Today, we’re interviewing R.G. Emanuelle, who was not only one of the contributing authors of our anthology All You Can Eat, but also one of its editors. So let’s see what R.G. had to say about her story, “Smorgasbord,” and the art of writing food romances.
Can you tell us a little bit about the story you contributed to All You Can Eat?
“Smorgasbord” is about an artist, Renee, who uses food as both her medium and subject. She’s been commissioned by Culinary Arts magazine to do a special project for them, but she’s completely uninspired. That is, until she meets Delilah, a food columnist, at an art show and sparks fly between them. Delilah entices her with her humor and culinary skills, while Renee impresses Delilah with her artistic creativity and use of food. Renee gets an idea for her project and recruits Delilah to help her. Art comes together in very real and tasty ways.
What sparked the idea for this short story?
A bunch of years ago, when I was still going out to clubs (ah, the memories), I went out one night with some friends to a place in Manhattan that had several different rooms on a couple of floors. Each room had different music, a different vibe, and sometimes different entertainment. On this particular night, a performance artist was there and her piece was called “Mindy with Fruit.” Mindy was the canvas. She was lying down on a table with (I think) chocolate sauce spread over her. Everyone was invited to pick up a piece of fruit and scoop up some chocolate from Mindy’s body. I thought it was interesting and when it came time to write my story, I remembered that and found a way to expand on the human-body-as-canvas concept.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “The way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach?” Does that hold true in your story too?
Absolutely! Food plays an integral part in both these women’s lives (and livelihoods), and it’s what brings them together. Their desire is captured in Renee’s art and the food serves as a metaphor for their growing attraction.
Do you have any personal experience with cooking or the food business, or did you have to do research for your story?
That’s what’s fun about this for me. I went to culinary school, had a personal chef business for a while, and have been a food writer for years. I love food and I get real enjoyment from sharing my knowledge—which is what inspired me to write my novella, Add Spice to Taste, starring a chef, and why I’m launching a novella series, also starring a chef (but a different chef). I love food and I love working with it in so many ways. And readers who enjoy All You Can Eat can look forward to more projects in that vein.
“Foodie” romance is a growing niche in romantic fiction. What do you think makes romantic stories featuring food and cooking so popular with readers?
There’s a visceral pleasure in food. It engages all the senses—taste, smell, touch, hearing, and sight—and everyone has a favorite. Everyone is moved by one or more of these senses. Whether it’s the taste of sugar, the smell of jasmine tea, the feel of whipped cream on a strawberry, the sound of brittle crackling between your teeth, or the sight of a Black Forest Cake, everyone is seduced by something. Seduction by food mimics seduction within sex: the initial appeal, the excitement of anticipation, the thrilling consummation—whether frenzied and passionate or slow and appreciative—and, in the end, the sense of satisfaction and contentment. (Well, assuming that the food and sex were good.)
Can you tell us a bit about the project you’re currently working on, just to whet our appetite?
I’m very excited to launch the first book in a novella series. It’s in editing now and I expect to release it within the next couple of months. I can’t tell you the title because it’s still tentative and I don’t want to put anything out there that may change, but I’ll tell you a bit about it. The main character is a chef—very different from the one in Add Spice to Taste, with a different background, different history, and a very different lifestyle. Her name is Delphine Bouchard and she is a celebrity chef with an enormously successful restaurant. She lives a high-profile life, yet harbors a dark secret that only a select few know about. It’s because of this secret that someone attempts to sabotage her business, and goes as far as committing murder. In the midst of trying to figure out who keeps gunning for her (is it the food critic who hates her and is out to get her?), she gets involved with a woman who harbors a similar secret and tries to squelch her fear of getting hurt.
What’s your favorite food, your least favorite food, and the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Favorite: That’s hard because I enjoy so many foods and so many cuisines. My go-to comfort food is my mother’s butternut squash and beans. It’s an Italian dish that I grew up with and it’s what I crave all winter long. I also love vegetable chow fun and Thai pad see ew, both of which use wide, fat rice noodles. Yum.
Least favorite: I can’t even look at organ meats, let alone contemplate eating them.
Strangest thing I’ve ever eaten: I think I’d have to say fried crickets. It’s a delicacy in Mexico and during my Mexican cuisine class in school, the instructor decided to “treat” us to some authentic snacks.
If you ruled the world, what food would be the currency?
Wow, interesting question. I’ll say salt. It’s easily packaged and can be carried around and traded. In fact, salt actually was once used as currency (peppercorns, too). That’s where we get the expression “the price of salt.” It livens food up and brings out its flavorful components, and often makes inedible food palatable (hey, sometimes you have to eat what’s in front of you, you know?). Even sweet things need a bit of salt—ever have caramel and sea salt ice cream? It’s part of our bodies. Salt has been vilified by the medical community but, really, what would we do without it?
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions in such an interesting way, R.G.! By the way, I’ll have butternut squash for dinner tonight, and I agree that it’s so tasty!
Thanks for reading the interview and have a nice Sunday, everyone!