Tuesday, May 24, 2011

FOODFIC: Skin Hunger - Kathleen Duey

Even though there’s an apple on the cover and “hunger” right there in the title, I didn’t take for granted there’d be food scenes in the book. Like I said in my BWATE? “mission statement,” people are hungry for everything from love to money, so I figured, based on the premise of a sequestered wizard-run academy that’s only open to sons of wealth and privilege and whose mission is to restore magic after a multi-century ban, the hunger here was more likely to be for power.

Well, each of the complex characters – both in 11-year-old Hahp’s story and that of Sadima, who lived generations before him but whose tale is interwoven with his – is hungry for something. Some yearn for love, some for knowledge or control; there’s even a gypsy woman who gets only the briefest mention as she passes along a book…and she’s doing it to satisfy a hunger for revenge against her father.

All that aside, the physical longing for food does take center stage after all. In this first book of a sort of Harry-Potter-enters-the-Hunger-Games series, young Hahp, the second – and therefore expendable – son of a wealthy merchant, has been left at the door of a “wizarding school” (substitute labyrinth of suffering between the bunny ears) with no expectation of success. Or even living. Only one of the ten students will graduate – and the first academic requirement is survival.

Can’t really get any darker than that. And yet, it does because it’s not just tests or challenges that Hahp has to face. The 10 boys in this “qualifying class” are told after a week of starvation that if they can’t magically manipulate a massive gem into conjuring up food, they won’t eat. And the wizards are dead serious.

Because it’s such a central part of the story, I won’t reveal when or by whom fare appears on the table. I will say that, although the apple from the cover brings the gift of life, it does not come without a price, and eating one a day is not the happy health-ensurer that the old adage makes it out to be. I, for one, am starving for books 2 and 3 of this trilogy!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Jean Candlish Kelchner, Author of Backstage at the White House

I love food!  I know, we all do, but I love to use it as a writing device in my novels.  It gets things done.  For example, in, Backstage at the White House, I used eggs to express inner turmoil.  The First Lady "had indelibly stamped the poached egg on her plate into her memory forever as she waited for Palmer's words and tone.  The President "swallowed a blob of poached egg and bit off a piece of buttered toast.  He wasn't just irritated; his inner steam was enough to fry the egg and burn the toast before they reached their point of process and distribution."  Yes, the mighty egg speaks volumes!

On the other hand, there's nothing like a good meal to get the conversation going, to ease tension, raise confidence, camaraderie, and, of course, move the story along.  Backstage at the White House is about a plot to keep women out of power, especially out of politics.  The First Lady and her four best friends find out about it, and they set out to put things right.  They didn't want to; they liked their lives the way they were.  Several of them were downright rebellious, and the tension that had been growing throughout this first meeting in the First Lady's sitting room was becoming downright unbearable until Bev blurts, "I'm starved!  Do you think all this covert stuff is going to affect my appetite; that's the only thing that would make me leave, for sure! . . . Ellie, I thought you were gonna order something to eat?"

Ellie's request had brought from the kitchen a silver platter centered with cold roast chicken and surrounded by vegetables and cheeses.  A smaller companion platter held a chafing dish of chocolate fondue accompanied by plump, deep-red strawberries.  It delighted the eye and, as Sue Ann pointed out, was more healthy than fattening if one just ever so lightly dipped the tip of one's strawberry into the warm brown cream.  

It's surprising how a chocolate dipped strawberry topped off by a glass of champagne can change the world—it did theirs.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing some food for thought, Jean!

You can find Jean at:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Dan Makaon, Author of Goodbye Milky Way - An Earth in Jeopardy Adventure

Eating together around a table is a family tradition in many cultures and sub-cultures. Unfortunately, in America we seem to be drifting away from eating family dinner together each evening. In my family, when I was growing up, my grandma did the cooking, and it was always delicious. When I raised my children, I made sure we ate dinner together every possible evening. The dinner table is a way for people to relax, enjoy, and learn to relate to each other. That’s why it’s a good device for an author.

Here’s an excerpt from my novel, Goodbye Milky Way – An Earth in Jeopardy Adventure, where a budding romance ensues, as a man and a woman accompany each other to the dinner table:

     They walked downstairs together and sat next to each other at the [dining] table. They exchanged brief stories about their careers, then almost simultaneously looked around and realized they had been ignoring everyone else. They grinned sheepishly at each other and began independently interacting with others at the table.

The dining table also provides the author with a way to extract personal information from a particular character and transmit it to many characters at the same time. This excerpt from Goodbye Milky Way is of an extraterrestrial, the Guardian, explaining his food preferences:

     “Guardian, I can’t help but wonder if you can eat the same food as we do, and if it differs significantly from what your people normally eat,” commented Marla.

     “We have no particular diet, as we’re fortunate enough to be able to eat food from many different worlds. Often it’s not practical to prepare local staples for consumption, so we tend to fall back on pre-processed condensed food tablets with a variety of flavors, but containing all necessary nutrients,” answered the Guardian.

     “Would it be possible for me to sample some of your food tablets?” asked Marla.

     “Yes, physiologically, the tablets would work the same for you, but you might find it hard to acquire a taste for them, as the flavors are . . . how shall I say it . . . alien to you,” responded the Guardian. “I have some in my quarters that I’ll bring you tomorrow.”

     “When consuming human food, do you eat meat, too, or do you prefer vegetables?” asked Don.

     “I’ve acquired a taste for meat and vegetables cooked in the style of many of earth’s cultures,” said the Guardian. “The only thing I won’t consume is a dish comprised of insects. Many of the lesser cultures near the equator seem to relish insects cooked and alive. I prefer the worst of my food tablets over insects no matter how they’re prepared.”

     “I can certainly relate to that thought,” said Don.

The dialog around a table provides an opportunity for the author to delve into the personalities of the characters, reveal their desires, or provide descriptive information about them. Of course any device can be overdone, so it’s important for an author to mix it up with verbal images that arouse the reader’s imagination.

Happy Reading,
Dan Makaon

Thanks for stopping by and sharing some Food For Thought, Dan!
You can find Dan at:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

FOODFIC: Marcelo in the Real World - Francisco X. Stork

For a long time, there wasn’t any food in this book. There was, however, a lot of music – both “real” music and “internal” music that only Marcelo, a 17-year-old boy that falls somewhere near Asperger’s on the autism spectrum, can hear. Since that “IM,” as he calls it, is so integral to Marcelo’s story, I toyed with introducing the Shakespearean quote: If music be the food of love, play on, and segway into a post on the music aspect of the story.

But since I knew that would be a total cop-out, I decided to scrape my ladle across the very bottom of the story pot for any morsel I could fish out. And, ironically, I found fish. Yes, it did occur to me that this may only be because the book was set in Boston, where seafood is certainly plentiful, but I pushed on. Hey, I’m pretty good at making something out of nothing (just ask my husband).  

So I made my first food note when the jerk at work took Marcelo to lunch and they had salmon. And Wendell plotted how to get their co-worker onto his boat so he could basically trap her for sex. And then Wendell left Marcelo behind, Marcelo got lost, and ended up at a fish market. Well, that twofer gave me enough for my blog musing…but wait – there’s more!

The next day, Marcelo finds a picture that both threatens his father’s law firm and arouses feelings in him that he can’t even identify, all of which he tells Jasmine about over a tuna sandwich that he’s too unsettled to eat. By the end of the week, he’s discovered a damaging company memo, which he shares with Jasmine as she has clam chowder.

It seemed to me that every time seafood appeared on the menu, something, well, fishy was going on. Even more interesting was that, as a non-fish person – mainly because of the smell – the only time I was not disturbed by the imagined fishy odor was when Jasmine and Marcelo are in Vermont and she catches a trout that they share for dinner under “a million stars.” 

Before I could say, Hold the tartar sauce!, I got to the part where Rabbi Heschel shares her thoughts on the word “urge” with Marcelo: Great word, isn’t it? Sounds like when a piece of gefilte fish gets stuck in your throat and you try to dislodge it by coughing and gagging. Uurrrch. Uuurguh. That’s when I realized that every scene involving seafood also brought out some kind of urge in Marcelo, which is particularly significant not just because of all the new experiences, but because urges themselves are new to him. For me, that connection added an entire second dimension to the book. I KNEW I was onto something with this FOOD-FIC blog!