Thursday, May 23, 2019

Please Welcome Karen Pokras, Author of Ava's Wishes



Ava Haines isn’t your typical college student. She has big goals and is laser focused to make sure nothing gets in the way of her internship at the local art gallery and her bigger goal of owning her own place one day.

But a girl still has to eat, right? Especially when the esteemed and very handsome photographer Thomas Malloy offers to take her out to dinner while he’s in town for his show at the gallery. Perhaps Ava is not quite as focused as she thought she was. Even she’s entitled to a little fun once in while, and dinner with Thomas at Habanero’s, the chic and out-of-her budget Mexican restaurant, sure beats another bland meal at the college dining hall. They start off with Margaritas and tortilla chips. While the scene ends there, I’m certain Ava ordered the grilled Mahi-mahi tacos.

As good as that meal was, it has unfortunate ending. No worries though as Ava has other delicious meals in her future with both Thomas and her charming statistics tutor Max Wallis. Max invites her out to D’Angelos Pub where she orders a grilled chicken salad instead of the pasta dish she really wants, because she never orders spaghetti on a date. It’s way too messy. And is it really a date anyway if they’re talking about statistics?

Maybe some distractions aren’t so bad after all.


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



You can find Karen here:






Thursday, May 16, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Rick Polad, Author of the Spencer Manning Mysteries



When Shelley asked me to write a blog about my books and food, my first thought was that I wouldn’t have enough material for a paragraph much less a blog. After all, my books are about Spencer Manning and the cases he works on, not food. But after some thought I realized food is an integral part of my books and Spencer’s life for several reasons. The first is, fictional characters need to eat too, albeit fictional food. The second is, food plays a major part in advancing the story, especially in a mystery novel.

As the cases develop, Spencer needs to let the reader know what he is thinking so the reader can be involved in trying to figure out who did it. And what better way to do that than to have Spencer converse with other characters. He dines twice a week with Lieutenant Stanley “Stosh” Pawolski of the Chicago police and less often with his romantic interest, Detective Rosie Lonnigan. Gino’s East, one of Chicago’s favorite spots for deep dish pizza, is one of their favorites, as is Carson’s for ribs. Over a meal, they talk about the case.

Another reason for including food in the stories is purely selfish. I get to eat vicariously through Spencer. He gets to eat all the things I shouldn’t… steaks, burgers, pizza, ribs, lasagna. And he doesn’t have to eat vegetables. And he frequents some pretty fancy restaurants. My books are set in Chicago during the 1980s, so I had to rely on my memory and research to be historically accurate. Some restaurants are still here thirty-five years later. Some are not. And some exist only in my imagination.

In the first book in the now seven-book series, Change of Address, Spencer frequents one of the best steak houses in Chicago… Gibsons, one of my top three culinary experiences.  But in that same book, Spencer and Rosie dine at Stantons. It’s a restaurant on the shore of Lake Michigan in a North Shore suburb of Chicago. Every table overlooks the lake and Spencer and Kelly sit on the terraced veranda with drinks before dinner. The most frequent question I have had about my books is “Where is that restaurant? I want to eat there!” Unfortunately, it’s only in my imagination. Also in my imagination is the deli next to Spencer’s office.

But the place that holds the books together is McGoons, where Spencer is known by name and often meets with one of his many sidekicks for steak and beer and to discuss a case.  McGoons is a creation of bits and pieces from my memory of Chicago pubs.

In the third book, Missing Boy, Spencer visits the original McDonald’s (after Kroc took over) in Des Plaines and laments plans to tear it down. A museum was later built on the site. And as I was writing this, I realized Spencer has never had a Chicago hot dog. I’ll have to fix that in the next book. Bon appetit!


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


You can find Rick here:




Thursday, May 9, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Back Laurie Boris, Author of The Kitchen Brigade



If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Out of the Kitchen

Survival during wartime means doing without, but those who endure discover how to get what they need. For most of the characters in my dystopian novel The Kitchen Brigade, this revolves around food. Food is love. Food is culture. Food is community. For this group of women who have made cuisine their passion and their livelihoods, food is everything.

When we first meet Valerie, a former culinary student, she’s cooking with whatever she can scrounge in the mess hall of a refugee camp. To bear the nightmare her life has become since a war-torn America was occupied by Russia, she draws on memories of learning to cook as a child. She recites the names of the French “mother” sauces like a mantra; she recalls the aromas of licorice and vanilla that keep her father alive in her mind.

Again she calls upon her childhood comforts when she’s imprisoned and forced to cook for a Russian general. In his kitchen she’s thrown into a brigade responsible for crafting five-star meals for him and his guests…carefully supervised by a mysterious head chef and the general’s well-armed guards.

Since the story takes place in New York’s Hudson Valley, local cuisine is on the menu. Perfectly roasted venison is the star when the general entertains his special guests. Meals always include bounty from the nearby wineries, along with fruits and vegetables (as they can be found, or stolen.) For an extra dash of flavor and intrigue the head chef grows herbs in pots on the kitchen’s terrace. When the resistance interrupts their supply lines, the general’s men shoot ducks out of the sky and commandeer anything they can find in vehicles stopped at checkpoints.

Because the kitchen is often called upon to produce haute cuisine when certain staples are unavailable, the women need to be resourceful. They can make pasta without eggs, biscuits without milk, and nearly anything without butter. They even make their own butter—when they can bargain for cream.

In one of my favorite food-related scenes, Valerie makes up a plate of leftovers for a young Russian guard and sits with him over dinner. They barely know a few words of each other’s language, but sharing a meal provides an opening for empathy and compassion: they grow to understand each other’s struggles, and what the war has taken from their families. In a time when the world is trying to divide them, the simple act of sharing a meal can show what unites them.


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



You can find Laurie here:






Thursday, May 2, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Adam S. Barnett, Author of The Judas Goat



The Judas Goat: Guns and Sausage Gravy

I am really good at arguing with myself.  And I lose arguments with myself.  All the time.  When I’m thinking about a problem, I am my own irresistible force and immovable object all at once.

As an attorney, it has come in handy over the years.  I know the weaknesses in my case before I ever set foot in the courtroom.  I know what the other side is going to say, so I say it first.  I control the weakness.  I put it on display.  And because I’m prepared, I can explain with confidence exactly why that weakness simply does not matter.

When I decided to write The Judas Goat, I had read many cases where one person used lethal force upon another and raised the issue of self-defense.  Some were successful, many were not.  So I thought about the “poster child” case, a term used in the profession for a case where the alleged events are so sympathetic it could affect the outcome of the case.  In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be such a distinction, but as well all know, this isn’t a perfect world.

In my past life, I have cooked professionally.  I’m not a chef.  I’m a cook.  And I’m still a cook at heart.  I can make anything you want, and make it the best you’ve ever had.  You want pineapple on a pizza?  You better believe you’ll get pineapple on your pizza.  You want a fried egg on your burger?  I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.  Tell me what the rules are, and I’ll exceed your expectations or go down swinging.

It’s not too big of a shift to practicing law.  As lawyers, we’re stuck with the laws we have.  There’s the rare exception where a higher court will say a given law, as applied, violates the Constitution in some way.  But the vast majority of the time, you are stuck with the laws you have.  Those are the ingredients.  Legal procedure is a recipe.  But it’s my job to make sure that my finished product is the best.

In The Judas Goat, diner owner Kyle Morrison shoots and kills a teenaged assailant in a robbery attempt.  Unfortunately, he may have deviated from the “recipe,” the narrowly-drawn parameters of self-defense in which the State will allow one citizen to take the life of another.  Kyle finds himself prosecuted for murder in a very high-profile case that destroys life as he knows it.

Kyle’s attorney, Owen Malone, has quite a challenge.  Crimes are elemental, much like the beloved BLT.  If I give you a sandwich with bacon and lettuce, but no tomato, what do we have?  I don’t know, but it’s not a BLT.  And crime is the same way – the prosecution has to establish that all the elements that make an act a crime are there.  The problem Owen has is… well, the elements are arguably there, even if Kyle’s actions could have been considered understandable.  Owen’s only hope is that the “recipes” of the criminal justice system won’t be followed to the letter.

The biggest challenge in writing the book was the inevitable argument of gun rights vs. gun control.  A quick look at the “comments” section of a Facebook post on the subject will tell you many people see no middle ground.  But, just as much out of force of habit than anything else, I found myself engaged in an internal argument on the issue.  Where exactly did I stand?  Is it possible to have a hard position on the issue?  Or is this one of those subjects where one can’t have a staunch position and truly understand the quandary?

In the end, I simply put all of my arguments in the mouths of my characters.  Sometimes they said things I agreed with, sometimes they did not.  The book won’t serve as a validation of either extreme.  But as a lawyer, the first thing I try to do is understand everyone’s position.  Often times, I have been able to spare litigants a lot of anguish by simply explaining competing perspectives and figuring out a solution other than war.  I hope this book lends itself to positive discussions about this issue and how we can all work together to solve it.

But if nothing else, Kyle shows everyone how to make awesome sausage gravy, one of my favorite guilty pleasures.  So there’s always that.  Sausage gravy makes everything better.


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



You can find Adam here:






Thursday, April 25, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Barbara Scoblic, Author of Lost Without the River



Did you include the recipe for our mother’s Fruit Salad? One brother asks me. Her Baked Pheasant? Another brother chimes in. Her Strawberry Shortcake? That’s my sister.
No, no, and no. Sorry, guys.

Although food is at the heart of my memoir, Lost Without the River, I didn’t want it to be a cookbook. I didn’t want to tell how to prepare the food, but rather how it came to be on our table. Of how my family planted, tilled, and harvested food from the fields, and plucked berries and vegetables from the woods and our garden. With work suspended for a short time, we sat down to dine on freshly picked sweet corn, heavenly whipped cream fluffed from the top of unpasteurized, non-homogenized milk that our grass-fed cows had produced, fish we’d caught in our river only minutes before. We savored each bite, acutely aware of the effort it had taken to get it onto our plates.

Each neighboring farmwife was known for her baking specialty. My mother’s? Her sweet rolls, heavily perfumed with cinnamon and dotted with not-too-sweet frosting,  her pies, with fresh berries or fruit peeking through the crust of the flaky pastry shells, and her angel food cake topped with berries and some of that divine whipped cream.

Now many decades after my mother opened the door of the wood-burning stove for the last time, when my siblings and I gather, at dining table or in a diner, and bread or dessert is served, the spirited conversation stops and immediately shifts to “Remember our mother’s ….”

So when you read Lost Without the River carefully, you may be able to learn how to reproduce my mother’s famous baked beans. At least, as well as I did.

And, if you‘re willing to search for wild plums and locate a wood-burning stove to bake your own bread, and then find cream with the thickness and flavor of ours, you just may be able to make a stone’s throw version of my mother’s famous wild plum cobbler. Good luck!


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



You can find Barbara here:








Photo by Nina Subin


BARBARA HOFFBECK SCOBLIC began her writing career as a reporter for The Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She now lives and writes in New York City.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Sweta Vikram, Author of Louisiana Catch



What’s in your multi-cultural plate?

Louisiana Catch traverses through three distinct places—New Delhi, New York, and New Orleans—revealing the foodie nooks and crannies in each city. The female protagonist in Louisiana Catch, Ahana, is a tea-drinking, pinot-noir-sipping health nut from New Delhi who is also a feminist and a foodie. While Ahana’s favorite Indian food is kebabsand chicken biryaniwith raita, a cucumber yogurt salad garnished with crushed mint; she equally enjoys a Cajun spread of shrimp po’boys, andouille gumbo, shrimp étouffée, jambalaya, and the overall Southern hospitality.Ahana hates to cook and is a specific person. She enjoys her green juice and green smoothies and yoga and running just as much as she appreciates a good French pinot.

The male protagonist in the book, Rohan Brady, is from New Orleans who loves everything food. He loves to purchase the ingredients, experiment with recipes in the kitchen, and host dinners. Cooking is Rohan’s way of showing care. On Ahana’s deceased mom’s birthday, Rohan cooks Ahana a Cajun meal in NYC: blackened catfish, red beans and rice with Andouille sausages, corn in a special sauce, and a big salad. He remembers that Ahana’s mother’s favorite dessert was New Orleans style bread pudding with whiskey sauce. And we see him organize that too. Despite being a NOLA boy, Rohan’s favorite dessert is laddoosfrom New Delhi. They are round dessert made with chickpea flour, sugar, ghee, and nuts.

When Ahana meets with Rohan for the first time in New York City, she gifts him a box of laddoos. With a solemn look in his eyes, Rohan bites into one laddoo, This is heaven. Thank you so much. We find out in the book Rohan’s connection to and familiarity with India.

But the most memroable food scene in the book is when Rohan organizes a special treat for Ahana at an upscale, gourmet restaurant, Mom’s Recipes, in Manhattan. The whole evening is sucha nice geusture. Mom’s Recipes has a fixed, international menu, but you can order ahead of time and ask them to cook homely dishes too. Since the owner is from NOLA, Rohan knows him well. At this dinner, there is a bottle of French pinot noir and good Delhi-style food—paneerand almond kebabs, seekh kebabsmade out of chicken mince, butter chicken, naan—leavened Indian bread, saag, and a green salad inside—all of Ahana’s favorites.

Some of these items remind Ahana of food at her mom’s, especially the saagdish made from mustard greens and spices. In Delhi winters, this was a staple at her parents. Her mother, though not the best cook in the world, made the most delicious seekhkebab, Ahana reminisces.

You might find Ahana and Rohan Brady competing with each other over a long run in Central Park or you might find them brainstorming the latest strategy to promote their upcoming conference NO EXCUSE. Whatever be the case, there is also a sighting or mention of food.


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




You can find Sweta here:








Sweta Srivastava Vikram, featured by Asian Fusion as one of the most influential Asians of our time, is a mindset & wellness coach, speaker, and best-selling author of 12 books whose work has appeared in The New York Times, amongst other publications, across nine countries on three continents. She helps C-suite executives, entrepreneurs, and corporations increase profit and productivity through health and wellness. Winner of the Voices of the Year Award, (past recipients have been Chelsea Clinton and founders of the #MeToo movement), in her spare time, Sweta teaches mindfulness and yoga to empower female survivors of trauma. A graduate of Columbia University, she lives in New York City with her husband.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Janna Wong Healy, Author of Let's Get Lost



As all residents of Los Angeles know, there is no shortage of good food in our busy urban city.  If you’re a foodie and want four-star dining, it’s available at a high price (along with a hefty valet parking fee).  If you’re a food truck aficionado, there are nights in Venice and daily on campuses across the city where food trucks sit and wait for those who can’t live without their fusion bowls.  If you’re a fast food junkie, just take a drive down any street and you’ll be able to get whatever fat-filled burger you want (including an actual Fatburger!).

So, what does Libby, the heroine in my novel Let’s Get Lost, do in the opening scene?  As a well-paid executive in a finance company, she is taking her three best friends to The Ivy in West Hollywood, one of the toniest places in the city and a popular spot where celebrities eat and interested paparazzi station themselves as they wait for the perfect photograph.

Libby selects this upscale celebrity hangout because she is high on life, loves the restaurant’s Homemade Wild Maine Lobster Ravioli and has the best news to share: after 10 years with Chad, he has finally popped the question!  But, her dreams of walking down the aisle in a specially designed Vera Wang wedding dress are soon shattered when her friends tell her that Chad is having an affair.

To prove them wrong, Libby decides to spy on him.  She sneaks into the mountains where Chad, an outdoor specialist, is leading a tour of elite campers.  But things go horribly wrong for this uber-urban gal and she ends up stranded, only to be discovered by Kit, a jazz-playing saxophonist who has escaped to the mountains to get some much-needed R&R.

Unlike Libby, Kit is well-versed in camping.  As he shepherds her to safety through three days of torturous mountain hikes, spring storms and scary wildlife, Kit introduces Libby to experiences with food that she never wanted or thought she would ever need.  During their adventure on the mountain, Kit shows her the wonders of cooking and eating a fish that she actually catches herself!  He teaches her the difference between edible mushrooms and poisonous ones.  He shows her how to stay alive eating little more than berries.  A woman for whom camping is being in a hotel without internet, she at first hates every moment of Kit’s outdoor education…until she realizes she might actually be in love with him.

Once Libby and Kit are rescued and she learns the happy news that Chad has been faithful all along, can she and Kit forget those three days when they were lost on the mountain together?  Will she forever think of Kit when she buys store-bought blueberries?  Will she ever look at mushrooms the same way again?  More importantly, can Libby and Kit resume their previous lives…or will they realize they need to get lost with each other all over again?


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



You can find Janna here:






Tuesday, April 2, 2019

8-Year Blogiversary!


Another year, another list of delicious reads!

These fabulous authors stopped by to share their food for thought:

Laurie Boris - The Call
Nick Cook - Cloud Riders
Richard Gazala - Blood of the Moon
Dana Griffin - Coerced
Connie Johnson Hambley - The Charity
Karen Ann Hopkins - Embers
Brooklyn James - Jolie Blonde
Nancy Lynn Jarvis - The Two-Faced Triplex
Beverley Jones - Where She Went
Beth Kander - Original Syn
David J. Kirk - Stone Signs
Gwen Mayo - Strangely Funny
Alan McDermott - Run and Hide
Christopher Minori - Little Idiots
Rose Montague - Jade
Bobby Nash - 85 North
Mark Noce - Between Two Fires
David Pedersen - Clod Makes a Friend
Katherine Roberts - Bone Music
Deanna Lynn Sletten - Miss Etta
Clayton Smith - Apocalypticon
Karen Rose Smith - Murder with Cinnamon Scones
Barbara Stark-Nemon - Hard Cider
Sheryl Steines - Black Market
Lori Ann Stephens - Some Act of Vision
Gabi Stevens - The Wish List
Jolene Stockman - The Jelly Bean Crisis
Mary Strand - Livin' La Vida Bennet
Mary Elizabeth Summer - Trust Me, I'm Lying
Ann Swann - Stutter Creek
Ashley Sweeney - Eliza Waite
John FD Taff - Little Black Spots
Cyndi Tefft - Between
Derek Thompson - Stand Point
Gayle Trent - Killer Wedding Cake
Gabriel Valjan - The Company Files
Francesca Varela - The Seas of Distant Stars
Ottilie Weber - Family Ties
S.K. Whiteside - Inheritance
Pam Workman - Tattooed Teardrops
Grace Wynne-Jones - The Truth Club
Vincent Zandri - The Sins of the Sons


And I chewed up:

Tilt-A-Whirl - Chris Grabenstein
Luckiest Girl Alive - Jessica Knoll
Discovering Vintage New Orleans - Bonnye Stuart




Since I am so fortunate to have many delightful guests, I don’t get to blog about every book I read. And, to be fair, not every read lends itself to a good FoodFic discussion, either because the food in the story doesn't jump out at me, or my schedule’s already full for the year, or a book’s subject matter is too dark or serious for me to lightly chat about here.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome David J. Pedersen, Author of Clod Makes a Friend



This was the 25th year my wife and I have hosted Christmas dinner for family and friends. My wife does all of the cooking, I do a lot of cleaning and even more eating. Our tiny house is filled with delicious smells of her dry-aged roast and a pumpkin dessert with yellow cake topping that has been dubbed “David’s dessert.” I always get a gentle hand-slap for trying to sneak away with it. That dinner is full of great memories.

Food is an incredible tool for writers that readers can relate to. If you've read any of my novels, you probably wonder if I have an obsession for cake. While I don't eat cake three times a day (life goal) it’s certainly one of my most favorite comfort foods. Not only do I love the taste and texture, cake means party since it is often served at celebrations. Even if you don't like cake, you get the significance.

In Clod Makes A Friend, Clod is bullied for being the only 9-year-old in his class without magic. More than anything he just wants a friend, so he makes one out of clay. To his surprise, she comes to life and introduces herself as Ada. Ada doesn’t last for very long, at first. Each chapter is a different year of their life. As time progresses, Clod gets better at sculpting Ada, she lasts longer, they become close friends, and occasionally get into some trouble. This novella tells the entirety of Clod’s life in 10 chapters, from age 9 to 57.

They have enough food to survive, but something like dessert is a luxury. When Clod brings Ada to the nearby town, well before anyone is awake, she discovers a bakery. A beautiful layered cake on display makes Clod swoon. Being a young child made of clay, Ada doesn’t always make the best decisions and sneaks through a pet door to sample the delicacy. Letting Clod in wakes the shop owner. Clod makes the terrible decision to grab an entire layer of cake and run off into the woods with Ada. It’s a great adventure, but not without consequence.

In a later chapter, powerful Shaman Millow visits their cabin to learn more about Ada. To engender trust, she introduces them to what is basically chai tea. After Clod does a favor for the shaman, she gifts Clod with more tea for Ada. Clod recognizes the significance as it is the nicest thing anyone had done for his friend.

In Clod’s impoverished life, treats like sweet tea and cake represent extravagance. Even though they can be stolen, it is better earned - just like any cake we would enjoy at our own parties. You may never know the power of cake until you read Clod Makes A Friend, but it may even save your life.


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



You can find David here:







David J. Pedersen is a native of Racine, WI who resides in his home town Kansas City, MO. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. He has worked in sales, management, retail, video and film production, and IT. David has run 2 marathons, climbed several 14,000 foot mountains and marched in Thee University of Wisconsin Marching Band. He is a geek and a fanboy that enjoys carousing, picking on his wife and kids, playing video games, and slowly muddling through his next novel.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome S.K. Whiteside, Author of INHERITANCE



Laissez les bons temps rouler

Whew! We certainly let the good times roll these past few weeks here in New Orleans. The struggle is most definitely real! Whoever thought that Daylight Savings time should be a thing should be killed (I want my hour back!). To make matters worse, us natives are just coming down from Mardi Gras: weeks of drinking, partying, parades, debauchery, and food.

Food.

I admit, when I was first asked to include something about a dish or food in my post I was a bit intimidated. I write about many things but food is NOT one of them. Then I thought about where I lived and all of the food.

Food. Glorious Food.


New Orleans has beautiful architecture (albeit, complicated street names) and a rich (yet haunted) history…both key reasons why I chose to make home as the setting for my Inheritance series and its surrounding world. But New Orleans wouldn’t be the mecca that is without the staple of its food.

Delicious Cajun and creole food. If you are a health nut, New Orleans is not the place for you. New Orleans food is savory, rich, decadent, and smothered with things like sugar, liquor, sauces and gravies.
 
While many of my characters aren’t really pressed to eat the local cuisine (they prefer more metallic tasting nourishments), characters like Malachi engulfs it. A fallen angel, Malachi is not very sociable and can be a bit snarky as a means to keep others from getting too close. He made New Orleans his home over fifty years ago because it was the perfect place where he could be himself unabashed and be alone without anyone noticing him, or the fact that sometimes he talks to dead people. What he didn’t anticipate was falling in love with the city and even more so, the food. He prefers all things sweet and decadent (Bananas foster, Bread pudding and rum sauce, pecan candy) but his favorite?

None other than the New Orleans King Cake.



What is a king cake? Sweet, cinnamon bread covered in icing and sprinkles on top. Sounds simple but trust me, not everyone can make a good king cake. Some are filled, some are made from cake, some are made from donuts. The variations are so many that every year during carnival New Orleans holds the ultimate King Cake tasting festival. Winners get bragging rights for the next year. Some makers only sell during Mardi Gras which makes the demand for their cakes that much bigger. 

Malachi however, is a man of tradition and only has eyes for the Randazzos king cake. Which sucks because they are only open four months out of the year. Every year he tries to stock up before they close but the cakes never last the week and all he is left with is a void and small bit of shame for his gluttonous ways.

If you are ever in New Orleans during Mardi Gras be sure to grab you one…or two…or five. Who knows, Mardi Gras was just last week, you may be lucky enough to catch an order before they close until next season!


Manny Randazzo’s                     Sugar Love Cakes


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



You can find SK here: