We are What We Eat.

I have just sent my occult detective short story off to the editor and his first comment was on the part food plays in it. Lovely John Linwood Grant made the same comment about my other short stories in an interview I did with him recently, only he mentioned the other F word…fertility, more of that at a later date.

http://greydogtales.com/blog/solemn-curfew-folklore-horror-cheese/

It got me thinking, because food does play an important part in my stories. I think what a character cooks and eats is important to understanding them and can give you as much insight as what they wear, where they live and what they believe. Chances are if they don’t eat pork, they are from one of the Faiths of the Book which forbid it, or if they don’t eat beef, they maybe Hindu. If they don’t eat meat at all, they maybe vegetarian or vegan, either by conviction or faith again.

Some of us are heathens with the moral values of a vulture and eat almost anything…I’m not judging, I’m just saying, cos I suspect I may have to put my hand up and be counted in this group.

Maybe this is the moment to mention my favourite food apart from bread and butter, because I don’t get to eat it very often and if you just happen to have a tin which needs a home, I would like you to consider me first.

Yes, I love caviar. I don’t need your blinis or your soured cream or your chopped egg, just give me a spoon.

I digress… back to food in stories and the insight they give to character. For example, if an individual breakfasts on raw chicken gizzards with a side order of hot caramel sauce, the chances are they are either the villain or not playing with a full deck.

I couldn’t find a picture of raw chicken gizzards, so here is one of tentacles. I would most certainly eat this, but not with a side order of hot caramel sauce.

On the other hand, Mrs Lillicrop, my occult detective breakfasts on porridge and kippers and has a fondness for afternoon tea. Already you are getting the picture of middle class respectability and you would be right, apart from a tendency to attack poltergeists with nothing more than a pince-nez and a stern word of reproach.

I sometimes visit a site where young authors ask for advice, often it has to do with what name would be best for their characters and what hair colour to pick etc etc. I think it would be a far better if they first worked out what their creation likes for lunch…see previous about breakfasting…a tuna sandwich with no mayo says more than sea green eyes and dirty blond hair imo. I’ve not suggested any of this to them, because they would probably regard it as grossly frivolous.

As you probably know, or have guessed, I like to cook and I like to cook things I have never cooked before, especially if I can use ingredients I haven’t tried. I also like to read about cooking down the ages, because the evolution of food and cooking technics reflects the evolution of mankind. It is part of our history, all of us, no matter where we come from, how we eat and how we cook it is the result of thousands and thousands of years of experiment and enjoyment. Tastes differ all over the planet, but very few of us eat what we don’t like, although plenty of us eat too much of what we do like, and yes, I’m guilty of this…warm crispy bread and lashing of fresh butter…mmm.

What people don’t like to eat can tell you more, Mrs Lillicrop is off to Scotland in my next (work in progress) story, but she will not be eating haggis. Why? Because I hate it, can’t stand it, its up there with cabbage and beets, my other two top hates. I will now sit back and await the comments of haggis lovers, including no doubt my husband who adores it and has to cook it himself if he wants to eat it. He is lucky I don’t make him do it in a fire pit in the garden. He likes cabbage as well, I sometime wonder why I married him.

However, what those around Mrs Lillicrop do eat on her Scottish adventure and what they don’t eat will provide much to explain them and their thoughts, tastes and motivations.

 

BTW, he doesn’t like lobster either, I have to eat his share for him, it’s so hard, but someone has to do it.

Author Torture 1: Justin Lee Anderson

I thought it would be fun to interview a few fellow authors.

Actually, I thought it would be more fun to torment a few fellow authors, so welcome to the torture parlour ( its a bit like a torture chamber, but with cushions, chintz and shag pile carpets).

My first victim is Justin Lee Anderson author of the highly original and very amusing “Carpet Diem”.

HERE WE GO

You are marooned on a desert island and find a magic lamp. You get the traditional three wishes, but keep in mind I’m not letting you off the island, so don’t start pleading or trying to escape. You can only have one practical item, other people will not be allowed and will be taken away and dumped on an island far, far away and the wish forfeited. Smut is permitted if it makes me laugh.

Hmmm. What constitutes “practical”? Can I have a fully-fitted smarthouse? Because, at that point, I’m probably good. Oh, wait, I’m going to want internet. And a laptop. Will Sainsbury’s deliver?

Your library is on fire and you’re only going to be able to save three books, name them. And as your own are save on the memory stick in your dressing gown pocket, the books in question will have to be someone else’s work J

Credit will not be given for naming my books, but there may be cake.

Yikes! I think my beautiful, old leather-bound copy of Wuthering Heights has to come. After that, it’s two signed books, I think, since I can replace the rest. So Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself and the first run version of Jasper Fforde’s First Among Sequels, which was accidentally printed without footnotes (which are essential to the plot!).

You are going to be hanged in the morning, what would your last meal be if money was no object? Please don’t ask for something which will take three years to grow or six days to cook, because at 6am the trap door will open under you.

A fillet steak, with whisky-cream sauce, garlic and rosemary roast potatoes and asparagus tips. For dessert, home-made apple crumble with Luca’s ice cream. And if I’m off in the morning anyway, a bottle of Lagavulin – why die sober?

(You and I could share a last meal, Justin, although I’d swap the asparagus for mushrooms and there should be cheese after the pud.)

Pets. While I agree that a cat or a dog or a guinea pig is probably best in the modern home, what, if anything, would you house if you had the chance. Points will be given for anything extinct, but not for anything mythical, because that would be cheating.

Annoyingly, I love animals, but am horribly allergic to them. So I’d actually just love to be able to house a cat or a dog! But in the absence of an allergy cure, maybe a dolphin? They’re pretty smart, I’m sure they’d make great conversationalists. Plus, no hair on the sofa. Bonus.

Driving. We all do it, we all bitch about the traffic and by and large most of us drive what we can afford, not what we would like. What would you like to drive, points will be deducted for excessive petrol head indulgence, I expect more imagination from an author, but will be added for greener alternatives.

This obviously excludes a desire for a red Ferrari, because if you don’t want one of those, you need help.

I have always wanted a Jag. I imagine I will always want a Jag! A nice, racing green one. They’re such elegant machines. I’d also quite like a Tesla. Great looking car, but saving the world at the same time. Either one would make me very happy. Is there an electric Jag, yet?

Now from some “either” “or” questions, mainly because I like picking the eithers and the ors, but also because I like to see which of the lesser of two weevils you pick. (Small Jack Aubrey joke there, indulge me, I have these moments.)

Gouda or Gorgonzola?

Gorgonzola – especially on pizza, with spinach and walnuts.

Star Wars or Star Trek? (Careful here, much could depend on your pick)

Both, please. If I *have* to pick one, then Wars. But I resent having to pick.

Lychee or kumquat?

Flumhoo or blipblop?

 

(Ah, poor little kumquat, I fear you are not loved)

Winnie the Pooh or Paddington?

Probably Winnie the Pooh, for his philosophical insights. Plus, I hate marmalade.

Whelk or Oyster?

Never had whelk. Don’t mind oysters. Prefer mussels, if that’s all right? In garlic, white wine and cream. With fries.

Now I’m hungry.

Vampires or Zombies?

Both! Stop making me pick between things I love!

Laver bread or Hovis?

I don’t eat bread. It doesn’t agree with me. The fights go on for days.

Light sabre or phaser?

Light sabre. I’m all about the elegant.

Moving on…yes, I know the laver bread one was evil, but I did say I was into torture…book titles. Speaking for myself, book titles are the hardest part of writing, it took me six months to come up with the title of my first book, “Jabin”.

What is your favourite book title? Pick one of your own and one by someone else. Mine is

“Amazing Maisie and the Cold Porridge Brigade.”

And no, I didn’t just make that up.

Well, Carpet Diem being my only finished book so far, that’s an easy choice. Someone else’s? I like The Shadow of the Wind. Even before I read it, that title drew me in. It’s just so evocative – and I don’t even know what of!

Because you have been very good and not screamed all that much, you tell me what you are currently working on and when we can expect to see it in print.

I’m currently writing a sequel to Carpet Diem, working title: Discombobulated and Befuddled – but that will probably change – though I might keep it as an alternative title. It *should* be out by the end of the year – muse permitting. (My muse, not the band. They’re happy to let me write.)

Thank you for being a victim of my interrogation parlour. I hope you had a bit of fun.

You’re welcome. I did, thank you!

Carpet Diem is available here

“A Solemn Curfew”

A while ago I was asked to contribute to an anthology called “The Secrets of Castle Drakon.” Being me, my thoughts didn’t go to the dungeons or the battlements or the Great Hall, they went straight to the kitchens.

And I wrote “A Solemn Curfew” a tale of greed and corruption and fun and mushrooms all set in the kitchens of a castle. The title comes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest

“Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice

To hear the solemn curfew…”

 My “hero”, a vegetable cook called Quine starts out on a path to fame and glory, but on the way he does a lot of cooking and one of the things he cooks is salsify. Isn’t it pretty!
salsify-black11
Actually, once you’ve peeled it like a carrot, cut it into batons, boiled it until just tender; then egged and bread crumbed the bits and fried them crisp, it is absolutely delicious. Never judge by appearance.
Unfortunately the anthology is no longer available, but the story is. And currently free if you have Kindle Unlimited.
curfew