Thursday, November 21, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Gina Tang, Author of The Beijing Family



Weird Chinese Eats or Nutritional Medicine?

The world eats a wide variety of food and sometimes they are strange to someone. The Chinese definitely have their share!  When you have over 5,000 years in history, one can only imagine the variety of things the Chinese picked up along the way that are considered edible or delicacies.  Even more so when the country has seen its episodic moments of famine in history and relied on non-traditional sources for protein and nutrients in order to survive.  Sometimes a trip into a Chinese supermarket or even a traditional medicine store in the "Asian" parts of town is an experience to be remembered. 

Here are a few of the examples of strange Chinese eats as featured in The Beijing Family book series:



What the heck is a grass jelly drink?  Grass like in the green stuff that grows on lawns? And now it's in jelly form for a drink? Oh heck no! Actually grass jelly is made from boiling aged and slightly oxidized grass, but it's the stalks and leaves of Mesona Chinesis, a member of the mint family.  It is rich in calcium and fiber. Grass jelly relieves heartburn, constipation, abdominal bleeding and diarrhea. After cooling the liquid to a jelly-like black consistency, this jelly can be cut into cubes or other forms and mixed with sugar or syrup to make drinks or dessert.





In Book 1 of The Beijing Family,  the elderly Grandma Moh makes traditional Chinese medicinal tea made from ox penis! 

Ox penis sold in a local street market 


In traditional Chinese medicine, ox penis is believed to increase one's virility, energy and sexual prowess. Chinese athletes have been known to eat deer penis to heal injuries and other ailments. In Jamaica, cow cod soup stewed with vegetables is considered an aphrodisiac. In America, rocky mountain oysters are bull’s balls – battered and deep fried.

Is it strange to eat such things or is it nutritional medicine? Do the Chinese prevail in these bizarre eats and why?

To learn more, please visit this link:
https://thebeijingfamily.blogspot.com/2017/11/wierd-chinese-eats-or-nutritional.html


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



You can find Gina here:





Thursday, October 31, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Stuart Aken, Author of Blood Red Dust




Food; ‘You canna live wi’out it, Jim.’ SciFi fans will recognise Scottie from Star Trek here. But food is rarely discussed in the genre.

I began Blood Red Dust as a one-off story about a possible future on Earth if we fail to stop climate change. But I ‘spect it just growed,’ like Topsy and became a trilogy. The other two books are traditional, but Blood Red Dust is unusual with its mix of ‘reports’ gathered from multiple sources to fit the mood of the time in which it’s set.

Mars, where most of the story is set, is a hostile environment where food will be a problem for a long time if we ever make it there in person. For the first colonists it’ll be the stuff they eat on the International Space Station until they can grow their own. Ain’t no fancy eateries on that there red planet!

Madonna, a brilliant colonist specialising in robotics, enters the mess room late one morning, ‘I fixed myself a coffee, well, what passes for coffee here till Anni’s got a proper handle on growing the beans.’

Later, in a report from Anni, a genius botanist, the group discusses fantasies, ‘I miss…a warm Mediterranean taverna, with ouzo flowing free and white wine cooling in carafes on chequered table tops. Olives laced with oil and garlic. Seafood caught from the sea that morning. Honey drizzled over pure white yoghurt.’

As the story progresses, food improves and group doctor, Zaphod (yes, named after the character in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) includes it in his report: ‘We’ve eaten: a delicious meal of sweet potato, fresh root vegetables and simple roast chicken, followed by fresh fruit salad. The only ingredient missing was wine.’

Including food in a story helps give atmosphere and lets readers appreciate setting. Like clothes and sex, it provides clues to how characters live, and is therefore essential, even if sometimes a little sparse.

My characters have a little more on their minds than what to eat, as they’re battling lunatic extremists as well as the hostile environment, but they do love food and it brings a bit of humour to the story, too.


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



You can find Stuart here:





Friday, October 25, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Louise Wise, Author of EDEN & HUNTED



I’m not much of a cook. My abilities in the kitchen are somewhat a joke in my family’s household. I love food, though, and eating out, trying new foods, is an absolute treat. But it isn’t just the food it’s the backdrop, the feel—the entire ambiance that must be just right. Get that wrong, and you could be eating cardboard.

Jenny, Bodie and Matt, the characters in Eden and Hunted (a two-book series), lived in a modern, futuristic world where anything they ever wanted was at a touch of a button, had no problem creating fantastic food in a beautiful setting. They could never have dreamed that their privileged life would end where they had to fight for their lives, pillaging for food and in Jenny’s case, using her body just to stay alive.

The three were astronauts and on a mission to explore the uninhabited planet (Eden). Their assignment was to set sensors into the planet’s crust, collect rocks and plant life, gather information on the animal, marine and birdlife and return home. A journey that would take several years. It had been planned with precision with the three trained meticulously. Except they were too reliant on that ‘touch of a button’ logic where technical glitches just do not happen in 2056.

Subsequently, Jenny was abandoned on the planet, and Bodie and Matt were left trying to survive in a broken space craft.

Left alone on Eden, Jenny finds a crashed alien spaceship and its only survivor, and food becomes the least of her problems.

But the setting, oh the setting:

In the distance, a truculent flood of water gushed over a high wall of rock with such force it left her breathless. Airborne droplets gave birth to such an unusual rainbow that she was entranced: a pale green arch, lined with pastel reds and yellows. The presence of phosphorescence caused the green to shine. Tall reeds in oranges and reds grew from the surface of the river, spreading feather-like tentacles over the water’s surface.

The setting is perfect for good food, and Jenny did her best with the natural food that grew on the planet. Naming the feasts she prepared was less adventurous though, she still had ‘bacon and eggs’, ‘spaghetti Bolognese’ and ‘ice cream’ but while they may have looked similar to the real thing they definitely tasted differently!


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


You can find Louise here:









Louise Wise is a British author from the Midlands in England. Her debut novel is the acclaimed sci-fi romance titled EDEN, which was followed by its sequel HUNTED in 2013. 

Writing under the name of T. E Kessler the forthcoming, JELVIA: NOT HUMAN series is themed on the above Eden and Hunted books and have mature themes. HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO book 1 and SURVIVING HER DOMINATE book 2, and book 3 SPIDER will follow in 2020. Wise chose to use T. E Kessler to differentiate from her non-erotic books, which include:
EDEN (sci-fi romance), HUNTED (sci-fi romance), A PROPER CHARLIE (romantic comedy), OH NO, I'VE FALLEN IN LOVE! (dark, comedy romance), and WIDE AWAKE ASLEEP (time travel, romance).

Wise enjoys writing comedy and finds a place for it in ALL her books. She has written numerous short stories for women's magazines such as Take a Break and Woman's Own.


Blurb for Eden #1

Imagine yourself stranded.
With no way of getting home.
Ever.
You’ve no communication, no shelter, no food.
No weapons.
Now imagine this place is another planet.
Then you realise you aren’t alone after all . . .


Blurb for Hunted #1

Jenny's from Earth. Fly's from Itor. By a quirk of fate they met. She tamed him and they fell in love.

Now, they live an idyllic life away from the wolf-like people and savage tribes of Neanderthals that prowl Eden. But things are changing outside their little kingdom. The wolf-people are disbanding and someone, or something, appears to be hunting the Neanderthals.


The signs are there that their world is changing—only they fail to notice straight away, and when they do, they don’t have much time to prepare.

Friday, October 11, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Beem Weeks, Author of Strange Hwy



Melanie is the ten-year-old POV character of my short story called "Monster," found in my collection entitled Strange Hwy. She’s going trick-or-treating with her older sister Millicent and a pair of neighborhood boys. As the older sister, Millicent has a knack for cheating the younger out of the good treats. And by good treats, I mean the chocolate bars and Skittles—those snacks a girl won’t mind spending her allowance on when it’s not Halloween.

Millicent hates jellybeans. Her idea of being a good big sister is to convince Melanie to trade off her chocolate for jellybeans. But Melanie hates jellybeans as well. And as the younger girl grows older, wisdom sets in. She’s no longer compelled to capitulate to her sister’s ideas where candy is concerned.

The story unfolds around the house at the end of the block. This is where the monster dwells—a man with a history. Of the four kids in the group, Melanie is the only one who dares approach the front door, seeking a treat, hoping she doesn’t become a victim of the monster. But there’s a twist in this tale. The monster is not who or what we expect him to be. And since Melanie is the only child to dare ring his doorbell, she’s the recipient of a grand chocolate bounty.

There is a morsel of reality in this piece, in that I, as the older brother, often tried to swindle my younger brother out of the good trick-or-treat snacks. I hated jellybeans as a youngster. They were easy to pawn off on my brother. When my brother reached an older and wiser age, he no longer cared to make those trades I’d once convinced him were worthwhile. However, I found a silver lining in being stuck with jellybeans: they’d last well into the next year. I’d still have Halloween candy as late as February or March. Jellybeans or no, candy is candy to a kid.


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



You can find Beem here:






Friday, October 4, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome June Winton, Author of The Golden Horn



Lacy is officially fed up! She would rather be eating Greek food at her boyfriend’s house, with his Mum giving her cooking lessons. Or even at the local Burger Man with her pals, having a laugh. Instead of which she is babysitting her six year old half-sister, Sophie, and trying to persuade her to eat her vegetables.

To make matters worse, Sophie has a severe case of sleepwalking and an imaginary friend called “Betty Ballerina”, and seems to be obsessed with “digging for treasure” in their back garden, where Betty keeps showing her to. Only thing is, there might be something nasty hidden in the garden…

Lacy enlists the help of her friend, Karina, who thinks Sophie might be haunted and is seeing a ghost, and persuades Lacy to attend a psychic fair to have her Tarot cards read. Only this makes matters worse when she picks the Death card along with the Tower and black sword cards, prompting the fortune teller to give her money back.

In desperation Lacy turns to Barry, a family friend who owns a metal detector and has recently found a golden horn, thought to be celtic but placed in an anglo-saxon burial site. She begs Barry to search their garden for clues as to what Sophie is looking for. But will he get there in time?


Thanks for stopping by to share you food for thought, June!



You can find June here:



Thursday, September 26, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome James Shipman, Author of It Is Well




It Is Well, a historical novel by James D. Shipman, is set in Snohomish, Washington during World War II, as well as on Wake Island and in the European Theater.

What were Americans eating on the home front during World War II? The diet of US citizens was substantially limited based on rationing on most grocery items. Pictured below is the ration book of my grandmother, Katherine Davis. There were limitations on all staples including sugar, flour, meat and coffee. Americans were encouraged to grow “Victory Gardens,” and the majority of vegetables consumed by citizens during the War came from these home-grown gardens.

Snohomish was a small town during the war, with a population below 10,000. The surrounding area was dotted with farms. The food in this rural community north of Seattle was simple and wholesome: baked or boiled beef with potatoes, cooked vegetables and bread. Rationing permitting, pie would have supplied the typical desert. Although a modern person might have found the fare bland and repetitive, the local citizens did not suffer near the limitations felt by the English, and certainly not the mass hunger and starvation felt by those living under Nazi occupation.

About half of It Is Well takes place in the US military. American soldiers in the field lived off a new invention, “K-Rations.” The K Ration was a packaged, 28-ounce, 2,830 calorie meal originally designed by Ancel Keys from the University of Minnesota. The K Ration would contain biscuits, canned meat, a ration bar, and lemon powder. The soldiers also carried D rations, which were bars meant to be eaten under heavy duty combat situations or in an emergency. The D Ration bar was a chocolate bar with a high calorie content. The bar was intentionally made with a bitter taste so it would be consumed only by necessity. It was designed to taste “a little better than a boiled potato.”




One of the main characters in the book, Matthew, is a prisoner of war of the Japanese during most of the war on Wake Island. Japanese POW’s would have lived on a watery rice gruel and vegetables. The Japanese were already conditioned to live on much less than an American soldier, and the prisoners on the island received less than the soldiers. To make matters worse, the Japanese were not always able to resupply the atoll, based on combat conditions and other necessities, so the prisoners suffered terribly. The Americans on the island lost considerable weight during their captivity, both from the limited nutrition and the back-breaking labor forced on them by their captors.

That’s a look at what the characters from It Is Well were eating during World War II. Thanks for reading and after you’re done, it’s probably a good time to go out and grab a great meal, and be thankful you’re not cracking open a K-ration!

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



You can find James here:








It Is Well was released as an Amazon Kindle First Read by Lake Union Publishing in October, 2016. This title ranked #3 overall for all books sold on Amazon for much of the month of October. James D. Shipman has four published titles with Lake Union Publishing. His newest title, Task Force Baum, will be released by Kensington Publishing in hardback on November 26, 2019.

Friday, September 20, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome T.L. Searle, Author of Aquila



Aquila Raven Vickers, Aqua to . . . everyone, she hates her name . . . is a vegetarian through necessity; meat makes her very physically sick. On her Organic farm in Somerset she grows fresh fruit and vegetables year round which her and her mum, a prolific baker, then make into tasty stews and pies, jams and cakes.

Aqua’s world is turned upside-down when she meets Lucas. He’s the first person like her she’s ever met and he introduces her to a whole new world; including culinary experiences. Aqua is given her first taste. . . it starts simple with some fruit and nuts because she’s late for breakfast but her next meal, brought to her after an already traumatic experience, is curried potato and crickets with rice and iced tea.

She declines, but, as she begins to settle into her new way of life, living Celthia, a city hidden inside a mountain in Bhutan, she embraces new delicacies such as stewed worms, dried crickets, baked centipedes, ants, grubs . . . any insects really . . . the leaves and flowers of local vegetation as well as fruits and vegetables and drinking Cecalis, the sparkling alcoholic Angeli version of champagne.

So be ready with an open mind and, if you’re anything like Aqua’s friend Aaron, an empty stomach.


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


You can meet Tanya here:






Thursday, September 12, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Jan Ruth, Author of Silver Rain



Despite his hit and miss work life (house-husband, head-childminder, author, children’s entertainer) Al is no slouch when it comes to the kitchen. And it may seem that initially, Al really needs some redeeming qualities. I like writing about characters who are not conventional, especially where there is a romantic element as the traditional themes have been done to death. My main protagonists in this off-beat love story are both aged fifty. Al knows he is adopted, but despite the freedom of a country childhood and a ready-made brother in George, the feeling that’s he’s from a different background never quite leaves him and questions about his famous birth mother hover in the background until, aided by Kate, he finally manages to confront some of them.

Kate, once married to Fran’s deceased brother, is shocked to discover that Al has been banished from the family for a number of years, the reasons for which remain a dark secret and George remains tight-lipped. In fact, George is mightily disgruntled that since his divorce, Al is determined to bury the hatchet and move back to the family farm. Chathill Farm is a dilapidated small-holding, and the centre of Fran’s universe. Fran doesn’t cook and her housekeeping skills are notoriously rustic, and it’s further fuel to her husband's disgruntled fire that all the inmates are named after edibles – Butter, and Marg, the dogs; Bacon, the pig, and Stilton, the horse. Despairing, and hungry, George is forced to find culinary solace at a local hotel and since we’re in Wales, fare such as local lamb and bara-brith are staples of the menu.

Family drama is always rife at Christmas time and although Kate seems burdened with the main event in the kitchen, it’s Al who adds the more interesting ingredients – both figuratively and metaphorically – such as almonds and smoked bacon to the sprouts, and makes real custard from scratch… (I’m thinking the kitchen might be the only place Al is ever serious). But it’s the Christmas trifle which really takes centre stage, when Al’s ex-wife unexpectedly arrives on Boxing Day to gatecrash proceedings:

Lifting the tablecloth, Al wondered about getting underneath. He could see his brother, shifting his weight from one leg to the other, and he could see Helen’s knickers as she sat with her legs slightly apart, totally sloshed. It was tempting to drop down there and curl up in a ball, but what would that solve? No, the only possible option he had at that precise moment was one of surprise. Without rocking the table too violently, he managed to crawl underneath and surfaced next to Helen’s chair.

She seemed poised to begin some sort of rant, her finger ready to point and accuse. Thrown by his sudden, close proximity her nostrils flared and she inhaled deeply, steeling herself for battle. She was about to open her mouth and there was a brief connection when he looked, apologetically, into her eyes; the eyes of the woman he’d always love, as the mother of his children.

Then he pushed her, face down into the trifle.



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



You can find Jan here:








Jan Ruth lives in Snowdonia, a mountainous area of North Wales, UK. Jan writes contemporary fiction about the darker side of the family dynamic, often blending life in rural Wales with a touch of city business. Her style is best described as fast-paced and realistic, with a sprinkling of dry humour.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Carole Bumpus, Author of Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table



If  you tell me what you eat, I can tell you where you're from
by Carole Bumpus

While traveling in Europe, have you ever strolled down a cobblestone street, passed an open window and heard laughter flowing out to greet you?  Have you ever stopped to listen to the banter while wondering what it would be like to live there?  In that house?  That village?  And, oooooh!  What is that wonderful aroma?  Say, what are they eating?  I did too.

My book series, Savoring the Olde Ways, is a compilation of intimate interviews, conversations, stories and recipes I had the good fortune to gather from European families as I traveled throughout their countries. Part culinary memoir and part travelogue, these books are the personal stories told to me by individual families—from inside their homes along those very cobblestone streets.

As a retired family therapist, my initial interests were about the families themselves.  But as a lover of traditional foods and home cooking, I discovered that favorite ancestral foods brought both French and Italian families together—not only for holidays, but every day—at their own family tables. 

What sure-fire recipe did I use to open a topic of conversation?  I asked my hosts to tell me about their favorite foods as children.  Or, I asked if they could share with me the treasured recipes they prepared when first married.  But I quickly learned that I needed to prepare myself.  I needed to have pen and paper in hand, along with my trusty tape recorder. (Yes, I still used one.)

I also needed to quickly pull up to the kitchen table, because, without fail, I was headed for a most passionate journey.  You see, once I posed my question, the fondest of memories immediately rose to the surface—moments of delight of holidays past, favorite family foods, cherished traditions and beloved family stories—all would come bubbling forth.  And, before I knew it, my host would jump up, eyes bright with excitement as he or she would rush to the kitchen to snatch up a favorite recipe.

‘Voici!’ I would hear exclaimed in French, or ‘Ecco qui!’ in Italian. ‘Here it is!’ they would shout as they made a beeline back to my side. And there, clutched in hand, was a recipe card, all smudged with past efforts and spattered with passionate conviction.  Immediately, and because I’m only fluent in English, their arms would fly in all directions with mixing motions sweeping the air as they enacted the preparation of their favorite recipe.

By collecting recipes, I learned about their culture, their history, their loves and their sorrows.  I learned the favorite way to celebrate family was to return to the recipes of the past—the cuisine pauvre (French) or cucina povera (Italian)—the traditional cuisine of the family.   And, I learned that if you tell me what you eat, I can tell you where you’re from.


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



You can find Carole here:




   

Thursday, June 13, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Bo Kearns, Author of Ashes in a Coconut



For hundreds of years beginning back in the 16th century, Indonesian islands monopolized the spice trade. The country’s flavorful cuisine reflects that bygone era. In Ashes in a Coconut, Manhattan fashion designer Laura Harrison sets aside her career and accompanies her banker husband Jack to Indonesia to save her marriage. There are several scenes in the story where Laura and Jack experience the diverse local fare.

In Jakarta, they’re served gado gado, vegetables in a hot chili and peanut sauce, and a large bowl of steamed rice. Jack comments that he’s heard rice is used to calm the spice. Laura speculates that could be why there’s so much of it. 

In the Hotel Kediri’s elegant ballroom, waiters scurry about making last minute preparations for Laura and Jack’s welcoming reception. Over 500 guests have been
invited. Laura fidgets concerned she might do or say something offensive to the local culture.  An ice sculpture in the shape of a mythical bird dominates the buffet table. Its translucent wings extend over an array of exotic foods: chicken satays, nasi goring, giant prawns with a spicy-looking red sauce and a pyramid of colorful tropical fruit. Laura selects a prawn and dips it in the sauce. Overcome by spice, she chokes; her eyes water. She struggles to catch her breath and her plate tilts. Red blobs fall onto her white dress.

Fortunately things get better. Nissam is the cook in Laura’s household. Having worked for expat families of different nationalities, he comes with a range of recipes: boueuf bourguignon, pasta primavera, chocolate mousse, and Mandarin Chinese to name a few. He knows how to temper Indonesian dishes to accommodate the Western palate, without sacrificing the special flavors. 

The novel takes place in the 1980’s. The Palms is an upscale restaurant set in an old  mansion. Maroon velvet curtains frame tall, corniced windows and crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling, evidence of an era long ago.  The menu includes rijsttafel— a medley of island foods concocted by the Dutch colonials. Twelve sarong-clad young women each carrying a large platter with a different dish serve it. Laura thinks the elaborate presentation a bit much. She hopes Jack won’t order the concoction, though she suspects he will. He enjoys the spectacle. Soon twelve women parade in and line up behind Jack’s chair. One at a time they step forward, smile and dish food onto his plate. Laura casts an eye roll in his direction. A selamatan is an Indonesian celebration of gratitude where food takes center stage. Having survived a life-threatening incident, Laura and Jack host a selamatan. Guests sit on the floor on a carpet and an imam chants a prayer. The main meal attraction is nasi tumpeng, a yellow, cone-shaped steamed rice dish made with turmeric and coconut milk. It’s served on strips of banana leaf along with: rending (beef curry), pisang goring (fried banana), empal (sweet and spicy fried beef), sambal telur (hard boiled eggs in a pepper sauce) and sayur-sayuran (cooked vegetables). The guest of honor cuts the cone.

Pungent foods are often found in the cuisine of hot, humid locales. Some speculate the sweating that can accompany eating spicy food, ultimately has a cooling effect. Others say the anti-microbial property of many spices deters food from spoiling. Yet with air conditioning and refrigeration, spicy food persists. A more likely explanation is that it’s part of the culture. People in tropical countries begin eating spicy food at an early age. They become desensitized. So perhaps if Laura and Jack subsume enough local food, they might become desensitized, too.


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



You can find Bo here:








Bo Kearns, journalist and writer of fiction, is the author of Ashes in a Coconut, a novel set in Indonesia where he lived for three years. He is a feature writer with NorthBay biz magazine and the Sonoma Index-Tribune newspaper. Several of his short stories have won awards and been published. He is a certified UC Naturalist, beekeeper, avid hiker and supporter of conservation causes. He lives in the wine country of Sonoma with his wife and rescue dog, Jake.