I love food. All kinds of food, in fact. Apples. Pasta. Tacos. Ribs. Cheesecake. Although I still get a rush of excitement going out to dinner with my family, I also enjoy cooking. There’s something about making something fabulous out of a bunch of ingredients that fascinates me. Whenever I’m working on a project, I find myself inserting scenes involving dinner dates, family suppers and trips to the family bakery.
In my October release, “Love Me Tender,” the hero, Nick Donahue is a restaurant owner in Cape Cod. In order to reconnect with his first love, Layla, he invites her to a romantic dinner at The Cove Restaurant. As a writer, it was an opportunity for the heroine to see her former beau in his professional element and to be surrounded by everything that Nick had achieved for himself during the years they were apart. Sangria. Seafood. A tray of desserts to choose from. Food in romance can heighten the atmosphere and add texture to the story.
When I first began dating my husband in college he invited me for a date at the restaurant he worked at….Friendly’s. Because he was so awesome, his boss awarded him a gift certificate for employee of the month. Problem was, he had to use the whole gift certificate in one sitting. So, the date wasn’t just the two of us. It was his best friend as well. Talk about a third wheel! It’s probably one of the reasons I like to have the hero and heroine go on a two person date. It’s hard for the characters (or real life people) to have romance and candle light when a third person is there.
In my debut Love Inspired book “Reunited with the Sheriff” I have four lifelong friends who gather at their hometown diner, The Falls Diner, to enjoy each other’s company and catch up with one another. Milk shakes, volcano burgers and French fries. The heroine, Cassidy Blake, returns to her hometown of West Falls, Texas after an eight year absence and a scandalous departure from town. Upon returning, her first stop is the diner where she quickly orders “a volcano cheeseburger, curly fries and a chocolate shake.” As a writer I wanted the heroine to reach out to something familiar and comforting as she prepares for a rocky re-entry into small town life. The diner is revisited in my upcoming Love Inspired release (December 15, 2014), Heart of A Soldier. Let’s face it! Food can be very comforting.
In my Seven Brides, Seven Brothers series, the Donahue family owns a bakery called Sweet Treats. They serve up Whoopie pies, cupcakes, birthday cakes, cannolis and many other delectable treats. In “Until You Loved Me” the hero, Remy, and the heroine, Gabrielle, work side by side together in the bakery putting Whoopie pies in little bags for a catering event. Working together provides an opportunity for shy Gabrielle to get to know the more outgoing Remy in an atmosphere that is lively and happy. And since the family business is baked goods, it provided a chance for the heroine to absorb the culture of the bakery and to see Remy’s connection to it. Seeing Remy, who is a well known artist, chip in to help out at the bakery showed Gabrielle his devotion to his family. And as far as settings go, I think a bakery is a pretty cool one.
I love writing about family and friends getting together to share food and fellowship. Whether it’s a church picnic or a back yard family barbecue, I think there’s nothing better than a group of people gathered together in friendship and love. Add food into the mix and it’s just about perfect. In my Love Inspired book “Forever Her Hero” the heroine, Ava, hosts a wedding reception at her beach front house for her cousin. Since the reception takes place in her backyard and down on the beach, I came up with the idea of a clam bake. Corn on the cob. Lobster. Ribs. Clams. Shrimp. Baked beans. Quite a feast for the wedding guests. As a writer I tapped in to the Cape Cod setting and the New England fare that might be served at a clam bake. For Ava, it was an opportunity to host an event and to move forward in the grief process after the tragic death of her husband. Food and fellowship can be healing.
In writing this blog post I’ve come to the realization that as a writer I use food and restaurants/ bakeries as a character. For me, it adds certain nuances that heighten the realism and add another dimension to the project. It also mirrors my reality. In my family we always go out to eat to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or special achievement. Sampling new foods or enjoying old favorites is enjoyable. Much like the Donahue family and their backyard barbecues, my family has always enjoyed Fourth of July cook outs and birthday barbecues. I’m very blessed to have a husband who can cook with the best of them. His specialty is mouth-watering ribs cooked to perfection. And cheesy bread. And chili. As authors we tend to inject pieces of our own lives into our books. For me, food has become a very important component in the lives of my characters.
So, what are some of your favorite recipes, restaurants or meals that someone has made for you? Do you like going out for date night or staying in and cooking as a couple? I’m giving away a copy of my Love Inspired book, “Forever Her Hero” to one lucky person who leaves a comment. Winner will be selected on November 7th so get your comments in.