Friday, December 13, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Elizabeth Schechter, Author of The Rape of Persephone



Half a dozen pomegranate seeds are the reason it’s in the 50s today here in Florida.

At least, that’s what the mythology would have you believe. According to the Greek Myths, Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds while in the Underworld, and was therefore doomed to spend eternity there. However, the Gods compromised for the sake of the human race, and instead of eternity, Persephone has to spend six months as Queen of the Dead before returning to the surface and bringing Spring with her.

(Yeah, I know there’s more to it than that. This is the simple, let’s start an essay explanation, not an in-depth anthropological examination of the roots of the Kore figure in various cultures.)

The whole “don’t eat that!” warning shows up in different forms throughout time. There are dietary rules and strictures in most religions, and almost all of them have some cultural or historical reason behind them. Those beliefs are reflected in our stories – don’t eat the food of the dead, or you’ll be trapped in the realm of the dead forever. Don’t eat anything offered you by the Fair Folk, or you’ll never see the mortal realms again. One side of the mushroom makes you bigger, and the other side makes you smaller.  You can eat anything in the Garden, except the fruit of that tree right there (which by the way, wasn’t an apple. It might have been a quince. Or a pomegranate.)

When I wrote The Rape of Persephone, it was with the intent of turning the canonical myth on its head. There might have been an anonymous prompt involved, but I can’t really remember. What was important was that when you’re doing a pastiche of a story everyone knows, you have to keep the high points. Which meant that, while what brings Persephone to the Underworld was going to be entirely different, what keeps her there had to be related to food.

So I played with it, and we ended up with Haides, who comes to the mortal realms with a mission that I won’t reveal here because spoilers. And he finds Persephone. Persephone here isn’t a shy young maiden picking flowers. She’s an aggressive and arrogant young godling, and very much her father’s daughter. Haides taking her to the Underworld isn’t so much as kidnapping as it is imprisonment. But once he gets her there, he has to keep her there. So when she wakes up, he invites her to dine:

He dodged the thrown kylix, wiping wine from his arm as he shook his head. "A waste of good wine, my dear. There's a fine meal laid. Will you join me? Will I have to watch out for flying lamb?" He gestured toward the door, and tried not to smile as she scowled, then stalked past him. When Haides reached the next room, he was unsurprised to find her seated in his own chair at the head of the table, picking at a dish of lamb, yogurt and pomegranate seeds. She looked up as he came in, smirked at him, and popped a piece of lamb into her mouth.
"Are we changing roles, then?" Haides asked, amused. He took what should have been her seat, pouring himself another measure of wine. He sipped it as he studied her. Arrogant little godling. She had no idea what game she was playing.
She'd learn.
"Why not?" she asked, picking up a piece of bread and tearing off a chunk. She took a bite, then picked up another bit of lamb. "And I won't be staying. I'm leaving as soon as I finish."
"Then by all means, help yourself." Haides waved his hand expansively. "It's a long walk back to the world above."

Notice that I worked the pomegranate seeds in there?

I didn’t have a specific recipe in mind when I put that lamb, yogurt and pomegranate seed dish on the table, but there are several traditional Greek recipes that include lamb and yogurt. The lamb would have been coated with the yogurt, which would have perhaps been mixed with spices and wine to thin it out. Then the meat was either roasted, or sealed in a clay pot, which would then be put into an oven. Yogurt tenderizes the meat, and when you roast the meat, the sugars in the yogurt caramelize and form a crust. Also on the table were bread and wine, two staples of the ancient Greek table. Not mentioned here, but common found on the dinner table of an Ancient Greek nobleman, would have been eggs, cheese, olives, figs, and vegetables such as cucumbers and carrots. So we can presume that when Haides encourages Persephone to eat and enjoy herself, that there was a wide variety to choose from.

The question, though, is why did she indulge? In the original myth, Persephone knows not to eat the food of the dead, and has to be tricked in to doing so. Here, though, she goes willingly to the table, even going so far as to steal Haides’ place at the table – something that isn’t at all accurate. Ancient Greeks reclined to eat, a practice that the Romans continued. If I’d written the scene accurately, she’d have stolen his couch.

Going back to the question – why does Persephone eat? She had to have known the consequences, especially since there’s earlier scene when Haides invites Demeter to visit him:

"You're welcome in my realm, Demeter. I'd look forward to your visit. And I lay a fine table."
Demeter hesitated, then shook her head. "You'll understand if I refuse the invitation?"
Haides nodded. "I understand. Then perhaps I'll see you again when next I come above."

Clearly, Demeter knows the risks. It’s not a stretch to think that she taught her daughter. So why does Persephone ignore those warnings? I’ll admit that it’s not something I gave much thought to when I wrote the scene. Rereading it, and thinking about it, I’ve realized why.

She doesn’t think the rules apply to her.

You see it in her behavior all the way through the story. She’s the daughter of Zeus. She’s a goddess. She can do whatever she wants and her actions never have consequences. She is, as Haides’ muses, an arrogant little godling. One who is fated to meet her match over bread, black wine, and lamb in yogurt with pomegranates.


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


You can find Elizabeth here:






Friday, December 6, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Emily Mah, Author of Chasing Sunrise



In a recent interview, someone asked me why I hadn’t set my latest trilogy in my hometown of Los Alamos, New Mexico. After all, it’s an interesting enough place. Why had I chosen the neighboring town of Taos? My answer was and is that I wanted to write about the three cultures of New Mexico, and while they are present in my hometown, they’re more pronounced in other towns in the region. New Mexico was settled in three waves and these three cultures remain to this day.

The first arrivals were, of course, the Native Americans, and the modern Natives of the region are Puebloans. Many of the dishes adopted by Spaniards are variations of Native Puebloan cuisine. The second wave were the Spaniards, and the third wave was us Anglos. (The term refers to our most common home language, not our race. I’m a mix of Chinese and Italian heritage myself, and yet indubitably Anglo).

My main character, Liana Linacre, is a wealthy girl from Southampton, New York, who is ripped from her comfortable life when her father is murdered. She also has a rather big secret and nobody left to trust when she’s shipped to Taos to live with her aunt. On her first day of public high school, Liana meets two best friends, Amy (Native American) and Gina (Hispanic). One of the first things these two do is take Liana grocery shopping with them in preparation for making tamales.

In New Mexico, as in many parts of Latin America, tamales are traditionally made around Christmastime, but Amy’s family has delayed the tradition so that they can honor it once her older brother is back from his deployment. Liana is thrown into the deep end of New Mexican culture.

Later that week, she joins her new friends to make tamales and sees a Native pueblo for the first time, coming face to face with one of the oldest cultures on the continent. She also meets Amy’s mother, who is a trauma nurse and a state senator (New Mexico has a lay legislature). The family makes tamales in an assembly line operation, which Liana does her best to keep up with.


Tamales are a mix of masa dough, which around here is a cornmeal dough, and spiced meat, often pork, chicken, or beef. These ingredients are wrapped in a cornhusk and are most commonly cooked in a stovetop steamer or instant pot. (Amy’s family uses casserole dishes, steamer racks, and a water reservoir to steam them in their traditional horno.) Eating them around Christmas time may be the tradition, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying them any time of year!

The friendships Liana forges over tamale-making are what ultimate save her at the end of book three. I won’t give spoilers, but suffice it to say, her new friends are willing to go to the ends of the Earth and beyond for her.


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




You can find Emily here:









The Sunrise Prophecy Trilogy


Liana Linacre thought she was in love, but what began as her fantasy romance ended with a curse that threatens her life and everything she loves. Orphaned and alone, she barely escapes the dark forces that want her soul.

Corban Alexander belongs to an ancient order of vampire hunters and wants to kill everyone who is demon-touched. He knows that the creatures who want Liana dead will find her again before long.

Liana must fight if she wants to live, while Corban must decide if he can love a girl who made the one mistake he believes is unforgivable.

No one, mortal or immortal, has ever won against the evil that plagues Liana, but if she and Corban can work together, they might just defy the laws of the universe.




Corban Alexander has a dark side, and ever since a chance encounter with Liana Linacre, a girl he was supposed to protect, it's darker and more addictive than ever. Every minute of every hour of every day he fights to resist succumbing to his worst instincts. If he doesn't, he will fall, and gain the power to scourge and wreak havoc upon humanity, feeding off their pain. It would take a legion of angels to stop him.

So when he learns that Liana needs help once again, he knows he is the last person to provide it. The problem is, no one else is willing.

Corban must return to the side of the girl he loves, and pray that he is strong enough to save both her and himself.



Angels are falling all over the world and earthquakes and tidal waves are demolishing the major cities. Vampires are proliferating in the chaos, and a deadly, demonic plague is spreading like wildfire.

Liana thought her battle to keep from turning into a vampire and stay human was personal, but prophecy says she's the only person alive who can free humanity from demonkind. Others have been called before, but none have succeeded, and she is the last. If she can't win this war, nobody can.

The pressure is on her and her faithful friends: Corban, the ex-angel and possible boyfriend; Amy, the anthropology-student-turned-loremaster; and Gina, the jeweler-turned-supernatural-weaponsmith. The four of them plus an army of soldiers drawn from across all the human realms must journey into the demon realm and close the portal once and for all.

But when the fallen discover their plans, the battles begin, and Liana finds herself alone in a strange realm of immortal demons who live in perpetual night, under a sky studded with stars. While her friends fight to reach her, she must decipher the prophecy and figure out how to free both Earth and herself from dark forces that could rend the very fabric of the universe, and destroy all creation.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Gina Tang, Author of The Beijing Family



Weird Chinese Eats or Nutritional Medicine?

The world eats a wide variety of food and sometimes they are strange to someone. The Chinese definitely have their share!  When you have over 5,000 years in history, one can only imagine the variety of things the Chinese picked up along the way that are considered edible or delicacies.  Even more so when the country has seen its episodic moments of famine in history and relied on non-traditional sources for protein and nutrients in order to survive.  Sometimes a trip into a Chinese supermarket or even a traditional medicine store in the "Asian" parts of town is an experience to be remembered. 

Here are a few of the examples of strange Chinese eats as featured in The Beijing Family book series:



What the heck is a grass jelly drink?  Grass like in the green stuff that grows on lawns? And now it's in jelly form for a drink? Oh heck no! Actually grass jelly is made from boiling aged and slightly oxidized grass, but it's the stalks and leaves of Mesona Chinesis, a member of the mint family.  It is rich in calcium and fiber. Grass jelly relieves heartburn, constipation, abdominal bleeding and diarrhea. After cooling the liquid to a jelly-like black consistency, this jelly can be cut into cubes or other forms and mixed with sugar or syrup to make drinks or dessert.





In Book 1 of The Beijing Family,  the elderly Grandma Moh makes traditional Chinese medicinal tea made from ox penis! 

Ox penis sold in a local street market 


In traditional Chinese medicine, ox penis is believed to increase one's virility, energy and sexual prowess. Chinese athletes have been known to eat deer penis to heal injuries and other ailments. In Jamaica, cow cod soup stewed with vegetables is considered an aphrodisiac. In America, rocky mountain oysters are bull’s balls – battered and deep fried.

Is it strange to eat such things or is it nutritional medicine? Do the Chinese prevail in these bizarre eats and why?

To learn more, please visit this link:
https://thebeijingfamily.blogspot.com/2017/11/wierd-chinese-eats-or-nutritional.html


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



You can find Gina here:





Thursday, October 31, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Stuart Aken, Author of Blood Red Dust




Food; ‘You canna live wi’out it, Jim.’ SciFi fans will recognise Scottie from Star Trek here. But food is rarely discussed in the genre.

I began Blood Red Dust as a one-off story about a possible future on Earth if we fail to stop climate change. But I ‘spect it just growed,’ like Topsy and became a trilogy. The other two books are traditional, but Blood Red Dust is unusual with its mix of ‘reports’ gathered from multiple sources to fit the mood of the time in which it’s set.

Mars, where most of the story is set, is a hostile environment where food will be a problem for a long time if we ever make it there in person. For the first colonists it’ll be the stuff they eat on the International Space Station until they can grow their own. Ain’t no fancy eateries on that there red planet!

Madonna, a brilliant colonist specialising in robotics, enters the mess room late one morning, ‘I fixed myself a coffee, well, what passes for coffee here till Anni’s got a proper handle on growing the beans.’

Later, in a report from Anni, a genius botanist, the group discusses fantasies, ‘I miss…a warm Mediterranean taverna, with ouzo flowing free and white wine cooling in carafes on chequered table tops. Olives laced with oil and garlic. Seafood caught from the sea that morning. Honey drizzled over pure white yoghurt.’

As the story progresses, food improves and group doctor, Zaphod (yes, named after the character in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) includes it in his report: ‘We’ve eaten: a delicious meal of sweet potato, fresh root vegetables and simple roast chicken, followed by fresh fruit salad. The only ingredient missing was wine.’

Including food in a story helps give atmosphere and lets readers appreciate setting. Like clothes and sex, it provides clues to how characters live, and is therefore essential, even if sometimes a little sparse.

My characters have a little more on their minds than what to eat, as they’re battling lunatic extremists as well as the hostile environment, but they do love food and it brings a bit of humour to the story, too.


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



You can find Stuart here:





Friday, October 25, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Louise Wise, Author of EDEN & HUNTED



I’m not much of a cook. My abilities in the kitchen are somewhat a joke in my family’s household. I love food, though, and eating out, trying new foods, is an absolute treat. But it isn’t just the food it’s the backdrop, the feel—the entire ambiance that must be just right. Get that wrong, and you could be eating cardboard.

Jenny, Bodie and Matt, the characters in Eden and Hunted (a two-book series), lived in a modern, futuristic world where anything they ever wanted was at a touch of a button, had no problem creating fantastic food in a beautiful setting. They could never have dreamed that their privileged life would end where they had to fight for their lives, pillaging for food and in Jenny’s case, using her body just to stay alive.

The three were astronauts and on a mission to explore the uninhabited planet (Eden). Their assignment was to set sensors into the planet’s crust, collect rocks and plant life, gather information on the animal, marine and birdlife and return home. A journey that would take several years. It had been planned with precision with the three trained meticulously. Except they were too reliant on that ‘touch of a button’ logic where technical glitches just do not happen in 2056.

Subsequently, Jenny was abandoned on the planet, and Bodie and Matt were left trying to survive in a broken space craft.

Left alone on Eden, Jenny finds a crashed alien spaceship and its only survivor, and food becomes the least of her problems.

But the setting, oh the setting:

In the distance, a truculent flood of water gushed over a high wall of rock with such force it left her breathless. Airborne droplets gave birth to such an unusual rainbow that she was entranced: a pale green arch, lined with pastel reds and yellows. The presence of phosphorescence caused the green to shine. Tall reeds in oranges and reds grew from the surface of the river, spreading feather-like tentacles over the water’s surface.

The setting is perfect for good food, and Jenny did her best with the natural food that grew on the planet. Naming the feasts she prepared was less adventurous though, she still had ‘bacon and eggs’, ‘spaghetti Bolognese’ and ‘ice cream’ but while they may have looked similar to the real thing they definitely tasted differently!


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


You can find Louise here:









Louise Wise is a British author from the Midlands in England. Her debut novel is the acclaimed sci-fi romance titled EDEN, which was followed by its sequel HUNTED in 2013. 

Writing under the name of T. E Kessler the forthcoming, JELVIA: NOT HUMAN series is themed on the above Eden and Hunted books and have mature themes. HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO book 1 and SURVIVING HER DOMINATE book 2, and book 3 SPIDER will follow in 2020. Wise chose to use T. E Kessler to differentiate from her non-erotic books, which include:
EDEN (sci-fi romance), HUNTED (sci-fi romance), A PROPER CHARLIE (romantic comedy), OH NO, I'VE FALLEN IN LOVE! (dark, comedy romance), and WIDE AWAKE ASLEEP (time travel, romance).

Wise enjoys writing comedy and finds a place for it in ALL her books. She has written numerous short stories for women's magazines such as Take a Break and Woman's Own.


Blurb for Eden #1

Imagine yourself stranded.
With no way of getting home.
Ever.
You’ve no communication, no shelter, no food.
No weapons.
Now imagine this place is another planet.
Then you realise you aren’t alone after all . . .


Blurb for Hunted #1

Jenny's from Earth. Fly's from Itor. By a quirk of fate they met. She tamed him and they fell in love.

Now, they live an idyllic life away from the wolf-like people and savage tribes of Neanderthals that prowl Eden. But things are changing outside their little kingdom. The wolf-people are disbanding and someone, or something, appears to be hunting the Neanderthals.


The signs are there that their world is changing—only they fail to notice straight away, and when they do, they don’t have much time to prepare.

Friday, October 11, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Beem Weeks, Author of Strange Hwy



Melanie is the ten-year-old POV character of my short story called "Monster," found in my collection entitled Strange Hwy. She’s going trick-or-treating with her older sister Millicent and a pair of neighborhood boys. As the older sister, Millicent has a knack for cheating the younger out of the good treats. And by good treats, I mean the chocolate bars and Skittles—those snacks a girl won’t mind spending her allowance on when it’s not Halloween.

Millicent hates jellybeans. Her idea of being a good big sister is to convince Melanie to trade off her chocolate for jellybeans. But Melanie hates jellybeans as well. And as the younger girl grows older, wisdom sets in. She’s no longer compelled to capitulate to her sister’s ideas where candy is concerned.

The story unfolds around the house at the end of the block. This is where the monster dwells—a man with a history. Of the four kids in the group, Melanie is the only one who dares approach the front door, seeking a treat, hoping she doesn’t become a victim of the monster. But there’s a twist in this tale. The monster is not who or what we expect him to be. And since Melanie is the only child to dare ring his doorbell, she’s the recipient of a grand chocolate bounty.

There is a morsel of reality in this piece, in that I, as the older brother, often tried to swindle my younger brother out of the good trick-or-treat snacks. I hated jellybeans as a youngster. They were easy to pawn off on my brother. When my brother reached an older and wiser age, he no longer cared to make those trades I’d once convinced him were worthwhile. However, I found a silver lining in being stuck with jellybeans: they’d last well into the next year. I’d still have Halloween candy as late as February or March. Jellybeans or no, candy is candy to a kid.


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



You can find Beem here:






Friday, October 4, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome June Winton, Author of The Golden Horn



Lacy is officially fed up! She would rather be eating Greek food at her boyfriend’s house, with his Mum giving her cooking lessons. Or even at the local Burger Man with her pals, having a laugh. Instead of which she is babysitting her six year old half-sister, Sophie, and trying to persuade her to eat her vegetables.

To make matters worse, Sophie has a severe case of sleepwalking and an imaginary friend called “Betty Ballerina”, and seems to be obsessed with “digging for treasure” in their back garden, where Betty keeps showing her to. Only thing is, there might be something nasty hidden in the garden…

Lacy enlists the help of her friend, Karina, who thinks Sophie might be haunted and is seeing a ghost, and persuades Lacy to attend a psychic fair to have her Tarot cards read. Only this makes matters worse when she picks the Death card along with the Tower and black sword cards, prompting the fortune teller to give her money back.

In desperation Lacy turns to Barry, a family friend who owns a metal detector and has recently found a golden horn, thought to be celtic but placed in an anglo-saxon burial site. She begs Barry to search their garden for clues as to what Sophie is looking for. But will he get there in time?


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



You can find June here:



Thursday, September 26, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome James Shipman, Author of It Is Well




It Is Well, a historical novel by James D. Shipman, is set in Snohomish, Washington during World War II, as well as on Wake Island and in the European Theater.

What were Americans eating on the home front during World War II? The diet of US citizens was substantially limited based on rationing on most grocery items. Pictured below is the ration book of my grandmother, Katherine Davis. There were limitations on all staples including sugar, flour, meat and coffee. Americans were encouraged to grow “Victory Gardens,” and the majority of vegetables consumed by citizens during the War came from these home-grown gardens.

Snohomish was a small town during the war, with a population below 10,000. The surrounding area was dotted with farms. The food in this rural community north of Seattle was simple and wholesome: baked or boiled beef with potatoes, cooked vegetables and bread. Rationing permitting, pie would have supplied the typical desert. Although a modern person might have found the fare bland and repetitive, the local citizens did not suffer near the limitations felt by the English, and certainly not the mass hunger and starvation felt by those living under Nazi occupation.

About half of It Is Well takes place in the US military. American soldiers in the field lived off a new invention, “K-Rations.” The K Ration was a packaged, 28-ounce, 2,830 calorie meal originally designed by Ancel Keys from the University of Minnesota. The K Ration would contain biscuits, canned meat, a ration bar, and lemon powder. The soldiers also carried D rations, which were bars meant to be eaten under heavy duty combat situations or in an emergency. The D Ration bar was a chocolate bar with a high calorie content. The bar was intentionally made with a bitter taste so it would be consumed only by necessity. It was designed to taste “a little better than a boiled potato.”




One of the main characters in the book, Matthew, is a prisoner of war of the Japanese during most of the war on Wake Island. Japanese POW’s would have lived on a watery rice gruel and vegetables. The Japanese were already conditioned to live on much less than an American soldier, and the prisoners on the island received less than the soldiers. To make matters worse, the Japanese were not always able to resupply the atoll, based on combat conditions and other necessities, so the prisoners suffered terribly. The Americans on the island lost considerable weight during their captivity, both from the limited nutrition and the back-breaking labor forced on them by their captors.

That’s a look at what the characters from It Is Well were eating during World War II. Thanks for reading and after you’re done, it’s probably a good time to go out and grab a great meal, and be thankful you’re not cracking open a K-ration!

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



You can find James here:








It Is Well was released as an Amazon Kindle First Read by Lake Union Publishing in October, 2016. This title ranked #3 overall for all books sold on Amazon for much of the month of October. James D. Shipman has four published titles with Lake Union Publishing. His newest title, Task Force Baum, will be released by Kensington Publishing in hardback on November 26, 2019.

Friday, September 20, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome T.L. Searle, Author of Aquila



Aquila Raven Vickers, Aqua to . . . everyone, she hates her name . . . is a vegetarian through necessity; meat makes her very physically sick. On her Organic farm in Somerset she grows fresh fruit and vegetables year round which her and her mum, a prolific baker, then make into tasty stews and pies, jams and cakes.

Aqua’s world is turned upside-down when she meets Lucas. He’s the first person like her she’s ever met and he introduces her to a whole new world; including culinary experiences. Aqua is given her first taste. . . it starts simple with some fruit and nuts because she’s late for breakfast but her next meal, brought to her after an already traumatic experience, is curried potato and crickets with rice and iced tea.

She declines, but, as she begins to settle into her new way of life, living Celthia, a city hidden inside a mountain in Bhutan, she embraces new delicacies such as stewed worms, dried crickets, baked centipedes, ants, grubs . . . any insects really . . . the leaves and flowers of local vegetation as well as fruits and vegetables and drinking Cecalis, the sparkling alcoholic Angeli version of champagne.

So be ready with an open mind and, if you’re anything like Aqua’s friend Aaron, an empty stomach.


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


You can meet Tanya here:






Thursday, September 12, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Jan Ruth, Author of Silver Rain



Despite his hit and miss work life (house-husband, head-childminder, author, children’s entertainer) Al is no slouch when it comes to the kitchen. And it may seem that initially, Al really needs some redeeming qualities. I like writing about characters who are not conventional, especially where there is a romantic element as the traditional themes have been done to death. My main protagonists in this off-beat love story are both aged fifty. Al knows he is adopted, but despite the freedom of a country childhood and a ready-made brother in George, the feeling that’s he’s from a different background never quite leaves him and questions about his famous birth mother hover in the background until, aided by Kate, he finally manages to confront some of them.

Kate, once married to Fran’s deceased brother, is shocked to discover that Al has been banished from the family for a number of years, the reasons for which remain a dark secret and George remains tight-lipped. In fact, George is mightily disgruntled that since his divorce, Al is determined to bury the hatchet and move back to the family farm. Chathill Farm is a dilapidated small-holding, and the centre of Fran’s universe. Fran doesn’t cook and her housekeeping skills are notoriously rustic, and it’s further fuel to her husband's disgruntled fire that all the inmates are named after edibles – Butter, and Marg, the dogs; Bacon, the pig, and Stilton, the horse. Despairing, and hungry, George is forced to find culinary solace at a local hotel and since we’re in Wales, fare such as local lamb and bara-brith are staples of the menu.

Family drama is always rife at Christmas time and although Kate seems burdened with the main event in the kitchen, it’s Al who adds the more interesting ingredients – both figuratively and metaphorically – such as almonds and smoked bacon to the sprouts, and makes real custard from scratch… (I’m thinking the kitchen might be the only place Al is ever serious). But it’s the Christmas trifle which really takes centre stage, when Al’s ex-wife unexpectedly arrives on Boxing Day to gatecrash proceedings:

Lifting the tablecloth, Al wondered about getting underneath. He could see his brother, shifting his weight from one leg to the other, and he could see Helen’s knickers as she sat with her legs slightly apart, totally sloshed. It was tempting to drop down there and curl up in a ball, but what would that solve? No, the only possible option he had at that precise moment was one of surprise. Without rocking the table too violently, he managed to crawl underneath and surfaced next to Helen’s chair.

She seemed poised to begin some sort of rant, her finger ready to point and accuse. Thrown by his sudden, close proximity her nostrils flared and she inhaled deeply, steeling herself for battle. She was about to open her mouth and there was a brief connection when he looked, apologetically, into her eyes; the eyes of the woman he’d always love, as the mother of his children.

Then he pushed her, face down into the trifle.



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



You can find Jan here:








Jan Ruth lives in Snowdonia, a mountainous area of North Wales, UK. Jan writes contemporary fiction about the darker side of the family dynamic, often blending life in rural Wales with a touch of city business. Her style is best described as fast-paced and realistic, with a sprinkling of dry humour.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Carole Bumpus, Author of Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table



If  you tell me what you eat, I can tell you where you're from
by Carole Bumpus

While traveling in Europe, have you ever strolled down a cobblestone street, passed an open window and heard laughter flowing out to greet you?  Have you ever stopped to listen to the banter while wondering what it would be like to live there?  In that house?  That village?  And, oooooh!  What is that wonderful aroma?  Say, what are they eating?  I did too.

My book series, Savoring the Olde Ways, is a compilation of intimate interviews, conversations, stories and recipes I had the good fortune to gather from European families as I traveled throughout their countries. Part culinary memoir and part travelogue, these books are the personal stories told to me by individual families—from inside their homes along those very cobblestone streets.

As a retired family therapist, my initial interests were about the families themselves.  But as a lover of traditional foods and home cooking, I discovered that favorite ancestral foods brought both French and Italian families together—not only for holidays, but every day—at their own family tables. 

What sure-fire recipe did I use to open a topic of conversation?  I asked my hosts to tell me about their favorite foods as children.  Or, I asked if they could share with me the treasured recipes they prepared when first married.  But I quickly learned that I needed to prepare myself.  I needed to have pen and paper in hand, along with my trusty tape recorder. (Yes, I still used one.)

I also needed to quickly pull up to the kitchen table, because, without fail, I was headed for a most passionate journey.  You see, once I posed my question, the fondest of memories immediately rose to the surface—moments of delight of holidays past, favorite family foods, cherished traditions and beloved family stories—all would come bubbling forth.  And, before I knew it, my host would jump up, eyes bright with excitement as he or she would rush to the kitchen to snatch up a favorite recipe.

‘Voici!’ I would hear exclaimed in French, or ‘Ecco qui!’ in Italian. ‘Here it is!’ they would shout as they made a beeline back to my side. And there, clutched in hand, was a recipe card, all smudged with past efforts and spattered with passionate conviction.  Immediately, and because I’m only fluent in English, their arms would fly in all directions with mixing motions sweeping the air as they enacted the preparation of their favorite recipe.

By collecting recipes, I learned about their culture, their history, their loves and their sorrows.  I learned the favorite way to celebrate family was to return to the recipes of the past—the cuisine pauvre (French) or cucina povera (Italian)—the traditional cuisine of the family.   And, I learned that if you tell me what you eat, I can tell you where you’re from.


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



You can find Carole here:




   

Thursday, June 13, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Bo Kearns, Author of Ashes in a Coconut



For hundreds of years beginning back in the 16th century, Indonesian islands monopolized the spice trade. The country’s flavorful cuisine reflects that bygone era. In Ashes in a Coconut, Manhattan fashion designer Laura Harrison sets aside her career and accompanies her banker husband Jack to Indonesia to save her marriage. There are several scenes in the story where Laura and Jack experience the diverse local fare.

In Jakarta, they’re served gado gado, vegetables in a hot chili and peanut sauce, and a large bowl of steamed rice. Jack comments that he’s heard rice is used to calm the spice. Laura speculates that could be why there’s so much of it. 

In the Hotel Kediri’s elegant ballroom, waiters scurry about making last minute preparations for Laura and Jack’s welcoming reception. Over 500 guests have been
invited. Laura fidgets concerned she might do or say something offensive to the local culture.  An ice sculpture in the shape of a mythical bird dominates the buffet table. Its translucent wings extend over an array of exotic foods: chicken satays, nasi goring, giant prawns with a spicy-looking red sauce and a pyramid of colorful tropical fruit. Laura selects a prawn and dips it in the sauce. Overcome by spice, she chokes; her eyes water. She struggles to catch her breath and her plate tilts. Red blobs fall onto her white dress.

Fortunately things get better. Nissam is the cook in Laura’s household. Having worked for expat families of different nationalities, he comes with a range of recipes: boueuf bourguignon, pasta primavera, chocolate mousse, and Mandarin Chinese to name a few. He knows how to temper Indonesian dishes to accommodate the Western palate, without sacrificing the special flavors. 

The novel takes place in the 1980’s. The Palms is an upscale restaurant set in an old  mansion. Maroon velvet curtains frame tall, corniced windows and crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling, evidence of an era long ago.  The menu includes rijsttafel— a medley of island foods concocted by the Dutch colonials. Twelve sarong-clad young women each carrying a large platter with a different dish serve it. Laura thinks the elaborate presentation a bit much. She hopes Jack won’t order the concoction, though she suspects he will. He enjoys the spectacle. Soon twelve women parade in and line up behind Jack’s chair. One at a time they step forward, smile and dish food onto his plate. Laura casts an eye roll in his direction. A selamatan is an Indonesian celebration of gratitude where food takes center stage. Having survived a life-threatening incident, Laura and Jack host a selamatan. Guests sit on the floor on a carpet and an imam chants a prayer. The main meal attraction is nasi tumpeng, a yellow, cone-shaped steamed rice dish made with turmeric and coconut milk. It’s served on strips of banana leaf along with: rending (beef curry), pisang goring (fried banana), empal (sweet and spicy fried beef), sambal telur (hard boiled eggs in a pepper sauce) and sayur-sayuran (cooked vegetables). The guest of honor cuts the cone.

Pungent foods are often found in the cuisine of hot, humid locales. Some speculate the sweating that can accompany eating spicy food, ultimately has a cooling effect. Others say the anti-microbial property of many spices deters food from spoiling. Yet with air conditioning and refrigeration, spicy food persists. A more likely explanation is that it’s part of the culture. People in tropical countries begin eating spicy food at an early age. They become desensitized. So perhaps if Laura and Jack subsume enough local food, they might become desensitized, too.


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



You can find Bo here:








Bo Kearns, journalist and writer of fiction, is the author of Ashes in a Coconut, a novel set in Indonesia where he lived for three years. He is a feature writer with NorthBay biz magazine and the Sonoma Index-Tribune newspaper. Several of his short stories have won awards and been published. He is a certified UC Naturalist, beekeeper, avid hiker and supporter of conservation causes. He lives in the wine country of Sonoma with his wife and rescue dog, Jake.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Back Luke Murphy, Author of Rock-A-Bye Baby



I love this blog! So many writers take food, and other important aspects of life, for granted in their books. Make sure that you include meal times, sleep times, etc., because people can’t live without food and sleep, even driven law enforcement types.

I’ve been asked to write a few things about the importance of food in my new novel for the blog. So I thought about what might go well with my new novel and my main character, Charlene Taylor. As a busy, on-the-run detective, who needs food for fuel, Charlene doesn’t always have/take the time or worry about eating. Luckily, Charlene has a loving, caring mother nearby to take care of her (moms are the best).

Charlene’s mother loves to bake, and she keeps her daughter fueled with hearty, nutritious home-cooked meals/food. In this newest story, even though Charlene’s adventure takes her from Los Angeles (her home) to Denver (visiting her sister). Luckily, Brenda Taylor tags along to see her daughter and first grandchild, so she is still able to supply Charlene with warm, home-baked, directly-from-the-oven blueberry muffins, so she doesn’t have to slow down while investigating a case.

As the investigation tightens and becomes tenser, Charlene goes lengthy spurts without food or fueling up, and her mother, who was married to a cop for over thirty years, knows what it takes to get them through.

Charlene is lean and athletic, takes care of her body both with the food she eats, and the physical activity recreational activities she takes part in. So knowing the importance of staying in great physical shape and keeping up her energy for a tough, high-speed investigation, I needed food that caters to her lifestyle.

Charlene’s quick, healthy breakfast for her on-the-go day:

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup white sugar 3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt         3/4 cup milk         1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg         1 cup fresh blueberries 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest


Directions
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Grease bottoms only of 12 muffin cups or line with baking cups.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, blueberries, grated lemon zest and salt; mix well. In a small bowl, combine milk, oil and egg; blend well. Add dry ingredients all at once; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened (batter will be lumpy.)
3. Fill cups 2/3 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 1 minute before removing from pan. Serve warm.


Thanks for stopping back by to share more food for thought, Luke!



You can find Luke here:




Thursday, May 30, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Rebecca Enzor, Author of Speak the Ocean



Thanks so much for inviting me, Shelley! I’m a huge foodie myself, although I can’t cook much more than frozen pizza or boxed mac and cheese (Hubs, however, is an amazing cook!). And while the human side of my story contains more drinking than eating (my human MC just turned 21 and is enjoying it), the mermaid side of the story is heavily driven by a lack of food.

Over-fishing has my Mer characters leaving the safety of their deep-sea home and taking dangerous chances to find enough to eat. My mermaid protagonist, Erie, is caught on a desperate hunt when she pushes another Mer out of the way of the “landfolk” nets. Once she’s trapped at the marine park, she refuses to eat the dead fish that were trapped in a net like she was. One of the first air-words she learns is “breakfast.”

The pivotal scene when she first speaks to her human trainer revolves around him trying to bribe her into eating a dead fish (Mer only eat live fish, so she’s really grossed out by this). There are several scenes throughout the book that focus on her not-eating, including my favorite line: “when he throws a dead fish in the water, I throw it back.” I can just imagine my pissed-off mermaid throwing a dead fish at my human trainer, and him trying to duck while getting hit with a cold, wet, dead fish. Knowing him, there’s definitely an expletive involved!

I can’t say too much more without giving away key parts of the book, but while it focuses heavily on the morality of subjugating other species to the whims of human entertainment (orcas at Sea World, for instance), it’s also about our effect on the food chain in the ocean. As we overfish and pollute the waters other species depend on, we’re also destroying a source of food that we depend on too. Eventually, we’ll be just as hungry and desperate as the Mer.


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your food for thought, Rebecca!



You can find Rebecca here:







Rebecca Enzor is a fantasy author and analytical chemist in Charleston, SC, where she lives with her husband, two dogs, three cats, and sometimes chickens. Her articles on writing science in science fiction can be found in “Putting the Science in Fiction” from Writer’s Digest Books. Obsessed with everything ocean, she studied fisheries biology in college and electrocuted herself collecting fish in a river, which inspired several key scenes in her novel. Speak the Ocean, a Blackfish meets The Little Mermaid retelling, will be published by Reuts Publishing in July 2019. She’s represented by Eric Smith of P.S. Literary.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Karen Pokras, Author of Ava's Wishes



Ava Haines isn’t your typical college student. She has big goals and is laser focused to make sure nothing gets in the way of her internship at the local art gallery and her bigger goal of owning her own place one day.

But a girl still has to eat, right? Especially when the esteemed and very handsome photographer Thomas Malloy offers to take her out to dinner while he’s in town for his show at the gallery. Perhaps Ava is not quite as focused as she thought she was. Even she’s entitled to a little fun once in while, and dinner with Thomas at Habanero’s, the chic and out-of-her budget Mexican restaurant, sure beats another bland meal at the college dining hall. They start off with Margaritas and tortilla chips. While the scene ends there, I’m certain Ava ordered the grilled Mahi-mahi tacos.

As good as that meal was, it has unfortunate ending. No worries though as Ava has other delicious meals in her future with both Thomas and her charming statistics tutor Max Wallis. Max invites her out to D’Angelos Pub where she orders a grilled chicken salad instead of the pasta dish she really wants, because she never orders spaghetti on a date. It’s way too messy. And is it really a date anyway if they’re talking about statistics?

Maybe some distractions aren’t so bad after all.


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



You can find Karen here:






Thursday, May 16, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Rick Polad, Author of the Spencer Manning Mysteries



When Shelley asked me to write a blog about my books and food, my first thought was that I wouldn’t have enough material for a paragraph much less a blog. After all, my books are about Spencer Manning and the cases he works on, not food. But after some thought I realized food is an integral part of my books and Spencer’s life for several reasons. The first is, fictional characters need to eat too, albeit fictional food. The second is, food plays a major part in advancing the story, especially in a mystery novel.

As the cases develop, Spencer needs to let the reader know what he is thinking so the reader can be involved in trying to figure out who did it. And what better way to do that than to have Spencer converse with other characters. He dines twice a week with Lieutenant Stanley “Stosh” Pawolski of the Chicago police and less often with his romantic interest, Detective Rosie Lonnigan. Gino’s East, one of Chicago’s favorite spots for deep dish pizza, is one of their favorites, as is Carson’s for ribs. Over a meal, they talk about the case.

Another reason for including food in the stories is purely selfish. I get to eat vicariously through Spencer. He gets to eat all the things I shouldn’t… steaks, burgers, pizza, ribs, lasagna. And he doesn’t have to eat vegetables. And he frequents some pretty fancy restaurants. My books are set in Chicago during the 1980s, so I had to rely on my memory and research to be historically accurate. Some restaurants are still here thirty-five years later. Some are not. And some exist only in my imagination.

In the first book in the now seven-book series, Change of Address, Spencer frequents one of the best steak houses in Chicago… Gibsons, one of my top three culinary experiences.  But in that same book, Spencer and Rosie dine at Stantons. It’s a restaurant on the shore of Lake Michigan in a North Shore suburb of Chicago. Every table overlooks the lake and Spencer and Kelly sit on the terraced veranda with drinks before dinner. The most frequent question I have had about my books is “Where is that restaurant? I want to eat there!” Unfortunately, it’s only in my imagination. Also in my imagination is the deli next to Spencer’s office.

But the place that holds the books together is McGoons, where Spencer is known by name and often meets with one of his many sidekicks for steak and beer and to discuss a case.  McGoons is a creation of bits and pieces from my memory of Chicago pubs.

In the third book, Missing Boy, Spencer visits the original McDonald’s (after Kroc took over) in Des Plaines and laments plans to tear it down. A museum was later built on the site. And as I was writing this, I realized Spencer has never had a Chicago hot dog. I’ll have to fix that in the next book. Bon appetit!


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


You can find Rick here:




Thursday, May 9, 2019

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Back Laurie Boris, Author of The Kitchen Brigade



If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Out of the Kitchen

Survival during wartime means doing without, but those who endure discover how to get what they need. For most of the characters in my dystopian novel The Kitchen Brigade, this revolves around food. Food is love. Food is culture. Food is community. For this group of women who have made cuisine their passion and their livelihoods, food is everything.

When we first meet Valerie, a former culinary student, she’s cooking with whatever she can scrounge in the mess hall of a refugee camp. To bear the nightmare her life has become since a war-torn America was occupied by Russia, she draws on memories of learning to cook as a child. She recites the names of the French “mother” sauces like a mantra; she recalls the aromas of licorice and vanilla that keep her father alive in her mind.

Again she calls upon her childhood comforts when she’s imprisoned and forced to cook for a Russian general. In his kitchen she’s thrown into a brigade responsible for crafting five-star meals for him and his guests…carefully supervised by a mysterious head chef and the general’s well-armed guards.

Since the story takes place in New York’s Hudson Valley, local cuisine is on the menu. Perfectly roasted venison is the star when the general entertains his special guests. Meals always include bounty from the nearby wineries, along with fruits and vegetables (as they can be found, or stolen.) For an extra dash of flavor and intrigue the head chef grows herbs in pots on the kitchen’s terrace. When the resistance interrupts their supply lines, the general’s men shoot ducks out of the sky and commandeer anything they can find in vehicles stopped at checkpoints.

Because the kitchen is often called upon to produce haute cuisine when certain staples are unavailable, the women need to be resourceful. They can make pasta without eggs, biscuits without milk, and nearly anything without butter. They even make their own butter—when they can bargain for cream.

In one of my favorite food-related scenes, Valerie makes up a plate of leftovers for a young Russian guard and sits with him over dinner. They barely know a few words of each other’s language, but sharing a meal provides an opening for empathy and compassion: they grow to understand each other’s struggles, and what the war has taken from their families. In a time when the world is trying to divide them, the simple act of sharing a meal can show what unites them.


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



You can find Laurie here: