Post by Lily Harlem
Oh, you dirty lot, I can hear you snickering from here! What on earth do you think this blog post is about? Sex? Blow Jobs? Long, slow licks? No, I’m talking about food in the erotic romance books that we all love to read and write.
I recently read a novel which, for several reasons didn’t hit my spot. It didn’t do the job of engaging me in the story or making me care about the characters and I think one of the problems was that they never ate. Not a morsel, not a single scrap of food in several months on a timeline. They just didn’t need to, so it seemed, which was quite unbelievable.
Off course there are amazing books out there where the author hasn’t bothered with scenes of the protagonist/s eating and it doesn’t matter in the least. Thrillers have to keep the pace up, and eating isn’t thrilling (well, to most people). A short story might be over and done with before any hunger pangs set in.
But food can be a really useful tool to enhance storytelling. Another layer to add atmosphere and an indicator of things going on beneath the surface.
Need any more convincing of how fabulous food can be for fictional characters? Watch this delicious scene from 9 ½ week, a classic film that still holds me mesmerized.
Mmm, so now I’ve got your attention!
But back to the written word. How can food be used, well, some food has deep symbolic roots the author can work with. It can reflect regional tastes, enhance the visual of the world that’s been created and almost, if it’s done right, have the reader imagining the tastes the characters are enjoying. I’m thinking of the first story in my Hot Ice series, Hired , when the hero and heroine are having lunch. See if you can picture where they are…
“Don’t fight it, I’m not.” He paused as the waitress set down plates of barbequed fish and bowls of vibrant salad glazed with a honey and mustard dressing.
“Anything else?” she asked, rubbing her hands on her floral apron and squinting in the sunshine.
“No, this is perfect,” Logan said, his gaze not leaving mine. “Absolutely perfect.”
Brooke and Logan are on a beautiful tropical island and enjoying an al fresco meal at a quaint harbor village. Did you get it? If not the harbour, it’s certainly a fresh, summery dish that’s light and full of flavour and one that could be associated with holidays in the sun and Caribbean Islands.
Food can also indicate the time of year in which the story takes place. In my novel Cold Nights, Hot Bodies, the couple have just enjoyed dinner in an English country pub with friends…
The meal was fantastic and well worth the walk. The landlord made the cottage pie himself and served it still wearing his blue-and-white striped apron. It seemed none of his staff had turned up for work but it didn’t worry him since the pub was so quiet and he was a jack-of-all-trades.
The conversation between the four of us flowed easy and light. Rachel and Jeremy certainly seemed well matched and very comfortable with each other. Jeremy even went as far as spooning chunks of his chocolate torte into Rachel’s mouth.
It was cozy by the fire and after a few glasses of wine and sitting within the curve of Shane’s arm I began to feel my mood soften to one of utter contentment. I could stay here forever.
Oh, transport me there right now! I love to snuggle up with Mr H in our local pub before a log fire and with a nice meal warming my belly and a glass of Merlot to hand – sigh!
This little snippet, also from Cold Nights, Hot Bodies, tells a tale of it’s own about the morning after the night before…
Breakfast arrived, a fabulous spread of smoked salmon, eggs and fresh fruit, another pot of coffee and a basket of croissants and Danish pastries. I tucked in eagerly as Shane reached for a white envelope balanced against two glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice.
“What’s that?” I asked.
He read it with a serious expression then looked up at me and grinned. “It seems the hotel is advising guests to avoid travel. The lane to the nearest main road is impassable because of the snow.”
I cocked my head and nibbled on a slice of melon.
“They’re offering a fifty percent discount to stay tonight,” he said, “No one coming in, no one going out, they’re as stuck with us as we are with them.”
My heart flipped with hope. Was my one-night stand about to turn into a two-night stand?
Mmm, that makes me hungry and the thought of a beautiful breakfast like that delivered after a night of intense exercise between the sheets is just perfect.
The mention of food can also show emotion and the relationships between characters. Missed meals indicate stress and urgency but so can eating peanut butter out of the jar with the biggest spoon in the drawer or wiping out all six portions of chocolate mousse chilling in the fridge. In Breathe You In Kate is racked with grief in the beginning of the book but as life takes a turn for the better, that’ll be meeting Ruben Strong, she puts on weight and is pleased with that her curves are returning. Food in this case shows an upward curve in the character’s emotional wellbeing and several times she digs in hungrily to cream cakes and picnics when she’s feeling positive.
A wonderful meal can also offer amazing sensory data for the reader and in Dessert, sushi eaten from a naked woman is what gets my hero John in a very aroused state. Here’s a snippet…
I glanced at the woman again. As her chest rose and fell with her slow breaths her breasts shifted slightly. She had a freckle beneath her left nipple, on the downward slope toward the heavier underside. My dick responded to my perusal of such a perfect set of tits, my shaft filling and pressing up against the zipper of my suit pants.
“She has bathed in fragrance-free soap and her body will warm the sushi and sashimi to perfection,” Rai said. “As you can see she has absolutely no body hair for us to worry about.” He looked pointedly at the aperture of her thighs and I couldn’t help but follow his gaze. The satiny skin of her outer labia was a fraction darker than the rest of her, a little rosier than the just-baked-biscuit look she sported everywhere else.
I shifted on my seat, irritated by my arousal when Rai was so calm and matter of fact. I guessed years of dojo discipline could come in handy in more ways than one.
“The girls have many hours of training, learning to lie still and quiet. For they are not allowed to move or speak throughout the meal, though if they feel they are touched inappropriately they ring.” Rai pointed to the brass bell just within reach of our living plate. It had a red tasseled pull string and a fire-breathing dragon etched onto the dome. “If the minders hear the bell, all diners in that booth are physically removed and will never be allowed back to The Geisha Plate.”
“You understand that there must be such rules to protect the girls who work here.” “Yes, of course.”
“And you must also understand that The Geisha Plate does not advertise its unique style of serving Japanese cuisine. As you are my guest, it is my duty to ask you not to discuss the evening’s unconventional serving methods with anyone.”
“Well, no, of course not. If that’s what you want.”
“Some Western and Eastern cultures see nyotaimori as degrading. But for many Japanese, we see sushi as an art form and it should be a delight to every sense. What better way to serve it than on a truly beautiful woman?”
“Well, I love sushi and I have to say I love women too, so I couldn’t agree more.” I held out my glass and had a sudden rush of appreciation for my supplier who had thought to treat me to such a unique experience.
Rai filled my glass and his. We drank once more.
Do you agree with me? Do you think food/eating can enhance a story? Or do you think it detracts from the important action? As a reader, do you enjoy culinary touches in a book? As an author, do you use food as an element of your writing? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.