Thursday, November 17, 2016

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Laurie (L.C.) Lewis, Author of Dark Sky at Dawn

Thanks for inviting me to share some of my culinary insights from research on my Free Men and Dreamers books. I popped into a gift shop in Williamsburg, Virginia in the early days of work on book one, Dark Sky at Dawn, and picked up a copy of a small, but priceless cookbook titled simply, The Williamsburg Cookbook. It was filled with primarily British recipes, most of which involved the ingredients of their day—cream, butter, meat and potatoes. Journal entries from actual colonial and pre-Civil War women helped me carve out the menus and beverages in DSAD and the other books in the series. These journals made it apparent that the planning, growing, harvesting, and preparing of food was a grueling, never-ending labor. I had a scene where the characters prepared chickens for cooking. Imagine chasing, catching, killing, draining, gutting, plucking, and burning off the pin-feathers of a bird, before you can even begin your recipe. Perfectly seasoned fried chicken is my weakness, and I’ll never take a fried chicken platter for granted again!

One dynamic that came up a lot in the series was “traveling” food. From the import shortages the British and French embargoes were creating for America in Dark Sky at Dawn, to the shortages caused by war and destruction in later volumes, the struggle to secure and prepare food, and the need for food that could travel, was a constant concern.

The lead characters in the series—Jed and Hannah Pearson and their neighbors—were frequently on foot, on horseback, or in a wagon, in rain or snow or wind. The scenery provided the only picnic ambiance, because by the time they stopped to eat, if they stopped at all, they were sore-bottomed, wind-burned, sun-baked, or rain-soaked. Dinner on the fly was simple—biscuits, jerky, salted or smoked slabs of meat, fruit in season, perhaps a boiled egg or two, and coffee made from water that might have to be strained to remove insects, dirt, and debris. Yum!!! Oftentimes, when they weren’t traveling in haste because of enemies or weather, or when travelling a long distance, they might have to forage, hunt, or fish for food along the way. Imagine waking up every morning not knowing when or if there would be food on the table before nightfall. Too many people today still face that challenge for different reasons.

I must admit, I do love the romance of the past. Life was home-centered and unplugged, conversation and mealtimes were the social events of the day, neighbors were lifetime friends nearly as essential as family, and you knew the joy and satisfaction of seeing the fruit of your labors. As beautiful as those things are, I’m grateful for the advantages of our day. I love modern medicine, and I’m a huge fan plumbing—hot baths, flush toilets, the ability to wash and sanitize food and prep areas, and the ease of having water at your disposal without toting it up a hill, the gym memberships of the day.

I keep a cute picnic basket packed with matching plastic ware, cups, plates, and gingham napkins, all at the ready, near a folded blanket, for those spur-of-the-moment picnic adventures, however, I confess that most of my picnics involve a quick stop at the “grab -and-go” section of my local grocery for abundant and luscious cheese I didn’t make, sandwiches or chicken grown and prepared elsewhere, and succulent prewashed fruit from a tree I didn’t plant.

Instead of armed enemies and wild beasts, time presents the greatest challenge in our day. I think we miss the sense of community and family meal preparation provided back in the day. Neighbors would gather to “bring in the sheaves” of wheat and to grind their grain into life-sustaining flour. I can imagine the laughter and conversations that happened in the hours when women filled kitchens to render lard, make jams, and prepare feats. In our busy world, gathering moments happen less and less now.
I actually store wheat and have an electric grinder to churn out freshly ground whole wheat flour. The children loved kneading their own loaves of homemade bread on our weekly break-making day. The smell of baking dough drew them back to the kitchen like an aromatic Pied Piper. Sadly, once they headed to school and discovered “white, fluffy bread that comes in a plastic bag” they didn’t want to take Mom’s homemade brown bread anymore, which they said made them look like “poor kids.” They now pay five dollars or more a loaf for bakery bread like that which they rejected back in the day.

Sadly, Mama sold out a bit, too. Travel food generally involves a stop at a drive-through or from a carefully selected sack of items from a grocer. And the location of on the fly meals generally depends on how much slop we’re willing to subject our vehicle to.

The primary labor of our ancestors’ day was protecting hearth and home, and growing and preserving food. Our challenges are the same.  Now we work to buy the home, and more of our ingredients are provided by someone else. What doesn’t change is the joy in gathering and working side-by-side to jointly meet our family’s needs. Families need not be so removed from those experiences. I remember the satisfying hours spent together with my children as we worked in and harvested from our garden. Each pepper or green bean was a treasure they’d bring to me in wonder. Take any family with a garden or even a tomato plant, and ask them how many life lessons they drew from the divine magic of watching a mature plant grow from the seeming nothingness of a single seed. There’s family strength and power in such moments.

Food is more than sustenance. So much more. Our ancestors knew it. I’m grateful we still revere and rediscover the art of the meal.

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

You can find Laurie here:

Thursday, November 10, 2016

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Massimo Marino, Author of Daimones

When you’re confronted with the Apocalypse, food is a primary concern for the survivors. In the case of the Daimones Trilogy things are simpler and more complex at the same time.

The world changes abruptly for Dan Amenta and his family of wife Mary and daughter Annah. One day, they discover everything they gave for granted is no more. Not a nuclear catastrophe, something unimaginable has happened, and something nothing could have ever prepared them to deal with.

When the world starts to degrade, ancient skills have to be re-learned, new habits need to become routines, and food… after a while, food needs to be grown and they need to discover how to manage nature in a sustainable way.

For Dan and family, food diet becomes what our ancestors had access to: wild berries and game, farm animals, and old family recipes. In a world where perishable food has… perished, drinks of any kind are aplenty, and the family only has to pick what they need. Dan is fond of cigars and whiskey, single malt. Caol Ila, especially, is one of his favourites, and now he can indulge in the most expensive ones, even, at no cost.

A glass full of Caol Ila is also what helps him when another survivor, the young Laura, tempts him in the most direct way: a sensuous disrobing that Laura prolonged with carefully chosen delays, in the glittering of a full moon night:

I held my breath multiple times. Left alone in the ashtray, the cigar consumed itself and released dancing spirals of smoke sinuously seducing the moonlight.

Pliny the Elder wrote that a woman could lull a storm out at sea by stripping. I knew exactly what he meant. The light went off in the cottage and, shortly after, I could hear Laura moaning. She was…masturbating, leaving me with my galloping and fervid imagination.

I swallowed my whiskey. I was excited, too.
                                                                                ~ Daimones (The Daimones Trilogy Vol. One)

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

You can find Massimo here:

Thursday, November 3, 2016

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Mark David Major, Author of The Persistence of Memory and Other Plays

Famine and Feast

My characters in The Persistence of Memory and Other Plays are gluttons for hypocrisy, arrogance, self-righteousness, and moral indignation; the last being “jealousy with a halo” according to H.G. Wells. Most everywhere, this nutrition is typical fare for youth. Most of these characters are young and live in a world of stark contrasts. They only see extremes: love/hate, want/need, poor/rich, self/other, insider/outsider, and so on. My characters suffer from an abundance of self-awareness about how alone they are in the world. They are indignant about this loneliness. Of course, wisdom comes with age. The stark black and white views of youth evolve into the vivid colors of age and experience, if we are fortunate enough to survive the preliminaries. Better sustenance would benefit my characters. Living is a feast of humility. It nurtures honesty, integrity, and wisdom in the best of us. The worst of us fail to learn, trapped in a vicious cycle to ‘rise and repeat’ until the final curtain.

Of course, people cannot subsist on emotions alone. My characters must eat something. Tristan and Eric in The Persistence of Memory have a steady diet of gin and whiskey on ice, respectively, and Chinese food: low-price takeout for Tristan (he is a struggling writer) and high-price, dine-in options for Eric (he is financially self-sufficient). They often eat together with Eric picking up the tab. After all, their recreational habits are a ‘gateway drug’ to the munchies. Lara has a ‘go-along-to-get-along’ personality. Her eating habits follow Eric and Tristan’s lead. Lara probably pecks at her food like a bird. Tasha is the prototypical ‘granola girl.’ Nuts, berries, and sunflower seeds constitute her culinary fare. The bad girl of Act II, Teresa, subsists on coffee, cigarettes, and the occasional line of cocoa extract. All the characters in The Persistence of Memory would appear thin and unhealthy to most people.

The Truth of Glances is my Southern play; not in terms of setting or dialect but where I wrote it: South Carolina. Most of the characters are college age. Their cuisine choices are limited to regular doses of pizza, beer, and McDonald’s. One the characters even jokes about “the American Dream of breakfast at McDonald’s.” This is certainly true of the male lead, Simon. Maggie still lives at home with a single parent. She suffers pasta dinners, packets of macaroni and cheese, and microwaveable popcorn. Who cares about what Thorne eats? The guy is a loser; too bad Maggie seems oblivious to this fact. Marie is a ‘good ol’ girl. She goes to momma’s house for home cookin’ on a semi-regular basis. There are barbecue ribs, grits, sausage gravy and homemade biscuits, and ‘p-can pie’ (pecan pie to non-Southerners) in her diet. A supporting character, Paul, really does feed on the hypocrisy and stupidity of others as a main course. However, in his spare time, he is probably a Chex Mix and Rice Krispies Squares type of guy.

Song of My Childhood is a re-imagining of the early 20th century novel Aspects of Love by British author David Garnett. He was a minor member of London’s Bloomsbury Group, which included Virginia Wolfe, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster and Lytton Strachey. Originally set in France, I shifted the story setting to the American coast for Song of My Childhood. However, I suspect most of the characters would still enjoy the gastronomic luxuries of French cuisine. Susannah Flynn is a stage and movie actress. She eats whatever actors eat, probably a fusion cuisine in the California style, especially French and Italian variations using only local ingredients (of course). Chase Everett is in military service. His standard diet consists of gruel, hardtack, and sardines. Susannah and Chase enjoy lots of coffee: fine brewed, self-grounded beans, probably of Polynesian and/or Turkish origin. It might account for their hyperactivity as characters. Chase’s uncle, Adam Everett, is a food snob. He does not care what he eats as long as it is the most expensive item on the menu. Adam would not set foot inside a restaurant that failed to serve Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon or Bollinger champagne. I suspect roasted duck and venison are staples of Adam’s diet. Terran is the proverbial nibbler. She is constantly eating but such small portions. She subsists on varieties of cheese and crackers supplemented with ample supplies of Cabernet Sauvignon (Italian labels only). Terran likes wine such as herself: dry with high acidity and a hint of sturdy oak. During Act III, it seems somewhat obvious that Susannah and Adam’s young daughter, Chloe, is the smartest person in Song of My Childhood. Granted, I might have some bias about my favorite character in the play. Chloe must eat a lot of fish and crustaceans: salmon with lemon, buttered lobster, boiled shrimp, crab cakes, and oysters.

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

You can find Mark here:

Mark David Major is the author of The Persistence of Memory and Other Plays, Mars Rising, children’s books An Infinitesimal Abundance of Color and An Excessive Abundance of Curls, and the Everyday Objects, Collected Poems, 1987-2012. He is currently working on a new one-act drama and new science fiction novel.

*All Cover Art by Rachael Harbert (

Purchase The Persistence of Memory and Other Plays

Purchase The Persistence of Memory: Actors Edition

Purchase The Truth of Glances: Actors Edition

Purchase Song of My Childhood: Actors Edition