Do you still have leftovers in the house? I have a serious weakness for leftover stuffing straight out of the fridge, and as I was carving a wedge out of the casserole dish last night, I tried to figure out why I love stuffing. I only eat it once a year, it's not particularly good for me, and yet when it's Thanksgiving time, I could eat a metric ton of it without stopping. It's a combination, I think, of the deliciousness, which is always agreeable, coupled with the sense memory of all the other times I've smelled and eaten stuffing - and all the other refrigerators I've covertly raided for cold leftovers. Yes, it's true, I have a thing for the fridge.

Food carries some powerful memories. There's a scene in Marie Sexton's Strawberries for Dessert wherein one of the heroes, Cole, uses his boyfriend Jon's family cookbook to make dinner for Jon and Jon's father, who is a widower. Jon is not at all sure how his father will react to Cole as Jon's new boyfriend, and is afraid that his dad's hesitation or Cole's sometimes outlandish behavior will cause a scene.

But Cole, who is a fantastic chef, uses the recipes from Jon's late mother to recreate some of the meals she used to serve her family. Jon's father takes a bite and remembers his wife, their marriage, and how much she loved her family. The scene is so touching, I teared up. It was a powerful example of how love can be communicated through food - and how love can't be defined or limited, no matter how one feels.

Food in romance can create memorable and emotional scenes. It doesn't have to be a particularly important meal, either. In my book, Everything I Know About Love, I Learned from Romance Courtney Milan says something very true about the use of food and feeding people in romance:

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Author Courtney Milan says that another way to keep a relationship healthy is to feed it - but not in the way you might think: “In every romance novel I've written to date, there is a point when the hero feeds the heroine. Nothing elaborate (at least not so far)--but so far, my guys have made their women tea (in a novella) or bought oranges and bread (in a book) or brought her tea the morning after (tea is good; have you noticed), or he's made her a hot toddy (in another).”

"Sometimes the trick to surviving the mountains of external crap that the world throws at you is to make sure that you share the little stuff."

I know it's a little gauche to quote one's own book, but I think Milan has identified some of the reasons why characters feeding one another can have a memorable impact. The intimacy of feeding someone allows characters to communicate without dialogue how they feel, and that they care. Nourishing someone is a profoundly important, simple and powerful thing to do.

In Louisa Edwards' Can't Stand the Heat, the hero is a chef of a new restaurant and the heroine is a food critic from a respected magazine. Adam, the hero, has a lot to say about why he's a chef and why cooking is important - he's a proponent of using local in-season ingredients to create a connection between people and the food they eat. One of the things I loved about Adam's character was that he was a happy alpha: he was in charge of his kitchen and took no crap from anyone (Edwards describes him as the captain of a pirate crew in the kitchen), but he wasn't angry or smoldering. Adam takes his job as a chef seriously, but he also finds so much joy and importance in what he cooks:

Food is personal. It should be personal. Dining is an intimate experience, and I want to close the gap between diners and food producers. This is nothing new….I refuse to cook boring food….No, more than that. I refuse to cook empty food, pretty presentations with no substance, all flash and no heart. I don't want to impress you. I want to nourish you."

Adam was talking about a restaurant - his restaurant, in fact - but the idea of dining as an intimacy can be present in any situation where characters cook for and nourish one another. It's a quietly enormous way to care for someone, and in romance, it underscores the many forms of intimacy that readers hope to discover in each novel.

What scenes of food in romance are most memorable for you? Which meal in a romance would you most enjoy eating?

Sarah Wendell is the co-creator, editor and mastermind of the popular romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.