With: Magnolia Smith
One of my favorite scenes in my new romantic suspense novel, Tell Me No Lies involves figs, chocolate covered figs to be precise. For thousands of years, cultures around the world have considered this fruit a visual aphrodisiac based on the fact that when unpeeled the fig looks like a certain part of the male genitalia, and when split open, bears an uncanny resemblance to the female's- ahem - private parts. Because the fig provides visual stimulation in the same way a sexy image might, you could say, that figs are food porn, literally.
And of course modern scientist have discovered that chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine and serotonin, which are both "feel-good" chemicals. They occur naturally in our bodies and are released by our brains when we are happy or feeling loving or passionate. It produces a euphoric feeling, that mimics the human physical expression of love.
In addition to those two chemicals, researchers at the Neuroscience Institute in San Diego, California, say that chocolate may also contain substances that have the same effect on the brain as marijuana. The substance is a neurotransmitter called anandamide. The amount of anandamide in chocolate is not enough to provide the "high" commonly associated with using marijuana, but it could be enough to contribute to the good feelings that serotonin and phenyl ethylamine produce.
With the inclusion of chocolate-covered figs in Tell Me No Lies, you might guess that the scene is a romantic one. It is. But it's not a sex scene. It is, however, sensual. And important. The conversation held while the heroine prepares the chocolate-covered figs is pivotal to the romantic arc of Tell Me No Lies main characters, Rain and Kael.
I suppose I could have had Rain roasting oysters, grilling asparagus or slicing beets, because they are all aphrodisiacs too. But as an author, a self-professed foodie, and an actual food blogger, I select the food and beverage I use in my stories with great care. Though aphrodisiacs, the aforementioned foods do not provide the right image or set the sensual tone I desire. Because I view the food and beverages my characters consume in my stories as a prop, one that helps to develop their character and enhance the scene, nothing is left to chance.
Does it surprise you to know that I and other writer use food and beverages as props in their stories? Writers have a responsibility to their readers to do more than just tell a story, and paint a vivid picture. The writer is also tasked with creating a three-dimensional world in which the reader can experience the story through all of the senses. Using food is just one of the ways in which I endeavor to create this world for my reader.
Figs bring to mind ancient cultures, exotic women lounging on chaises as they're being fed figs by their servants. Hot sands, balmy breezes, flashing dark eyes and secret rendezvous... Whispered secrets, stolen kisses and fevered caresses. Or at least, that's what I think of...And melted dark chocolate? Luxurious, velvety-feeling sweetest that provides an immediate rush of happiness.
Why choose figs and chocolate over other aphrodisiacal food? Together they almost provide stimulation overload and that too provides accurate symbology for the scene I wrote. Let us not forget that chocolate and figs are divine together. The taste of some foods, especially the juxtaposition of sweet against complex smoky bittersweet can transport the eater to mystical places. Tracing the outlines of a voluptuous fig can provide tactile sensations. Even the sound of your teeth breaking into the hard shell of the chocolate only to sink into the soft, moist honeyed flesh of the fig can be arousing. Therefor, chocolate-covered figs stimulate all of our traditional senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste.
To give you a little background on the scene, Kael Brady is a guy with secrets. He can't tell anyone about his job. He's an assassin. He's afraid to tell the woman he loves, that he has particular sexual interests. He likes it rough. His life is all lies and secrets, and his dishonesty even unintentional almost cost him the woman he loves. But I digress. He's convinced himself that he can be with her and not frighten her away with the intensity of his passions... by keeping it "missionary, for" her sake.
It is a challenge for him to deny his carnal wants. It's a big part of him, one he's not use to suppressing and it takes a Herculean effort for him to do so. But for her? He's playing it straight as an arrow. Kael would buy Rain the moon if she asked. He'd do anything to prove to her he loves her, do anything to make her feel safe... However, the result is that inside he's seething with desire for her and the tension between them is thicker than molasses on a winter's day
But then she surprises him.
This is that scene. But only an excerpt!
“I’ve been thinking about…” she began, her voice soft and husky. She stopped stirring and turned to look at me. “I bought a book.”
Something in her voice caused a thrill of excitement to run up and down my spine. “What kind of book?”
She turned to face the stove again. “The Marquis de Sade wrote it.” She said it so softly, it was almost as if I’d imagined it.
The Marquis de Sade? I had antique copies of his works in the library at my farmhouse. But she couldn’t know that. “Which one? He wrote several.”
She didn’t answer and I could only stare at her, intrigued and confused. The word sadism, the act of deriving pleasure from pain, was derived from his name. He was a French aristocrat known for his erotic yet violent writings. Eventually he was imprisoned and determined mentally insane because of his promotion of violent sex.
Why would she read one of his books, unless…my heart thumped loudly against my chest.
“Justine,” she finally said. “And then Juliet. I suppose they are the tamest of his works.”
I stood. I had to see her face. “Why would you buy those books, baby?”
She removed the pot from the stove, placing it on a wooden cutting board. “I wanted to understand.” Her fingers still curled around the pot handle, and I saw that her hands trembled. “Pain as pleasure, pleasure as pain. I feel like you’re keeping something from me. I want to understand you, Kael. I want to know you.”
She’d noticed. And I’d thought I’d done such a good job. “What do you think I’m hiding?”
She avoided my eyes, instead went to the refrigerator and pulled out a tray of fresh figs. Her back to me again, she turned on the cold water.
She looked at me over her shoulder, her bottom lip trapped between her teeth. She shrugged, an expression of hopelessness on her face. “The book?”
I moved closer to her. “What about it?”
She gently washed each fig and placed it on the counter. “It was titillating.” She kept her gaze forward. “But I don’t understand it…in practical terms.”
I swallowed hard. “What did you understand?”
She selected the first plump fig, held it gently by its stem and looked at me. “That some people are turned on by other people’s pain.”
I could feel the darkness welling in me. “And?”
She dipped the fig into the chocolate, rolled it around in it until it was covered, dripping with thick brown sauce.
“It’s sick,” she whispered. “Disgusting.” She placed the fig on a rectangular tray covered by a sheet of parchment and reached for the next fig.
“And yet you found it titillating.”
Yeah, so that's the chocolate-covered fig scene. Like I said, it's only a tiny part of their conversation, but it gives you the general idea. Rain goes on to actually make the figs, she and Kael finish their tête-à-tête, and... well, you'll have to read the book to find out what happens next.
But, I can give you the recipe for the chocolate covered figs that Rain makes in my novel, Tell Me No Lies. There is an addition to the recipe provided - coarse sea salt and rosewater. Rain doesn't use either in her recipe in the scene, but if I could go back and rewrite the scene she would. Because roses are also an aphrodisiac. Not just symbolic of romance, roses effect our auditory and visual senses. But you already knew that. But did you know they also contain phenyl ethylamine, one of the feel-good chemicals found in chocolate?
Chocolate-covered figs are enough. Tastes delicious. Looks beautiful. Gets you in the mood. But the addition of the sea salt and the rosewater just takes it to the next level!
See for yourself.
• 1 Dark Chocolate Bar. (The percentage of cocoa should be 75% or higher.)
• 2 Tbs Coconut Oil, cold pressed, unrefined.
• 8-10 fresh figs, washed and dried
• Coarse ground sea salt
• 1/4 teaspoon of rosewater
1. Place large pot of water and turn oven on to a medium heat. Place smaller pot inside the larger one.
2. Add chocolate and coconut oil to smaller pot and stir gently as it melts.
3. Fold in the rosewater to taste.
4. As soon as the chocolate is melted and thoroughly mixed with the coconut oil and rosewater, holding the fig by its stem, slowly lower the fruit into the pot and dip into the chocolate.
5. Place the dipped figs on a parchment-lined plate.
6. Once all the figs have been dipped, sprinkle with sea salt and place them in the freezer to set. Freezing usually takes about 20 minutes and then can then be stored in the fridge.
7. Allow the chocolate to cool and harden completely before serving.
I love to write about food and wine, and I incorporate both liberally into my novels, like Tell Me No Lies published by Samhain Publishing on May 17, 2016. Tell Me No Lies the beginning of The Black Orchid series which follows sexy, kinky assassins… (wait for it…) and the women who love them.
I have to warn you, the heat level in Tell Me No Lies is mighty hot with elements of BDSM. Oh, okay… it is scorching hot. But if you can stand the heat… click on my Books page for more details.