Have you ever read a book and got so into it you are experiencing everything the main character is feeling? Your toes curl when they embarrass themselves. You smile when they get some amazing news and cry when they’re upset. Living their emotions. Walking a mile in their shoes. And most tantalizingly, tasting what they’re eating.
I do. Often. This is why I love contemporary women’s fiction so much. It feels real. The emotions, the situations. And the food. I started to re-read Sally, the debut novel by Freya North, a few weeks ago and by the time I’d finished chapter seven I was incredibly hungry for Italian food. I also wouldn’t have minded Richard Stonehill serving it to me but then, that’s another matter entirely.
I adore it when authors use food to enhance a scene. In this particular chapter food has been used by the author and by Richard, for real purpose. To seduce Sally and in so doing, seduce the reader.
Sally, a primary school teacher from Highgate, has purposely decided to become some sort of femme fatale, turning up at Richard’s flat with one thing on her mind. Richard, meanwhile, is going to captivate her through food. He has prepared and cooked a chic but simple meal for them consisting of five courses which meant as soon as Sally entered Richard’s flat, it was she who was seduced….It was the smell of cooking: a mellow base of tomato…laced with top notes of garlic and basil. This, right at the beginning of the chapter, is where my own mouth started watering.
To begin Sally and Richard have Prosciutto S. Daniele rolled around grissini. I was unsure what that was (Italian ham around breadsticks doesn’t sound quite as alluring) but as Sally debated whether to eat it suggestively or not I didn’t care. She opted to simply enjoy it for what it is. And so did I.
Then came the starter. A warm salad of rocket and baby spinach with roasted red peppers and individual goat cheeses. Dressed, by Richard, with vinaigrette. I don’t even like rocket but that sounds delicious. Meanwhile the chemistry builds up another notch as Richard finished before Sally. He watched. She stared back, eating all the while.
We are then, with stomachs rumbling and mouths drooling, led on to the main course. It’s a bed of pappardelle woven throughout with porcini and chicken. Yes I had to google pappardelle (it’s a type of pasta, of course it is) but that didn’t matter. I was properly drooling by now. My increase in drool directly in proportion to the increase in chemistry between Sally and Richard.
Then the dessert. The finale. Where Sally tries Tiramisu for the first time and Richard feasts on her reaction. The dark matt brown of the cocoa powder, the soft ivory of the mascarpone, the glistening sponge, speckled through with espresso coffee.
Her response to that first, sensuous taste, is perfect. Still holding his gaze, she slowly pushed the loaded spoon into her mouth. It was like a trigger, a chemical reaction: her eyes snapped shut and simultaneously Richard grinned broadly.
OK. That’s enough. We all know what’s going to happen next for Sally and Richard. Meanwhile I have an incredible urge to make Tiramisu.
Helen Redfern writes about books and cake on her blog, helenredfern.com. She is currently working on her first book about chick lit and food.