In Nicola Griffith's Hild there's a scene where two sisters in seventh century Britain are making butter. It was perfect. It made me stop reading and whoop out loud, startling the dog. Griffith ties the sensory beauty and details of scene (That bare arm holding back the cream!) to the forward movement of her plot. How great is that?
Because that's the problem—as we research for our novels, we gather up all these facts but then don't get to use them unless we can wrap them tight around the plot. I, for instance, know the many uses of raccoon penis bones, but did not get to include them anywhere in the novel. Really, I tried, but it just didn't work. But it works, over and over again, in Hild.