Exotic, Erotic Spices by Karis Walsh

Wingspan 300 DPICongratulations to Cynda! She’s the winner of Wingspan by Karis Walsh.

You know what I love most about being a part of Women and Words? I get to hang out with my friends online and share their thoughts with y’all.

Today, my friend Karis Walsh stopped in to give us her take on the importance of food in romance. She has a new release from Bold Strokes Books called Wingspan.

Exciting news! Karis is giving away a copy of Wingspan here at Women and Words, winner’s choice between a signed paperback and ebook. Leave a comment about how awesome Karis is and that will enter you in the drawing. 🙂 I’ll draw the winner this Friday, 2/28.

Until then, you can learn more about Karis online HERE. Or hang with her on facebook HERE. And buy her books HERE.

Exotic, Erotic Spices
by Karis Walsh

Cooking is my preferred form of therapy. It’s cheaper than paying a psychiatrist to feign interest in my problems. And, end result, instead of being left with a shitload of no-longer-repressed issues, I’m left with dinner on the table. There’s something about gathering ingredients and melding them together in my kitchen that lifts my spirits. It distracts my mind and occupies my meandering thoughts during those early afternoon hours when my personal biorhythms take a plunge and I’m prone to homesickness or worries. I have a variety of therapy styles from which to choose—comforting baked bread, invigorating healthy food, soothing soups and stews. My favorite? Curry.

Cumin, coriander, turmeric. These are some of the scents that enticed voyagers to climb aboard rickety ships and sail to what they thought were the literal ends of the earth. They fill our homes with heat and fire the imagination, whisking us away to unfamiliar and exotic worlds. I love the lack of structure or rules for curries. I can choose any combination of spices, any level of depth or complexity I want. I can spend six hours on a homemade curry paste for Thai green curry chicken, or use a pre-mixed curry spice blend and store-bought ingredients to whip up a last-minute, but delicious, meal. I can follow recipes to the letter, or make it up as I go along. Freedom, focus, food.

(Side not: the curry paste wouldn’t have taken quite as long if I hadn’t cut myself three times in the process—including grating some of my thumb with the lime zest and slicing off half my fingernail when I chopped cilantro. It took time to staunch the bleeding.)

cilantro
Chopping cilantro. A dangerous job…

Curry provides good relationship therapy, as well. On a daily basis, when all is well, shared meals bring us closer together. Spices and interesting flavors, new tastes and combinations, provide a spark for interesting conversations. And when relationships are strained? Well, we all have to eat, even if we’re in the middle of a fight. Sometimes just sitting down together for a meal, passing bowls of rice or plates of naan, gives us a sense of connection even in times of disconnect. Maybe those short sentences—the polite but brief pleases and thank yous—are the only ones we spoke to each other all day, but they’re civil and home-y and remind us that we are, no matter what, a family. Maybe we linger at the table after the food is consumed and talk about our feelings and needs, enveloped in the dinner table’s atmosphere of comfort and good smells and satisfying flavors. Maybe our problems no longer seem so huge when discussed in the context of world-wide flavors.

Thaicurry
…but worth the effort and loss of blood!

I like having my characters share meals in my romances. Not necessarily in the “smear her with fudge sauce and whipped cream and two carefully placed cherries” kind of way. (Although….Yum.) But in a normal, sit-down-for-a-meal way. Food is sensual, but everyday. It connects two people in contexts that are believable and relatable to readers. In my new novel, Wingspan, Ken and Bailey eat together three different times. The food is secondary, but the development of their connection is key. In their first lunch, they’re with other people and each is stressed by the situation for a different reason. But as the meal unfolds, they both shift their focus off themselves and onto each other. Empathy grows as the food disappears, and they start acting and feeling like a team, a partnership. The second time they eat together is a private, shared meal. A wild, outdoor setting and simple food wraps them in a cocoon—albeit still tentative—of intimacy.

I enjoy spending hours in the kitchen and creating sometimes elaborate dishes, but Bailey’s ramen noodles—something she makes for Ken when they go hiking—would definitely be among my top ten favorite meals if I had to choose. A packet of ramen, a spoonful of peanut butter, and a healthy squirt of sriracha chili sauce.Killer.Pennies to make, satisfying to eat. Nothing fancy, but something shared. Easy and exotic and hot, it leads to a connection Ken and Bailey hadn’t experienced before. A little erotic, a lot vulnerable.

Ah, curry. Once the catalyst for adventure and exploration, but now as close as your local grocery store. Lemongrass and ginger root and garam masala get tossed in your shopping cart, and suddenly a web of connection forms between continents, cultures, and tablemates. Eyes watering from the scent of Thai chilies, taste buds salivating as garlic and spices sizzle in hot oil. Conversations flowing along with the wine or beer or water you drink to quench (or stoke?) the fire.

What’s cooking in your kitchen this weekend?

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67 comments

  1. Wow! With a simply blog, you pressed pause on my morning and created a beautiful and evocative setting. I can’t wait to read more.

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  2. love food, am a foodie and love good food in books — this weekend if I am very lucky maybe there will be the first fresh local asparagus on the farmers market, yum. Just buying fresh produce and create from scratch otherwise.

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  3. Karis, I’ve told you before I’m a big fan of yours. I’m glad to have a chance to win your book and hopefully to meet you at GCLS. Hope Texas is treating you well. Cindy

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  4. As one who incorporates food and eating quite a bit in her work, I can totally relate to your sense of therapy about it all, and using it as a way to explore your characters. To me, it makes perfect sense because eating is something that everyone does, across all cultures. There is no one who can do without it.

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    • Exactly, R.G. I love when I read a book and can imagine sitting down for a meal with the people in it. What they’d be like, what they’d say, what they’d cook (or scoop out of a fast-food container). It’s a universal way to connect.

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  5. Thanks for the blog post, Karis. I have enjoyed your work in the past and look forward to this new one. An as for what is cooking: one of the downsides of my life at the moment is that I am not cooking like I used to. Your post reminded me how much I enjoy being creative with spices when I cook. May have to carve out that time this weekend. Thanks!

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    • I’d be thrilled if my blog inspired you to dig into your spice rack again, Anita! I’m back in the kitchen after a loooong span of eating little except frozen meals and packaged convenience foods. I missed the creative and grounding aspects of cooking, but it’s not always easy to find the time or energy for it.

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  6. Karis,
    I have enjoyed all your writings… I love the using cooking as therapy. Aromas from spices have always evoked my memories…. Cardamon reminds me of Christmas and my Mother baked Swedish coffee breads!

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  7. Mmmm! Curry sounds delicious right about now! As a kid, I was always excited when my parents went to the bakery to buy french bread because it meant we were eating curry. Now I make my own curry but I’m just as excited. I’m glad to meet a fellow curry lover.

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  8. Hey Karis! I’ve proofread all of your books and I have to say Wingspan has been my favorite one! It would be too cool to win a signed copy! 🙂 I look forward to your next manuscript; you are an extremely talented writer 🙂 Congratulations on your writing career.

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    • Thank you so much, Sandi! And thank you for the wonderful work you do ~ I wouldn’t be where I am today as a writer without such high quality staff helping along the way, from editors to artists to you amazing proofreaders. I’m very glad to hear that Wingspan is your favorite!!

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  9. Sharing a meal is such a normal, social activity. I think your use of meals in your books makes your characters so believable…nice touch!

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    • Thank you, Denee! I like putting my characters in contexts ~ like eating together ~ that are familiar and everyday. They’re real people in my head, and I like them to feel the same way on the page 🙂

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  10. I recently read Mounting Danger, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to reading Wingspan. I use cooking to relieve my stress. Tonight I’m making chorizo black bean pumpkin soup.

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed Mounting Danger, Nancy. I’m working on a sequel now 🙂
      Your soup sounds quite tasty! Pumpkin is a wonderful ingredient, delicious in so many dishes besides just pie.

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  11. I feel warmed up here in the freezing Northeast–and a little hungry-lol.I enjoy food in books.
    I’m looking forward to reading this.

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    • Hot, spicy food is perfect for those cold winter nights! Just the thing to warm you up from the inside out.
      I hope you enjoy Wingspan. Thank you for posting, Sharon 🙂

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  12. Great blog, Karis! I cook bc, well, I must eat. I am not a fan of the kitchen, but I love grilling. One thing I loved about Wingspan was how Ken turned making sandwiches into art. Never thought of a sandwich like that…all about perspective.

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    • Thank you, Cynda! Ken is such a visual person ~ even with her food 🙂 I love that about her.
      I should venture out of the kitchen and toward an outdoor grill on the upcoming warm Texas evenings. It’s not a cooking medium I use much, but I love the smoky, dark taste of grilled pizza.

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  13. My wife uses the kitchen for therapy as well. (I think I reap more benifits then she does) She made a homemade curry not that long ago, and it has made it into the rotation many times since.

    I would love to inspire her with a copy 😉

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  14. Great post about food and cooking. I’ll have to try that ramen recipe! It was interesting to read about how your characters share connections over food in Wingspan. I’ve been looking forward to reading it. If I remember correctly, there was a fair bit of cooking in Harmony as well.

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  15. Great blog!! Now I’m hungry and want some grilled asparagus. Hope the finger healed…was one big bandage. Ouch!

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