"Warm milk with a spoonful of treacle," he murmured sadly, his back still to her. Then he added sadly, "It helps you sleep." (Prologue. 17)
Here we see Daniel (not yet named) showing how much he cares for Luce (also not yet named, since we're in Prologue Land)—and how much he remembers about her character. Learning and remembering someone's eating habits is an intimate thing, and Daniel's concern for Luce's sleeplessness, paired with his wish to help her fall asleep, is especially telling: it suggests that he knows a great deal about her and cares for her a lot. It's also the only instance in the story when Daniel and food are connected; we usually Cam and food connected instead. Basically, Cam + food = potential danger, while Daniel + food = comfort and safety.
"Avoid the chicken-fried steak at all costs," [Arriane] coached as they followed the crowd into the din of the lunchroom. "The pizza's fine, the chili's okay, and actually the borscht ain't bad. Do you like meatloaf?"
"I'm a vegetarian," Luce said…
"Vegetarian, huh?" Arriane pursed her lips. "Hippie parents or your own meager attempt at rebellion?" (2.50-52)
This interaction shows two things. First, we see that Arriane is a good person to have around because she can walk you through the inner workings of the lunchroom with ease. Second, we see that Luce doesn't fit in here. The fact that she just doesn't like meat sets her apart from the other students—and it also makes it really, really hard for her to find suitable dinner options.
Ahhh, Tuesday. Waffle day. For as long as Luce could remember, summer Tuesdays meant fresh coffee, brimming bowls of raspberries and whipped cream, and an unending stack of crispy golden brown waffles. Even this summer, when her parents were acting scared of her, waffle day was one thing she could count on.
Luce sniffled, slowly coming to her senses, then sniffed again with more gusto. No, there was no buttermilk batter, nothing but the vinegary smell of peeling paint. (4.1-2)
The fact that Luce's parents still kept the routine of waffle day—even though their family was in the midst of turmoil and they thought their daughter was a murderer—shows how loving and supportive they are with her. It also indicates how into routine her parents are: we get a hint at that Luce's upbringing has been pretty straight-laced. There's a big discrepancy between her welcoming and waffle-infused life at home and the vinegary horror of Sword & Cross.
Arriane shrugged and produced a giant bag of popcorn from her carpetbag. "I can only look after so many new students," she said, tossing a buttery kernel at Luce. "Lucky you." (5.69)
Not only can Arriane get access to things that the other students might not—like the popcorn, for instance…probably courtesy of Roland or Cam—but she also chooses whom she'll trust with her information and her attention. By inviting Luce into her social circle, she's making her privy to the secret parts of Sword & Cross.
Luce's eyes grew wide as she watched [Cam] arrange the food: a dark brown baguette, a small round of oozy cheese, a terra-cotta tub of olives, a bowl of deviled eggs, and two bright green apples. It didn't seem possible that Cam had fit all that in his bag—or that he'd been planning on eating all this food by himself. (7.39)
Ah, nothing says romance like a picnic in a cemetery…Wait, we can think of a lot of things that say romance better than a picnic in a cemetery. But at least Cam's trying, right? Or is he? It's not secret that his assortment of foodstuffs—with nary a meat product in sight—shows that he's been paying attention to Luce and knows her eating habits. There's also a certain classiness to his spread that's on an entirely different scale from cafeteria meatloaf, showing that he has the wherewithal to get this stuff on the sly. The fact that they also see a snake during their picnic is also not a coincidence. Snakes are synonymous with temptation, and the apple that Cam hands over to Luce does seem mighty tempting. Whether she knows it or not, Luce might be lucky that Gabbe intervenes when she does.
The meal—not dinner, not even lunch, just a generic late-afternoon fill-up—had been a strange experience for Luce, who had a hard enough time finding anything she could eat in the meat-centric cafeteria. Randy had just wheeled in a cart of depressing sandwiches and some pitches of lukewarm water.
The sandwiches had all been mystery cold cuts, mayo, and cheese, and Luce had watched enviously as Pen chomped through one after another, leaving tooth-marked rings of crusts as she ate. Luce had been on the verge of de-bologna-ing a sandwich when Cam shouldered up next to her. He'd opened a fist to expose a small cluster of fresh figs. Their deep purple skin looked like jewels in his hand. (9.11-12)
Again, Cam swoops in with a promise of foodie salvation in a world of boredom and soggy bread. At this point, we're wondering what his angle is, and we're also wondering why he decided figs might be the best thing for Luce in a time like this. What, he couldn't have crammed an eggplant parmesan sub into his backpack? There's also something fruity going on here, reminding us of the apples that he shared with Luce in the cemetery. Fruit and temptation seem to go hand in hand—especially when Cam is involved, bringing her fancy things at just the right time. Luce isn't picking up on the hint.
"Don't eat those." Gabbe had swooped in, lifting the figs out of Luce's fingers and tossing them in the trash. She'd interrupted yet another private conversation and replaced the empty space in Luce's palm with a handful of peanut M&Ms from a vending machine sack…
"She's right, Luce," Arriane had appeared, glowering at Cam. "Who knows what he drugged these with?" (9.15-16)
It might seem to Luce like Gabbe's just butting in here, but Gabbe's really just looking out for her. And sure, accusing your classmate of drugging food is a bit harsh, but Cam and Arriane's relationship relies on mutual animosity. This is also a moment of foreshadowing, though, and it proves that the fruit metaphor is just as suspicious as we thought it might be. After Luce finds out that Cam's a fallen angel working against Daniel, Arriane, and Gabbe, their warnings about his charm and his temptations make the situation seem all the more dangerous.
Lucinda (Luce) Price
Sheepishly, her father held up a colorful patchwork quilt and a large briefcase-style contraption made of wicker that Luce had never seen before. Usually, when they picnicked, it was a much more casual affair, with paper grocery bags and an old ripped sheet thrown down on the grass by the canoe trail outside their house.
"Pickled okra?" Luce asked in a voice that sounded very much like little-kid Luce. No one could say her parents weren't trying.
Her dad nodded. "And sweet tea, and biscuits with white gravy. Cheddar grits with extra jalapenos, just the way you like 'em." (13.18-20)
Cameron "Cam" Briel
Cam turned to her and smiled. "What's your poison?"
"I don't care," Luce said. "I don't really have a poison."
"You were drinking champagne at my party," Cam said. "See who's paying attention?" He nudged her with his shoulder. "Your finest champagne over here," he told the bartender, who through back his head and let out a snide hacking laugh. (15.52-54)
To bring the Cam + food = danger equation full circle, here we have him bringing Luce to a legitimately dangerous place to talk to her, a seedy bar called "Styx"…like that's not ominous. In this chapter, a few important details become clear: Cam can get in and out of Sword & Cross at will, he has disposable income to get himself and Luce to these places (hello, hired limo), and he thinks he can browbeat Luce into liking him with fancy things. On top of this, he does steamroll Luce with flirting and promises of delectable food and riches, things she chooses to accept because she likes his attention. But here Luce decides that it's all too much, and that Cam's promises can only go so far. He can't make her happy.