Friday, April 5, 2024

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Thomas Reed, Author of Pocketful of Poseys

If my dark family comedy, Pocketful of Poseys, had a subtitle, it could almost be “But what aren’t they eating?” After a grueling struggle with Parkinson’s disease, Cinny Posey, charter member of Woodstock Nation, refuses all food and drink. Her adult children, Grace and Brian, finally embrace her exit strategy, but staff at Cinny’s healthcare facility struggle letting her dwindle. The chef is famous for his delectable homestyle meatloaf, served the first Tuesday of every month. There’s even a local story about an elderly woman, comatose for three days, who, as one first Tuesday progressed, grew more and more alert until she finally awoke, rose from her bed, slipped on a pair of tattered mules, and trundled down the hallway behind her walker in hot pursuit of the beckoning aroma. When, years later, a well-meaning but ill-advised attendant brings Cinny a cup of pureed meatloaf, she provokes a major spat with Grace, who knows her mother’s eating anything would represent a huge step backwards. Sometimes family love is not about home-cooked meals!

Other than Cinny, naturally, my characters do eat. Jetting around the globe fulfilling Cinny’s dying wish—to sprinkle her and husband Frank’s ashes in a half-dozen international locations—they relish local cuisines at every waystation: e.g. Stonegrill and pavlova in New Zealand, tiramisu in Italy, fondue in Switzerland. Actually, they ate so much in my early drafts that my title could have been “Tableful of Poseys.” It’s a lively book about challenging travel, featuring some wild adventures, but much of the story unfolds through conversation of the “family table-talk” sort. I just needed to move some of the revealing chit-chat outdoors, up mountains, along rivers, aboard planes and trains, even up at rooftop bars.

Desserts have places of honor on the Pocketful menu. Cinny and Frank founded a student co-op at college in the late ‘60s—said to have hosted two banquets a year where guests stripped at the door and ate dessert off each other’s naked abs. Cinny’s son Brian is fascinated by the possibility; Grace is mortified. This is finally a book about growing up, by fits and starts, over the course of multiple decades. Grace’s daughter, Chelsea, adored tiramisu as a child, dubbing it “teary measles.” When the book brings the extended family to Rome, “teary measles” re-emerges in a trenchant dinner-table scene that questions whether parents can ever see their offspring as full adults. Those “just-the-cutest-things” that adults treasure as a way to hold onto their babies so often turn on the intake (and output!) of food. (My infant daughter used to put her grilled cheese sandwiches on top of her head and grin insanely!) It’s striking how often those charming foibles get dredged up at Thanksgiving and Christmastime meals—dependably mortifying the former kids. Family diners beware!

They say we are what we eat. Maybe you can’t write a compelling family saga without touching on what we do—and don’t—put into our collective mouths.

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

You can find Tom here:


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