Thursday, May 25, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Tony Riches, Author of the Tudor Trilogy




In the first book of the Tudor Trilogy, set in England in 1422, we find Owen Tudor, the Welsh servant who married a queen and founded the Tudor dynasty, in Windsor castle watching a royal banquet.

A fanfare of trumpets is followed by a procession of liveried servants carrying silver platters piled high with choice meats, which they take to each guest in turn, waiting while they help themselves from each platter, picking out tasty morsels with their fingers, the sign of good manners.

As well as cuts of beef, veal, pork, mutton and venison from Windsor Great Park, the guests are served with rare salmon, fresh river trout, eels and crayfish. The centrepiece of the banquet is a whole roasted peacock, served dressed in its own iridescent blue feathers, plucked and replaced after the bird had been cooked, its beak and feet gilded in gold leaf.

Even the wine goblets used by the guests follow rules of protocol, with the queen and top table drinking from gold plate, the next most important using polished silver and the lesser nobles provided with pewter. Servants are ready with flagons of wine as soon as any goblets are empty, so before long the buzz of polite conversation has taken on a raucous undertone.

A bishop calls them to order and the queen makes a short speech, thanking everyone for attending. Then there is another fanfare of trumpets and four page boys enter, carrying a model castle over a foot high, made entirely from sugar and complete with a miniature Royal Standard flying from the top. It is placed before the queen and the guests applaud as the young king smashes many days of hard work to pieces.

Owen watches as the banqueting guests become even more rowdy. Several of the younger lords, already looking the worse for drink, argue loudly about the merits of hunting stags or boars. He has learned it is best for servants to remain invisible, particularly if they are Welshmen.



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



You can find Tony here:









Tony Riches is a full time author of best-selling fiction and non-fiction books. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales with his wife and enjoys sea and river kayaking in his spare time.

The Tudor Trilogy is based on actual events, from the earliest days of the Tudors to Henry Tudor becoming King of England after his surprising victory at the Battle of Bosworth.

Friday, May 19, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Deborah Lawrenson, Author of The Lantern



Food is a vital part of Eve and Dom’s sensuous life in the South of France. The naïve translator and the worldly older man connect on an instinctive level that seems - at first - set apart from the bleak realities of the lives they are both trying to escape. They fall in love and move into a crumbling Provencal hamlet, set apart on a hillside, where they lose themselves in the heat and light, in music and the imagination – and the fruits of the landscape.

That summer the house and its surroundings became ours, a time reduced in my memory to separate images and impressions: mirabelles, the tart orange plums like incandescent bulbs strung in forest green leaves, a zinc-topped table under a vine canopy; the budding grapes; the basket on the table, a large bowl; tomatoes ribbed and plump as harem cushions.
                                                               
Simplicity seems extraordinarily close to hedonism when you find deep red “harem cushion” tomatoes the size of two fists in the markets of Provence. The tomato salads that Eve and Dom make with them is one of the most delicious and simple dishes known to man: sliced with onion and a handful of ripped basil, then dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. It takes minutes to assemble and then all you need is a baguette, newly baked with a light crust from your favourite boulangerie in the Rue des Marchands in the town of Apt, to mop up all the juices.

Eve picks the mirabelles and wild plums that grow on the trees at the hamlet, and makes tarts and English crumbles. In September the first walnuts fall, and she stores them to attempt Tarte aux Noix, or to add to chicory and blue cheese salads. The figs from the tree in the courtyard intrigue her.




    It was one of those days so intensely alive and aromatic you could hear as well as smell the fig tree in the courtyard. Wasps hummed in the leaves as the fruit ripened and split; globes of warm dark purple were dropping, ripping open as they landed with sodden gasps. 
    The pulse that pumped out the sweet, heady scent was quickening as I bent down to pick the fallen figs, then pulled them apart to find insects were already drunk on their scarlet hearts.                                
                         
Eve prepares a bed of good fresh lettuce dressed with a tangy vinaigrette of Dijon mustard, honey, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Then she tops slices of bread with local goat cheese and fresh thyme from the garden and bakes in a hot oven with some slivers of jambon cru -Parma ham - and halved figs (perfect ones picked from the branches), each spread with a little clear honey. Everything cooks together for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese looks done. Delicious!




As their idyllic summer turns to winter, the lavender fields and vineyards now rows of stubble, the couple make traditional cold weather casserole dishes like Boeuf Bourguignon, beef slow-cooked in red wine, and the Moroccan-inspired Lamb Couscous, simmered for hours with almonds and apricots, aromatic cinnamon and nutmeg and hot chili and coriander. They don’t know it, but they need to keep up their strength for the shocking discoveries that are about to destroy their dream world…


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



You can find Deborah here:





Thursday, May 11, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Jodie Pierce, Author of Vampire of Brazil



So, I am both a traditionally and self-published Author. I write vampire romance and have dabbled in vampire erotica. Think I got a thing for vampires? I knew in high school that I wanted to write. I wrote for the school newspaper and yearbook. I constantly had one of those black and white composition books with me with a story I was working on. I was writing juvenile romance and was unhappy with it but didn’t know what to write about.

In waltzes my college freshman friend. He handed me a book, The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice (someone I’d never heard of but once or twice). After reading the book, I knew I had to go with the vampires I had come to love over the years. In 7th grade, at a sleepover, the girls’ mom came in with the movie Lost Boys and this started my fascination and research involving vampires.

I also loved the research aspect! If my book is set in a place I’ve never been, I thoroughly research the area, sights, people, clothes, food, etc. in order to give my readers a better idea of life wherever I’m writing about. Plus, if a person from that location reads the book, they aren’t going to find discrepancies.

I was a background investigator for a while so I think that’s where my love of research came from. My hubby and I met online and don’t think for a minute that I didn’t run a background check on him the day after we met because I really liked him. Luckily, nothing came back on him but he did have four kids and I always swore I’d never date anyone with kids but I’d already fallen in love with him so…too late…lol!

In high school, I lived in Brasil (it’s how they spell it in Brasil) for six months as an exchange student and at sixteen, I was very young and impressionable. At home, in high school, I was a no body but in Brasil, I was what I considered to be famous. Everyone wanted a picture with me, to talk to me (in Portuguese because at the time, very few Brazilians spoke English…hence the reason I translated the book into Portuguese as well). In setting my books in Brasil, I can give the reader a better description of the area, people, food, activities, etc. which I find, when reading, very helpful. A few of my books are set in Brasil, along with my latest, Vampire of Brazil.

Every morning, the bread cart would come around and everyone would run there and buy their fresh bread for the day. My favorite was the bread with requiljao which is like a cream cheese but better and a little runnier than regular cream cheese. Sweets like Brigadeiro (mini chocolate truffles with chocolate sprinkles-my favorite) and Bolo de Coco (coconut cake) were my favorite. Every day, on my way home, I would stop at the newspaper stand and pick up a Diamonde Negro candy bar and it had become my favorite. The national pop was Guarana but every once and a while we would stop at a café and have cafezinhas which was really, really strong coffee. It came in mini tea cups so I had no room for cream or sugar. Typical dishes with the family I stayed with were Feijoada (rice and black beans-eaten several times a day), Arroz e faijao (a different spin on rice and beans) and my favorite was Maionaise (potato salad with veggies and spices).

Whenever we went walking down the beach, we always stopped at the hot dog truck and the coconut vendor. The coconut vendor would cut off the top of the coconut with a machete and stick a straw in the coconut and we would drink the fresh, all natural coconut water (this was LONG before it was so popular in the states).

Now, I’m married to a man who went to culinary school so I don’t have to do much cooking (good thing…lol). Our deal is whomever cooks, the other cleans. This leaves me time for writing. I get to, in each time I include Brasil in my stories, get to re-live my wonderful time there which I still hope to return to one day.

I absolutely, place people I know characteristics into my characters in my stories. I also do the horrible and kill off the people I gave those vary characteristics to because they start to remind me of that person and the horrible past. I usually look up the meanings of names and give those traits to my characters. It’s kinda my little inside joke with myself!

My latest vampire book was Vampire of Brazil (which is printed in English and Portuguese - I translated it). My very last book was a memoir about being Bipolar called Inside My Head. For my Brasil book, I even went about finding pictures to represent important aspects of the story. I used a real Brazilian and Rio de Janeiro cemetery in the background for the cover making it more authentic.

I loved the food of Brasil. My personal favorite was pizza because they made it with white sauce (another thing they were ahead of from the states), chicken, corn, etc. and it was amazing!!!! The brigadeiro was my favorite dessert where things could get a little deceiving. I thought I was going to eat a piece of cake with the frosting in the middle. When I got it in my mouth, it had been bread with tuna salad in the middle. Imagine my surprise?!

Well, it’s time for my sign off. Thanks for having me and indulging me in the long post!!

Keep Reading!
Jodie Pierce


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


You can find Jodie here:




Thursday, May 4, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Patricia Obermeier Neuman and Rosalind Burgess, Authors of Lethal Property



Food is important to Kit. Not really the eating of it, but more the preparation, the cooking, and the reviews from her adoring diners. Her BFF, Val, is a regular recipient of Kit’s fantastic cuisine, but left to her own devices, she is just as happy with a bowl of Cheerios while watching TV in bed.

     “Got time for a breakfast taco, Val?” Kit asked.
     “With chorizo sausage?”
     “Naturally.”

In Lethal Property a serial killer is on the loose in Downers Grove. It begins with Val, a Realtor, showing a house to a mysterious man who seems to have more than the purchase of real estate on his mind. Even more alarming is the fact that the string of murders that ensue seem to implicate Val and threaten her safety.

Not content with waiting for the police to solve the case, Val and Kit pursue their own list of suspects, which brings them to a local Greek restaurant. At first glance, this establishment does not even come close to Kit’s impossibly high epicurean standards, but she’s willing to give it a try.

     Since the restaurant smelled fishy and the plastic menus were covered in some sort of greasy substance that displayed a million fingerprints, I was amazed when Kit agreed to let Giorgos pick something for us to actually eat. I guess his good looks outweighed the poorly maintained restaurant.
     “It’s called papoutsakia,” he said.
     “Eggplant stuffed with ground beef, cheese, and . . . and . . . let me guess . . .” Kit snapped her fingers.
     “Béchamel sauce,” Giorgos supplied the last ingredient.

The murders continue at a gruesome pace, and Kit insists that Val move in with her and her husband, Larry. To further secure Val’s safety, Kit also invites her neighbor’s dog, Roscoe, a one hundred pound Rottweiler, to stay with them. Unfortunately, Val’s fear of Roscoe is almost on par with her fear of the killer.

     “These look heavenly.” I took a seat at the counter and eyed the plate of waffles before me.
     “Sorry, Val. Those are for Roscoe. But I can easily make another batch if you—”
     “Roscoe? Are you kidding me? And where is the hound of the Baskervilles, anyway?”
     “He likes to walk before breakfast, so Larry’s taking him around the block. And he doesn’t like syrup on his waffles.”
     “Larry or Roscoe?”
     “Roscoe, of course, and really, I can make some more if you—”
     “Kit, you realize he’s a dog, right?”
     “Exactly. It wouldn’t be natural to put syrup on waffles—”
     “Oh, for crying out loud. Just let me get some coffee—unless, of course, Roscoe doesn’t approve of coffee before walking.”

Like everything she does, Kit is an elegant cook. But she’s also highly practical.

     She took a sip of her own wine and then put on some rather chic black oven mitts. Next, she removed a large cast-iron dish from the oven and placed it on the counter.
     “Wow,” I said. One of the best arguments for staying at Kit’s was the fabulous food I was about to enjoy. “That’s some dish.”
     “I know. Le Creuset,” she announced. “On sale this week at Sur La Table. You should stock up, Val.”
     “Yeah, right, because my Cheerios would taste so much better. What I meant, dummy, was what’s inside it.”
     “Veal cannelloni.”
     “One of my favorites. When do we eat? I’m starving.”
     “Unfortunately, it’s not for you, Valley Girl. We’re taking it over to Wendell Fullerton’s.”
     “Huh?” I felt disappointed.

It doesn’t seem right to Kit’s BFF that Wendell Fullerton should be high on the suspect list and get the veal cannelloni. But many fabulous dishes, and more than a few margaritas later, the case is solved and Val can return home. To her Cheerios.


Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Patty and Roz!


You can find the authors here:





Friday, April 28, 2017

FOODFIC: The Ice Maiden - Edna Buchanan



I like crime reporter Britt Montero. Yes, I like her for all the usual reasons – she’s smart, tough, relatable and all that.

But I also like that she can feel sympathy for a perp, even when she didn’t expect to; she learns the story of his childhood trauma and can see shades of gray.

And I like that she prefers cocktails to beer. Really, how can a Coors Light compete with rum, coconut cream, pineapple, and orange juice?

I very much like that she finds flirting long-distance much easier than in person. (And rightly so – when phone-romance-guy shows up at her door, her greeting is far from sexy.)

And I most like that she leaves her conditioner on for 10 minutes versus the recommended 2. I do that sometimes, too, trying to believe that gives the product a little extra oomph, even though she and I both know it doesn’t. See, I find that it’s good to funnel all of your irrational thinking into meaningless outlets like that, so that you stay sharp when it actually counts. ;)

There’s just one thing about Britt I don’t like – she doesn’t order the commander-in-chief dinner at La Esquina de Tejas, her favorite Miami restaurant. To be fair, she’s there to meet with two Cold Case squad detectives and discuss the heinous unsolved rape/murder of two local teenagers – not the kind of conversation that allows one to savor a meal. Instead, Britt just drinks Cuban espresso, which I both love and feel is an appropriately sober choice.


Okay, so it seems like Britt’ll stay in my good graces. Especially since she does take the time to tell us what comprises the special: pollo asado, moros, maduros, flan y café. Now at least when I make it there myself, my appetite will be adequately primed. ;)

Friday, April 21, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome John W. Mefford, Author of IN Doubt



Have you ever participated in one of those silent auctions? You know the ones, where a charity offers up themed gift baskets, tickets to a sporting event or a concert, or, possibly, a chef-prepared meal by one of the top chefs in the country.

Well, that’s how Ivy Nash—the protagonist in my bestselling mystery-thriller series—happens to hit the food lottery in my latest novel, IN Doubt (due out on May 5). With her and her old / new flame, Saul, sitting at his kitchen table, they watch a famed chef personally cook them a meal that might normally cost north of five hundred dollars. They start with Texas gulf crab cakes, with tomatillo-poblano cream and jicama-tortilla slaw. And then they reach the main course: wood-grilled pork tenderloin, with jalapeno-charred corn, drizzled with Texas peach barbeque sauce.

Ivy, a former CPS Special Investigator in Texas, has never had much money. In fact, food is usually not much of a priority because all of her energy is focused on helping troubled kids. It’s her passion…her calling in life. But it’s because of that passion that lands her at this fundraising event—all the proceeds were donated to drug-addiction detox centers—hosted by a billionaire. She’d saved the man’s daughter a week earlier from being sold by his drug-addicted mom to some random schmuck in exchange for some crack. As is the case with all of Ivy’s adventures, IN Doubt plays out with no shortage of spine-tingling chills or those moments when you heart is in the back of your throat.

It’s kind of funny, really, looking at the plight of my protagonists. They’re all so very different, yet I can see how they and I share one common trait—our passion. Mind, of course, is writing stories that make you look over your shoulder and wonder about the person walking behind you. I don’t know about you and your passion, but I can lose myself in my writing. I’ll snap out of a four-thousand word trance, and realize I hadn’t had a thing to eat or drink in the last eight hours.

But when I type the last word on a manuscript and finish off that last change with my editor, that’s when you’ll find my wife and me celebrating. Like Ivy and Saul, we might indulge in a nice dessert: brown sugar Bundt cake with salted caramel and candied bacon. And then I dive right back into my passion…writing stories that evoke every emotion possible.


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



You can find John here:




Thursday, April 13, 2017

Please Welcome A.G. Moye, Author of Cronicles of the Marauder




In the near future; 100,000 light-years from Earth aboard the faster than light starship Marauder, Captain Neil Armstrong Andrews sat down for dinner to enjoy fresh vegetables from the hydroponics garden with vat grown artificial meat. After their narrow escape from the aliens that wanted to enslave them and near destruction of the Marauder, they were hiding doing repairs to the ship. I now present for your enjoyment, one scene in the story for you to get the flavor of dinner aboard the Marauder.

          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

"Captain, what would you like for dinner?" asked the female assistant cook.
"What are the crew having today?"
"The main choices are stir fry with rice made with artificial meat with fresh vegetables from hydroponics. Or spaghetti made with artificial meat meatballs, a salad and fresh garlic bread."
"I'll have a little of both."
"What would you like on your salad?"
"Thousand Island dressing."
"To drink with your meal?"
"Iced tea." she walked away to fetch Neil’s tea.
Glancing at the wall to his right, Neil still enjoyed the seascape painted there, giving the illusion you were dining on the beach.
Glancing to his left, Neil saw the long line formed by the crew to serve themselves, cafeteria style. They were quick about it. Being in space, everything was attached or secured in case of the loss of gravity.
Neil felt he was accustomed to the sudden appearance of a head resembling a praying mantis in front of him.
"Evening Captain." she said in her sing-song voice.
"Evening Poopa." She gave her smile-like feature and retracted her head. She could stretch her neck over twenty feet at will. When he first saw her, he thought her body was a giant walking stick from Earth with a praying mantis head. Neil soon learned she was very flexible with her twenty appendages; only ten or twelve were used for walking, the others were deft hands that could do multitasks at once.
"Hey Poopa, you should try this chocolate cake. It is to die for!" Noka shouted in his deep rumbling voice. 
Poopa never left her place in line, instead extended her neck so her head was just above the horse-like creature that yelled to her.
Neil smiled as Noka cut off a piece of cake with his fork and lifted it upwards to her. Her multi-prong tongue lashed out and cleaned it off his fork.
"It is tasty; I'll try some." Poopa sang.
Poopa picked up a tray, no plate, since she normally only ate the greens. Neil watched as she sniffed each food before using a utensil to place some on the tray. As always, they had two or three heads of cabbage, uncooked but sliced in four parts for her. It was her favorite food.
She took no more than a tablespoon of most things but took two whole heads of cabbage. Using the tongs, she picked out her other favorite greens from the salad tray before moving along. At the end, she took a couple of slices of cake before going over and getting a container of water.
All the tables for the crew were built picnic style with benches to sit on. Poopa was unable to sit in them so she went to the one end of the last table by the wall.
Neil noted that all the aliens tended to sit far away from the others as possible at the same table. Poopa was at one end of the back table by the wall. Noka had his pillow seat at the other end. A few humans sat with them, those that accepted the aliens as part of the crew. Most did not.
Neil smiled as his food was placed in front of him. He marveled at how the cooks could take the simplest foods and make them gourmet meals.
"Thank you," Neil said turning his attention away from the crew to his plate. 


Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, A.G.!



You can find A.G. here:







Born in the cotton fields of Arkansas, started writing in 1987 when I got my first computer. Wrote long hand before that; my hayloft is filled with old stories. Published in 2011 after being prodded by my wife when she read the first of the Lightning in the Tunnel books. Currently I am writing Iron Hearts and Doomsday Rock while Saddle Spur, my first western, is in editing.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Laurence O'Bryan, Author of The Cairo Puzzle



In early February, just gone, I spent three days in Cairo researching my upcoming mystery novel, The Cairo Puzzle.  Cairo is an extraordinary city, the largest between Mexico city and India, far larger than any in Europe.

Twenty million people in the metro area makes for a dense and bustling space, filled with beeping cars at all hours of the day and night. My main reason for going there was to get inside the Great Pyramid to visit the King’s Chamber, which I succeeded in doing. To see the small, claustrophobic main passage inside the pyramid in 360VR, possibly the first such view ever, click here.

We stayed in the Rameses Hilton, a stone’s throw from the Nile and a little down the river from the Antiquities Museum, with its unmissable treasures of Tutankhamun.

The giant self-service breakfast bar at the hotel served a tasty beef bacon substitute along with an array of almost every type of breakfast food you would find in any major hotel on any continent. There were lots of Middle Eastern and Far Eastern visitors filling the restaurant from early in the morning and plenty of coffee and fresh orange juice top-ups to get us started for the day.

But my favorite food item at the hotel was the lemon drink served in the lobby bar downstairs. My wife tells me that’s because they mix a lot of sugar with the lemon juice! See what it looks like below.


       
Apparently, this is a traditional drink in Egypt. I loved it. The hotel served it in style too, as you can see from the pic.

For lunch, one day, an Egyptian directed us to the Abou Tarek restaurant on El-Shaikh Marouf, in the heart of the city.



The Abou Tarek restaurant is famous for one thing; Kushari. This is a mix of rice, lentils, and macaroni with optional spicy tomato sauce or garlic vinegar, with a topping of chickpeas and fried onions.

I was hungry when I arrived so I ate most of mine quickly.

It was also about seventy degrees outside in early February and after a morning visiting the pyramids a good lunch was just what I needed. The amazing thing, for me, was that this dish was all they served in the restaurant for lunch.

You could get it topped with slightly different layers, but that’s it. That’s what you get at the Abou Tarek. The other thing that was interesting was the aluminum tables and the 1950’s feel of the restaurant. We ate on the tightly packed upper floor surrounded by tables full of Egyptians.

See the lunch we received below. The metal bowls in the middle of the table are the spicy sauce.



We also visited some western style restaurants and the hotel restaurant, but the most memorable food items on our short trip were the lemon juice and the Kushari.

I love visiting the cities I feature in my novels and eating with the locals. I’ve been to London, 

Istanbul, Jerusalem, Cairo, Nuremberg and San Francisco, where my novel coming out late in 2017 is based.

I enjoyed every second of my Cairo trip, despite the traffic we had to dodge through, the sandy dust in the air and the constant beeping from the streets, which reached us even in our tenth floor hotel room.


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


You can find Laurence here:








Laurence O’Bryan is a traditional and self-published mystery author, and the founder of the Dublin Writers Conference, which you can also attend online. See details about that here. For a 25% discount on all the options for the conference use this coupon code on checkout: shelley1

Laurence’s series of Puzzle mysteries starts in Istanbul. You can see that one on Amazon here. It was translated into 10 languages. He also founded BooksGoSocial.com, to help great books get discovered. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

6-Year Blogiversary!



Yes, indeed - time to celebrate another yummy year of FoodFic!

These delectable authors stopped by over the last 12 months to share some food for thought:

Lee Bice-Matheson – Wake Me Up Inside
Lee DuCote – MICAH
Catherine Greenall – A Quirk of Destiny
Tim W. Jackson – Blacktip Island
Russell James – Q Island
Nancy Lynn Jarvis – A Neighborly Killing
Auden Johnson – The Sciell
Charles W. Jones – Circus Tarot
Jackie Jones – The Wardens Series
Merry Jones – Child's Play
Sharon Ricklin Jones – Ravenswynd Series
Wendy H. Jones – Killer's Cut
Stacy Juba – Fooling Around with Cinderella
Audrey Kalman – Dance of Souls
Tonya Kappes – Spies and Spells
C.M. Keller – Screwing Up Time
Nancy Klann-Moren – The Clock of Life
William Knight – GeNeration
Karen Kondazian – The Whip
E.A. Lake – Stranded No Where
Kathy LaMee – Tansy Taylor, Paranormal P.I.
Aubree Lane – Tahoe Blues
Daniele Lanzarotta – Shattered Souls
Shannon Lawrence – The Blue Mist
C.P. Lesley – Kingdom of the Shades
L.C. Lewis – Dark Sky at Dawn
Neil Low – Theater of the Crime
J.E. Lowder – War of Whispers
Tracey Lyons – The Wedding Toast
Tony Macaulay – All Growed Up
Marla Madison – Girl Undone
Mark David Major – The Persistence of Memory
Paula Margulies – Favorite Daughter
Bernadette Marie – The Three Wives of Adam Monroe
Massimo Marino – The Daimones Trilogy
Gale Martin – Don Juan in Hankey, PA
Gemma Mawdsley – The Paupers' Graveyard
June McCullough – On the Other Hand
Maria Murnane – Perfect on Paper
Pendred Noyce – The Cryptic Case of the Coded Fair
Joni Parker – Gossamer
Ginae Lee Scott – Looking Through the Water


And I dug into:

Redeemed – P.C. & Kristen Cast
Francesco D'Adamo – Iqbal
Charmfall – Chloe Neill


With so many great guests this year, I didn’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.

Anyway, below are some of the better books I read over the past year that weren’t reviewed here at BWATE?

And, as always, please feel free to suggest some great reads for me in the coming year. :)


Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library – Chris Grabenstein
The Other Queen – Philippa Gregory
The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah
Kody Keplinger – The DUFF
Travel Team – Mike Lupica
Firespell & Hexbound – Chloe Neill
J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
SOLO – Hope Solo, Ann Killion
The Martian – Andy Weir

Thursday, March 23, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Merry Jones, Author of Child's Play



Don’t get it wrong: Child's Play is not a children’s book. Nor is it a book about games and toys, or the importance of either.

No, Child's Play is a dark and shadowy thriller that begins in an elementary school. And however slightly, food plays a part in the story.

Since the main character, Elle Harrison, is a second grade teacher, the first and foremost food item on the book’s menu is peanut butter sandwiches. Even though in reality, some classrooms forbid peanut butter due to student allergies, Logan Elementary is a fictional school. Peanut butter is the number one favorite sandwich of the kids who go there.

They also like ice cream. Ice cream man Duncan Girard parks his truck at the edge of the school yard. Kids line up there every day, eager for treats.

 Beyond ice cream and peanut butter, food plays an important part in depicting the characters in the book. For example, protagonist Elle. She is recently widowed, her house for sale. For her, food is a reminder of meals shared with her husband. Cooking and eating have become excruciatingly lonely. So she doesn’t cook, doesn’t even keep food in her house. When her friends come over, one complains that she has only stale crackers and a half empty jar of peanut butter in her pantry, only a hard block of cheese, mustard and mayo in the refrigerator.

Even if there’s not much food in Elle’s house, she has an abundant supply of wine. Pinot, Cabernet and, her favorite, Shiraz. Wine, she finds, eases her loneliness and softens her moods.

Unlike Elle who is indifferent to food, her friend Jen is continuously ravenous. She’s someone who never stops eating and never gains an ounce. Food is always on her mind, and usually in her mouth. If all she can find is a stale cracker and some peanut butter, then that’s what she’ll eat. Jen is married to a man with similar hunger, but his is aimed at accumulating wealth rather than calories. Jen enjoys the fruits of his efforts, but possibly not as much as she enjoys actual fruit.

Another of Elle’s friends, Susan, is the opposite of Elle when it comes to food. She is a cook, a nurturer, a mother. When Elle is upset about a colleague’s murder, Susan offers to bake banana bread. What could be more comforting than warm fresh-from-the-oven banana bread? When her friends get together, Susan always whips up a meal from whatever odds and ends she has on hand—like a last minute yummy frittata of eggs, onions, red pepper, tomato, mushrooms and cheeses. Even when she and her friends end up eating at Elle’s, Susan is in charge of food. After a traumatic day in the emergency room with Elle and Jen, Susan makes sure they are well fed on Chinese: General Tso’s chicken, Moo Shoo pork, shrimp and broccoli, and hot and sour soup.

In Child's Play, the relationships characters have with food reflect who they are and how they live. One character uses coffee as a friend, a crutch, an energy boost. Elle uses wine much the same way. Food shared makes a community, enhances the bonds of friendship. Food taken in solitude can reveal an insatiable neediness in Jen’s character, a reminder of loneliness in Elle’s.

Having said that, sometimes it’s not the characters relationships to food, but the food itself that offers meaning. For example, when against all advice, Elle goes to a deli with a convicted killer who’s suspected of serial murders, readers are clued in that he might not be such a bad guy. Why? Because he orders an ice cream soda.
  
I suppose, in reality, serial killers might drink ice cream sodas. But in my book, ice cream sodas are synonymous with honesty, decency and kindness. They scream innocence.

If he’d been guilty, the guy would never have ordered an ice cream soda. He’d have had to go with the Devil’s food cake.



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




You can find Merry here:




Friday, March 17, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Joni Parker, Author of Gossamer



In Gossamer, Lady Alex attempts a daring rescue of her grandmother and her friend who are being held hostage by rebel soldiers and uncovers a plot of betrayal and deception that reaches to the very pinnacle of power in Eledon.
 
But what are they eating, you ask?  I’ve never had anyone ask before.
 
Alex is one of those lucky people who can eat almost anything and doesn’t have to worry about her weight.  She’s as comfortable eating at the table of her cousin, Prince Darin, as she is around a campfire.  The menu for her lunch at the Prince’s table includes roasted squab and potatoes, pea soup, tomato salad, bread and butter as well as a piece of cake.  A girl needs her nourishment before embarking on a difficult mission.
 
Alex also depends upon her cousin to provide provisions for her mission.  She fills her backpack with a map and essential food items, enough to last for a few days—bread, cheese, dried meats, and fruits both dried and fresh.  She supplements her diet by foraging for food, finding sweetpods growing underground in caves.  In addition, she temporarily gains a new sidekick, the caretaker’s son, who shares his family’s leftover lamb slices and freshly baked bread with her.
 
Later in the story, she camps out in the wild with a group of handsome soldiers and they serve her supper: fresh caught fish grilled over a campfire with beans and bread on the side.  What else could a girl ask for?
      
At home, Alex eats whatever her grandmother cooks.  Lentil soup or fish.  It’s good, but her grandmother is hardly a gourmet cook.  Her argument with the King had left her on a strict budget, not enough to hire servants, especially a cook.  But Alex can handle it.  Her tastes are simple and she loves coney stew, her favorite dish of all time.

Gossamer is the third book in the Chronicles of Eledon series.  It can be read as a single entrée, but it’s better as part of a full meal deal.  The first book is called Spell Breaker and the second is The Blue Witch.  The fourth book, Noble Magic, is still in the kitchen being prepared.   

Bon Appetit!


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



You can find Joni here:




Thursday, March 9, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Pendred Noyce, Author of The Cryptic Case of the Coded Fair



REFRESHMENT IN THE HOUSE OF WISDOM

In the House of Wisdom, the scholar and mathematician al-Kindi offers Ella and Shomari refreshment. The year is 841 CE, and the city is Baghdad, center of culture and government for the caliphate. The two time-traveling middle-schoolers are visiting to learn from the master about how to decode a secret message. Food puts them at ease.

The teenagers drink cardamom coffee and fruit juice. They nibble on apricots, nuts and dates from Persia as al-Kindi discusses his theories on the origin of the universe, the benefits of trade and the importance of religious tolerance. Finally, he shares his method to decode any substitution cipher. The food and conversation contrast with the menacing behavior of the guards who swarmed Ella and Shomari on their arrival.

In book six of Tumblehome Learning’s Galactic Academy of Science series, The Cryptic Case of the Coded Fair, four friends work together to outwit the evil Dr. G, who is scheming to undermine the international science fair with cheating and “alternate facts.” The kids meet after school at each other’s houses to plan their approach to breaking the secret code Dr. G uses to send orders to his corrupt judges. Then one pair travels through time to gather information from cryptographers of the past – from Julius Caesar to Thomas Jefferson to Whitfield Diffie – while the other pair stays home to work on computer programs.

Food reflects culture and personality, and every G.A.S. book is multicultural as well as historical and scientific. In Coded Fair, the snacks served at the different kids’ houses tells us something about their culture and their parents. Shomari’s father serves the kids healthy cider and vegetables with vegetable dip, but his mother sneaks in later to offer them cupcakes. Anita’s mother serves sopapillas, but then on the spur of the moment invites everybody to stay and eat chicken casada with Anita’s large and fluid Dominican family.

Now if only we knew more about what Julius Caesar ate, or in the Italian Renaissance of the grumpy mathematician Gerolamo Cardano. Unfortunately, neither of those hosts was welcoming enough to offer food to his visitors. But on the way, we got interested enough in the history of food to explore it a lot further in book nine, The Contaminated Case of the Cooking Contest, which is all about food poisoning on a cruise ship.

Food. We should really put a lot more of it in children’s books!



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




You can find Penny here:





Thursday, March 2, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Pete Morin, Author of Half Irish



In 1993, I was fined a trivial sum by the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission for allowing a friend of mine to pay for my Osso Buco (and a few martinis as well). I had no idea at the time that would become the focal point of a novel I would write sixteen years later:

“What is ‘osso buco’?”
“Braised veal shank. It’s a northern Italian staple. Delicious.”

While the novel represented a radical fictionalization of events surrounding the federal indictment of that friend (he was just as generous to many others), the novel’s treatment of gastronomie is as true as I can tell it, as are the two following sequels, Full Irish and Half Irish.

I cannot say I did this consciously. The vast majority of Diary of a Small Fish I wrote merely as a scribe for a bunch of characters who evanesced in my imagination and dictated to me like I was paid a penny a word. Apparently, they liked food, too. This leads me to suspect that they are all alter egos, at least as it comes to the culinary arts.

But there in the opening chapter of Diary of a Small Fish, the first food reference: “a well-aged New York strip.” A staple of my upbringing.

Diary, Full Irish and Half Irish, follow the saga of Paul Forte, ex-politician, lawyer, griever of life’s losses, and gourmand, and his passionate love interest, Shannon McGonigle. Shannon was one of the grand jurors before whom Paul was compelled to testify against his friend. She intrigued him from the outset, but he was hooked on their first social meeting: a long afternoon of beer drinking and chain smoking (with a little fried calamari) at Boston’s venerable old institution, Brandy Pete’s. What hooked him? She drank Harpoon, an “ale with attitude. To match the mouth.”

The characters continued to insinuate their food tastes into pivotal scenes. After their relationship was consummated (in an edible paint scene), Paul and Shannon have post-argument sex in the kitchen (“fresh linguine, vine ripe tomatoes, olives and a half-duck, already roasted”), leading to what I still think is two of the best lines in any of my novels:


But Shannon is a resourceful woman, and she distracted me further with a deft raising of skirt and removal of underwear, and we used the prep table for a wholly unintended function which I suspect debilitated the structural soundness of its legs.

After such an experience, it is impossible to eat pasta and duck naked without giggling like a fool, and there is always the sense that the taste is just a little different.


Later on, as they share dinner in one of Boston’s iconic bistros (Hammersley’s), Paul and Shannon share some deeply personal observations about themselves, interrupted by the waiter:


Rinaldo showed up at the wrong time again, using cake and port as his weapons. But even he couldn’t break the spell. Shannon paid him no mind and he flounced off.

“We can never come back here again, you know.”

She flicked her fork into the cake, slipped it under a morsel of black gooiness and slid it between her lips. “He’ll get over it.”



There is also a lot of good booze in these novels. The 95 year-old mother of my friend sent me an email after reading Diary. She said, “if you drank as much as Paul, you’d never have finished the novel.”

Paul and Shannon’s adventures continue in Full Irish and Half Irish, as they gambol through the taverns, pubs and bistros of Ireland and Boston.

All of this focus on food and drink was not for everyone, of course. I received an unusually harsh 1 star review from a Goodreads reader, who complained:


It's kind of like the author couldn't decide whether he wanted to write a political thriller or just a really long story about rich people enjoying expensive food and wine (which he goes to staggering extremes to explain in every detail during almost every scene). I read books for interesting character and plot development, not to hear how often they eat fancy food and drink expensive alcohol.



Clearly, this reader grew up on canned hash.

There are reasons (I came to understand) why these characters dictated this singular focus on food. Paul is a man of unusual privilege and upbringing, stuck in a circumstance over which he has no control. Faced with the death of his father, the loss of his ex-wife and the prospect of prison, it would be understandable for him to resort to anger, self-pity, effrontery, as so many in his station might have. But Paul is a sensitive soul, full of observations about the human condition, and he faces his crucibles with a sense of humor and appreciation for the complexities of life. That his lover happens to be a child of a broken Southie family emphasizes that, despite Paul’s upper class upbringing, his soul is close to the street. Still, she is no fan of the cauldron of steamers (“smells like shit,” she says).

Food serves as a means of distinguishing his persona, of illustrating his sensitivity to taste, smell, his joy in the social aspects of food preparation and consumption. In one earlier scene of Diary, alone, drunk and bereft on Christmas Eve, Paul wanders into a Chinatown restaurant. It is late, and the restaurant is empty (as empty as his heart), except for the host family who are eating together before cleaning up to go home. He asks if they have any dim sum left. They make a place for him and the father instructs his children to bring Paul food. Chicken feet. The father gestures to the gray patches on Paul’s temples and says, “Your heart weak.” Paul learns from the man the miraculous properties of Chinese ingredients in the healing of the body and soul. At home late that night, he makes a chicken soup with ingredients gifted to him:


Perhaps it was the soup, but I muddled through Christmas day without once entertaining the thought of jumping off the roof. It’s so obvious why people do that sort of thing at this time of year.


Food brings people together, it induces and facilitates dialogue, it incorporates the milieu and provides scenery, attitude and mood. It is a rich source of metaphor. Like music, art, a hobby or skill, it provides the reader more than a glimpse into the souls of the characters.

I shall finish with two disparate examples of food’s ubiquity in the arts and humanities.

In Hilaire Belloc’s The Mercy of Allah (1922), as the protagonist travels through the countryside, he is offered food and drink by a local citizen. He observes, “the prospect of refreshment at the charges of another is an opportunity never to be neglected by men of clear commercial judgment.”

The other appears throughout Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, Frenzy, where Inspector Oxford and his wife discuss the serial murders as she serves him a continuing array of grotesque “gourmet” dishes, including pig feet (“Pieds du Porc”) and fish stew (head on). A comic counterpoint to the lurid details of sexual perversion.

And aside from its role in the plot, there are truths within food that transcend the banalities of daily life. As Raymond Hannah observes in the opening line of my short story, Club Dues, “Osso buco is a dish never to be interrupted.” He is 100% correct!


Diary of a Small Fish is available FREE! on Amazon. If you enjoy it,
you’ll enjoy the two sequels. Just don’t read any of them on an empty stomach.


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



You can find Pete here:





Thursday, February 23, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome June McCullough, Author of On the Other Hand



It wasn’t that long ago that if asked to compare her life to food, Nina Andrews would have described it as rich, enticing, and fulfilling. She would have gone on to recite the menu. Begin the meal with escargot covered with a rich garlic butter.  Next a Caprese salad which consists of ripe tomato and fresh mozzarella cheese, sprinkled with just a drizzle of olive oil. For the main course veal fillet cooked perfectly in a Port wine sauce and a bottle of Pinot Noir to enhance the succulent flavours. And, to complete the meal, a variety of cheeses and fruit served with a coffee.

If asked that same question now, her response would be tasteless and empty.  Her meal, when she had one, was a frozen dinner picked up at her corner grocery store and the closest she came to having fruit these days was the grapes used to make the bottle of wine she drank each night.

On the Other Hand is the story of one woman’s journey after being suddenly widowed. Nina Andrews loved her life and considered it to be close to perfect. She and her husband, Mike were empty-nesters, still very much in love, and looking forward to retirement and a life of leisure.

Suddenly everything changes when Mike dies leaving Nina behind. Her overwhelming grief soon turns to anger and then depression. She tries to live outside her grief, but the next step seems impossible. Just when Nina thinks she is learning to endure, she crashes.

Crushed by her grief, Nina carefully plans her suicide but just as she is about to carry out her plan, there is a knock at her door. The visitor she finds on the other side will change her life in ways she never dared dream.

I wrote this novel for personal reasons, but for comments like: “You got it. I didn’t think anyone knew what I was going through.” or “On the Other Hand is an inspirational story that will touch your heart and have you both laughing and crying.” or “My mother and sister couldn’t understand what I was going through. I had them read your book and now they know.” and then there’s “You know it was a good book when, three weeks later, you find yourself worrying about the main character and wondering how she is doing.” that I am forever grateful.

On the Other Hand was written a few years ago and I want to thank Shelley for re-introducing me to it in such a fun way on a wonderful venue that exists to connect readers and authors.


I hope you pick up a copy and that it touches you the way it has so many others.


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



You can find June and her books here: