Thursday, August 17, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Jack Scott, Author of Perking the Pansies

Turkish cuisine is justifiably famed as one of the world’s greatest. The Sultan’s table overflowed with extravagant bounty from the vast Ottoman domains that once stretched across three continents. The empire may be history, but food – preparing it, eating it, sharing it – is still of enormous cultural importance to all Turks regardless of status and income. So it’s small wonder the simple act of eating plays a starring role in both of my memoirs, Perking the Pansies and its sequel, Turkey Street. Here’s a soupçon…

Mini dishes of Turkish tasters flew out from Beril’s kitchen as she launched her mission to spice up our bland English palates, something she approached with the unrestrained fervour of a TV evangelist. Like her parents before her, Beril had never ventured into Europe beyond the city limits of old Istanbul but had heard terrible tales about British cuisine, a culinary travesty, all fish ‘n’ chips, pork scratchings, over-boiled carrots, scurvy and mad cow disease.

‘Eat!’ she would scream, sliding another exotic sample onto our table. ‘Is good. Eat!’

We would comply like scolded children, tucking into her braised artichoke hearts, garlic-roasted aubergines, sautéed spinach or white bean goo, salivating even before the first mouthful.

‘Süper!’ we would shout over to Beril as she puffed on a Black Russian Sobranie, looking on and waiting for every last scrap to be devoured. ‘Le-zz-et-li! De-li-cious!’

When our new next-door neighbours moved in, Liam and I were on edge. What if they were a couple of old stick-in-the-muds rolling out the prayer mats? After all, we were an unabashed gay couple living in a Muslim land, something as rare as ginger imams. We were mightily relieved to be greeted by Beril and Vadim, an unconventional couple from Ankara. He was a retired percussionist, she a fiery brunette half his height and half his age. And they were living in sin which made them just as damned as us. Their English was dreadful and our mastery of the language of the sultans was close to tragic. Despite the language barrier, over time Beril and I developed a sweet affinity. With Liam often back in London on family duty and, likewise, Vadim in Ankara, Beril kept my pecker up with freshly-baked treats from her kitchen. We ate, we smoked, we drank and we laughed. And when Beril felt totally at ease, she shared the secret about her older brother.

Our all too brief time in Turkey was a kaleidoscope for the senses – so many extraordinary sights, unexpected events and vivid characters like Beril. I just had to put pen to paper, first in a blog, then in the memoirs. Turkey made a writer of me. Who’d have thought? Certainly not me.

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

You can find Jack here:

Thursday, August 10, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Deborah Shilan & Linda Reid, Authors of Dead Air

Dead Air, Vibrant Cuisine!

What’s the #1 College Team in New England?  The delivery crew from Luigi’s Pizza, of course.  Luigi’s is Ellsford University’s championship greasy spoon, where fraternity men and sorority sisters rub shoulders with bespectacled graduate students, exhausted medical students, and varsity athletes.  The hangout is a treasure trove for campus radio talk show host cum investigative reporter Sammy Greene, whose alert ears pick up on local gossip for her show as Ellsford students chow down on tsunamis of mozzarella, pepperoni, bacon and sausage.  Daring rebels order pineapple on their pies, but, to the relief of all, there is nary a vegetable in sight.  Despite tasty toppings, something is rotten in the State of Vermont.  In Dead Air, Ellsford University students and faculty are disappearing or dying, and it’s Sammy to the rescue with a variety of suspects stirring the pot at the Ivy League school.
Soon after Professor Barton Conrad buzzes his alarm, his goose is cooked; and it’s Sammy and her on-and-off boyfriend, medical student Reed Wyndham sniffing out suspects.  Sammy and Reed are feeling the heat from corrupt coaches, aggressive sports stars, animal rights protesters, and crusty campus cop, Gus Pappajohn, whose sinecure has turned into a forum for activism and ecoterrorism directed at the college’s new multimillion-dollar Nitshi Research Institute which funds the pharmaceutical research of Reed’s mentor, Dr. Marcus Palmer.  Even Gus’ love for tasty pastitsio can’t stop the churning in his stomach as the body count mounts.

Sammy’s nose for news takes her to her childhood haunts in New York City, where she was raised after her mother’s suicide by her Bubbe Rose.  She’s ripe for rescue by Sergeant Gus, who provides tasty respite at a church Greek Festival near his sister’s home in Boston as they drive home to Vermont.  At the Fair, Sammy gets to sample the home-cooking flavors of eggplant soufflé Moussaka, flaky filo-wrapped Spanakopitas, sizzling beef and chicken Souvlaki, and cheesy Tiropites.  Just like (Greek) Mom’s.  Energized by her Mediterranean dietary excursion, Sammy is back on the trail—providing readers a delicious recipe of mystery, murder, thrills, and chills, as she uncovers the charred underside of her higher education home.

Enjoy great Mediterranean dishes as you share Sammy’s culinary and sleuthing adventures in Dead Air! 

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

You can find the authors here:

Friday, August 4, 2017

FOODFIC: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs

Riggs isn’t kidding – the children* certainly are peculiar.

Emma can make fire with her hands.

Millard is invisible.

Hugh has bees living in his stomach.

There’s also Olive, the levitating girl, and Claire, who is a backmouth. (I’ll let you read the book to discover what that is on your own.)

And it’s not just the children who have “gifts;” their headmistress Miss Peregrine can in fact morph into a bird at will!

So it stands to reason that the food this strange cast partakes in must also be “special,” right?

Not so much.

Newcomer Jacob joins them for a dinner consisting of: a roasted goose, its flesh a perfect golden brown; a whole salmon and a whole cod, each outfitted with lemons and fresh dill and pats of melting butter; a bowl of steamed mussels; platters of roasted vegetables; loaves of bread still cooling from the oven; and all manner of jellies and sauces [he] didn’t recognize.

Okay, maybe that’s not a typical American dinner, but Jacob has come a very long way - to a remote island off the coast of Wales - to find these peculiars from his grandfather’s stories, so you have to take regional culture into account. More interesting still - it’s not only great distance he has covered, but also time. Again, you’re on your own to discover in which era this meal would most likely be served…and if Jacob will make it back.

*Or syndrigast, to use the venerable language of [the] ancestors.