be fascinating.
How a someone reacts to food, divulges a great deal about that character and the world in which she/he comes from. For example; you know someone who delicately devours Brussels Sprouts has absolutely no tastebuds and was probably born in the 1940s or 1950's - as we all know anyone with a "modern palate" finds them as tasty as a boiled fart.
Did I really write that?! Haha! If you're the exception, please leave a comment and I may reconsider my opinion!
Anyway, another interesting way to develop characters is not only describe the food they choose to eat, but the way they eat it. Recently I was in Malaysia, and I watched with fascination some locals eating their curry and rice with their fingers. My children however were horrified to see people eating with their hands. I hurried to explain that here it was completely normal to use your hands and mush up your curry with your rice and gently spoon it with your fingers into your mouth. So how a character breaks up her dinner roll, or how she spoons her soup gives that glimmer of insight into her personality that the reader would miss out on if you hadn't mentioned it.
Having said that, I once read a entire page on a character peeling and eating orange - it was mind numbingly dull. I personally didn't find it added to world development, character development or any development other than the author's own sense of literary snobbery. Sometimes you can over do a good thing.
Used in balance, however, food is a great way to show your readers things without telling them. We all need to eat, and it can create common ground for the reader to relate to even the most difficult character.
So if you're looking for a new ingredient to add to your writing recipe - try food!