"The sensuality of her cooking did strange things to him. He couldn't stop thinking of the woman in the kitchen who wielded such power and magic. Did she possess the alchemy to distill brutal longing and infuse her food with it? Or did she serve forth undiluted desire disgused as nothing more alarming than a dish of creme caramel? ... When he ate, there was only the food. And there was only the cook."
- Sherry Thomas, Delicious
In my family, food has always meant love. The cups of cocoa my grandmother shared with me after school, the last cookie she'd save especially for me, were just as much expressions of her love as her hug at the door. My mother's special birthday dinners, holiday baking, my father's weekend pancakes-- all love, clearly spoken, even when the words themselves felt awkward to say aloud. "I care about you." "I want to see you happy." "I love you."
The same can be said of the other side of the table. My best friend's mother was a horrible cook; she could even burn a pot of boiling water. But while they were courting, her husband-to-be would eat everything she made for him without complaint-- an act that astonished even her parents. He confessed afterwards that he felt tongue-tied around her family, and it was the best way he could think of to show her how much he loved her. (Happily, he loved her enough to take over the cooking duties after they married.)
Last year, when USA Today asked three best-selling romance authors for "their secrets for raising the romance quotient," all three of them talked about the romantic aspects of sharing a meal with the men they loved. They offered suggestions for how readers could use food to spice up the romance in their own relationships. (You can read the article here ). The inextricable link between food and love cannot be denied. Food, like love, involves sensual pleasure, and is best when shared with someone for whom you care deeply. A strong relationship, like the best meal, requires time, some undivided attention, and care. And I would argue that both food and love are necessary to life.
To whet your appetite for Valentine's Day, the titles I'm sharing this month all revolve around the theme of food and romance. (Some of them even have recipes.) I'd recommend having a few tasty ingredients on hand; I'd not be at all surprised if you're inspired to snack, or even cook, while you're reading these. (More power to you, if they inspire you to anything more!) In the spirit of things, I'm offering my own recipe for Red Riding Hood Brownies , a "dangerously dark" Black Forest brownie (no, I won't bake them for you-- I don't love my readers THAT much).
The next time you share that special meal or sample that sinful chocolate, the next time he offers you a taste from his own plate, think about all the things your beloved is trying to say without words.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews (Fiction Andrews)
Last Bite by Nancy Verde Barr (Fiction Barr)
Starting from Scratch by Georgia Beers (LGBT Romance Beers)
The Food of Love by Anthony Capella (Fiction Capella)
Steamed by Jessica Conant-Park (Mystery Conant-Park)
Agnes & the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer (Fiction Crusie)
Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie (LP Crusie)
Bad Boys Do by Victoria Dahl (PbkRomance Dahl)
The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni (Fiction Divakaruni)
Some Like It Hot by Louisa Edwards (PbkRomance Edwards)
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Fiction Esquivel)
Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich (Fiction Evanovich)
Second Thyme Around by Katie Fforde (Fiction Fforde)
Chocolat by Joanne Harris (Fiction Harris)
The Baker's Apprentice by Judith Ryan Hendricks (Fiction Hendricks)
The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand (Fiction Hilderbrand)
The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins (PbkRomance Higgins)
Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs (Fiction Jacobs)
Sugar Rush by Donna Kauffman (PbkRomance Kauffman)
Romeo, Romeo by Robin Kaye (PbkRomance Kaye)
The Art of Undressing by Stephanie Lehmann (Fiction Lehmann)
Tempted Again by Cathie Linz (PbkRomance Linz)
A Courtesan's Scandal by Julia London (PbkRomance London)
Delicious by Susan Mallery (LP Mallery)
Sweet Talk by Susan Mallery (LP Mallery)
Just a Taste by Deirdre Martin (LP Martin)
Aftertaste by Meredith Mileti (Express Fiction Mileti)
The Secret of Everything by Barbara O'Neal (Fiction O'Neal)
Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer (Fiction Palmer)
The Sea of Tears by Nani Power (Fiction Power)
Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts (Fiction Roberts)
The Icing on the Cupcake by Jennifer Ross (Fiction Ross)
The Love Goddess' Cooking School by Melissa Senate (Fiction Senate)
Delicious by Sherry Thomas (PbkRomance Thomas)
Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani (Fiction Trigiani)
If You Hear Her by Shiloh Walker (PbkRomance Walker)
The Winter Lodge by Susan Wiggs (LP Wiggs)
The First Love Cookie Club by Lori Wilde (PbkRomance Wilde)
Scrumptious by Amanda Usen (PbkRomance Usen)