Friday, August 3, 2018

FOODFIC: Tilt-a-Whirl - Chris Grabenstein




Admission #1: I only found this novel because I was requesting Grabenstein’s Lemoncello Library series online from my local library for my kids. If I hadn’t scrolled all the way to the bottom of the search results, I might never have known he’d also written books for adults!

Admission #2: After 13 years of New Jersey living, I have never been “down the shore.” Every summer I say I’ll make at least a day trip, but I never do find the time to get away. L

Well, this story stole my last bit of motivation to hit the beach! Not because it’s a bad book, but because it’s a clear depiction of a place that frankly holds no appeal. Beginning with the introduction of annoying tourists and their bratty children, moving on to psychotic vagrants and drug paraphernalia peppering the sand, and, closing out the trifecta, murder on a boardwalk ride! Clearly not much here screams “vacation.”

But just when I’m about to write off Sea Haven and all its sister cities, I read about the tomato, mozzarella, and basil on a baguette. Hmm. Now I’m wondering (hungering?): Is there actually a “Good Earth” on Ocean Avenue? I might just have to take a drive and find out. ;)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Mary Elizabeth Summer, Author of Trust Me, I'm Lying



Being a con artist, and on pretty much everyone’s most-wanted list, Julep Dupree doesn’t think about food very often. But there is a certain beverage that she cannot live without…



“I like my froofy drinks froofy and my blue-collar brew as bitter as burned oven scrapings.” ~Julep Dupree

Her favorite haunt is Café Ballou, a coffee shop within walking distance of St. Agatha’s, the fancy Catholic private school she attends. She’s at the Ballou more often than not, especially once her father goes missing and her apartment turns not as safe as it used to be.

As a con artist, though, it would be against her moral code to pay for coffee. So, in the interest of seeing a master at work, let’s watch her con her way into a cup of her favorite fuel.

     It takes me longer than most people to order coffee, because I’m chatting up the cashier to finagle a free drink. It’s not hard. Especially at a chain, which is more likely selling the coffee-shop experience than the coffee. But even indie-shop baristas are given a lot of leeway. All I have to do is determine what pushes the buttons of the person who pushes the buttons, and bingo—all the macchiatos I can drink. But it does take a little more time than fishing for cash. 
     “You new?” I ask as I step up to the counter. 
     I’m a regular at the Ballou, so I know all the baristas. I’ve never seen this guy before, so I already know he’s new. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re a regular or not, though—just have a spiel handy for either possibility. 
     “First day,” he says. 
     Stocky and bald and built like a linebacker, the forty-something man looks more like he should be on the set of an action flick than wearing a barista apron. 
     “Like it so far?”
     “Manager’s nice enough.”
     “I’ll have a triple soy caramel macchiato, please.” The please is essential when angling for a free drink. “My name is Julep,” I continue, offering a hand while flashing him a dimpled smile. 
     “Mike,” he says as he shakes my hand. 
     “I know all the baristas’ names,” I tell him. “Have to put something next to their numbers on my speed dial. You never know when you’re going to have a caffeine emergency.”
     He laughs and starts making my drink without charging me first, as he can see that I’m winding up for a full-on conversation. 
     “Have you been in the barista game long?”
     “My first time, actually,” he admits with a smile. On him, it looks like a piece of granite cracking in the middle. “Tell me if I mess it up and I’ll try again.”
     “Oh, I’m easy,” I say. “As long as it’s got loads of caramel, I’m a happy camper. Besides, you look pretty confident back there. I’m sure you’ve got it down.”
     Compliment, compliment, compliment. But keep it focused on the job at hand. Telling him he looks great in that shirt sounds like you’re flirting rather than impressed with his handiwork. Flirting has its place, for sure, but not in this situation. You need generosity, not a date. 
     “That’ll be four-fifty,” he says, putting the cup of caffeinated sugar rush on the counter in front of me. 
     I rummage around in my bag. “Oh, jeez. Looks like I forgot my wallet. I guess I should cancel the drink order.”
     “Might as well take it since I already made it,” Mike says, pushing the drink toward me. “Call it practice.”
     “You’re a gem, Mike. You have no idea how much I need this coffee.”
     “I’ve been there,” he says, smiling and wiping his hands on a caramel-smudged cloth.


So, there you have it, folks! Julep Dupree’s foolproof method for conning yourself into free coffee. (Don’t tell anyone, but I tried it myself and it actually worked. O.o)


For more nefarious tips and tricks, check out Trust Me, I’m Lying and the sequel Trust Me, I’m Trouble.


Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Mary Elizabeth!


Mary Elizabeth Summer contributes to the delinquency of minors by writing books about unruly teenagers with criminal leanings. She has a BA in creative writing from Wells College, and her philosophy on life is "you can never go wrong with sriracha sauce." She lives in Portland Oregon with her partner, their daughter, their two dogs and two cats. Check out the inner workings of her devious mind at www.mesummer.com


You can also find Mary Elizabeth here:



Thursday, July 19, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Lori Ann Stephens, Author of Some Act of Vision




I’ve never thought about the food in Some Act of Vision, but what a great question to ask about characters: But what are they eating? I suppose the title of Chapter Two is most appropriate for today’s guest post: “Eat Something.” Jordan Walker is a ballet dancer, and as a former dancer, I can attest to the strange relationship that dancers have had (historically) with food. I think it’s getting better now, but when I was a teenager, food was a topic fraught with anxiety and wish-fulfillment. I was always hungry—I loved food, and especially sweets—but my anxiety about the way my body was supposed to look according to magazines and other dancers made me love-hate food. I’d love whatever it was I was eating, but later “hate” that same food when around my friends. Thankfully, things have changed since the 80s, and we’re raising girls and boys with smarter approaches to body image.

Jordan Walker’s father reminds her to eat something—anything—as he stands at the counter and wolfs down his morning oatmeal and coffee. Jordan doesn’t struggle as mightily as her fellow dancers do; except for one friend who dared to eat half a muffin, Jordan’s friends don’t eat on recital days even though their dance teacher reminds them to eat well.

But food isn’t the enemy in Some Act. In fact, one of Jordan’s favorite smells is watermelon Jolly Ranchers, which is her little brother Ethan’s favorite candy. When he blows on her wet mascara as her tiny make-up assistant, his breath smells like watermelon Jolly Ranchers. There’s something magical and powerful about the way food—and the aroma of food in particular—can attach itself to a person, becoming a characteristic as important as his nose or her laugh.

Once the fracking disaster occurs and fundamentally changes Jordan’s body, food is the one thing she no longer needs. What are we without our bodies? What if we can no longer dance or eat our comfort foods or physically do all the things that have shaped our identity? This is the question Jordan must figure out. I faced this question when my feet were too damaged to dance. We face it when our favorite foods are banned from us. (Am I still the chocoholic of the family if I can no longer eat chocolate?) Do you identify with a particular food or drink, even if it’s something you can no longer have?



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



You can find Lori here:




Thursday, July 12, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Christopher Minori, Author of Little Idiots



Samm is like every other detective tracking their target. That is, if every other detective is a demon banished from Hell and their target is an escaped rabid soul! At its heart, the comedy-fantasy world of Little Idiots is a detective novel where demons are the good guys, humans are ridiculous and angels have bad attitudes. Samm is nothing more than a horned Sam Spade, and like any hard-boiled detective, food never touches his lips; he subsides on cigarettes and booze.

And man, does the booze ever flow. Alcohol is Samm's solution to all problems - get beat up by demon mafiosos? Have a drink. Angel trying to assassinate you? Have a drink. Your apprentice bringing home Cerberus' stray puppies? Have a drink. And put newspapers down on the floor. Lots of newspapers. The main location in the novel is set in the bar of the recently deceased Evil Moe, which supplies not only Samm with ample drink, but also the characters around him, from human detective Barney Little (Scotch on the rocks), witch-in-training Adesina (vodka cranberry), to Jude (grain alcohol and gasoline).

Much to Samm's chagrin, everyone's drinking, but nobody's paying. To Samm, "free" is the ultimate dirty word, right next to "bath". Villians pause their beatings to grab a free beer or two, cultists are swiping Southern Comfort by the gallon. Even Samm's best mate and fellow demon is walking away with the stuff:


Jude grabbed two more bottles of grain alcohol. Samm raised an eyebrow.

“Consider it an advanced payment for this job.”

“I wasn’t planning on paying you,” Samm declared.

“Then it’s a good thing I’m here to correct your mistakes.”


Where does this obsession with drinking come from? Granted, a detective story without cigarettes, booze, and dames is like... well, like a detective story without cigarettes, booze, and dames; but there's a personal reason as well. Twenty years ago, I realized I was in a battle with alcohol and I was losing. I worked through my personal demons and stopped consciously drinking. Five years later, I stopped unconsciously drinking. Samm's alcoholism reflects my own. He gets to indulge in the thing that I crave, but cannot have. Mo matter how fantastical their characters, writers sprinkle bits of themselves in them. And Samm is all me. Or I'm all Samm; I forget which. Being able to view alcohol through the eyes of my wise-cracking demon helps me to put the kibosh on my own secret desires.

Four decades ago, a demon came into my life and wound up being the best sponsor I've ever had. I admire his tenacity. I respect the humanity that slips through his demon facade. Most of all, I like him. I think you will too. Pick up a copy of Little Idiots on Amazon. And when you're done laughing at Samm and the gang's adventures, take in an AA meeting. You'll need it.


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



You can find Christopher here:




Thursday, July 5, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Karen Rose Smith, Author of Murder with Cinnamon Scones



What are my characters eating in Willow Creek, Pennsylvania, deep in the heart of Amish country? Anything sweet or hearty that will accompany tea.

Daisy Swanson and her Aunt Iris co-own Daisy’s Tea Garden in Willow Creek. Many of the foods my characters enjoy are based on Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.  Daisy at the tea garden tries to give them a twist, as does her kitchen manager, her best friend from high school, Tessa Miller.  Daisy’s Tea Garden offers sweet and savory items from potato and leek soup, carrot-grape-pecan salad to lemon tea cakes and cinnamon scones that are involved in solving the murders in this small community.  In each novel I include at least three recipes that have appeared in the mystery.

Daisy’s teenage daughters Jazzi (Jasmine) and Vi (Violet), have their own favorites.  Both girls enjoy whoopie pies—soft chocolate cookies with peanut butter cream or vanilla cream centers as well as their mom’s lemon pepper tomato mozzarella salad.

Frequent visitors to the tea garden have their own favorites. Jonas Groft, a former Philadelphia detective, owns a woodworking shop WOODS down the street from Daisy’s. Although, after her husband died, she decided never to need a man again, she feels something electric whenever Jonas is in the same room. He has a protective attitude that sometimes rankles, but with his help, she finds herself solving murders! His favorite soup is beef barley.

A friend from high school, Cade Bankert, is another frequent visitor to the tea garden. Cade had escorted Daisy to her high school prom.  He is a real estate agent who found Daisy and Aunt Iris the tea garden property as well as the old barn Daisy had renovated into a home for her and her daughters.  His favorite tea is orange pekoe and he’s fond of Daisy’s cookies.

When Daisy visits her Amish friend Rachel Fisher, she is invited to share a slice of shoo-fly pie with Rachel and her family.  Rachel and her husband Levi own and run the shop, Quilts and Notions, across the street from Daisy’s Tea Garden.

If you enjoy tea, desserts, salads, and soups, as well as murder-mystery with a touch of romance, stop in to Daisy’s Tea Garden for a visit.


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



You can find Karen here:





Thursday, June 28, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Gabi Stevens, Author of The Wish List




Food doesn’t play a huge role in my book The Wish List, but there is a quirky food item in it. Confession time, because I pulled it out of my own life: My heroine likes to eat Chocolate Chipless Cookies. What are they? As the name says, they’re chocolate chip cookies minus the chocolate chips.

I’m not a huge chocolate fan in real life. I will eat it, but it has to have something in it—nuts, peanut butter, butterfinger filling. No fruit. I will eat brownies, but prefer them with vanilla ice cream on top, no chocolate sauce. I prefer white cake to devil’s food, vanilla pudding to chocolate, and plain glazed doughnuts over chocolate ones. I wish they made eclairs without the chocolate covering the top. Oh, and it has to be milk chocolate. I hate dark chocolate. I think most of my tastes are that of an eight year old. You should see my drink choices.

When I make chocolate chip cookies, I leave out the chocolate chips. I love the cookie part, all buttery and soft, but the chocolate ruins it. And for my family, I meticulously place a few chips in strategic spots so they can have the chocolate. A bag of chips lasts me several batches.

In writing, it’s always fun to give your characters a quirk. Ron Weasley is afraid of spiders, Yoda speaks backwards, and Sheldon Cooper has too many to list. In The Wish List, I needed to give my character a quirk, something that made her a little more interesting, and I had one ready-made. Chocolate Chipless Cookies.

As I said, not much food in The Wish List, but what there is is special to me. If you want to read a book with more food in it, try the next one in the series, As You Wish. My heroine owns a bakery in that one.



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



You can find Gabi here:




Thursday, June 21, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Back Katherine Roberts, Author of Bone Music



My novel Bone Music tells the story of Genghis Khan’s rise to power in 13th century Mongolia. The book is part legend, but the food and drink in its pages is real enough, and many of the same foodstuffs are still eaten (and drunk) in Mongolia today.

Genghis Khan’s people ate a lot of meat. This would have come both from the herds that travelled with the clans - oxen, horses, camels, yaks, sheep, goats - and also from the wild animals they hunted on the steppes, such as deer, marmots and squirrels.

At the start of the book, the boy Temujin (young Genghis) is living in exile with his family after an ambitious chief stole his dead father's people, and must find a way to feed his little brothers:

I knew we’d be in trouble if we couldn’t hunt for meat. So I struggled to master Father’s huge bow, hidden by the tall pines where the river raged loud enough to hide my grunts of frustration. My arrow-making skills improved (they had to, since I kept breaking the stupid things). But, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t draw that string far enough to send my arrows after a deer – or even, most times I’ll admit, hit the trunk of whatever tree I’d chosen that day to take the place of Chief Fatface. – Bone Music, Temujin’s story.

Meat was often dried to preserve it for longer, and when they were on campaign Genghis Khan’s soldiers would keep a strip of dried beef under their saddle to chew on as they rode. But the young Khan's favourite meaty snack must have been the traditional meal of tough mutton he and his sweetheart Borta chewed on their wedding day:

Our wedding turned into the biggest Red Circle feast I’d seen, with buckets of airag for every family and ten whole oxen roasted for the occasion, as well as the tough old sheep whose meat we had to chew in public to show our marriage would be strong. – Bone Music, Temujin’s story.

As well as meat, all the herd animals provided the clans with milk in the spring when they had their young, and some of this milk was turned into yoghurt, cottage cheese, curds, and other produce. This led to the Mongolian summer being known as “the white season”, because that is when the people of the steppes process soft milky foodstuffs to eat after a long winter of increasingly tough, dried meat.

Fruit and vegetables must have been in short supply on the steppe in Genghis Khan’s time, when the clans led a nomadic existence that meant no farming. But the Khan’s people would have foraged for roots and berries when these were in season, and before Temujin learnt to bend his bow, his mother apparently kept her young family alive by feeding them on wild onions.

Medicines were made from various leaves and roots gathered from the forest. The girls were usually sent out to gather these, no doubt a welcome escape from the smoky yurts. When the Khan’s sweetheart Borta rides into the forest with her half-sisters, she thinks they are going foraging, but it is really an excuse for the other girls to ask her to use her shaman powers to find out who they are going to marry:

We packed food for several days and a rolled-up deer hide to make a shelter at night… It was good to be out in the mountains, away from the shaman’s choking smoke for a few days. Remembering our excuse for the outing, I pulled my digging stick out of my pack and began to search for roots, but my half-sisters showed no rush to get started. ‘So!’ Orbei said brightly. ‘What do you learn in the shaman’s tent, then?’ –  Bone Music, Borta’s story.

No meal is complete without something to drink, so what was Genghis Khan’s favourite tipple?
The most common alcoholic drink on the steppe is 'airag', the Mongolian word for fermented mare’s milk. This was made by filtering the milk through a cloth into a leather bucket or wooden vat and stirring it over a period of several days. It is a fizzy, mildly alcoholic drink of about 2% or 3% proof with a varying taste dependant on the method of production, and can be distilled further to make a fierce milky vodka called ‘Arhi’, which is 16% proof or more. The Khan and his men would have enjoyed airag on feast days, although it was apparently responsible for poisoning his father, Yesugei the Brave, who had stopped at a rival camp on his way home from taking young Temujin to meet his future bride and made the mistake of accepting the traditional bowl of airag offered to travellers on the steppe.

Genghis Khan's men also drank their horses' blood when they needed sustenance on a long march - the wound would heal quickly, and then they would ride on. Here, Temujin drinks blood for the first time on his way across the steppe with a friend to rescue his family’s herd of silver-bay geldings, which were stolen by raiders while he was a captive in the fat Chief Kiriltuk’s camp:

We slept rolled in our blankets under the stars, and on the way Boorchu showed me a warrior’s trick for survival when crossing a barren steppe – how to drink my horse’s blood. You make a small hole in the vein at the throat with your knife, and then suck out the blood before the wound heals. The warm, sweet liquid filled my mouth and coated my tongue. I could feel it clotting on the way down, filling me with strength. – Bone Music, Temujin’s story.

Sometimes the blood was mixed with water or milk... so how about a cup of blood mixed with airag to finish your 13th century Mongolian meal?


Thanks for stopping by to share more food for thought, Katherine!


You can find Katherine here:







More about modern day Mongolian food and drink can be found here:
www.toursmongolia.com/mongolian-food-and-drinks

BONE MUSIC: The Legend of Genghis Khan by Katherine Roberts
is published by Greystones Press:
http://www.katherineroberts.co.uk/the-legend-of-genghis-khan

Thursday, June 14, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Back Nancy Lynn Jarvis, Author of The Two-Faced Triplex



Regan McHenry and her husband, Tom Kiley, will eat anything, and in the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series, they’ve had a variety of in-home and in-restaurant meals. Regan even cooked an authentic Columbian meal to try and catch a killer in A Neighborly Killing and has been known to burn dinner because a clue occurred to her as she cooked.

In her most recent adventure, The Two-Faced Triplex, Regan explains her plan for getting information about a possible killer out of a reluctant witness to Tom over samosa avocado chat at an Indian restaurant, using her fork to punctuate her thoughts.

Fortunately for Regan and Tom, Santa Cruz, California, where they live and work, is a tourist community and has excellent restaurants that run from upscale French to vegan Mexican with everything in between. And there are as many Thai restaurants in the community as there are Starbucks in most urban settings.

Regan likes to cook and even has an herb garden so exotic ingredients are ready for the picking. Tom is an accomplished griller, especially of beer chicken, but other times when he cooks, it’s frozen pizza for him.

As Realtors, Regan and Tom keep frozen mysterious chocolate chip cookie dough in their freezer ready to be thawed out and baked at open houses to make properties smell “homey.” You can pick up a copy of it at goodreadmysteries.com/recipe.htm.


Thanks for stopping by to share more food for thought, Nancy!



You can find Nancy here:





Thursday, May 24, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Gwen Mayo, Author and Short Story Writer




Looking at the cover of Strangely Funny you might think that knowing what’s on my character’s plate could make you ill. So, let me assure you that I’m not writing a monster.

In A Proper Job for a Lady, Atalanta Wilde is an attractive monster hunter with a keen fashion sense. Above all she is a lady. After all, one doesn’t have to look or smell like a monster to catch one.

In truth, Atalanta doesn’t have a lot to eat in the story. She is at the Wilde-Woods Inn because there is danger afoot. She believes a monster from long ago has returned and nobody will be safe until she finishes the work her ancestors began.

A nice cup of spiced tea and some of her cousin’s fresh baked bread do restore her spirits after a long dangerous trip.
 
Cousin Constance also provides her with trail rations before she sets out to find the monster. She doesn’t specify what those rations are, but knowing her cousin, they will be a delightful surprise for Atalanta.

Nothing bad comes from the kitchen at Wilde Wood Inn. Tall, stunning, Atalanta might turn every head in the room but they won’t stay turned when Constance fills the room with the aroma of her cooking.


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


You can find Gwen here:





Thursday, May 17, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Ashley Sweeney, Author of Eliza Waite



If cooking on a 19th century woodstove isn’t your cup of tea, how about adding living alone for three years on an almost uninhabited island in the Pacific Northwest? In 1898? Eliza Waite, our hearty protagonist, is largely self sufficient, although she rows (yes, rows) four miles across a strait to another island once a month for supplies.

Eliza’s a baker, first by avocation, and later by vocation. She measures by teacups and uses what she has on hand to create sweet and savory concoctions. All the 33 authentic pioneer recipes imbedded in the novel were gleaned from 19th century newspapers. Good thing I had friends vet them all; errors in six of the recipes rendered them unpalatable.

Here’s what one reader wrote about Eliza’s Johnny Cakes:

I grew up with grandparents who called cornbread "Johnny Cake" and who served it with black-eyed peas, sautéed greens, grits and hominy. This was NOT my grandma's Johnny Cake.

The recipe went together easily though I questioned the exclusion of fat such as lard or butter and thought it seemed a little heavy on the corn meal ratio. I "soured" some milk with lemon and added the mixed ingredients to an oiled cast iron skillet, which went into the stove for 20 minutes.

The result was . . . interesting. My husband called it “Johnny Particle Board.” 

It looked nice and rustic in the pan, smelled good in the oven, but was dry as dust in the mouth. The first thing my husband asked was: "Didn't you add yogurt or chilis or creamed corn?" which are ingredients commonly used in our corn bread. I responded (hands on hips): “WOULD ELIZA HAVE HAD THOSE ITEMS IN HER CUPBOARD?!”

In this example, I amended the recipe to use lard, and my, what a difference! Delish. My favs are the Pecan Tarts, Country Apple Pie, and Marionberry Coffee Cake. But I’ll let you off the hook—you can use your gas or electric oven.

Bonus points for using a woodstove!


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



You can find Ashley here:







Photo Credit: Karen Mullen Photography