Friday, August 18, 2023

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Julia Park Tracey, Author of The Bereaved

Porridge is somehow famous in literature. The Three Bears minced no words with Goldilocks—she ruined their breakfast by tasting everyone’s porridge, judging it too hot, too cold, or just right. Oliver Twist gets into trouble for asking for more. Mr. Woodhouse of Jane Austen’s Emma believes that a basin of porridge is just the thing (he calls it gruel). And porridge was the thing in the Old World — oats boiled hard and eaten hot. 

In the New World, aka America, colonial porridge was quickly replaced with cornmeal mush, a food that indigenous folks had eaten for centuries. (And we’re still eating it today as polenta, grits, and cornbread.) Colonial settlers called it samp, and settlers traveling often took Johnny cake (cornbread) because it was easy to make over a fire.

 In my historical novel, The Bereaved, cornmeal, often known as Indian meal, makes an appearance when times get tough. 

When she has funds in her purse, Martha, the titular widow, can afford wheat flour and baking soda and makes floury biscuits, with oats for oatmeal/porridge. But when times get tougher, baking powder, flour and oats become luxuries. So cornmeal becomes a staple, and then, almost all they ate. 

Here’s what the Lozier family consumed that hard, cold spring of 1859:

I could pay rent or pay the grocer that week. I paid rent and added more water to the soup. I made mush instead of baking cornbread; I fried it on the stovetop, but it stuck without grease and made an awful mess. I made patties from the cooked beans and fried those, too. I was out of sorts and my gut complained, without greens or meat or corn and potatoes.

As Martha and the children finished a meal, any food scraps went back into the soup pot, and it was an ongoing melange, like Strega Nonna’s bottomless spaghetti pot, as Martha added more scraps, more water and salt. They had enough watery soup, but they were hungry.

When Martha’s children discovered there were free meals at a local children’s aid society, Martha grudgingly let her children go, knowing she couldn’t feed them roast beef or turkey, potatoes and peas and carrots, fresh white bread, tall glasses of milk, and a slice of pie with every meal. It took everything in Martha’s heart to say, “I have to do this for the children, let them stay here while I work, and get a good meal, schooling and a warm bed. I’ll save money and bring them home again in a few months.”

The aid society fed and clothed the children, free of charge, and solved all of Martha’s problems—until when, three months later, she found out what happened to her children. 

(I can’t tell you more — spoilers!)

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

You can find Julia here:

Friday, July 21, 2023

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Susan Stinson, Author of Spider in a Tree


Shad, Chocolate, and Gingerbread: Spider in a Tree by Susan Stinson

It’s the summer of 1741. The Rev. Mr. Jonathan Edwards, a fourth-generation English settler, calls Leah, a woman kidnapped from Africa and currently enslaved in his household, into his study. Leah comes in carrying a cup of chocolate and a piece of gingerbread.

They are in Northampton, Massachusetts, where I live now. This is a scene from my novel, Spider in a Tree. Jonathan is recently back from preaching his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in Connecticut. Leah, who has just been preparing a barrel of shad to be preserved for the winter, is soon to be married to Saul, a man enslaved in the household.

Jonathan has been riding his horse in the woods. As he rode, he pinned notes to his clothes with ideas about a treatise he is working on. He’s writing a defense of slavery in support of another minister, whose congregation has accused him of sin for being a slave-owner. Jonathan’s wife Sarah helps him unpin the notes before he calls for Leah, but slavery is not only being practiced in his home, as it is every day, it’s on his mind.

In Connecticut, people experiencing a religious revival fainted and called out to God in fear for their souls while Jonathan was preaching. This moment back home in Northampton is, like a sermon, also a ritual. Jonathan wants to give Leah counsel and advice before her marriage. Leah, who must put the needs of Jonathan and his family before her own every day, finds this invasive and painful. There is very little room for any of her feelings to be expressed, but she seizes this sliver of an opening to say something true: that she wishes her mother could be with her. The historical Jonathan Edwards wrote rough notes in support of slavery, but he included a critique of the trade itself. He had participated in this trade, so perhaps he had been influenced by the enslaved people who lived with him to think slightly differently about it. In this scene, I am trying to imagine and embody one way that might have happened.

Leah is cleaning shad because this fish, which live most of their lives in the sea, swim up what Native people from the valley would have called the Kwinitekw and settlers the Connecticut River in the spring to spawn. This might be a little late for Leah’s barrel of shad, but the seasons are variable, and people traded up and down the river. I can imagine various circumstances by which she might end up with a barrel of live fish in July instead of June.

Leah brings Jonathan chocolate because he regularly ordered it from Boston. A quick search on the digital archive Jonathan Edwards Online finds references in his account books and letters. Chocolate was part of the Caribbean trade that was based on the labor of enslaved people. In colonial port towns, people milled it into balls or cakes. In a family kitchen, these were shaved into hot water in a chocolate pot, spiced, then whipped so that the shavings melted and there was a foam.

Jonathan’s daughter Jerusha makes Leah gingerbread because she is trying to be kind. She might have made spice bread, but she knows Leah doesn’t like allspice. Jerusha doesn’t know why that is. The slave ship that Leah was trapped on picked up a load of allspice in the Caribbean. The smell reminds of her of horrors that traumatized her deeply and left her far from home, enslaved. Making Leah gingerbread on the eve of her wedding is kind, but that kindness is warped by the fact that she is enslaved, enmeshed in a hierarchy that Jonathan is both practicing and defending. Leah has been brought here as commodity, like chocolate and allspice. Concern by her enslavers for her happiness or for her soul Is rotted at the root until that blight is addressed. She knows this and struggles to make her life within these constraints. Jonathan, who has a reputation of being uninterested in food, insists she eat the gingerbread. The story doesn’t say whether she does or not, but the spice and sweetness she is being offered are far from a full, free meal.

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

You can find Susan here:

Twitter @SusanStinson

Books on Amazon

Spider in a Tree: 

Lisa Brooks, Our Beloved Kin: Remapping a New History of King Philip’s War, about the Kwinitekw and the valley in 1675, sixty-six years before this scene:

Works of Jonathan Edwards Online. Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University. 

Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale: Jonathan Edwards and Slavery

Historic Deerfield: Baby It’s Cold Outside: a sweet historic of chocolate in New England.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Robert McKean, Author of Mending What Is Broken

Fattening the Birds

The fragrance of freshly milled wheat berries has a depth and liveliness unlike anything else, flowery, sweet, beery, faintly green and earthy. As the grain shatters beneath the grating stones and the new flour empties from the mill, an aromatic dust cloud wafts up speaking of a symbiotic relationship between human and grain that reaches back thousands of years. Peter Sanguedolce, who eats too much because he loves food too much, who eats too much to escape the sorrows that engulf him, who eats too much simply to eat too much, finds himself in Mending What Is Broken bewitched by the complicated, painstaking process of baking whole grain sourdough bread: nursing the starter into life, invigorating the preferment over several days, mixing flour and water and waiting through the autolyse period for the flour to hydrate, incorporating the flour and preferment and performing a series of stretches and folds to tease out the gluten. Then hours of bulk fermentation and shaping—Peter mimics the experts’ floury hands in the photographs in the numerous bread-baking texts he’s bought—and the long overnight snooze in the rattan baskets in the refrigerator to encourage the flavors to deepen and complexify, before the morning’s bake at five hundred degrees—all the while praying to Fornax, goddess of the oven, that his doughs will rise burnished and crusty and make proper loaves, that is, loaves in the shape of parsons’ hats. 

Which they sometimes do, and sometimes perversely do not do.

And so there’s trouble. There’s always trouble. As Western Pennsylvania’s winter gales cushion Peter’s ramshackle Tudor home in silencing ermine stoles of snow, he broods over his sourdough cultures like a nervous parent at a child’s recital. It’s the temperature in his old kitchen, he hypothesizes. One minute it’s too cold in here, the next too hot. From Amazon he orders a proofing box, an expensive contraption that sits on the counter and furnishes a small heated parlor like a diorama he can peer into in which his finicky wild yeast and lactobacilli might be coddled at any temperature they desire. Good idea, poor design. The proofing box won’t maintain a dependable temperature, either. He returns to Savage’s Hardware and Sporting Goods, where the joke among the hardware boys is that Peter’s bread is running him about fifty bucks a loaf, to purchase a roll of aluminum insulation wrap. The quilted wrap creates a circular stockade around the proofing box some two feet in height and three in diameter, the whole affair resembling, he raises his eyebrows uneasily regarding it, a kitchen-sized nuclear reactor. 

He’s suffered two failed marriages, lost his father’s clay sewer pipe business in an economic downturn, and is now threatened with the complete forfeiture of his shared custody rights to the ten-year-old daughter he cherishes. In the meantime, he bakes bread, let’s say he manufactures bread, way too much. But when you’re sublimating, how much is too much? He eats what he can, he eats more than he can, and, after dropping off surplus loaves at the rescue mission in town, he takes to fattening the birds in his backyard, the chattering sparrows and the cardinals that do not migrate and the mourning dove couple, who appear to have taken a cue from their feathered friends and no longer put up with the hassle of seasonal relocation. A Sunday morning in frigid January, as Peter waits out the tedious hours before he’s permitted to visit with his daughter in a supervised setting, he tears apart a loaf warm from the oven and heads outdoors. Spotting the large man maundering into his backyard in trench coat over pajamas, the bird nations and especially the silky, long-necked doves who lift in a whistle of wings from their perches, join him, burbling contentedly, for breakfast. 

I have been baking whole grain sourdough bread for fifteen years. I seldom write from life, but will, on occasion, make loan of a personal item to a character, if the character shows that he or she can make good use of it. I’ve tasted Peter Sanguedolce’s bread. He does.

Thanks for sharing your food for thought, Robert!

You can find Robert here:

Twitter @mckean_rob

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Populating Robert McKean’s novels and stories are some five hundred characters, steelworkers and bankers, doctors and jewelers, teachers and librarians, lawyers and yardage clerks, salesmen and ballet instructors—all residents of Ganaego, a small mill town in Western Pennsylvania. His new novel, Mending What Is Broken, is being published in August by Livingston Press. McKean’s short story collection I'll Be Here for You: Diary of a Town was awarded first-prize in the Tartts First Fiction competition (Livingston Press). His novel The Catalog of Crooked Thoughts was awarded first-prize in the Methodist University Longleaf Press Novel Contest. The novel was also named a Finalist for the 2018 Eric Hoffer Award. Recipient of a Massachusetts Artist’s Grant for his fiction, McKean has had six stories nominated for Pushcart Prizes and one story for Best of the Net. He has published extensively in journals such as The Kenyon Review, The Chicago Review, Armchair/Shotgun, Kestrel, Crack the Spine, and Border Crossing. For additional information about McKean and his Ganaego Project, please see his author’s website:

Friday, June 30, 2023

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Tracey Buchanan, Author of Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace

My debut novel, Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace, set in a small town in the early 1950s, features  Mrs. Minerva Place, a prickly widow who would prefer to be left alone. Completely. But even the most disagreeable people have to eat.

Minerva isn’t much of a cook. She’ll make a pumpkin pie if she gets invited somewhere for Thanksgiving (which, she assuredly would prefer to avoid), but she keeps her meals on the simple side. She’ll boil cabbage and fry a pork chop for dinner or let a small roast slow-cook with potatoes and carrots. The local grocery store, Myrick’s, offers the best meat in town, and, even if it’s a little on the expensive side, she’s willing to wait in line to get the cuts she prefers.

One of her favorite meals is white beans simmered all day with ham hock. It’s perfect with her neighbor Nella’s homemade chow-chow, a slice of yellow onion, and a hot chunk of cornbread liberally covered in butter. Another meal she adores, but seldom makes is fried chicken livers. She loves to order those when she eats out because they’re such a mess to cook at home. But not everyone knows the secret of a good batter that will result in a crunchy exterior and soft interior—much like a perfect cookie, come to think of it.

Hands down, Minerva’s favorite lunch is a pimiento cheese sandwich. Once again, she prefers Myrick’s recipe. It’s the perfect blend of cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, pimientos, vinegar, and a touch of sugar. It miffs her just a tad that she can’t figure out the recipe, but nobody else in town has been able to replicate it either. That’s a small consolation.

Her neighbor Nella loves to experiment in the kitchen and often shares her dishes with Minerva. Unfortunately, Nella’s experiments include meals like Tuna Fritters and Fritos Veal Rolls. Not exactly what Minerva would prefer. Why mess with your basic meat and potato? What meat has ever been enhanced by Fritos?

On the other hand, Minerva always welcomes Nella’s sweet treats. Sugar, preferably blended with flour, butter, and eggs that results in the form of a cake is Minerva’s favorite visitor. Nella makes a delicious cherry pie, and her Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake is to die for. Moist, super chocolatey, and smothered in a rich, fudgy icing—what’s not to like?

When I was writing the book, I made a point of finding recipes that made their debut in the ‘50s. If you visit my website,, you’ll find recipes for Nella’s Tuna Fritters, Nella’s Frito Veal Roll, Minerva’s Pumpkin Pie, and Nella’s Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake. I can’t vouch for the tuna fritters, but I can highly recommend the chocolate cake. Give it a try—maybe you have a cranky neighbor who would thaw just a little if you shared a piece.

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

You can find Tracey here:

Twitter @TraceyBuchana11

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Tracey Buchanan crashed into the literary world when she was six and won her first writing award. Fast forward through years as a journalist, mom, volunteer, freelance writer, editor, artist, and circus performer (not really, but wouldn’t that be something?) and you find her happily planted in the world of fiction with her debut novel, Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace (Regal House Publishing, June 20, 2023). She and her husband Kent live in the UNESCO Creative City of Paducah, Ky. They have two married sons, seven perfect grandchildren, and one very mixed-up dog. She’s busy working on her next novel but you can still catch her on her website, where she likes to putter around changing commas and so forth… 

Friday, May 12, 2023

FOODFIC: Please Welcome J.R. Traas, Author of The Rave

At home nowhere and everywhere, I’ve made it my business to explore wherever I land. Vernaculars, stories, main streets—such are my haunts; I am your ghost. (Hi, there. Rest easy, you did turn off the stove before leaving the house.) While I usually prefer to observe, quietly in my corner, my relationship with local cuisines is much more active. After all, food is such a fulfilling way to consume regional energy. A pretty plate is the truest feast for the senses: sight, scent, sound, touch, and taste. From an early age, I’ve been an indiscriminate collector of culinary experiences. Every bite can be a history lesson; every morsel, a message. An intercultural communication. 

Even the hard times proved instructive. Contrasting with my grateful experiencing of many different nations’ foods in my childhood and teens, my college years were… Spartan. We’re talking black beans for dinner, then again (in broth) for lunch and (topped with melted cheese) for dinner the next day. Often, I’d boil carrots and drink the carrot water like tea. I was not, in so many words, a man of material wealth, but those days shaped my understanding of and appreciation for food. 

Fortunately, at present, I am able to afford actual tea. Having survived the harder years, now armed with an ever-widening mental catalogue of dishes, I bring these to bear in my writing. Highlighting what a character eats, what delicacy a town is known for, or even what crops a nation can grow—and the resultant meals—expands the world and diversifies its peoples. Food is a fare-ly key ingredient in providing the reader with a sense of daily life in an imaginary world. This is certainly true of the fantasy genre, where delicious descriptions of colorful cooking are a staple.

In The Rave, the first installment in my arcanepunk cyberfantasy Aelfraver Trilogy, our “heroine” (term subject to limitations) Alina’s relationship with food is one of many means I use to convey her struggles. Beginning broke as broke can be, she wishes she could get ahold of some carrot water. She carefully weighs the purchase of every can of Cherry Punch! soda or vegan falafel wrap. These moments help inform her personality, financial status, interpersonal skills, and more. Whenever my characters share a meal, as with their real-world counterparts, the exchange punctuates the seasoning of a relationship. In book two, The Rebel, the gang journeys to a strange new city, sheltering in a spy bunker, where they chow down on a “delicacy procured from the underground lakes some miles west,” popping open “cardboard takeout containers packed with rice, steamed tubers, and mostly dead eels.” 

The food enhances the tension, and vice versa. Later in the narrative, a gentler meeting occurs: a coffee-and-croissant date held in a floating fortress that exists within the collective unconscious of thousands of minds (human and inhuman). From the plot to the characters, to where they go and definitely what they snack on, I love combining the mundane and the alien.

We are what we eat, they say, but we are many other odds and ends, too. Consider me an inquisitive acquisitor of multitudinous habits, quirks, and preferences. For, while truth is stranger than fiction, I’d argue that the combination of the two—filtered through personal perspective—is what makes a story, and its world, vibrant and resonant. This is why I seek to incorporate our species’s beautiful, diverse, unique little oddities into my writing. After all, the everyday anchors the grand and fantastical. Our rituals—including breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper—connect us to the characters in a story, to the ineffable, and to each other.

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

You can find JR here:

Thursday, May 4, 2023

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Angela Sylvaine, Contributor to FOUND

Roaming the exhibits at the Minneapolis Museum of Art, our unnamed diarist is captivated by the Veiled Lady, a marble masterpiece by Italian sculptor Raffaelo Monti. Monti creates the illusion of fabric, a veil clinging to the face of the virgin and allowing her delicate features to peek through.

Our diarist can’t stop thinking about the sculpture. She drifts into the museum café, where the barista recommends an Italian treat, the affogato. Rich, creamy vanilla gelato is scooped into a clear glass mug and drowned in hot espresso. Hot and cold melt and mix in a sublime combination of bitter and sweet that leaves our diarist energized by the hit of sugar, caffeine, and blooming obsession.

She leaves the museum but the visit stays with her. So much so, that she orders a resin replica of the bust to sit atop her fireplace mantel. She tries versions of affogato at every café and coffee shop she can find, though none compare to that first.

Our diarist will soon lose these memories, and more, becoming the Veiled Lady, obsessed not with art and Italian treats, but with tearing away her own veil. The features beneath are indelicate, corrupted by rage, and there is no frozen sweetness to temper her acidic spirit.

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

You can find Angela here:

Twitter @sylvaine_angela

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Friday, April 21, 2023

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Patricia Stover, Contributor to Cafe Macabre II


Imagine walking into your favorite café. The bell chimes, and instantly the aroma of coffee and pastries tickle your taste buds. Stacks of books line the walls, and you’re surrounded by patrons sipping espressos, typing dutifully on their laptops. That’s the moment you spot the group of women seated at a corner table, leaning closely to one another, their voices low. So, you pull up a stool and order a latte and a slice of your favorite pie or maybe a croissant. The women gathered are giddy with laughter, their eyes bright as they set forth to tell their favorite stories, the dim lighting providing the perfect ambiance. Each woman eagerly awaiting their turn, hoping to startle readers with their most terrifying tales. 

This is what it is like in the Café Macabre. 

This, and an invitation of course, is what drew me to the Café Macabre II anthology. I knew, the moment I read the name, that I wanted to author a story alongside these amazing women, inside this imaginary café. “But what does your story have to do with food?” you may be asking. Nothing really. But food has everything to do with my character, Maryann. 

Maryann was such a homely little thing, her mouse brown hair tied neatly into a bun, her boring scarves and buttoned cardigans. Quite pitiful really. It was almost as pitiful as her evening routine—A microwave meal (tonight’s dish was mac and cheese) washed down with a bottle of cheap wine. 

Why did I choose such a depressing meal for my character? Because that is exactly how Maryann’s story begins. Waking up each morning and going to work, wearing the same boring clothes, with the same dull hairdo, unseen or completely unappreciated by everyone around her. Bossed around and degraded until she just can’t take anymore. 

It isn’t until Maryann finds the courage to change that her diet changes. A spritz of Luxury #35, and she was at Tom’s house, T-bones on the grill, and fancy rosé in hand. Asparagus, potatoes, oh my. Her buttoned-down cardigan tossed aside for a slinkier, sexier outfit. Visions of murder in her mind. Wait, what? Murder you say? That’s right. Maryann traded her boring mac and cheese microwave dinner for murder. Funny how that happens in the café. So many women find themselves in a murderous mood. Must be something in the food. 

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

You can find Patricia here:

Friday, April 7, 2023

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Marie White Small, Author of Stony Kill

My debut novel, Stony Kill, was released in October 2005. It is a personal story, not unlike many writers’ first novels. It seems most of us who are dedicated to scratching out tales of humanity in all its forms, must get their own poignant tale out into the world before they can move on to wider topics and more encompassing tales. 

In Stony Kill, the protagonist tells the readers her tale of growing up in a wildly dysfunctional family. But like most troubled families, there remain pieces that work, influences that ground children to productive lives. In my story, it was food and its preparations. I came from a family of chefs and caterers. At ten years old, I had learned to prepare dinner for a family of six. At eighteen I was a personal chef, ironically for a publisher and his family.

But my crowning culinary accomplishment was the perfection of the perfect flakey pie crust, so quite naturally in my novel, Stony Kill, the protagonist, Joss Ryckman is a pie baker who owns a bakery and small cafe. Like me, she loves to please people through food that not only is delicious, but it is beautiful as well. These days, I tend to make beautiful and delicious salads, and pies only for special occasions. Perfect pies will always remain in my repertoire of great eats and I would love to share a recipe with you. 

Readers here can see more of my recipes at and sign up for my monthly newsletter.

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

You can find Marie here:

Twitter @MarieWhiteSmall

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Best Flakey Pie Crust

2 and 1⁄4 cups soft pastry flour or white flour

1 and1⁄2 teaspoons salt (scant)

1 cup Crisco shortening, chilled very cold

1 stick of butter, very cold (or lard, depending on your preferences) chopped into pats

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

3 Tablespoons cold cream cheese

2-3 Tablespoons of Ice-cold water

1 Generous Splash of Liqueur—(It is best to use a flavor that compliments your filling, such as crème de cassis for berry pies, or Kahlua for chocolate tarts, etc.) 

Combine all ingredients and beat together in a bowl or mixer until lightly incorporated. You should see lumps of butter and shortening. Pour contents onto a large sheet of parchment paper. Fold parchment around the dough into a square or rectangular packet. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Longer is better or make this dough the evening before you intend to use it. 

Prepare your filling in a bowl: peel and cut enough fresh fruit needed to fill your pie plate. Add sugar, lemon juice, and whatever spices your recipe requires. Also add a scant quarter cup of flour to your filling and gently mix, this will help thicken the fruit juices. 

When you are ready to assemble your pie, remove the packet of pie dough from the refrigerator, open it and transfer half of the dough to a clean piece of floured parchment paper and roll it out with a floured rolling pin to an adequate size for your pie dish, adding additional flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. Roll up the round onto your re-floured rolling pin and unfurl it across your pie plate. Adjust the dough as necessary. Add the filling and a few dabs of butter. Roll out the remaining dough for the top crust and again using floured parchment paper and a floured rolling pin. When the dough has been rolled to into a somewhat larger top, roll it unto the re-floured rolling pin and unfurl. I have found that a forked pressed edge produces a tender and delicious edge. Indeed there are fancier pie crust edges, but often that are thicker and less appetizing, but do what makes you happiest. 

Friday, March 10, 2023

FOODFIC: Please Welcome ND Richman, Author of Brothers, Bullies and Bad Guys

Brothers, Bullies and Bad Guys

What Did They Eat?

If you were a young boy of twelve, ignored by your parents and loved by the gang you hung out with, what would you like to eat? What if you’d built a secret hide-out inside of your home – a place you would monitor the household from hidden cameras and microphones, and scare your brother half to death with noises that seemed to appear from nowhere? What food would you stash in there? Salads, frogs legs, and caviar? No, not  Michael. He liked junk food. And while on the topic of food, what about the inevitable outcome of eating?

Michael tossed Chris a root beer and split open a bag of cheese nachos.

“We've gotta get out of here,” Chris said through a mouthful of chips, “somewhere safe.”

Michael flopped onto the futon. “Where?” 

“I’m thinking.” Chris swallowed and chugged some root beer. “Where's your cell phone?”

“On the pad.”

Chris glanced at the floor. The charge pad was almost right underneath them in the kitchen. “Shoot. I don't know where mine is.”

“Chris?” Michael's eyes bulged.


“I gotta go.”

Chris stopped chewing. “Bathroom?”


“Oh,” Chris said. “Use the waste line. The one you diverted from the bathtub drain.”

“No way. That’s a one inch line. I’m way beyond that.” Michael stood up and bounced on his toes.

“Do you have a blender? We can whip it up and pour it down.” 

Michael kicked the bag of chips out of Chris’s hand, sending a plume of nachos into the air. “You’re gross!” 

“Smooth, Michael, real smooth. How about a spoon then?”

Now imagine you’re Chris – Michael’s older brother. Chris only wanted to bring his brother up right, keeping him fed and out of trouble. Keeping Michael out of trouble wasn’t working out too well, but Chris had the opportunity to cook dinner in a kitchen built on dreams. And how best to describe the horror both boys had just experienced than a steak?

Chris grabbed two steaks from the freezer, placed them into the microwave, and watched the defrost time out. It was seven o'clock, and he was tired and hungry, but pleased they had finished their chores.

Michael walked into the kitchen. “I’m going to find some cash.”

Chris jumped as the microwave beeped. “Make sure you put an I.O.U. in its place.” 

Michael thumped up the stairs. Chris pulled out the steaks. They were bloody and wet, marbled with fat, and pulled images of Michael's bullet riddled body into his head. His hand started to shake and he dropped the plate on the island with a clatter. Michael should have died today. How did he escape those bullets anyway? Bill shot from twenty feet away, and he obliterated the wall. Michael had always been lucky and, for once, Chris was glad for it, though Michael's fear shocked him. He'd never seen Michael scared of anything, until today.

Chris fired up the grill and tossed on the steaks. The flames devoured the dripping fat, and the smells kicked Chris’s appetite into overdrive, pushing the horrific pictures from his mind. He placed two potatoes into the oven and a pot of water on the stove for beans. He'd been cooking dinner for years, leaving Michael's on a plate for whenever he'd get home. Michael had never thanked him. Instead he chased Chris out of the kitchen with his ghostly noises, clanging pans, and blinking lights. Chris shook his head, his anger dissipating over the thought that Michael was so darned clever. He removed the steaks and placed each on a plate.

Chris watched Michael pile his plate with green beans. He opened the oven and tossed Michael a potato. He scooped some beans onto his plate, split open a potato, and gobbed peanut butter on it. They walked to the TV room and flopped onto the couch. 

The next morning, Michael creates the perfect breakfast for two hungry boys.

Michael held up a plate stacked with pancakes and smiled.

“Wow, those are massive. I didn't know you could cook. What’s in them?” 

“M&Ms, marshmallows, and cashews. I found strawberry jam, whipped cream, and chocolate syrup to spread on top.”

Chris patted his stomach. “Hmmm. Breakfast of the gods.”

And of course, who doesn’t enjoy a Big Mac?

Chris carried a tray loaded with Big Macs, fries, and hot apple pies. Michael stumbled out of the washroom. Chris flopped at a table, popped open a carton, and stuffed the warm hamburger into his mouth.

“I figured you'd push the whole burger in there,” Michael said.

“Hmpphhhm,” Chris said.

Chris chewed until his jaw hurt. He swallowed and fired in a french fry.

“Michael, where did you learn how to build a Taser?”

“Internet,” Michael mumbled through a mouthful of hamburger. He swallowed. “Did you know the word Taser originated from a book called Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle?”

“No, I didn’t. Hmm, should have named them after Tom Swift and His Bludgeoning Hoe. Heh!”

“Very funny, Chris. They’re actually simple devices, transformers, diodes, and a capacitor.”

“Please don’t tell me you tested it on someone’s cat.”

“Nope. I tested it on myself, just about killed me.”

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

You can find ND here:

Friday, March 3, 2023

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Julie Rowe, Author of Viable Threat


I’ve written several bioterrorism thrillers where the best thing there is to eat is a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE). MREs are vacuum sealed, cooked meals that have a shelf life of 5 years. In Viable Threat, the first book in my Outbreak Task Force series, the main characters are in a crisis situation, a city is locked down, and the only food available are MREs. MREs are used usually by the military, but can be purchased by anyone for camping trips, and like in Viable Threat, in emergencies. 

It feels like every week is its own emergency these days. Cooking has gotten expensive. Groceries, and nearly every other consumable thing, has increased in price no matter where you live. Shipping costs have gone up and there are shipping delays on so many things thanks to multiple global events. Conversations with friends have shifted to where the best price on meat is, and which recipes can be stretched. We’ve discussed meal prep and how to use leftovers. 

One of the meal prep ideas my best friend and I have been using is bulk cooking and freezing meal sized portions. We take one Sunday a month, decide which meals we’re going to prepare, cook, and freeze for that month. We purchase all our groceries in bulk for all the meals, and work together to cook it all up. 

There are several ways once-a-month-cooking benefits us. One, because we’re buying in bulk, it’s cheaper. Also, we’re going to the grocery store less often throughout the rest of the month, which means fewer impulse purchases. There’s less stress on the whole family because no one has to worry about what’s for dinner tonight.

Want to give it a try? Here’s one of my favorite recipes Freeze it in whatever size suits your needs, from family size, to smaller portions for lunches.

Baked Spaghetti

Traditional Italian flavours.  Serve with garlic bread.

Metric Imperial

0.45 Kg Lean ground beef, browned 1 lb

500 ml Spaghetti, cooked 2 cups

370 ml Frozen or canned corn 1 and a half cups

120 ml Finely chopped mushrooms half cup

1 370 ml can Tomato soup 1 12 oz can

1 860 ml can Tomatoes, chopped 1 28 oz can

250 ml Cheddar cheese, grated 1 cup

1 Medium onion, chopped 1

2.5 ml Chilli powder half tsp

2.5 ml Worcestershire sauce half tsp

370 ml Chopped mushrooms 1 and a half cups

2.5 ml Oregano half tsp

2.5 ml Basil half tsp

Brown ground beef and onion.  Break spaghetti into pieces and boil for 10 mins.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mix well.  Freeze in doubled Ziploc bags.

To serve: Defrost in fridge overnight.  Put in a large casserole dish, Cover and bake at 350 F (180 C) for 1 and a half hrs.  OR cook in slow cooker on low for 6 10 8 hours.

Tip: cook hamburger needed for ALL your recipes in one or two large frying pans at the same time.  Then separate into meal sized portions (about two cups of cooked meat).

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

You can find Julie here:

Twitter @JulieRoweAuthor

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Books on Amazon