Thursday, February 26, 2015

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Diane Dunning, Author of Greta Smart Figures It Out

There’s a whole lot of eating and drinking in my contemporary-romance novel, Greta Smart Figures It Out.

The story opens inside a Manhattan restaurant, where the main character, Greta, finds herself being served this morsel while on a nightmare blind date:

“You’re not beautiful,” he said. “Your profile said ‘beautiful.’ You kind of overreached on that one.” He smirked and sipped his dirty martini.

Most women would lose their appetites at this point, flip the table and stuff the guy into the nearest buffet drawer before storming out. Instead, Greta stays, even after he ditches her. She reclaims her dignity with a glass of wine and a calamari appetizer at a table outside. A pleasant dish has restorative powers.

Throughout the book, food connects Greta to her past and grounds her in the present. It provides the setting for Greta to grow and pivot as she discovers new truths about herself, friends, family and a potential lover. Yet it also works against her, as it does when she meets a former colleague for “bad girls lunch.”

Greta Smart Figures It Out isn’t intentionally a book about food, it just turned out that way. Set during The Great Recession, there are no extravagant multi-course meals with exotic ingredients…just a 27-year-old single career woman hungry to transition her life into more satisfying fare. And, with the help of the right food and drink here and there, she finds the sustenance to do it.

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

You can find Diane here:

Thursday, February 12, 2015

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Grier Cooper, Author of WISH

Say the words “ballet dancer” and most people think one of two things: either “What do I have to do to look like that?” or “Aren't all ballet dancers anorexic?” The truth is the body is a dancer's most important tool–their livelihood depends on it–so every dancer works to keep that instrument finely-tuned and healthy. When I wrote WISH, I wanted to share the world of ballet and the sort of decisions dancers face, particularly when it comes to taking care of themselves and staying at the top of their game. For instance, my main character, Indigo, has to say no to bagels (even though all of her friends are devouring them in front of her) because she has an audition coming up. While it's true that there is an expectation for dancers to stay thin they have to eat because ballet is physically demanding–so  demanding that headliner Steve McLendon of the Pittsburgh Steelers says, “ballet is harder than anything else I do.”

Since all foods are not created equal, most dancers pay close attention to the types of foods they eat. Good nutrition builds a strong body, and dancers need to get plenty of protein to build and repair muscles. However, dance and a full belly don't go well together, which further complicates things.  Since a dancer's day begins in the morning and often ends late in the evening, they have to eat small amounts on the fly, which means high protein snacks are a dancer's best friend. Favorite choices include: bananas (high potassium), beef jerky, nuts and yogurt. When there is time for a full meal, a salad is often involved, paired with hearty grilled fish, chicken or meat.

But dancers are human, too, and just like the rest of us they enjoy an occasional treat. Indigo savors a couple of warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies during a particularly grueling rehearsal. Other treats she samples throughout the book include frozen yogurt with rainbow sprinkles, and let's not forget birthday cake (twice!), because life without birthday cake is dismal indeed.

Feeling inspired? Try starting your day with Indigo's breakfast of champions: 1 slice toasted gluten-free bread, topped with 2 tablespoons almond butter, sliced banana, and a drizzle of honey and toasted coconut. Although her brother, Brad calls it disgusting, it's her favorite alternative to scrambled eggs and her father's burnt toast. Try it for yourself before you form an opinion.

Indigo's advice to you...the one thing Indigo will never have? A double-chocolate-caramel-mocha-frap-with-extra-whip. Or any kind of frap. With 64+ grams of sugar in each one, they're at the top of the list of dancer don'ts.

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

You can find Grier here:

About the author: Since she was forced into ballet lessons at age five, Grier Cooper has performed on three out of seven continents. Her first crush was in fifth grade but Tchaikovsky was her first real love. She left home at fourteen to study at the School of American Ballet but after living in New York City, San Francisco and Miami she's decided she prefers to live outside of cities. Today she lives in a somewhat secret seaside hamlet with her husband, daughter and Coco Chanel (a black standard poodle). She is a dance activist and recovered sugar addict.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Stephen Douglass, Author of Kerri's War

Many thanks to Shelley Workinger for inviting me to contribute a post in connection with my novel, Kerri’s War, to her wonderful blog: But What are They Eating? I was honored and thrilled that she had given me an opportunity to expose Volume Three of The King Trilogy to readers in a very unique fashion. I accepted the invitation without hesitation.

Even though my post would chronicle an event close to the end of the third volume of an epic trilogy, the invitation still struck me as a fascinating idea. “Everybody eats,” I said to myself. “Surely it must follow that readers would be interested in what the main characters of their chosen novels are eating,” I further concluded that Shelley was way ahead of the curve when she initiated her blog. Clearly, she was thinking outside the box. Her timing was perfect. I had just finished reading an historical fiction novel, set in the sixteenth century, in which the Spanish conquistadors, determined to relieve the Central American natives of their gold, were perpetually preoccupied with finding sufficient food to remain alive. There were no grocery stores or restaurants, conveniences we take for granted today.

The King Trilogy is a thrilling epic, spanning four decades and featuring the trials and tribulations of the King family and their connection to an inconvenient fortune. It is stolen and it is cursed. It ruins the life of everyone who touches it. The Bridge to Caracas, Volume One of The King Trilogy, is the story of how the inconvenient fortune was accumulated. Using the Peace Bridge as a fulcrum, an audacious criminal stole $325,000,000 via the mechanism of gasoline tax evasion. The Tainted Trust, Volume Two of The King Trilogy, is the story of what happened to the stolen fortune and its devastating affect on everyone who knew of its existence.

In Kerri’s War, the subject of this post, and Volume Three of The King Trilogy, Kerri King, a thirty-three year old woman, goes to war against Enerco, a corrupt Houston based conglomerate. At the outset of her conflict, she meets and falls in love with Steve Monteith, a perfect ten in her mind. Unfortunately, he is engaged to marry Christine Stewart, a Toronto socialite. Kerri’s dream is shattered when Steve marries Christine, but it is rekindled when he ends the marriage, in dramatic fashion, at the lavish Naples, Florida wedding reception. Once again Kerri’s dream is shattered when Steve is involved in an horrific automobile accident, resulting in a near life ending coma. The two become inseparable as Kerri nurses Steve back to health. Late in the story, Steve invites Kerri to join him in a wine tour of the Niagara Region. He plans to ask her to marry him.

It is at this point in the novel that I wanted the two lovers to be in a very romantic setting, one befitting a marriage proposal. Having endured so much adversity, the two deserved nothing but the best. I chose Niagara on the Lake, in Ontario, Canada, one of my favorite places on the planet. The happy couple have enjoyed the tour, blissfully unaware that they are being followed by a professional killer, contracted by Enerco to kill Kerri.

Following the tour and prior to dinner, Steve led Kerri to the cosy and beautiful Churchill Lounge at The Prince of Whales Hotel.. It was there that he asked her to marry him.

A stunningly beautiful five star hotel at the corner of King and Queen Streets, The Prince of Whales was one of the finest in the entire Niagara Region. Its rust and white brick exterior walls and cedar shake mansard roof line with dormer windows made it look like it had been transplanted from downtown Paris. Its false porch and pillars were festooned with hanging baskets containing thousands of local flowers of every color of the rainbow. It was a destination for tourists wishing to stay and enjoy the visual and gastronomic delights of the area.

Instead of the intimate privacy Steve had anticipated for his proposal, the two quickly became the focal point for everyone in the Churchill Lounge. The happy couple was besieged by well wishers and curiosity buffs, all anxious to congratulate them and interrogate Kerri. The session continued to grow in intensity until Steve raised his hands and formed a T. “Timeout,” he shouted as loud as he could. “Thank you all for your kindness. I wish we could stay longer, but we have to be at the Shaw Theatre at seven, so we have less than an hour for dinner. We really must leave now.” He reached for Kerri’s hand and led her to Escabèche, the hotel’s famous dining room.

HERE IS WHERE I NEARLY MESSED UP. I won’t bore you with the original manuscript text, but I will admit that it failed to describe what Kerri and Steve ate for dinner. When my wife, one of my strongest critics, read this part of the manuscript, she frowned and said, “How can you have your novel’s principal characters, newly engaged, eating in one of the most famous restaurants in the world, and not tell your readers what they ate? You’d have to assume that many of them would want to know.” She was right. How could I have made that omission? My only excuse is that I eat to live. By contrast, many people live to eat.

Armed with my wife’s rebuke, I climbed into my automobile, drove to The Prince of Whales Hotel, reviewed its amazing menu, made my selection, then re-wrote the dinner scene.

Here it is, as it appears in the novel:

They were warmly greeted at the dining room’s entrance by the maître d’hôtel. “Congratulations, Mister Monteith and Miss King. Dinner is on us. Our sommelier will see to it that you have a bottle of our finest champagne to assist your digestion. Please follow me,” he said, then led them to their table. They were treated to a dinner consisting of roast carrot and leek soup, Escabèche Caesar salad, and Northern Canadian elk, with creamed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and heirloom spinach. Even if there was enough time for desert, (apple trifle with Mascarpone cream, vanilla and orange juice), both would have declined. They were full and had thirty minutes to curtain time at the Shaw Festival Theater, one kilometer from the hotel. It was time to see Pygmalion.

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

You can find Steve here:

Author Bio:
I was born, raised and educated in Canada. I spent the first half of my career working for the two largest oil companies in the world: Exxon and royal Dutch Shell. I spent the second half working for one of the smallest oil companies in the world; my own. We have three sons and one daughter, all of whom are grown and “off the payroll”. Now retired, I spend summers with my wife, Ann, and our two cats, Abby and Samantha, at our Canadian home near Niagara Falls. We winter at our Florida home in Port St. Lucie. When I’m not writing, I’m reading, traveling, or playing horrifying golf. I plan to write until the day I die, probably longer.