Thursday, December 26, 2019

Christmas, Romance, and Food

Christmas celebrations are known for all kinds of foods – main courses, baked goods like pies and cakes, cookies (especially cookies), and more. It’s no surprise that food will often play a role in Christmas romance stories.

It may be food at big family gatherings. It may the food at Christmas dinners and lunches with work colleagues. It may the food featured at holiday time in cafes and restaurants. It may also be date meals for the hero and heroine.

In food romances and Christmas food romances, authors will also often include a recipe or two at the end, suggesting a real-world connection to a romance novel. Occasionally, the reader might be forgiven for suspecting that the story actually was inspired by the recipe. 

Here are two examples of Christmas romance novels that use food in very different ways (but both have a recipe at the end). 

The Christmas Cookie House by Jennifer Griffith

In The Christmas Cookie House by Jennifer Griffith, Leela Miller is a 20-somethig determined to keep her mother’s Christmas legacy alive. That legacy was largely based on work each Christmas on a fundraising event for the local ladies’ auxiliary – the Christmas Cookie House where thousands of homemade cookies are sold. The event is always held at the home of the auxiliary chairwoman, Una Mae Coldicott. Except this year, Una Mae plans to deep-six the event; she won’t have it at her home any longer and no one is stepping up to take charge. Leela does, even though she’s only a provisional member.

The ideal place to have the event would be the old Layton mansion, now owned by Jay Wilson, a newly minted veterinarian who is interested only in selling the mansion as fast as possible to get the funds needed to buy a veterinary partnership. Things between Jay and Leela seem to start off on a bad footing, when he discovers her trying to look into a back window of the house and instead falling into a bed of roses. Jay has to achieve one condition for the house in his uncle’s will – to sort through everything in the attic. It’s a lot to sort, and to speed access to the house for the cookie fundraiser, Leela volunteers to help.

We know where this is likely headed. But can the growing romance endure Jay’s desire to sell the house and move to another town? We’re not sure how this story will end, but Leela’s gingersnap cookies certainly won’t hurt (recipe at the end).

Keep Me at Christmas by Lucinda Whitney

Keep Me at Christmas is one of Lucinda Whitney’s novel series about the Romano family. Luciana Romano, partially to escape wedding activities for her cousins and comments about her own wed-less condition, agrees to be a last-minute substitute for a museum curation project in Hudson Springs, New York. She flies from her native Portugal to New York, to help the museum prepare for an exhibit of local 19th century textiles, and historical textiles in Luciana’s specialty. Arriving too early for her room to be ready at the local inn, she’s dropped off by the taxi driver at the Italian café and bakery operated by Jack DiLorenzo, his mother, and his grandmother. 

Two years after his fiancé broke off their engagement, on Christmas Day, no less, Jack is determined to date no one; the hurt was too great. And then Luciana walks into the café. Food becomes the initial bond; readers may gain weight simply by reading about all of the mouth-watering foods served by the café – paninis, traditional Italian dishes, desserts, and more, not to mention the hot chocolate drinks with real chocolate. (The recipe featured at the end, however, is one Jack makes for Luciana, and it’s the Portuguese dish of sweet rice, a kind of risotto pudding.)

Jack has to overcome his reluctance to take a risk on love; Luciana, no matter how strongly she’s attracted to Jack, knows that a long-distance relationship won’t likely work. She’s has only two weeks in Hudson Springs, until a snowstorm delays her return to Portugal.

Top photograph by Brooke Lark via Unsplash. Used with permission.

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