Thursday, September 25, 2014

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Andi O'Connor, Author of Redemption

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20898192-redemption



When I agreed to write a post for But What Are They Eating I must admit I was a tad overwhelmed. I am working on three different series simultaneously, and all three could easily have a post. So, how did I make my final decision? Well, there wasn’t any deep, thought-provoking way I went about it. To be honest, I did eeny-meeny-miney-mo.

*hangs my head in shame*

I suppose I really shouldn’t. I mean, we all have those moments, right ...... right?

Regardless of how I made my decision, I chose my short story Redemption from the series The Legacy of Ilvania. Because it’s a short story, I didn’t delve into what the main character Jae is eating. Nevertheless, what he eats, more specifically what he doesn’t eat, plays a crucial role in his life and greatly influenced what he is today.

At the age of sixteen, Jae’s parents sold him to the Mé’Draak.

A fighting force able to wield powerful magic, the Mé’Draak are Ilvania’s most revered defenders. Having a son chosen to join their forces is considered a high honor. But in the College where the recruits are trained, it quickly becomes apparent that the Mé’Draak are nothing to be commended. For the young boys aren’t students. They’re slaves.

Put in tiny, cramped cells and given thin rags to wear, they spend their days huddled against the damp stone walls, dreading the moment a key turns in the lock and they are taken to their session. Unlike a normal school, the boys don’t learn to call upon their magic through instruction. They learn through pain.

Twice daily, each student is taken to their session. Their trainer attacks them with lightning, the most common spell of the Mé’Draak. The boys quickly learn to raise their magical shields in defense, or they die. For those who survive the first onslaught, the attacks increase in strength until the pupil falls unconscious from the strain or they are driven to the point where anger and resentment take control. Defending is no longer an option. They turn their energy around and attack. They’re broken. They’re a Mé’Draak.

So far, I haven’t talked at all about food, but you can probably imagine what I’m about to say isn’t going to be pleasant. As I mentioned earlier, the food given to the boys at the College plays an integral role in their Breaking. In order for the method of training to work, they need to be completely demoralized. They aren’t given any kindness or compassion. They aren’t given time to socialize. But above all, they aren’t given food.

Jae grew up on a farm. He was used to hearty, simple cooking. But he was also one of eleven children and a poor family. Meals need to consist of a few cheap ingredients and feed a lot of mouths. Soups and stews were what his mother cooked most often. Potatoes, squash, and root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips transformed into hearty stews that somehow always managed to taste different. Sliced cabbage, potatoes, and carrots made a light soup which was one of Jae’s favorites. Squash pies were his favorite food in the fall, and for the hotter summer months, he enjoyed lightly fried squash and zucchini tossed with rice. Once a month, Jae’s father would trade some vegetables grown on the farm for meat from the local butcher. Jae looked forward to that time of the month with baited breath.

Jae was never hungry, but he also never truly knew what it was like to be full. Nevertheless, when he arrived at the College, he quickly learned what it was like to starve.

The Master doesn’t want the boys to be healthy. He doesn’t want them to be strong. The quicker they become weak, both mentally and physically, the quicker they will be Broken. He wants them to have no willpower left to resist.

Part of how that’s achieved is by feeding the boys next to nothing. Jae thought he was hallucinating when he was served his first meal—if you could call it that. A tiny wooden tray smaller than an average plate was plopped in front of him. On it was a half a slide of bread and a small cup of light yellow broth. No vegetables. No rice. No meat. Broth.

Jae devoured the food in seconds and spend the rest of the day reassuring himself the next meals of the day would be more substantial. To his dismay, he received only one more meal that day. And it was exactly the same.

Still, the Master realized there needed to be some concession on his part, otherwise the boys would die of starvation before he’d even have a chance to break them. Once a week, he let the boys receive three meals. The first two were the same as every other day; bread and broth. The third consisted of a slice of roasted meat, boiled potatoes, and a roll.

When Jae arrived at the College, he was fit and muscular. Five months after eating the Master’s prescribed diet, he was emaciated beyond recognition. If not for that one special meal a week, he would have forgotten the taste of food.

Food is an essential part of our lives. Many of us take it for granted and fail to recognize how much we depend on it mentally and physically. Redemption reminds us how easily that can change. How easily something affects us when it’s wrenched away. Does Jae learn how to survive the torture of the Mé’Draak? Can he continue to hold on to who he is before it’s too late?


Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Andi!



You can find Andi here:





Friday, September 19, 2014

FOODFIC: Noggin - John Corey Whaley

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18049084-noggin



Noggin starts with Travis Coates waking up. Not from something as simple as a nap, nor as extensive as a coma; Travis has been cryogenically frozen for 5 years. More specifically, his head has been on ice all that time, waiting for a donor body (and medical advances) to facilitate his revival.

Now you know that I need to know how that old-mouth-to-new-digestive-tract connection works.  Well, we don’t get to see Travis ingest anything until his father brings him home. That first night back, Dad makes him eggs – which go down just fine – and no follow-up statements or inquiries are made to suggest any meal since the wake-up have gone otherwise. There’s no mention of any food or drink in the hospital at all, and though I know it’s possible for Travis to have subsisted there on IV fluid, they surely wouldn’t have discharged him without testing that new fused esophagus!

So I have to pause in my reading to flesh out the stages in my own mind: transitioning from an IV to water and juice, maybe moving on to Jell-O, then applesauce, brothy soups for lunch, mushy oatmeal for breakfast, etc. I imagine Travis graduating from one level to a denser, chewier one each day until presumably summiting at some clinical version of beef and potatoes. And all quite unremarkably, or we’d have been told otherwise, right?

Okay, now I can return to the story already in progress. And I find that, unfortunately, Travis’s social assimilation back into the world doesn’t go as smoothly as the digestive part did. Reconnecting with his parents is easy, sure, but his old best friends don’t even come to visit him in the hospital. Of course, they’re now 21 while he’s still only 16, so their lifestyles have certainly diverged. Travis hasn’t changed at all (except that he’s no longer battling the terminal cancer that forced him to opt for the radical surgery); he feels like he’s merely been asleep for a few days.

In stark contrast, his (ex?) girlfriend has moved on so far that she’s now engaged to another guy. Okay, I can see her reluctance to rush to Travis’s bedside, but what excuse could the male best friend have for staying away? Luckily (for us, not him, obviously) Travis is as confused as we are, so this progression is graciously served up bite by bite, making this Noggin’s bizarre premise quite easy for readers to swallow. ;)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Matthew Harrill, Author of Hellbounce

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22393422-hellbounce


My protagonist, Dr Eva Ross has had a scare; her husband has finally revealed himself to be a man of highly questionable moral judgement.

Checking in at a hotel, she gets directed to Moynagh’s, a bar on Exchange Street in Worcester, Massachusetts.


The barman indicated several taps. “Ales, from the motherland. Guinness, if that’s your thing. Several Irish whiskies. Most of this lot only drink Jameson’s. Not a lot of calls for anything else in this place. The only new drink we have introduced in the last ten years is the ‘Passion Plunge’”.

Eva could not help the grin that spread across her face at hearing the name. “Sounds perfect. What’s in it?”

“Sour mix, orange juice, ice, dash of soda and of course a double shot of Irish whiskey. I made it in honour of the charity event we always send a team to.”



Several elements here are important to me. First off, I love real places, and Moynagh’s is such. Second, I love a good cocktail, and so I had fun creating this. Third, Eva has just experienced emotions that are going to severely deplete any chance of passion, and is laughing at the irony. Lastly, I love to learn things. Did you know ‘whisky’ is from Scotland and ‘whiskey’ is from Ireland?

Food (or drink) for thought…


Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Matt!



Matthew W. Harrill lives in the idyllic South-West of England, nestled snugly
in a village in the foothills of the Cotswolds. Born in 1976, he attended school in Bristol
and received a degree in Geology from Southampton University. By day he plies
his trade implementing shareplans for Xerox. By night he spends his time with his wife
and four children.



You can find Matt here:

MatthewHarrill.com                    Twitter @Matt_Harrill

Facebook Page                   Goodreads                    Amazon





Thursday, September 4, 2014

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Stephanie Siciarz, Author of Away with the Fishes

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22402696-away-with-the-fishes



Kingfish in coconut cream, pigeon in pineapple, stewed plums. The delicacies that populate the picnics and pantries of Oh are as sweet and spicy as the island itself. Just ask Trevor Rouge, proprietor of Trevor’s Bakery, whose cold drinks and warm buns loosen the locals’ lips; or Captain Dagmore Bowles, who plies his one true love with cool cabbage salad to win her heart. Talk to the anonymous man (if you can find him) who placed an ad in the island paper for a girl with cooking skills worthy of marriage. All of them will tell you that guava tarts and macaroni pie wield the same kind of magic as Oh’s gossipy winds and fool-making moon.

In Away with the Fishes, the second— but standalone —installment in my Island of Oh series, it’s precisely the preoccupation with fish and fowl that drive the drama. Rena Baker, known for the culinary attentions that she lavishes on Madison Fuller, her boyfriend, goes missing. All the signs (when bent and twisted) seem to suggest that Madison has done her in. How else to explain the classified ad for a bride who can bake? Surely Madison seeks Rena’s replacement, and the Island Police are swift to deliver him his just desserts.

Then again, mightn’t Madison be telling the truth when he says he knows nothing of Rena’s whereabouts or of the ad? Mightn’t the ad, instead, be designed to ensnare Madison’s own sister, May Fuller, whose fish chowder and Christmas cakes are reputed island-wide?

Questions like these are just the sort of salt and pepper that add flavor to the workaday world of Customs & Excise Officer Raoul Orlean, who has yet to find an island riddle he can resist unraveling (though resolving them is sometimes a different matter). Raoul has no need for bakers’ buns or classified ads; his wife Ms. Lila’s fare is fine indeed. But mysteries, he cannot stomach. Lucky for him, this mystery doesn’t want for clues, and the clues want Raoul to investigate one cook to find another: old Mrs. Jaymes, cook and housekeeper to the long-dead Dagmore Bowles, might just hold the key to the Rena riddle. Now normally Raoul wouldn’t battle wits with a ghost, which is what old Captain Dagmore must by now be, but in the interest of island justice—and his own plain-as-noses-on-faces philosophical school—Raoul eats up the Captain’s tale. Exactly what answers lie therein, Raoul will have to sniff out.  And with a pinch of island luck, he might just do so before poor Madison’s goose is cooked. 


Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Stephanie!



You can find Stephanie here:




Thursday, August 14, 2014

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Back Lorne Oliver, Author of The Cistern

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21642318-the-cistern



I asked the wonderful Shelley if I could do this write up and she graciously said yes.  Ten minutes later I wondered, Dude, what are they eating?  In The Cistern the main characters own and work at a restaurant, so it should be pretty simple.


I have worked in the restaurant industry for nearly 10 years and have always been amazed at the variety of the characters you find working there, as well as the crazy things that can go on, so I of course wanted to write something that took place mostly in and around a restaurant.  I had started a few ideas, mostly dealing with life and love, but none of it was really working.  I put the idea in a back file in my brain and went on.


A couple of years ago my wife got a part-time gig cleaning dealing with foreclosed houses.  The job was supposed to be simple:  take pictures of the building, inspect it, take note of any damage, clean it out and collect the cash.  House #1 had been abandoned for a year.  Going inside we were amazed at how much stuff was left behind.  Shoes, kitchen toys, a dining room set, kids skateboard, family photos, little kids drawings, one kids report card, candles…it was as if the family had to get out of Dodge in a hurry.  Right away the story ideas started churning.  What happened to the family?  Where did they go?  As we searched the main floor the ideas were bubbling and preparing to erupt.  Then we went into the basement.


If you read chapter #4 in The Cistern, Chrys and Spencer go to what they refer to as “The Creepy House” and pretty much do the same walk-through that my wife and I did.  And in the basement they find the same peculiar thing we did.
 
          “Ah, Chrys.”
     The hairs on her arms felt electrified at just the way her brother said her name.  He was already moving forward.
     Spencer felt drawn to walk around these inside walls.  There had to be a door or something.  There had to be a reason for them to be there.  He said, “This is a concrete room.  The walls don’t go up.”
     “What?”
     “They don’t go all the way to the ceiling.”
     “What?  Why?”



Here in Saskatchewan there are many old houses with cisterns in them.  They are basically reservoirs for collecting rain water that can be used for many household things that don’t need filtration and all that.  The tank at the back of your toilet is a cistern.  This one happened to be about 10’ on each side and 6’ high with a trap door on top.  The ideas burst through the damn.


I decided to put some old character ideas I had (it was actually a couple originally) but make them a brother and sister.  I brought back the restaurant idea and The Alcrest Mysteries were born.


Food is an important part to developing the characters.  Yes, I’m counting The Alcrest Gastropub as a character as well as the main ones Spencer (chef and owner) and Chrys (server and constant eater). It starts from Chrys adding hot chocolate powder to her coffee to what Spencer puts on the menu.  There are even a couple of bonus recipes in the paperback.  What they personally eat has not been completely delved into yet.  Restaurant workers are notorious for eating crap.  Spencer’s favorite late night snack, for instance, is Chocolate Frosted Pop tarts (toasted) and a bowl of chocolate ice cream.  Chrys, on the other hand, is also a dance instructor and jammer for a local roller derby team, so she tends to try and eat healthy.  Not to mention she rarely pays for her own food, so eating in their restaurant or others is a constant treat.


Chrys and Spencer are just regular people living regular lives amongst outrageous circumstances.  And, if you ask Spencer, amazing food courtesy of The Alcrest Gastropub.


Thanks for returning to share more food for thought, Lorne!


You can find Lorne here: