Friday, November 30, 2012

FOODFIC: Need - Carrie Jones

Zara White is, as she puts it, hollow. Her stepdad’s dying left her such a shell of a person that if ten times as many letters as she writes to save political prisoners through Amnesty International were written on her behalf, it still wouldn’t be enough to free her spirit. 

Desperate to help, her mother sends Zara to stay with family in Maine, where, surprisingly, the rescuers start lining up. There’s Betty, the step grandmother EMT who gives Zara both the space and benevolent wisdom she needs, and there’s Issie, the one-girl welcoming committee who befriends Zara immediately. 

And then there are Ian and Nick. Ian, the junior-class president who also plays basketball and runs cross-country, chivalrously walks Zara to homeroom on her first day. Nick gallantly guides her across the icy parking lot, but has a smile that screams, Danger! Stay away!

Ian says Nick is bad news; Nick warns Zara to stay away from Ian. What’s a new girl to believe? Well, judge a boy by what he eats, of course!

That’s why, on page 92, when Nick chooses an oatmeal raisin cookie over an M&M/chocolate chip one, I choose him. Easy peasy; oatmeal always wins. ;) Too bad there’s still that pesky pixie problem to deal with…

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Toastworthy Teens - Maren Johnson

 Maren Johnson, Global Soap Project

 You might've already heard of Maren Johnson, since she's on Youth Service of America's list of the top 25 most powerful and influential young people in the world.

Maren earned that distinction by founding the Global Soap Project - an organization that collects partially used bars of soap from hotels and recycles them into new bars for children in need overseas. 

Maren's project - which evolved after she learned 2 facts: 1.5 million children die every year from diseases that could be prevented by soap use, while 2.6 million bars of soap are wasted in the U.S. every day - began with just 6 hotels in her South Dakota town. Two years and almost half a million delivered bars (to over 20 countries on 4 continents) later, she has over 500 volunteers collecting soap from 110 hotels!

Visit Maren's website here: 

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, November 22, 2012

FOODFIC: Welcome Back Laurie Boris, Author of Drawing Breath

If I feed you, can I keep you?

I’ve been thinking about the deeper meaning of the kosher dietary laws of Judaism. I do that now and then, for fun. Common wisdom says that these edicts were necessary to avoid contaminated food, back in the days before refrigeration. The rabbis wanted to steer people away from bottom-dwelling clawed critters and pigs that live in their own filth. Less common wisdom—and perhaps the real reason, in my opinion—is that kosher laws were designed to keep Jewish children from fraternizing with and eventually marrying people of other religions. What is sharing a meal if not a bonding ritual, an opportunity for a social interaction?

Although Drawing Breath is not about a Jewish family like some of my other books, the sharing of meals still bonds the characters in different ways. Caitlin Kelly, a budding painter, is sixteen and very fond of Daniel, the art teacher who has been renting her mother’s upstairs apartment for the last six years. Daniel has cystic fibrosis. At thirty-four he’s passed his doctor’s “expiration date” but refuses to give up on his art, his students, and, although he feels it’s remote, the possibility of finding love.

Yet the women in Daniel’s life unwittingly or overtly use food as a social weapon, their way of tending to him and claiming him as their own. His overprotective older sister, Denise, brings groceries every Saturday and throws away food that’s gone bad, even though he’s fully capable of doing this himself and has told her so. On Sundays, Caitlin’s mother, Maureen, invites Daniel to have supper with them. Through this ritual, Maureen can tend to him, like she’s done for others through the many charities she works for.

Over the course of the book, Caitlin’s friendship with him deepens, and the gift of food and care is a safe way to express her affection. She makes him brownies when he’s sick. She brings up the Tupperware containers of leftovers when he can’t come down for supper. She knows from all those meals that he hates broccoli. Along with their shared love of art, knowing what he likes and doesn’t is a way of connecting with him. Even though she cringes when women like her mother and Denise treat Daniel like some kind of freak because of his condition, she sometimes can’t see that she’s as proprietary as the rest of them. And in some ways, even more so.

One day, an interloper arrives, in the form of redheaded Bess, who is rather gaudy-looking, in Caitlin’s opinion. Intent on striking her own culinary bargain with Daniel, she knocks on their front door. She claims she’s one of Daniel’s private students, and wants to repay his generosity by making him dinner while he’s out. Caitlin, home sick from school that day, is feeling especially protective:

“I didn’t think he was taking private students anymore since school started,” Caitlin says.
Bess bites her lower lip. “Well, it’s not really a formal class.”
“I guess that’s why you don’t have a sketchpad.”
“Look.” Bess lets out her breath. Her hair looks wilty. There’s a smudge of mascara beneath her left eye. “I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. But I’ve got twenty dollars’ worth of free-range chicken, buffalo mozzarella, and organic vegetables in this bag. Maybe I could just put them in your refrigerator and come back later when Daniel is home?”
Caitlin considers this. If she takes the bag, Bess will have to come back to the Kelly’s apartment, exposing the woman to more germs she might take to Daniel. If Caitlin sends her away, maybe Daniel will be angry with Caitlin for not letting Bess just go upstairs in the first place.
“Wait here.” Caitlin sighs and fetches the key from the pantry closet.

Having let this interloper into Daniel’s kitchen, feeling in her gut that Bess is ultimately going to hurt Daniel, Caitlin tries to warn him. It doesn’t take, which leads her to make one very bad decision, and all the brownies and pot roast in the world might not be enough to fix what she’s done.

Thanks for coming back to share more food for thought, Laurie!

Laurie Boris is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader,
and former graphic designer. She is the author of two
novels, The Joke’s on Me (4RV Publishing, LLC, July
2011) and Drawing Breath (self-published, May
2012). She lives in New York’s lovely Hudson Valley
withher very patient husband, a commercial
illustrator. Learn more about Laurie at and her Amazon Author Page.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Toastworthy Teens - Jack Kim

 Jack Kim, Benelab

We all know that Google is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, but 16-year-old Jack Kim actually sat down and calculated how much money the juggernaut makes on a per-second basis. 

After drilling down Google’s 2010 profit of $8.505 billion to $23,301,370 per day, then $970,089 per hour, then $16,181 per minute, and, finally, $270 per second, Jack realized “This could be used for good.”

So, along with friend Dalton Caughell, he created Benelab – a search engine powered by Bing. The key to Benelab is that 100% of its proceeds go to a charity of the month!

Give it a try and help a worthy cause with just a click:

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, November 16, 2012

FOODFIC: Spinners - Donna Jo Napoli & Richard Tchen

There’s nothing I like more than a book that gives the backstory of a well-known character. Except maybe a “what-if” alternative history/future, like what would’ve happened if Germany’d won WWII. Not that the two genres are necessarily mutually exclusive; going back to see how Hitler became who he was could easily set you up to then create a twisted variation of his story, since you’d now have a thousand little details from the past that could be changed to construct a new future.

Of course, here I probably should’ve used a different (and fictional) villain, like Cinderella’s wicked stepmother, for my example; Spinners is a revelation behind a fairy tale, you see. In this book, Napoli and Tchen tell the story of perhaps the least-known well-known character of lore: Rumplestiltskin.
As you can surmise from the abhorrent demand (her first-born child) he makes of the young maiden for whom he spins straw into gold in the age-old tale, Rump is not a pleasant fellow. But did you ever wonder what happened to make him so deplorable? And further, what would make such a lecherous troll of a man even want a soft and cuddly (and just as often drooly and whiny) baby?

The answer lies in a past every bit as cruel as the man Rump becomes…and in the midst of that tale is where I also found my oddest FoodFic passage to date. Like everyone else, Rump was at one point young and in love and, also like many suitors in the days of yore, denied his love’s hand in marriage by her father. In his desperation to change the miller’s mind, young Rump (though this takes place before he’s been dubbed that, actually) vows to prove his worth by creating for his would-be bride a wedding dress woven of gold.

Since the humble tailor, who’s already spent most of his savings on a betrothal ring, cannot afford gold cloth, he must find a way to make it out of the only material he owns: straw. He labors day and night trying to perform the impossible feat, until the lack of sleep and food drive him, crawling, to his neighbor’s chicken coop, where he reaches into a nest and grabs an egg. He cracks it into his mouth and swallows it whole. He eats another. And another. And another.

Blech! I’ll let you read how it all plays out for yourselves, but know that foulest food scene I’ve ever read pretty much sets the tone for the rest of Rump’s tale, which ends with not more eggs, but a broken and rotten old man. But that’s the part you already knew. ;)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gratitude GIVEAWAYS!

This hop, organized by All-Consuming 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: Gratitude Giveaways 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.

PLEASE NOTE: This hop is different than other previous giveaways!
Since this is a way to thank followers (not ask them to do stuff ;), there is only
ONE entry per person, which you get by FOLLOWING THIS BLOG
(GFC or Networked Blogs).

AND to further show my thanks for your support, I will send a bookmark
to every person who follows this blog and enters the giveaway!

Giveaway runs from Nov. 15 to Nov. 25; last day to enter is Sunday, Nov. 25.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Toastworthy Teens - Shania Thomas

Shania Thomas, Chopped Champion

Shania Thomas became the first ever Chopped teen champion by composing a dessert of chocolate-stuffed crepes with popcorn crumble and raspberry topping from the mystery basket ingredients of zucchini, chocolate cake mix, crème fraiche, and movie theater popcorn. The NYC Food and Finance High School graduate fought her way to the final round by turning a mystery basket of gummy bacon, frozen lima beans, lemon sorbet, and salmon fillets into an appetizer of seared salmon with Asian marinade and lima bean salad; she then used cotton candy, chicken cutlets, Brussels sprouts, and French-fried onions to create an entrée of spicy chicken cutlets with bacon Brussels sprouts salad.

But Shania fills hearts as well as stomachs; the inspiring 17-year-old, who’s known she wanted to be a chef since she was just 4 years old and so has spent virtually her entire life working toward that goal, also cooks in memory of her brother, who tragically passed away before realizing his own dream to be a chef. 

I think host Ted Allen best captured the highlight of the event, by noting: These kids showed more composure and creativity than most of the adult contestants that appear on the show.

So congratulations, Shania! I highly anticipate having dinner at your future restaurant; if I can get a reservation, that is. ;) 

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, November 8, 2012

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Bill McCurry, Author of Bring Us The Head Of The Velveteen Rabbit

Is “Kumquat” The Funniest Word In The English Language?
Food and Humor

Food is just plain funny. I didn’t consciously think about that until Shelley asked me to guest on But What Are They Eating? Yet I should have known. I’ve seen my wife cook a lobster, and that’s incontrovertible evidence.

When writing this post, I used my brain to skim through my humor book Bring Us the Head of the Velveteen Rabbit, and I realized that the right food in the right place will make someone laugh instead of thumbing their remote to find Jersey Shore. Food makes a difference. For example, in some of my essays wisdom is dispensed by Fat Mike, proprietor of Fat Mike’s Rib Shack. The character just wouldn’t be the same if he owned Mike’s Restaurant, or Big Mike’s Hardware Store. You couldn’t see him stirring the barbeque sauce with a trowel that might have been used to build the pyramids at Giza, or waving his bean juice-stained fingers as he talks about politics and love. He is who he is because of the food he creates.

In another essay, “Thanksgiving Sucks,” I pitch a plan to change the holiday’s image. Thanksgiving is mainly about football and yams, which we can already get every weekend from August to February. At Thanksgiving we eat turkey and fall asleep on the couch, and that’s hardly as much fun as Halloween’s theme of “eat candy and dress like a Shanghai prostitute.” Sure, we can be thankful for the good things in our lives, but can we sell peanut butter candy in “good things in our lives” shapes? From a humor standpoint, these food references are critical. “Turkey” is synonymous with Thanksgiving, “eating candy” captures the soul of Halloween, and “peanut butter candy” grabs the cultural reference of selling those calorie bombs in every possible holiday shape. And yams? “Yams” is just a damn funny sounding word.

Different foods bring wonderful connotations when used in titles. “If You Read This You’ll Get a Cookie” makes it clear that the piece is about rewarding someone. Or bribing them. Or maybe punishing them if it’s a lousy cookie. Regardless, food evokes personal meanings in titles like “The Seductive Power of Cake” and “What Do You Mean Possum’s Not an Entrée?”

In the end, humor is about pain, and culturally we have a lot of pain tied up in how we feel about food. I’ll close by touching on a story from my book, about my distant uncle working in Alaska early in the 20th century. While building a pipeline, his crew unearthed a frozen mammoth. The carcass had to have been at least 11,000 years old and was probably older. The local Native Americans surrounded the mammoth, butchered it, cooked it, and ate it. To me, that story is painful in so many complicated ways that all I can do is laugh.

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

You can find Bill here: