Monday, January 31, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome C. Lee McKenzie, Author of Sign of the Green Dragon

From Quesadillas to Bok Choi

Anyone who has kids, or was once one, knows that food is a big part of their lives. If left to free range, they might choose peanut butter and Jelly Bellys on toast for breakfast, but they'll eat that concoction with gusto.

My three twelve-year-old sleuths are no different in the gusto department, but their food choices are dictated by where they happen to be during the story. They travel from their small town to an early Gold Rush era mine on a hunt for treasure. And nothing makes a kid hungrier than a quest, so food is important.

At the beginning, they're home with family. Sam's eating Carmela's quesadillas, Roger's into fried chicken (a lot of fried chicken - when you meet Roger, you'll understand), and Joey's eating his mother's Cantonese cuisine.

But it's peanut butter cracker sandwiches that get them through an earthquake and the discovery of a crumbling skeleton with a mysterious note that promises treasure. It's this note that starts them on their Indiana Jones adventure into the northern hills of California.

There's some food deprivation along the way, but they fix that by finding a cafĂ© well-stocked with fresh doughnuts and hot chocolate. That keeps them going until they're befriended by a descendant of early Chinese miners. They're lucky he's a good cook, but only Joey has experience using chopstix, so while there's a lot of rice and bits of ginger with bok choi, it takes Sam and Roger a long time to clean their bowls. 

Food is not central to Sign of the Green Dragon, but it does trace the journey, and it reflects the different ethnicities in the story. Besides, growing kids must eat, even in fiction.

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

You can find C. Lee Mackenzie here:

Twitter @CLeeMcKenzie

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Three plucky sleuths. A crumbling skeleton. A dangerous quest. Sign of the Green Dragon gets high fives for fantasy, fun, and some fearsome adventure. If you like intrepid would-be knights on impossible quests, you'll love this story. It has more twists than a dragon's tail. Ages 8-12.


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Thursday, January 20, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Steve McEllistrem, Author of The Devereaux Dilemma

My characters – in The Devereaux Dilemma and its sequels – reside in the future, where food is both better and worse than it is here in the present. There’s nothing like a good flavor enhancer to deliver pleasure to the palate, but one must be careful. Sometimes that delicious food comes with a bit of a kick.

At one point, Doug is offered a sandwich that looks unappealing:

He bit tentatively into the bread, hoping not to gag. But it was delicious, almost melting in his mouth. “Wow, this is fantastic.” Taking a huge bite, he chewed slowly, savoring the rich mushroom and bean flavor, commingled with onion, garlic and some spices he could not identify. He realized he was famished. As he ate the sandwich, a warmth slowly spread through him.

“Thanks for makin’ me try it,” he said to Zeriphi. “I’ve never tasted anything like it. You’re a marvelous cook.” The Escala exchanged glances and smiles. Doug felt the need to explain his hesitation. “It just looked awful. Can I have another one?”

Zeriphi moved her chair closer to Doug’s and prepared another sandwich for him. While he ate, she continued to stare at him and he found it increasingly difficult to turn his attention away from her: her blond hair, high cheekbones, rounded face and dark brown eyes, large and luminous. They pulled at him, drew him in until he saw nothing else. As they gazed at each other, he felt like he was under a spell, finally broken by Quekri’s voice:

“Zeriphi will keep you company tonight.”

Zeriphi nodded. “Eat,” she said as she lifted the remainder of the sandwich to his mouth.

Should Doug complain at being drugged with an aphrodisiac that gives him an unquenchable desire to sleep with Zeriphi? After all, she’s a beautiful woman. And pleasure does in fact ensue. Still, there might be a good lesson to take away from it all: one may want to hesitate before accepting food from a stranger.

At least Doug is perhaps doing better than Colonel Truman, who’s getting processed meat and cheese on bread that has no flavor enhancements added, all while enduring the sanctimonious musings of Attorney General Gray Weiss.

In addition to providing sustenance and the occasional opportunity to drug one’s guests, meals are a fine way to pass information, to absorb opinions and beliefs, to get to know people better. And a meal shared is almost always better than one eaten alone. Because it’s very often not about the food.

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

You can find Steve here:

Friday, January 14, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Wendy McLeod MacKnight, Author of The Copycat

Ali Sloane has a lot going on in her life.

Like moving all the time because her parents struggle to hold down job.

Having a difficult time fitting in at all the new schools she’s forced to attend.

Dealing with her dad’s low moods.

That would be a lot for any kid, but there’s this other thing: her dad’s side of the family are Copycats, which means they can basically change into any living thing.

But now that she and her parents have moved in with her great-grandmother, Gigi, maybe things will be (hopefully!) normal, or at least normal-ish.

But like her father Digger, who’s been known to turn into a bat at the breakfast table, and makes pies when he’s worried about something, Ali has a complicated relationship with food, and definite rules about what she likes and dislikes.

According to Ali:

Vegetables are not your friends.

Raisins are an unwelcome surprise.

Mushy bananas are gross!

Always cut the toast on the diagonal.

The cinnamon and sugar should not be mixed in advance when you make cinnamon toast.

If you’ve never eaten it before, do NOT agree to try it.

Like Ali, I used to be furious when my parents chopped the vegetables so finely there was no way to eat around them. And I had definite views on what I would and would not eat. It drove my parents around the bend!

Trying new things — including food — is an important part of growing up. I really wanted my readers to see that for Ali, food was the one place where she could exert some control over the things that were happening in her life. For some kids, that kind of control can lead to eating disorders; in Ali’s case, it’s led to becoming a picky eater.

But as Ali makes friends and discovers the real her, she starts to think of food differently, focusing on what she likes instead of what she hates.

And guess what? I think by the time she gets to be my age, she may change her mind about the things on the list above. Except the raisins, she will never love raisins! 

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

You can find Wendy here:

Twitter: @WendyMacKnight

Instagram @wendymcleodmacknight

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Wendy McLeod MacKnight is the author of three middle grade novels, all of which are set in New Brunswick: It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! (2017), The Frame-Up (2018), and The Copycat (2020), which was a Rocky Mountain Book Awards finalist. She’s represented by the LKG Agency in NYC and has received the 2017 Atlantic Booksellers’ Emerging Author award, called One to Watch by Quill and Quire magazine, and been reviewed in the Wall Street Journal. Her last two novels were named best books by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. The Frame-Up has also been published in Taiwan and will be published in French by Bouton d’Or Acadie in the coming year.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Rosemary McCracken, Author of Safe Harbor

One of the highlights of my journalism career was a stint as a restaurant reviewer for the Calgary Herald. Reviewing restaurants wasn’t my full-time job at the newspaper. I still had my regular duties reporting on events in Calgary, a city in western Canada, but once a week, I’d eat dinner with a friend at one of the better restaurants in the city or its outlying areas. Then I’d write it up for the next weekend’s newspaper.

I wasn’t a gastronome by any means, but the Herald prided itself on being a family newspaper, and wanted reviews to reflect the experience of ordinary diners. I got to eat some great meals, and I began to see restaurants as an integral part of a city’s culture.

Flash forward two decades. I am now living in Toronto, Canada’s largest and most culturally diverse city. I am now writing fiction, and—surprise, surprise—I set key scenes of my novels and short stories in restaurants. Dining out is what Torontonians love to do, so when COVID-19 shut down restaurants for several months in 2020 and 2021, we were bereft.

All four novels in my Pat Tierney mystery series involve eating out, but more so in Safe Harbor and Uncharted Waters—the first and the fourth books in the series—because these two mysteries are set in Toronto. More than 50 per cent of Toronto’s residents belong to visible minorities, and the city is famous for its ethnic eateries. Restaurant settings allow me to showcase Toronto’s diversity. Food from all over the world is being served in Toronto restaurants and bistros and market food stalls, and Pat Tierney, my financial planner protagonist, makes a point of sampling as much of it as she can. With her clients, with her friends and with her family.

Pat heads to Milos, the Italian eatery in her neighborhood, when she needs a break from cooking for her family. She visits Baraka, a Hungarian restaurant in the theater district, for goulash and schnitzel; Volos, a Greek restaurant near the opera house, for calamari, saganaki and rosemary lamb; Yitz’s, a mid-town delicatessen, for melt-in-your-mouth smoked meat and vinegar slaw; and Cedars, a Lebanese restaurant near her office in the Annex neighborhood, for hummus, tabbouleh and roasted eggplant. And just across the street from Pat’s office, Giorgio’s diner serves up to-die-for butter tarts; key scenes in Uncharted Waters take place at Giorgio’s.

Some of these eateries are imaginary; others are based on actual Toronto restaurants and diners, but I’ve given them new names and locations.

And as a tribute to my restaurant reviewing days, I wrote a short story a few years ago with a restaurant reviewer as its central character. “Dining Out” (published in Malice Domestic’s 2019 anthology, Mystery Most Edible) is the tale of Oliver Townsend, a bent restaurant reviewer who has the audacity to demand payments from restaurant owners for his newspaper reviews. Oliver is a fictional character, of course!

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

You can find Rosemary here:

Twitter @RCMcCracken

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon