Thursday, June 28, 2012

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Charong Chow, Author of Random

Food is such an important part of who I am, especially as a Chinese-American growing up in Miami. I can still smell the favorite dishes my mother cooked, like stir-fry spicy shrimp or freshly steamed bao-tse (meat and vegetable stuffed buns).

Most of my childhood friends were Latin, and today I make Cuban picadillo from a friends recipe. I write about food for national publications and websites, including my own food blog, Eating With Hudson and Paradise, which is written with my two young children.

Since I love eating, I dont think I fully trust others who dont care for food. To me, a person who enjoys food understands herself more, and what she wants out of life. Loving food is loving life and everything it has to offer. It is only natural that the characters I create when I write enjoy eating as much as I do.

When I began writing my debut contemporary YA novel, Random, I didnt set out to write about foodie teenagers, but my characters are always having meals and eating foods I personally cannot live without. Eating together in a group is integral to a social life. Sometimes the foods they make or eat reflect the mood of the scene or how a character is feeling.

The first time Tierney, the main protagonist, is alone with Tom, who is the new boy at school, they are hungry at a friends house. They cook what many teenagers love, frozen pizza, but they are so involved in their conversation and growing attraction that the pizza is burned to a crisp.

Rereading Random for this blog post, I laughed when I found two references to Trader Joe's, which is a chain of specialty grocery stores in California that we love. Most of their products are their own store brand, and our family cant live without their well-known snacks. In the book, I mentioned Trader Joes Chocolate Ice Cream and Chocolate Cupcakes, which are the best store bought cupcakes I have ever tasted. Sadly, they have been discontinued.

Another aspect of food in Random, is how I used it to record landmarks in Los Angeles. After growing up in Miami, I moved to Los Angeles to attend the California Institute of the Arts. Having lived in the city for 14 years, many restaurants pinpoint different neighborhoods and memories. Much of the book is an homage to old Hollywood and Los Angeles.

Tom is new to LA, and as his relationship grows with Tierney, she plays tour guide and shows her side of the city to him. They drive to see the Hollywood Sign and visit the Griffith Observatory, where the film Rebel Without a Cause was shot. She takes him to some art galleries in Chinatown, and they eat pho, which is a type of noodle soup, at a small Vietnamese restaurant we also enjoy eating at on the Eastside. Los Angeles is a part of who Tierney is, and me, for that matter.

Teenagers arent always the biggest chefs, but when Tom finally cooks for Tierney, he makes grilled cheese sandwiches, the ultimate comfort food. However, she never tastes it. They immediately start fighting, and it ends up a gooey mess.

I was a vegetarian when I wrote the book, so all the food mentioned in the novel is vegetarian. I didnt write overtly vegetarian dishes like tofu salad, but I quietly wrote only meatless foods, like homemade bread, bean soup, croissants and brick-oven pizza. I didnt want to sound preachy, but I thought I could promote a certain healthy lifestyle - even though many other aspects of these characters' lives, not least their epic partying, are far from healthy!

Thank you so much, Shelley, for allowing me to ramble about one of my favorite subjects, eating. Food in books is such a fun and fascinating subject, and Im glad that you have a blog about it. Food represents our deepest desires and who we are culturally and philosophically. We are what we eat!

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

You can find Charong at:

Freedom to Read GIVEAWAY HOP

This hop, organized by Mundie Moms and I Am A Reader, Not A Writer, features over 200 (!) participating blogs offering book-related giveaways! We're all linked up together so you can hop easily from one giveaway to another; see the full list here: Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop.

Winner here at BWATE? gets a Signed Copy of either:
 "Solid" (Solid Series Book #1) or "Settling" (Solid #2)

To enter to win, just follow this blog and leave a comment/question,
along with a way to contact you.

Optional Extra Entries:
+1 Follow on Twitter
+1 Like Solid Series on Facebook 
+1 Add series to your to-read list on Goodreads

Giveaway runs from June 29th to July 5th; last day to enter is Thursday, July 5th.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Toastworthy Teens - Lauren McClusky

Lauren McClusky, Creator of McFest/Nelarusky

Lauren McClusky’s “McFests” were well on their way to becoming a tradition in Chicago, where the charity concerts raised over $30,000 for the Special Olympics. Unfortunately, the money raised during the 3rd annual event had to be put toward attorney fees when McDonald’s filed an opposition against the 19-year-old altruist, claiming her use of “Mc” infringed on the famous trademark. 

Initially Lauren was “kind of honored” that her work blipped on the McDonald’s radar. But “when [she] realized how serious it was, it just got ridiculous and offensive. They just wouldn’t listen.”

Yes, Lauren could’ve just changed the event’s name (which she built around the “Mc” in her own surname), but she didn’t want to also have to rebuild the brand she’d worked to establish since she was 16. She also hoped McDonald’s would be interested in working with her, since the corporation also supports the Special Olympics.

Unfortunately, the final agreement required Lauren to relinquish the “Mc,” but her next event, which launched the new name “Nelarusky” (combining letters from both her first and last names this time), had a stellar turnout and still raised $22,000 for her cause. 

I’d tell you to buy tickets for her 2012 event, but the tickets sold out in ONE MINUTE!
You can still visit her site, though:

I'd love for you to comment with your thoughts:
Which side do you think was right?  Do you think the decision was fair?

Do you know a toast-worthy teen you’d like to see featured here at BWATE? 
Comment below with your email address so we can get a post together!

Friday, June 22, 2012

FOODFIC: One Thousand White Women - Jim Fergus

In this piece of alternate-history, one thousand white women are sent out West to marry warriors of the Cheyenne tribe and procreate, thus forever joining the two peoples in a uniquely and hopefully peaceful way. In reality, such a proposal was made by the Cheyenne chief, but never agreed to by President Grant, so it’s only fitting that the first fictional conversation between the group of “volunteers” as they ride the westward-bound train reads more alternative than historical.

When young and naïve bride-to-be Martha expresses her worries over wifely duties, ex-asylum-inmate-turned-betrothed May Dodd uses food to express the difference between a man who is well-endowed and one who is not:

You do know the difference between, let us say, a breakfast sausage and a bratwurst? A cornichon and a cucumber? she asks.

Certainly this wasn’t the first time I had to look up a new-to-me food* item, but it was the first time I did so in order to appreciate a sexual innuendo. (And only six short pages later, Susan Kelly, one of the red-haired, literally thick-as-thieves, Irish twins from Chicago, talks about the judge who threw them in jail after soliciting the sisters to be two halves of a bun around [his] sausage. Seems sausage was huge in 1875 – no innuendo intended.) 

Anyway, the point is that no matter what crazy life she may be headed for, at that moment May is just happy to be able to laugh after suffering years of physical and emotional torture. Now, I won’t ruin the book by telling you if she keeps that newly-regained good humor once she reaches her new Nebraskan home, or if she flourishes in her new role as wife to Chief Little Wolf. I will, however, tell you that foods like grouse, elk, wild onion, and dandelion greens (and another savage delicacy that American readers may find as offensive as I imagine Hindus feel about our eating of cows, so animal-lovers may want to avoid page 108) are as foreign to May as the cornichon was to me.

Bottom line: whether it’s to find facts, food, or even family history, this story is sure to send you Googling. :)

* Sadly, all credit goes to the internet and not my 3 years of high school French for teaching me that cornichons are tiny gherkin pickles.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Midsummer's Eve GIVEAWAY HOP

This hop, organized by Uniquely Moi Books and I Am A Reader, Not A Writer, features over 200 (!) participating blogs offering book-related giveaways! We're all linked up together so you can hop easily from one giveaway to another; see the full list here: Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop.

Winner here at BWATE? gets a Signed Copy of either:
 "Solid" (Solid Series Book #1) or "Settling" (Solid #2)

To enter to win, just follow this blog and leave a comment/question,
along with a way to contact you.

Optional Extra Entries:
+1 Follow on Twitter
+1 Like Solid Series on Facebook 
+1 Add series to your to-read list on Goodreads

Giveaway runs from June 20th to June 25th; last day to enter is Monday, June 25th.

Toastworthy Teens - Zach Dubois

Zach Dubois, First Responder

Cheshire, CT Health Department Chair Cathy Sullivan says Zach Dubois “was attentive in class [and] asked the right questions,” but the high school freshman couldn’t help but think, When am I gonna use this? I’m not in a war zone or anything.

Yes, Zach’s town is indeed a world away from combat, but the 14-year-old did in fact have the opportunity to use what he’d learned in school to save a life. The teen was the first to discover a neighbor who’d fallen off a ladder while using a chain saw and sustained a serious head trauma. Zach, who wants to someday work for the F.B.I., saved the man’s life by wrapping and putting pressure on the wound after calling 9-1-1. I’d say his resume’s off to a good start. ;)

To be as prepared as Zach was to deal with an emergency situation, visit a first-aid site:

Do you know a toast-worthy teen you’d like to see featured here at BWATE? 
Comment below with your email address so we can get a post together!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Guest Joanne Hillhouse, Author of Oh Gad!

E Bang Good

How to describe pepperpot? The name doesn’t do it justice. It should be called meal that makes my mouth smile and my stomach sing. Pepperpot is so good, I can’t even eat it that often. Correction, my mother’s pepperpot is so good thank God she doesn’t cook it every day or else I’d eat so much of it I’d probably grow to hate even the smell of it, like I do peanut butter. Don’t ask.

What is this goodness of which I speak?

How to describe it to a non-Caribbean person?
Think of the word potpourri. Pepperpot is kind of the same concept – a mix of things that, when they come together, create their own unique brand of goodness – only edible. It (the pepperpot, that is) is a pot of garden goodness, and you can keep it there if you’re vegetarian, but even folks who won’t eat certain types of meat – pig mouth, anyone? – will eat it in a pepperpot. Like we say in Antigua, “E bang good!”

Confession time. I’ve watched my share of cooking shows, with The Neelys and Take Home Chef being among my favourites as much for their personalities as their cooking. With all that watching, it’s never occurred to me to take their recipes for a test run. Somehow the child who used to take her tanty’s epically big green cookbook for a spin has left the building. In her place is this girl who cooks for convenience when all else fails… except maybe at Christmas when her lasagna is requested for the table. And after the debacle of Christmas before last, who’s to say what will happen in the future.

These days I’m more inclined to write about cooking than actually cook. Writing is my gift in the way that cooking – and gardening – are my mother’s. We won’t delve into comparing the quality of the gifts, except to say that I never leave a spoonful of my mother’s thick slow cooked soup of greens and vegetables and meats in the bowl. Lord, e bang good!

It was perhaps inevitable then that as I hit a patch in my novel-in-progress where I wanted the women to gather for a pre-picnic cook down, I would turn to my mother and say, “Would you tell me how to make pepper pot? It’s for the book.” Maybe it was the ‘for the book’ part because normally my mother would show me her back and tell me if I wanted to learn, come and put hand next time. Like the mother character in the book says about pottery making at one point, my mother firmly believes that “The knowing is in the doing”. I realized that part of this with women like my mom – and maybe any cook who’s not plotting her next cookbook– is that so much of what they do is training and instinct. They know the parts, but how it comes together is always new for them, and how do you write down something you haven’t yet discovered. It’s kind of like when I’m writing; even in those times when I know where the story’s going, I still have to get there and the twists and turns are as much instinct as planned action. In cooking as in writing you have to know your stuff, yes, but you also have to be open to the moments of inspiration.

In any case, my mother gave me what she could – as she always has – and I wrote it down, which is what I do; now we have the ‘epic’ pre-picnic cook-down scene in my new book Oh Gad! It’s an April 2012 release, a labour of love several years in the making, and it weaves in, in that one scene, pepperpot-making tips from the world’s best pepperpot maker. Yes, I said, it. What?

Thanks for stopping by to share some food for thought, Joanne!

 Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean 
is the author of three books:
The Boy from Willow Bend, 
Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 
and the 2012 release Oh Gad!

*Photos by Emile Hill.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Toastworthy Teens - Hailey Daniels

Hailey Daniels, Juvenile Arthritis Advocate

Hailey Daniels “doesn’t just want to survive with arthritis;” say those closest to her; “she wants to help and inspire others.” The Salt Lake City teen, who has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, says, “When you have a struggle…you need to take it and just turn it into a positive experience.” 

That outstanding spirit is surely one reason Hailey was asked by the Arthritis Foundation to serve as their 2012 Youth Honoree for the fundraising/awareness walk they held in May. KSL News Radio also surprised her at school to give her a “High Five” award; I have a feeling this high school student better make some room on her mantel, because the awards are going to keep on coming. ;)

To find out more about the Arthritis Foundation, go to:

Do you know a toast-worthy teen you’d like to see featured here at BWATE? 
Comment below with your email address so we can get a post together!

Friday, June 8, 2012

FOODFIC: No Ordinary Day - Deborah Ellis

Valli’s life is one of utter misery – picture Harry Potter as a girl in India with a “family” that hates her but is so poor that they must live together in a space about the size of that cupboard under the stairs. Smellier, too, since the youngest children are often unable to make the long trek to the community toilet. There is so little food that Valli sometimes wishes she were a goat so she could just eat garbage, and she’d also almost rather be on the moon than in her desolate village…but why bother, since the inescapable gray dust of Jharia’s coal pits makes the two landscapes virtually indistinguishable.

It’s not until Valli learns that her “family” is, in fact, not even related to her – the best day of her life as she calls it – and she leaves town on the back of a coal track that she experiences any sort of kindness. When the men driving the truck discover their little stowaway, they bring her tea and dosas, which she is especially grateful for because it is food I hadn’t worked for, food bought special for me, not left over from the children who were not my cousins. Although these men turn out to be not wholly altruistic, this encounter both fills Valli’s stomach and ignites a hunger in her to really experience life. 

Through what she sees as adventures (but we recognize as trials and tribulations), Valli learns simple but valuable truths. Some of her life-isms contain few words but great meaning, such as: A bit of fun could turn into meanness if you weren’t careful. 

Some were longer and greater still: 

Nobody owns anything. We give back our bodies at the end of our lives. We own our thoughts, but everything else is just borrowed. We use it for a while, then pass it on.
We borrow the sun that shines on us today from the people on the other side of the world while they borrow the moon from us. Then we give it back. We can’t keep the sun, no matter how afraid we are of the dark.
We borrow our food. What we eat becomes fertilizer that goes back into the earth and gets turned back into food.
Everything is borrowed.

In this story, Ellis offers us not just food but feast for thought, borrowed from a fictional girl by millions of real readers who will hopefully pay it forward. :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Toastworthy Teens - Ashton Canada

Ashton Canada, UniqueModz
When 16-year-old Ashton Canada was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and had to be home-school for a year, he didn’t just play a lot of video games; he started fixing them as well. What started off with his researching how to solve an Xbox problem that many of his friends were experiencing, quickly evolved into customizing consoles – adding plexiglass windows to reveal the inner workings of the system, then adding lights and professional-quality paint. 30 customization orders in a week told Ashton that it was time to start his own company, and voila! UniqueModz was born. 

These days, serious business owner Ashton has little time to play; he’s “constantly updating the website, YouTube channel and social networks, talking to sponsors and making sure everyone is happy.” His father describes Ashton’s work ethic as “just unbelievable,” and Ashton’s mother is so impressed by her son having “done it pretty much all himself. He’s self-sustaining.” Given that Ashton’s now taking a business entrepreneurship to see “what [I’m] doing right and what [I] can improve on,” I think we can be sure he’s only begun a unique career. ;)

You can see Ashton’s creations here:

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Comment below with your email address so we can get a post together!