Stir my tastebuds, melt my heart

I’m not sure that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach but it surely is a tried and tested route into a woman’s. As every discerning reader knows.

My good friend and fabulous RITA and RUBY winning author, Marion Lennox, is blogging for the first time, and musing on food and royals in romantic fiction at www.iheartpresents.com  She says: ‘You know, writing’s wonderful– I can just close my eyes and think what would I most like to eat, and there it is, on the page. So my would-be princess can indulge in French champagne and lobster patties and truffles and caviar and strawberries tasting of the sun….’

So true.  And your readers can indulge right along with her.

I always remember the first Mary Stewart I read, Madam, Will You Talk

Cover for the new edition by Hodder & Stoughton 2005

Cover for the new edition by Hodder & Stoughton 2005

For two days the heroine runs away from a dangerous man who she thinks is a villian. And then, suddenly, he is beside her on the quay in Marseilles and there is nowhere left to run . . .

So what does he do?

He takes her to dinner. (That’s my kind of dangerous man.)

And what a dinner.

I remember still those exquisite fluted silver dishes, each with its load of dainty colours . . . there were anchovies and tiny gleaming silver fish in red sauce, and savoury butter in curled strips of fresh lettuce; there were caviare and tomato and olives green and black, and small golden pink mushrooms and cresses and beans. The waiter heaped my plate, and filled another glass with white wine. I drank half a glassful without a word, and began to eat. I was conscious of Richard Byron’s eyes on me, but he did not speak.
     The waiters hovered beside us, the courses came, delicious and appetizing, and the empty plates vanished as if by magic. I remember red mullet, done somehow with lemons, and a succulent golden-brown fowl bursting with truffles and flanked by tiny peas, then a froth of ice and whipped cream dashed with kirsch, and the fine smooth caress of the wine through it all. Then, finally, apricots and big black grapes, and coffee.

Ah, apricocks and dewberries. They never fail.

But truly, isn’t that the most luscious, sensual scene? Aren’t you there, mouth watering? Haven’t you already decided that the provider of this voluptuous feast has to be the hero?

How much more powerful must it have been in 1955, when the book was first published. Many foods were still rationed in Britain.  It was only ten years since the end of the War, with its austerity and British Restaurants. For the 1950s English woman, this idyllic meal  (to say nothing of the plates that disappear as if by magic) must have felt as good as going to Cinderella’s ball herself.

And it still does the business today – for me and, I bet, for thousands of others. Which is why Hodder printed a new edition fifty years after that first publication.   

Scrummy

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6 Comments

  1. Jan Jones said,

    September 11, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Damn you, Jenny – now I’m hungry again!

    But yes, Madam, Will You Talk? is my shining guide on how to infuse every page with luscious description and still produce an absolute page-turner of romance and adventure. Earlier on she does a simple omelette which always has me salivating – and every time I read that dinner scene I’m on my knees begging for mercy.

    Are we going to have a Mary Stewart fest now? Pretty please?

  2. September 12, 2009 at 6:57 am

    Oh, Jenny, Yes,Yes, Yes! And Raoul’s midnight feast in Nine Coaches Waiting…. Wayyyyy better than sex. Or maybe it’s sex in a different form. Mmmmmmmm.

    Agree though that Madam Will You Talk takes the prize.
    Has anyone done it better?

    Another food scenario which had me whimpering was Babette’s Feast – I haven’t read it – apparently it was published in the Ladies Home Journal but have only seen the movie.

  3. Liz Fielding said,

    September 12, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    How absolutely luscious. It makes me want to find a copy of the book and read it again.

  4. anne gracie said,

    September 14, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    I’ve always loved that scene. And the midnight feast in Nine Coaches Waiting. Indeed, Jenny, in my list of Heroic Acts is the one when the hero feeds the heroine — and does it in style.

    I’d never thought of it being food porn to a Britain still on rations, but yes, it makes perfect sense. Elizabeth David’s beautiful food writing, too. Even Enid Blyton’s children’s feasts…

    Food for thought… (heh, heh)

  5. katie fforde said,

    October 27, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    I always thought that book was so sexy!

    This is a really elegant website, Jenny!

  6. October 30, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Now I’ll have to jettison the TBR pile and read this one again!


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