Holy Viking Hotness …
… or: How to write sex with style, Part 2: The complicated cooking of a tasteful Nordic feast
As I said earlier, some recipes for yummy hotness are just proven classics and will always work with readers/viewers (e.g. hot Scot). Others may look inventive and appeal to many, but they may not be what I like (twisted billionaires).
Whenever I put on my chef’s hat to create something yummy, I use the classic ingredients and cooking techniques more than modern induction cooking with ultramodern streamlined tools. Those confuse me, technically. Give me a wood-fuelled burner, just for the comforting smell of it and lack of knobs. It all depends on what’s on the plate in the end, on whether that arrangement, smell and taste of the dish makes the reader wanna dive in and eat it all to the last scrape of the fork.
Writing/cooking-wise, a stylish (historical romance/erotica) recipe needs quality ingredients, good tastebuds of the cook, an original approach, and needs to be perfectly balanced and seasoned. I don’t know if I achieve my own standards every time, but every cook has favourite recipes s/he refines and tweaks to create something wonderful. S/he has to find her own favourite ingredients and cooking techniques, and of course, presentation on the plate for the consumer’s eye, so we need to play around with all that to see what works best.
So how did “the Vikings” become my favourite ingredient for hot, delicious dishes?
Of course, I’d say they just taste best, they have reliable quality and nutritional value (look left!), and I’ll cook them in a way that will send your tastebuds flying. Stop the metaphor. Here we go:
- The historical Vikings: I just fell for my Scandinavian folks a while ago. I admitted it here. Then my interest in the historical Vikings grew, and for years I’ve now been doing research (thank you, internet) and visited all the sites and museums I could get my hands on (and, feet into). Denmark isn’t really that far away. And Haithabu/Hedeby is even within this country’s boundaries. I plan to go back this spring and can’t wait to stand where I let my heroine’s live in the stories. Their complicated societies just fascinate me, their daily lives, crafts skills, and the raiding and trading, the system of societies. The roles and standing of women (in comparison to other societies of the time or later) appeal to me, and I play with those in my stories. They were in charge of huge households and many knew how to use a weapon or two. They could divorce a useless husband. In the sagas they even influence the fate of families and society with their strong intervention or manipulation. That’s food for stories.
And the men were (and I again play with that idea in my stories) probably overall quite adventurous, brave, and knew how to farm and fight. They were used to and relied on capable, smart women. But they have more ingredients I like for inspiration, I’m just a visual type: the simple appearance. Their clothes were wonderfully colourful and shapely (just look at my Pinterest or reenactment websites!), they loved their jewellery and a nice hairdo. And basically: they were probably taller than the average medieval people, with shapely physique and well-groomed! What do some historical accounts say about the Norsemen and others? They were appealing to women wherever they settled because of their frequent combing and washing. Can I play with those ideas in a story? You bet.
- History Channel’s visual ‘Vikings’: Yes, I’ll happily admit it. The likes (or looks) of Ragnar Lothbrok and his brother Rollo have some appeal. We need something to ignite a creative spark, don’t we? Ingredients for any story dish need to be fresh and appetising. And looks can start something (History Channel tries to be accurate — but gave those women and even the men wardrobes the size of a longship, each. Every day another costume. Well. The men didn’t always wear brown and black in those days, far from it.) Alas. Where was I?
The creative spark. For me, it ignites when I see a rough warrior on the outside but sense a flawed, lovable, normal creature inside. Rollo (above, right) can split a dozen heads with one movement, but then is found drunk in the snow and receives a bucket of ice-water, applied by his angry lover! And where else did a wife teach her husband (above, left) a lesson by flooring him with her shield? Only to let their marital dispute take a sexy direction — but not before she reined him in? It says so much about their relationship. I also mention the wonderful Floki here, the word quirky doesn’t even begin to describe him. He lacks the sturdy physique of the Lothbrok brothers, and yet we can see his appeal. And never before have the Vikings been brought to life in such a way that you can (thanks to reliable research) watch real people‘s moves on the battlefield, in the houses, on the ships, etc. and believe it’s close to their gone reality. The series doesn’t spare us the blood, smells, deaths and torture. They also don’t leave out human nature. Those visual Vikings fuss and fight, they feast and fart, they flirt and fumble and … HAVE SEX!
As if that was something they didn’t do back then, but we get to see a little of it interwoven into the seasons and it’s delightfully natural to look at (ahem, not always, just like in real life). But the Vikings’ sex-appeal is NOT a matter of cliché-laden story lines such as ‘Taken by the Viking’ (is that an actual book title? Sorry if so!) — this really is too easy and simple. I strive for more depth, want to dive into their homes and lives and see what I can make of the real ingredients that were actually there, researched. History Channel tries to do that. Plus, they created characters, women and men with a different reality from ours, whom you want to get to know and follow around.
Yes, their yummy physique doesn’t hurt the eye and inspires some dishes of the playful nature … but my cooking them isn’t about throwing a carrot and a beetroot together, let them steam and watch the pot boil over. That’s too simple a recipe and lacks good cooking technique. I do more with my ingredients than that, I hope. Which brings us to:
- MY take on both historical and visual Vikings: My writing is inspired by the above-mentioned ingredients, archaeological and cinematic, and I let those cook together and make up my own dishes. My cooking fire can be sparked by some of the ‘Vikings’-Vikings, and I added my own shape and form to the ingredients, internally, I mean. The Vikings external is fine as is ;-). I can use the reality as I picture it when I combine historical facts and creative freedom. I always try to be plausible and not serve something to readers that makes them frown and wonder what the hell this is supposed to be/taste like. And I try to avoid too-inventive ingredients. Some things just taste great, why change them and ruin the dish by trying too much?
Key is to always deliver a hearty feast. An indulgent feast. Not the two-leaves-of-salad-with-half-a-guinea-fowl-liver-to-the-side. I prefer cooking that makes your mouth water, because you know what to expect, and you know it’ll taste great and satisfy the rumbling belly.
So bring on the yummy Vikings 😉
If you enjoyed this post and want to know what I actually meant with my quirky cooking-metaphor, watch this space. I have another Viking Romance short story-novella ready and several other on the burner, so next week we’ll do a little tasting: you all get a fork and I’ll let you try a nibble here and there from what’s on the plate. To explain what I aimed for with my recipe. Not the whole dish, though — I’m not giving it all away just yet. I’m still wondering whether or not to add a little seasoning here and there. But a proper three-course-meal is almost ready for you to indulge in when the time is right!
Any comments, suggestions and feedback is welcome below, or in an email! Thanks for connecting!