Friday, May 3, 2024

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Natalie Bright, Author of End of the Trail Eats

END OF THE TRAIL EATS: Cowboy-Approved Recipes from the Cowtown Café to the Saloon by Natalie Bright

Eating in Cowtown.

It should warm your heart to know that potato salad has been around for over a century, and so has bread pudding, whiskey toddy, and hash. That is one of many surprising discoveries I made when researching the food of the late 1800s Cowtown. A Kansas Cowtown was the place where Texas Longhorns and Texas cowboys collided with railroaders and townspeople. As the saying goes, “No sheriff west of Newton—no God west of Dodge.”

My latest book End of the Trail Eats contains recipes for a varied collection of authentic dishes from stockyard cafes, saloons, hotels and brothels sprinkled with archival photography, Old West lore, first-hand accounts, and profiles of the townspeople. Taste the favorite sandwich of the most beautiful woman in Dodge City, Kansas or cook up a unique hot dog made famous by the notorious gunfighter Bat Masterson. As one reviewer described it, “a historical cookbook, or a cooking history book” with dishes from the real American West.

Rivalry was serious between the Cowtowns in an attempt to entice the drovers and cattle barons to sell herds at their railroad yards for shipment to processing plants back East. Not only did they serve elaborate meals, first class hotel accommodations were advertised as well. Below is a posted menu advertising Sunday Dinner posted in the Abilene Daily Reflector, dated June 1894. Only 25 cents for city residents!

Union Pacific Hotel and Depot, Abilene, Kansas
An Attractive Menu Arranged by the Pacific Hotel.
The menu for the Union Pacific hotel’s Sunday dinner tomorrow is given below.
Only 25 cents to residents of the city.
Clam Chowder
Boil Trout, Natural Sauce
Potatoes au gratin
Lettuce. Olives. Sliced Cucumbers. Sliced Tomatoes.
Boiled Sugar-Cured Ham
Roast Sirloin of Beef
Ribs of Beef, browned potatoes
Roast Turkey, Sage dressing
Smothered Chicken, Southern Style
Mashed Potatoes. Green Peas.
New Boiled Potatoes. Wax Beans.
Pickled Beets. Salmon Salad.
White Cake, lemon sauce
Strawberry Short Cake.
Apple Pie. Lemon Pie.
Vanilla Ice Cream.
Cream Cheese. Assorted Cake.
Assorted Fruit. Raisins. Assorted Nuts.
Coffee. Ice Tea. Sweet Milk.

It was Gustavus Franklin Swift who revolutionized the meat packing process by establishing markets for the byproducts and inventing the refrigerated train car. It was barbed wire and the railroads extended reach that brought an end to the cattle trailing industry and Cowtown.

Happy reading and eating!

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

You can find Natalie here:

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Friday, April 26, 2024

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Julie Valerie, Author of Holly Banks Full of Angst

Holly Banks, married film school graduate and mom to five-year-old Ella, is a less-than-perfect mom searching for mostly happy in a pretty good life. But there’s a problem. New to the idyllic Village of Primm, in Holly Banks Full of Angst (Book 1 in the Village of Primm series), Holly is experiencing the worst week—ever.

But what is she eating?

In Chapter 12, during a school yard chase between Holly and the megalomaniacal Mary-Margaret St. James, Holly’s mouth is stuffed with Mary-Margaret’s peckled peanut butter cookies. Cookies, that later give her food poisoning…

Holly pushed another cookie into her mouth. Tossed the box. Mary-Margaret ran, and Holly gave chase, two women wearing the wrong kind of footwear. They ran like platypuses, strange creatures with appendages that baffled the observer and only seemed to get in the way. The limited circumference of Mary-Margaret’s pink pencil skirt compromised her running stride—legs chopping across the field like blades on scissors, feet sharpening to points in a pair of sling-back heels. Holly’s sports bra and piggy pajamas made her the dancing queen, but she had to curl every muscle in her toes to keep her flip-flops from falling off. Never mind that her mouth was chock full of peckled peanut butter cookies. It hurt to run with toes clenched in a fist; Holly’s shoes kept slipping off. She improvised by running with a sideways gait, like a lumbering giant, the way the Hunchback of Notre Dame would run if given the chance and inspiration. 

In Chapter 14, Holly’s sure her husband is eating what he always eats at Wendy’s: a number one single combo—no cheese, no onions—medium size with a Dr Pepper. But while Jack’s peppering his fries, his boss Bethanny is reaching across her salad to help herself to one of his fries... 

Holly whipped, a safe distance for spying, into a parking space and then, through the restaurant window, watched them eat as if she were watching a movie at an outdoor drive-in theater. Holly became Jennifer Aniston, with no popcorn but a front-row seat, as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie ate their seductive dinner in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Everyone knew what came next for Brad and Angelina in that movie: gunfire, hot sex, and an explosion that literally blew their house off its foundation. Fifty million in box office sales opening weekend. Worldwide sales of over 475 million. Jennifer? Her Hollywood ending? Not so good. And okay, it didn’t work out for Brad and Angelina either. Which proved there were no winners when a dinner like that was eaten. Was Holly jumping to conclusions? Or witnessing something she’d sensed but didn’t want to face? Was it true what they said? You knew when you knew? Because Holly knew Jack. Jack ordered a Wendy’s number one single combo—no cheese, no onions—medium size with a Dr Pepper, but was that “just” a meal? Or was that a combo meal?

And in Chapter 8, where we meet Online Psychic Betty, who gives Holly unconventional advice through late night emails, emails that always end with seafood promotions at the mysterious Dizzy’s Seafood (Click HERE for half-priced shrimp), the “What are they eating?” question is answered, this time, with a drink. 

EMAIL—Time Received: 2:24 a.m.

TO: Holly Banks

FROM: Psychic Betty, Psychic Hotline Network

SUBJECT: Your FREE “Ask the Psychic” Question

Today’s planetary alignment gives you the ability to make wise choices and seek useful information. Thank you for submitting a question to the Psychic Hotline Network. I am Psychic Betty, your online psychic. Exercise extreme caution if your child starts kindergarten between August 20 and September 10. But other than that, the answer is: NO. The universe does NOT have a secret power you can tap to help you cope with your child starting kindergarten. Have you tried vodka?

Don’t be a clod. Eat beer-battered Cod!

—Psychic Betty

Click HERE to ask another question.

Click HERE for coupons to Dizzy’s Seafood.

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

You can find Julie here:

Twitter @Julie_Valerie

Facebook Page

Books on Amazon

Julie Valerie, an avid Scrabble player who once played QWERTY on a triple word, writes humorous women’s fiction and is currently writing her third novel. Holly Banks Full of Angst and the second novel in the series, The Peculiar Fate of Holly Banks, feature continuing characters and can be read sequentially or as separate, independent, standalone novels. 

Friday, April 19, 2024

FOODFIC: Please Welcome D.J. Green, Author of No More Empty Spaces

A Taste of Turkey—The Country, Not the Bird

Will Ross had his first taste of adventure, and foreign cuisine, as a teenager serving as a Marine combat medic during the Korean War. That experience whetted his appetite for more—adventure, and flavors of places far and wide.

It’s 1973 when No More Empty Spaces opens, and Will, who is now an engineering geologist, has landed a job in Turkey where he’ll work on the construction of a troubled dam. And what are his first impressions?—the smells and tastes of Turkish food as he walks Ankara’s streets on his way to his first day on the job. The tangy scents of spices on roasting meat capture his imagination for future meals, and it seems the guy who loves food that makes him sweat has come to the right place. Fiery Adana kebabs will become Will’s favorite dish. On the same walk, though he doesn’t usually eat breakfast, the yeasty aroma of freshly baked bread in one bakery after another draws him in to the next one he comes to, where he tries a warm-from-the oven, chewy, and ever-so-slightly savory roll. As he chews it, he can’t help but compare it to the tasteless and textureless (unless you consider ‘marshmallow’ a texture) white bread from the grocery shelves back in the States.

But that is only the beginning, as Will and his family sample countless new foods and drinks from fruit (the apricots Turkey is famous for) to nuts (pistachios, hazelnuts, and almonds, oh my!) on their adventures in Anatolia. Two treats the family will talk about for years are the honey-rich baklava made in Gaziantep filled with the small, sweet pistachios grown there (a highlight of the local food movement before there even was one) and the ice cream like none other in the world, Kahraman Mariş
dondurma, made with flour from the roots of wild orchids that gives it a thick and pleasantly gooey quality as it flows across your tongue. And then there’s the Turkish coffee.

So, it is the taste of the country, not the bird, that you’ll find in the Ross family’s story, though Will always remembers his four-year-old daughter’s reaction when she found out they were making the trip—how she’d skipped across the lawn, shouting, “A ’benture! Turkey! Gobble, gobble, gobble!”

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

You can find DJ here:






D. J. Green is a writer, geologist, and sailor, as well as a bookseller and partner in Bookworks, an independent bookstore in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She lives near the Sandia Mountains in Placitas, New Mexico, and cruises the Salish Sea on her sailboat during the summers. No More Empty Spaces is her first novel. She is currently working on her second novel, Chances, the story of woman taking the helm of her life as she learns to command the helm of sailboat, as told by the intrepid boat dog who is her First Mate. Read more of D. J.’s writing on her website,

Friday, April 12, 2024

FOODFIC: Please Welcome KJ Waters, Author of Killing Time

Imagine stepping back in time to ride a horse in the Texas plains in the late eighteen-hundreds. Can you feel the grit between your teeth? A sprinkling of that same dusty landscape served in the bowl of bison and beans, the scent of the campfire intertwining among the other flavors as you eat out of a tin cup. 

In my latest time travel novel, Killing Time, I capture this scene just outside of Sterling Texas in 1872. For me the setting holds the danger and excitement of the time in post-civil war America when the Native Americans held tight to their remaining land.

As a fun twist, I’ve put Ronnie Andrews, the time traveler, in the clutches of Jesse and Frank James who are part of a rescue party retrieving Ronnie from the clutches of the Comanches. Jesse and Frank were in Texas during that time hiding out from the Missouri law under the pseudonyms of Jere Miah and Ben. 

Soon the sun grew tired and lay along the soft plains, ready for a long night’s rest. They stopped to make camp. The stars above spoke of another time and place, for they shone in such abundance it hardly looked like the night sky she knew. 

By all appearances, these men had slept out in the open air too many times to count. Each man knew his role. They unsaddled horses and set up camp. Ronnie wondered what they could possibly use for a fire, since there was not a tree in sight. 

“Sit right there so Jere Miah can keep an eye on you.” Ben pointed at a blanket near the man making a fire. “I don’t mean to be harsh to you on account of your tumultuous day. But if we’re all going to get back alive, you need to follow some rules.” Ben spoke sternly, counting on his fingers with each point he made. “First, do not leave camp unattended. Second, do not make loud noises. All our lives are at stake here. The noise carries across the plains, and they’ll be on us in no time.” He flattened down his mustache and fixed her with a hard stare.

Ronnie nodded, wishing for her own bed instead of the dangerous open sky. 

Ben pointed at a scruffy blondish man. “Now you get comfortable, and Jere Miah will get some vittles ready.”

Jere Miah blinked rapidly, his mouth tight showing his disapproval. The unevenness of his ears gave him a young, comical look, but hard steel shone in his eyes, providing a disturbing contrast, like the killer clown in a horror movie. Not so funny. She watched him build the fire with dark, oddly shaped kindling. Soon the fire blazed with dry grass as the final ingredient. 

Ronnie was curious. “Jere Miah, what are you using for firewood there? I didn’t see a branch anywhere around.” 

He kicked a loose chip with his boot to shove it under the others in the pile under the flames. “Ma’am, we use dried buffalo chips. They’re all over these parts.” 

The only odor was smoke and a slight scent of burning grass. “I didn’t know you could burn that.” 

Jere Miah nodded as he set a pot on the flames and emptied a nearby canteen into it. When the water boiled, he emptied a dark substance into it from a small burlap sack. The scent of strong coffee gave away the contents. In another pot, Jere Miah emptied several cans of beans and stirred it with a knife. Soon the other men gathered around the fire and ate from their saddlebags waiting for the meal.

Gary approached from the darkness and handed Jere Miah a bundle wrapped in leather. It was a huge chunk of meat from an injured bison they’d encountered at the watering hole. He sliced off several dozen inch wide cubes and dumped them into the beans, stirring again with the knife. Gary wrapped the remaining meat and carried it off.

Max handed her a biscuit, and she bit into it, nearly breaking a tooth. “Careful, it’s hardtack.” It tasted like a very stale saltine.

The sun had set, and the only light was from the fire that threw shadows all around, adding an unsettling, ethereal feel to the camp. The horses were nearby, as evidenced by the occasional snort. When the coffee boiled and sat for a spell, the men dipped tin cups in the pot, coming away with grounds sticking to the edges. 

The men were quiet, but finally Gary spoke up. “Look, we’re almost home. Let’s be grateful that Rose is okay, and we didn’t lose Max.” 

A few men nodded. Jere Miah held a hand out for each man’s tin cup and ladled the chow, filling it to the brim.

Ronnie was handed a cup and spoon for her first hot meal of the day. She waited for it to cool, half listening to their conversation while lost in her own frightening thoughts of the earlier attack. It smelled good, but she was hungry enough to eat it, regardless of taste. 

A tentative bite of the hot, fragrant food left her wanting more. Ben set the hardtack in the cup soaking up the juices. Ronnie copied him and was glad for it. There were only so many beans she wanted in her system. The dried biscuit softened nicely and did enough to fill her belly, tasting a lot like a saltine cracker. The few chunks of buffalo meat were tough, but flavorful. Soon she was too sleepy to keep her eyes open and lay back, gathering the blanket around her. 

It was a small comfort to hear the male voices telling stories around the fire as she drifted off to sleep. Just before she dozed off, she said a prayer for their safety.

One thing I love about writing time travel stories is I can dive into the past, exploring the clothing, living conditions, and what food was important in those times. Those details bring stories to life. In my time travel series, Stealing Time, I send Ronnie Andrews back through the eye of a hurricane to different centuries, each fraught with dangers of the time. 

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

You can find KJ here:                Instagram

Twitter @KJWatersAuthor           TikTok    

Facebook Fan Page          Pinterest    

Books on Amazon            Goodreads

KJ Waters is the international best-selling author of the Stealing Time Series (Stealing Time, Shattering Time, Killing Time) and the short story Blow. Her books are described as “breathtakingly original,” with “edge of your seat” action, and “characters are so well-written that they seem like real people.” Her books are often found on the Amazon best seller list next to Outlander and Michael Crichton’s Dragon’s Teeth. 

In addition to her writing, she is the runs KJ Waters Consultancy providing author consulting services covering branding, social media, and publishing. For free chapters and giveaways, visit her website at 

Friday, April 5, 2024

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Thomas Reed, Author of Pocketful of Poseys

If my dark family comedy, Pocketful of Poseys, had a subtitle, it could almost be “But what aren’t they eating?” After a grueling struggle with Parkinson’s disease, Cinny Posey, charter member of Woodstock Nation, refuses all food and drink. Her adult children, Grace and Brian, finally embrace her exit strategy, but staff at Cinny’s healthcare facility struggle letting her dwindle. The chef is famous for his delectable homestyle meatloaf, served the first Tuesday of every month. There’s even a local story about an elderly woman, comatose for three days, who, as one first Tuesday progressed, grew more and more alert until she finally awoke, rose from her bed, slipped on a pair of tattered mules, and trundled down the hallway behind her walker in hot pursuit of the beckoning aroma. When, years later, a well-meaning but ill-advised attendant brings Cinny a cup of pureed meatloaf, she provokes a major spat with Grace, who knows her mother’s eating anything would represent a huge step backwards. Sometimes family love is not about home-cooked meals!

Other than Cinny, naturally, my characters do eat. Jetting around the globe fulfilling Cinny’s dying wish—to sprinkle her and husband Frank’s ashes in a half-dozen international locations—they relish local cuisines at every waystation: e.g. Stonegrill and pavlova in New Zealand, tiramisu in Italy, fondue in Switzerland. Actually, they ate so much in my early drafts that my title could have been “Tableful of Poseys.” It’s a lively book about challenging travel, featuring some wild adventures, but much of the story unfolds through conversation of the “family table-talk” sort. I just needed to move some of the revealing chit-chat outdoors, up mountains, along rivers, aboard planes and trains, even up at rooftop bars.

Desserts have places of honor on the Pocketful menu. Cinny and Frank founded a student co-op at college in the late ‘60s—said to have hosted two banquets a year where guests stripped at the door and ate dessert off each other’s naked abs. Cinny’s son Brian is fascinated by the possibility; Grace is mortified. This is finally a book about growing up, by fits and starts, over the course of multiple decades. Grace’s daughter, Chelsea, adored tiramisu as a child, dubbing it “teary measles.” When the book brings the extended family to Rome, “teary measles” re-emerges in a trenchant dinner-table scene that questions whether parents can ever see their offspring as full adults. Those “just-the-cutest-things” that adults treasure as a way to hold onto their babies so often turn on the intake (and output!) of food. (My infant daughter used to put her grilled cheese sandwiches on top of her head and grin insanely!) It’s striking how often those charming foibles get dredged up at Thanksgiving and Christmastime meals—dependably mortifying the former kids. Family diners beware!

They say we are what we eat. Maybe you can’t write a compelling family saga without touching on what we do—and don’t—put into our collective mouths.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your food for thought, Tom!

You can find Tom here:


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Friday, March 29, 2024

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Brenda Whiteside, Author of Sleeping with the Lights On

Sleeping with the Lights On
Food and Love

Sandra and Carson have a history. They’ve shared many meals together, toasted with their favorite wine, and probably had heartburn together. Afterall, they were married for five years…eighteen years ago.

In my own life, I find certain foods or drink can send me on a magic carpet ride to the past with one taste. I’m reminded of places I’ve been and people I’ve known years ago. For instance, cheese enchiladas send me back to my childhood. Mom made them at least once a week, and we most likely ate them again in a restaurant at least every other week. Born and raised in Arizona, Mexican food was a staple.

I married young, and my army husband whisked me off to Germany shortly after the ceremony. I wasn’t old enough to drink in Arizona, but I sure could in Europe. Nowadays, a strong, warm mug of German beer and I’m steeped in great memories of our tour in Deutschland…snowy, cold nights in warm Oktoberfest tents, singing, swaying arm-in-arm with friendly Germans.

Food and memories play well in Sleeping with the Lights On. Sandra is a single woman in her fifties living the apartment life with plenty of men in her past. The dinner smells wafting from the Iranian couple’s apartment down the hall remind her of her foreigner dating phase: Ahmed, Valente, and Zoltan. The current man in her life likes champagne with a peach floating in it every Sunday morning. He’ll forever come to mind when she drinks the bubbly.

With how food relates to memories, it’s no wonder when Carson plops back into Sandra’s life, the first thing they do is have dinner. He’s a Las Vegas entertainer, so they ate dinner out most of their married life. Sitting across the table from him, she’s reminded of so many meals in the years they were married. In spite of not wanting to get involved with him again, breaking bread puts her in a comfortable state of mind. Agreeing to have lunch with him the next day really sets her off down memory lane. A picnic with sourdough bread and Beaujolais wine…Nashville comes to mind. Food might just be her downfall with her ex.

Does the taste of something, or the smell of a certain food send you down memory lane?

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

You can find Brenda here:                    Goodreads     Bookbub

Twitter @brendawhitesid2             Books on Amazon

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Brenda Whiteside is the award-winning author of romantic suspense, romance, and cozy mystery. She writes children’s books under the pen name, Brenda Sue. After living in six states and two countries—so far—she and her husband have settled in Central Arizona. They admit to being gypsies at heart and won't discount the possibility of another move. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. While FDW fishes, Brenda writes. 

Sleeping with the Lights On: 

After two failed marriages and countless relationships, Sandra Holiday thinks she’s met the man to end her years of less than perfect choices; choices that not only derailed her travel-related career plans but also left her single and broke.  

Carson Holiday, a Las Vegas country crooner with swoon-inducing good looks, spent his adult life pursuing a recording contract and love, never holding on to either. After eighteen years, he drops back into Sandra’s life, reigniting an attraction he can’t deny.

When Carson reappears, Sandra must choose again.  Only this time, nothing’s as it seems.  A secret admirer, a redheaded stalker, and an eccentric millionaire throw her on a dangerous path, with Carson her only truth.

As life confronts her with yet another turning point, will her decisions find her eternally sleeping with the lights on – or will she finally discover a way to turn them off?



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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…