When I turned in the manuscript of A Lily Among Thorns, my editor at the time (the fabulous Leah Hultenschmidt) commented on a particular scene, “Your men are so good about bringing women exactly what they want to eat in the ballroom.”
“Huh,” I thought, “I guess there are scenes in both my books of the heroes bringing the heroines just what they want to eat at a party.” In In for a Penny, Nev remembers that Penelope hates being messy when she eats (the young ladies at school made fun of her for her low-class table manners), so he cuts up all the food from the buffet into bite-sized pieces for her before giving her the plate.
(This turned out to be a favorite moment for readers, actually–I’ve had people mention it to me more often than probably every other scene combined.)
And in A Lily Among Thorns, Solomon and Serena gate-crash a society party (for Important Intrigue Reasons). Serena has a very scandalous past, and Solomon’s grandfather was an earl but his mother ran off with a poor curate whose brother is actually a tradesman (gasp!), so their arrival doesn’t exactly go unnoticed:
Serena hastily turned her attention to the ballroom. Everyone in the room was watching them. The low murmur of conversation rose to an excited hum. At least Mrs. Elbourn looked pleasantly scandalized instead of horrified. This would make her party the talk of London. Perhaps that would be enough to keep them from being tossed out on their ears.
Solomon’s shoulders slumped. “Shall we try the buffet table? Maybe there are lobster patties.”
Serena felt warm. Was it because of all the eyes on her, or because Solomon had noticed she loved lobster patties when Antoine [the chef at her hotel] made them last week for supper?
“Whatever,” I said to myself. “It’s probably just a coincidence.”
Only now I’m working on my next book (not sold yet so I have no details, sorry!). The heroine (a middle-class widow who does her own grocery shopping, so a gift of food makes sense) doesn’t like sweets and no one can seem to remember that! And in the scene I just wrote, after their first (awesome) kiss, the hero really feels he should apologize for taking such shocking liberties, so he brings her a whole ham.
She hasn’t been able to afford a whole ham since last Christmas! (It’s just such a cute image to me, this guy ducking his head apologetically and holding out…a ham wrapped in paper.)
Okay, so maybe it’s not a coincidence. Maybe it’s a thing.
I guess, to me, coming from a Jewish/Polish family, food is more than just food? Food and cooking are family, and love, and friendship. My biggest fear when I have people over is that I won’t have enough or the right kind of food for them and they’ll be hungry. HUNGRY, AT MY HOUSE! THAT WOULD BE TERRIBLE.
Plus…isn’t it nice to have someone pay attention to you? To be so interested in you that they actually remember small details like what you like to eat, or to want to please you so much that they make the effort to find out?
There’s a point in Sense and Sensibility after Willoughby has dumped Marianne when Mrs. Jennings is trying to cheer her up:
Had not Elinor, in the sad countenance of her sister, seen a check to all mirth, she could have been entertained by Mrs. Jennings’s endeavors to cure a disappointment in love, by a variety of sweetmeats and olives, and a good fire.
When I’m heartbroken, that’s exactly what I want!
What little things mean love, to you?