The Food of Love
Deleted scene Cyrano de Bergerac
In early drafts, Bruno and Laura meet for the first time immediately after her first meal with Tommaso. I eventually decided that Bruno should already be in love with Laura before the book started, from having watched her in the market, so the scene became redundant. And I was in any case never sure whether it was necessary to be explicit about the fact that Laura ultimately finds Tommaso a rather unfulfilling lover… Still, I always liked this scene, which originally ended the book’s second section:
His body next to hers was far too hot, his snoring a grating irritation in her ear. She sighed, and her thoughts returned to the supper. My God, it had been good. That zabaglione, in particular, a warm, delicate spume of egg yolk and rich wine… heavenly.
Better than the sex, in fact.
She suddenly realised she felt hungry. In some strange way, her lack of sexual fulfilment was translating itself into a craving for another spoonful of Tomasso’s fantastic zabaglione.
She swung her legs out of bed. There was a T-shirt over the back of the chair and she pulled it on. Then she padded out of Tomasso’s bedroom towards the kitchen.
Everything was dark. She could just make out the shape of the fridge, and she pulled open the door. In the sudden white fluorescence she could see a glass bowl of the golden-brown zabaglione on the top shelf. She pulled the bowl towards her, cradling it, scooped her hand in, and sucked the sweet froth straight off her fingers.
She reached into the bowl again.
A young man was standing by the window, his face in shadow. She shrieked, and dropped the bowl.
“I’m sorry,” he added in low murmur. “Did I startle you?”
She recovered herself. “Yes. A bit.”
“I’ll get a cloth.”
He took something from the sink and knelt down to wipe the mess off the floor. As he did so she got a better look at him. He had a heavy, rather sleepy face. It was unmistakably Italian, but where Tomasso had the high cheekbones and big, pretty eyes of a Renaissance angel, his roommate was thickset and solid.
“I’m Laura,” she said.
“I know. How was your supper?”
For some reason she felt herself blushing in the near-darkness. “Oh, supper was magnificent. First rate. I couldn’t sleep, that’s all.”
“Indigestion?” he asked, concerned.
“Oh no,” she assured him. “Just – well, insomnia, I suppose.”
“I know what you need.” He lifted a bottle of wine out of the fridge door and poured her half a glass.
“I shouldn’t, ” she said. “I’ve drunk too much already.”
“We have a saying in Italy. ‘Anni, amori e bicchieri de vino, nun se contento mai.’”
“‘Three things can never be counted,'” she translated hesitantly. “‘Years, lovers, and glasses of wine?'”
“Exactly.” He handed her the glass. “It will settle your stomach, honestly. Cin!”
“Cin,” she said, drinking. He was right: the wine made her feel better.
“And some bread,” he said, tearing a crust off a loaf. “You need some carbohydrate after so much rich food.”
She took the bread and nibbled it. She felt him watching her.
“Tomasso is a fine fellow,” he said quietly.
“A good friend.”
“I know he thinks a lot of you.”
For an instant she had the feeling that this strange, quiet roommate of Tomasso’s knew all about her evening – about the dinner, and the sex, and the waking up unsatisfied. “Yes,” she said. “And it must be wonderful living with such a talented chef.”
Bruno sighed. “Yes, Tomasso is a lucky chap. And I’m lucky too, to live with him.”
Laura finished her biscuit. “Well, I’m off to bed,” she said. “It’s nice to have met you.”
He inclined his head. “And you.”
“Aren’t you going to bed?”
“Soon. When I have washed some of these dishes. Tomasso is,” he hesitated, “let’s just say washing up is not his strong point. And I’m not really tired.”
On an impulse she stepped forward and kissed him on the cheek. “Goodnight then, Tomasso’s friend.”
“Goodnight, Laura,” he said, and there was a note of sadness in his voice that she didn’t quite comprehend.
It was, of course, a remarkable irony. Of the two people standing in that little kitchen, the one who fell head over heels in love that night was the one who had not eaten so much as a mouthful of that sensuous lover’s feast.
Cyrano de Bergerac
The Food of Love is partly a modern-day retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac, one of the greatest romantic tragi-comedies of all time. In this play, written by Edmund Rostand, Cyrano is brave, witty and a brilliant swordsman, but he is also the possessor of a grotesquely large nose.
Cyrano is in love with his cousin, the beautiful Roxanne, but does not dare tell her so because he fears the humiliation of being rejected. Instead, he agrees to help his friend Christian de Neuvillette woo her. Christian is as tongue-tied as Cyrano is witty, but with Cyrano’s coaching Christian succeeds in marrying Roxanne.
The Count de Guiche is a nobleman who wants to possess Roxanne himself. He therefore arranges to have her new husband sent off to fight at Arras, and betrays his whole regiment so that he can be sure of Christian’s death.
Meanwhile, Cyrano is writing love letters to Roxanne in Christian’s name. Roxanne is so moved that she comes to the front line to tell Christian how much she loves him. However, Christian now realises that Roxanne’s real love is not for him but for the sentiments Cyrano has expressed in his letters. He tells Cyrano that they must let Roxanne choose for herself which one of them she will love – but before this can happen, Christian is killed in battle. Roxanne, heartbroken at the loss of her eloquent, passionate lover, flees to a convent.
Many years later, the Count de Guiche arranges to have Cyrano killed, as revenge for his part in allowing Roxanne to escape the Count’s clutches. Cyrano dies in front of Roxanne. He asks her to read Christian’s last letter to her, which she has kept next to her heart all these years. When he recites it, from memory, along with her, she finally realises that it was Cyrano who truly loved her.