What goes better with romance than food and wine? The epitome of a romantic evening to many of us is a candlelit dinner, soft music playing in the background, and good wine on the table.
Some encounters with food and wine in romance novels aren’t as classically romantic as that ideal. Here’s some of my favorite scenes involving food and wine:
From “Suddenly One Summer” by Julie James. Ford invites Victoria to his barbecue:
“But what most caught his attention wasn’t what she was wearing. Rather, it was the white Pyrex dish she carried in her hands.
The woman had cooked for him.
He excused himself from his co-worker and made his way over to her. “You brought me a casserole. That’s so … neighborly of you.”
Victoria set it down on one of the fold out tables. “Not a casserole. Moros y Cristianos,” she said with a flourish.
He blinked. No clue.
“Cuban rice and beans,” she explained.
He lifted up the lid and peeked. “Smells delicious. You actually made this?” He grinned when she gave him a dirty look – so much fun, pushing her buttons.
And this from “Deirdre and Don Juan” by Jo Beverley. Deirdre begins to fall for Everdon
Conversation over the meal generally flowed easily, but she noted that if it faltered, Everdon could take any conversational ball and keep it rolling, could find a new one if need be. And this was not, she thought, so much expertise as a desire to make things easy for others. A natural courtesy.
She concentrated on her strawberry flan, wondering why she harbored these strange thoughts. If she didn’t take care, she’d find herself liking the wretch.
Perhaps that was his aim, but if he employed such a method of seduction, it was exceedingly subtle and would be difficult to fight.
And from my own book, “First and Again”. Bridget has a small meltdown during her dinner with Jack:
“I just want this lunch to go well. I want every detail to be perfect.”
She toyed with the remains of her casserole, her appetite deserting her. What if something went wrong? What if she messed up the beef Stroganoff, or burned the pies? What if there was something wrong with the food, and God forbid, she made someone ill again?
“Whoa, take it easy. I think that chicken has suffered enough.”
He placed his hand over hers, preventing her from stirring the casserole around her plate. Her face flamed in mortification when she realized she’d spread bits of chicken and tomato onto the kitchen table.
I have an excerpt on my blog where Bridget learns how to bake a pie with a little from her friends.
This excerpt is from another of my books, “There Goes the Groom”. Liv’s had a little too much wine:
“Don’t tell anybody, but I think I drank too much.” She brought her finger to her lips and made a shh sound.
Tony grinned. “Don’t worry. It’ll be our secret.”
“That’s good. Stuart wouldn’t like that I got drunk. He’s pretty strait-laced, you know.”
The mention of her fiancé’s name had his jaw clenching again. This time he couldn’t keep quiet. “Do you love him, Liv? Do you really want to marry him?”
She just smiled. “I want to get married.”
“How do you know he’s the right one for you? He didn’t even remember your birthday. What’s he going to forget next, your name?”
“That’s funny.” Her laugh was a little trembly. She slid sideways on her stool and nearly fell off before grabbing onto the counter and managing to right herself. “Maybe he will forget my name.” Her smile suddenly disappeared and she sat staring at him, looking completely vulnerable.
“That was a stupid thing for me to say, Liv. Of course he won’t forget your name. I’m sorry.”
She waved off his apology. “S’okay,” she slurred. “Perfectly understandable. You forgot me, so why shouldn’t Stuart? I guess I’m not the kind of woman men want to remember.”
He felt like a stake had been driven through his heart.
In the above excerpts, it’s not so much about the food as what the characters are learning about each other, and themselves, as they eat. When we eat together, we tend to reveal things about ourselves, and not just our table manners. In “Suddenly One Summer” Ford learns that Victoria can cook, and she chooses to make a Cuban dish, which is interesting since she’s estranged from her Cuban born father. In “Deirdre and Don Juan” Deirdre observes Everdon’s natural courtesy with people in a dinner setting, something she hadn’t expected. She never thought he cared about anyone but himself. In “First and Again”, Bridget’s lack of appetite and nervous energy tell Jack how worried she is about cooking lunch for his clients. And in “There Goes the Groom”, Liv drinks too much because she’s hurt her current fiancé has forgotten her birthday, and she’s confused about her feelings for Tony.
Every good scene should reveal something important about the true personality of the characters, and scenes with food and wine are good places to do that.
I am beginning research for a WIP in which one of the characters is something of a wine expert. My goal is to know my Gewurztraminer from my Pinot Gris to give my story an air of authenticity. What is your favorite kind of wine?