Tag Archives: Food writing

Book Club Brilliance

Every year, February’s brevity catches up with me, no matter how many times I remind myself it’s a short month. In my effort to keep on schedule, I’m squeaking in my second February blog with a few hours to spare. Whee! I’m lucky, though, because I have a fun topic for this post: book clubs. More specifically, my first invitation to attend a book club and to join the discussion as the author of the group’s chosen monthly read! What a freaking treat for me. : )

Through the most excellent graces of my friend Monika—she talked me up to her friend Melissa who’s part of this club—I was introduced to a wonderful group of authentic, candid readers who are in love with books.

As much as I appreciate book clubs, I haven’t participated in one before, even as a reader. And it hadn’t occurred to me to offer to speak to or participate in a book club discussion as a writer. Those of you who’ve followed my blog from the onset know I feel challenged by marketing and putting myself out there as an author.

And I’ll share this: discussing books and telling stories to friends is one thing, but stepping into the spotlight of this group felt so intimidating. It’s an entirely different experience to sit before a group of intelligent, time-pressed individuals who purchased your book on someone’s recommendation and then be held accountable for your words, creativity and entertainment value. I mean, what if these people hated my book? Or found inconsistencies? Or thought it too simplistic? I’ll say again, a tad bit intimidating.

That was, until I met this group of lovely people. Well-read, well-traveled, outspoken and outgoing, these women welcomed me and treated me like a friend while being honored I, “a local author,” joined their discussion.

And let me tell you, these guys do Book Club right: their once-a-month evening meeting begins with catch-up chats over a welcoming glass of vino and simple starters, is followed by a delicious, no-fuss meal (we enjoyed chicken chili, salad and fresh fruit; I’m hoping Natalie will hook me up with that recipe!), and culminates in the discussion of that month’s selected title. Their discussion format is straightforward and begins with the host opening with a book-related question or discussion topic to get the ball rolling. The conversation is free-form, with members commenting and asking additional questions until by consensus the evening ends. Simple, fun, effective, entertaining.

Vino
Cheese Platter

 

 

 

 

 

Every writer I know struggles with the desire to share stories but not to feel rejected by those who dislike, don’t understand or fear them. And we struggle with how to tell those stories the best we possibly can. The club’s questions were engaging and thought-provoking and even gave me ideas for a couple points I plan to work into the sequel I’m writing now, TB. Though a bit unnerving in the anticipation, in all ways, this experience was fantastic: the welcome, the interest, the engagement, the thoughtful and valuable questions and comments.

Bunch of Books

Though the group said they felt honored by my presence, I have to say I’m the one who was pleased and humbled by their invitation. They welcomed me and my story, Emerald Obsession, into their lives for a time; they allowed themselves to be carried away by my characters’ antics and transported to unfamiliar locales where they feasted on exotic fare. How fortunate am I?

Special thanks to: Melissa, Natalie, Leslie, Carolyn, Sarah, Kathy, Eleanor, Maggie, the fab ladies of (mostly) Davis Shores for their warmth, interest and welcome. Also, for your encouraging response to the vignette I read from Treasure Bound, my work-in-progress sequel.

You guys rock. Read on, ladies!

So, readers, do you belong to a book club? How does yours work? As I mentioned, I haven’t been in one before, but this experience really made me want to start. How about you? Let me know below or by email (carolyn@carolyngreeley.com). Thanks!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Swaying Palms

The Write Time … for a Summer Treat

Like most writers I know, I feel like I don’t have enough time to write. We juggle a ton of other responsibilities, so that even when we carve out time at our computer or with a notebook, things often interrupt and push writing to the back seat.

One of those things currently stealing my writing time is cooking dinner for me and the hub, something I’m adapting to since we married last year. Because I work from home, I have more flexibility in my schedule. And, though very challenging mentally at times, I have to concede my daily physical workload is not quite as exhausting as my hub’s is as a contractor. So, most days making dinner falls to me.

Those who know me know I wasn’t much of a cook when I got hitched. I’d lived in the West Village and worked in Hell’s Kitchen (love that name) for all of my 17 years in Manhattan, and world-class cooking and cuisines greeted me whenever I stepped outside.

To say I hardly cooked during those NYC years is massive hyperbole. I boiled water for pasta, ate cheese and crackers and pepperoni (thanks, Uncle John!!) and occasionally heated a can of soup or scrambled a couple eggs. Could’ve ended in tragedy, considering my love of food, but with a decent salary and so many readily available scrumptious options, I had no choice but to indulge my restaurant craving.

Fortunately for me, for a relatively small city St. Augustine boasts a disproportionately large quantity of fabulous eateries. But that’s a topic for another blog. : )

As much as I’ve enjoyed the culinary additions (yay, a Thai restaurant finally opened downtown), one cannot live on restaurant food alone, said someone somewhere, surely. And since neither my hub nor I are rolling in dough (hello, can we say “whole-house reno,” anyone? Another writing-time-suck, BTW.), I’ve taken up cursing—I mean, cooking—to keep us eating tasty, healthy food on a reasonable budget.

Well, now. Shopping and cooking for more than one person is quite the experience.

But I’m getting used to juggling both. And to my hub’s ears’ and stomach’s delight, I’m improving. I won’t bog you down with my best tips and tricks for shopping fast, healthily and affordably. There are so many other more worthy sites you can check out for better tips than I could give. Here are two to try:
http://www.eatthis.com/best-supermarket-shopping-tips-ever
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/grocery-shopping-tips/

So what I’ll do here is share a few fun summer dishes that I tweak to fit what I find in my kitchen, along with links to a couple great recipes. Check out these fun yums:

–Old Bay Shrimp:

Spicy Shrimp over Rice

http://oldbay.com/Recipes/Shrimp/Appetizers/OLD-BAY-Steamed-Shrimp-with-Cocktail-Sauce.aspx

Ridiculously easy and incredibly flavorful, especially if, like me, you love OB. Bonus: shrimp are healthy; something about that low-mercury, good omega-fat thing. : ) For kicks, I make my own cocktail sauce using ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice and Tabasco. I don’t have a recipe; I just mix everything until I like how it tastes.

–Cold Pasta Salad:

Pasta Salad
Easy Pasta Salad

Yeah, there are a bazillion varieties out there. Try them all. ; ) Pasta salad is a great, easy way to have a healthy, cheap-ish summer dinner (or lunch) without going crazy in a hot kitchen. One of my versions includes: mini shells (try the whole wheat or fiber pastas), store-bought cooked chicken (like those Perdue shortcuts, if they’re on sale; otherwise, use whatever leftover protein-y substance you have in-house, like a can of chickpeas), grape tomatoes, cucumbers, a few onions (the hub loves onions), olives, cheese (feta’s great, so’s pepperjack), peppers and zesty Italian dressing. Dice up the bits, add to the pasta and mix it all with the dressing. Easy part: cook a large quantity of pasta for dinner some night, then reserve some unsauced to use the next day in the PS. : )

–My hub’s Czech Cucumber Salad:
So good, if you like vinegar, as we do. And super-easy: peel, then grate (with the big holes) 3-4 large cukes into a bowl. Add white vinegar, salt, pepper and a dash of sugar to taste. Stir. Almost like having cold cuke soup, but not pureed.

–Easy Smoothies:
I make these with an immersion blender; it’s so fast, easy and healthy, because you start with frozen fruit instead of ice. Toss in your fruit—I use froz mixed berries, plus whatever fresh I feel like: banana’s great, watermelon, peach. Then add milk and some fruit juice or lemonade to reach your desired consistency. I sometimes add Greek yogurt (great protein), applesauce, etc, too, for extra health or flavor. Or try some avocado!! Zip the whole thing for about 30 seconds, then pop in a straw and sip. Sometimes when we’re needing a “special smoothie,” I’ll add a splash (or two) of vodka. Healthy and mentally refreshing. ; ) Once in a blue, we get wacky and refreeze the smoothie into pops:

Pops
Smoothie Pops

So there are a few of my go-to, summer faves. I do actually cook many more things, including chicken, fish, pork and beef. Plus actual real veggies and carb-y things.
AllHomemade

But this post would draaag if I listed them all. Plus, I’m—happily—finally getting the hang of (somewhat) cooking on the fly. I find a recipe that sounds good (check out allrecipes.com), but I never seem to have all the ingredients, so I throw in whatever’s hiding in the cabinets. So far, no one’s gotten sick.  : )  But that does make it hard to share recipes! Whoops.

Do you enjoy cooking? What do you prepare during the dog days of summer? Please share some of your favorite dishes, either to cook or to eat, in the comment section. I LOVE food! Almost as much as I love writing. Happy eating and happy writing. : )

Oh, and as a bonus, follow this link to a delicious Gambas al Ajillo recipe. Courtesy of Lauren Aloise, the recipe is similar to one used to prepare the Gambas San Martin dish Lexy and Claire salivate over at Las Ramblas Tapas Restaurant in Emerald Obession:
http://spanishsabores.com/2014/04/10/gambas-al-ajillo-recipe-spanish-garlic-shrimp/
If you’re ever in NYC’s West Village, stop by for the real deal at Las Ramblas on West 4th Street: www.lasramblas.nyc. It’s one of my favorite tapas joints. <3

Thanks for visiting. And please be sure to tell your friends about my website so they can sign up for my newsletter to get the first scoop.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Writing Food, Writing Love

Since I’m “sociable” these days in my expanding role as an online book marketer, I’m exposed to new sources of zany information. Take food, for instance (thank you, I will). Food holiday notices pop up often. Maybe I’m just hungry, but I’ve seen a ton of foodie goodness highlighted this month. To start with, April is National Garlic Month. Guess what’s in tonight’s dinner. : ) So far, I’ve encountered National Empanada Day and National Cheese Fondue Day. We’ve also enjoyed Beer Day and World Malbec Day. And I’m looking forward to Pigs in a Blanket Day and Shrimp Scampi Day. I had no idea such tasty fun abounded online.

Of course, what this really means for a foodie like myself is hunger. All day long. And the need to satiate that hunger. So, what does that have to do with writing?

Let me make the distinction that I’m speaking of writing about food within the context of a story. I don’t write as a food critic or food blogger, though I’ve investigated those avenues. After research and thought, I knew I much preferred incorporating my food love into novels and stories.

I grew up near and in Manhattan. One of my favorite things about the city is the availability of crazy-diverse food offerings around the clock. In my opinion, it’s one of the things NYC does best: supply an endless bounty of succulent bites.

Sushi
Alaska roll and sushi yumminess

A large part of my existence in the Big Apple (see, it’s even nicknamed after a food), involved eating and dining out. While deciding whether to move to St. Augustine, a considerable factor was its gastronomy effect: could the town sustain me? After significant sampling of the local fare, I had my answer: a resounding yes. Thank goodness.

Cheese plate from The Floridian...a fave.
Cheese plate from The Floridian…a fave.

Given the enormity of my adoration, it made sense to bring this huge fixation into my writing. Food is one of my great loves (don’t worry, my hub is right there, too), so I had to blend it with another of my great loves, writing.

Writing about food creates ambiance, develops character, evokes setting, propels scenes …. Food plays a role in the bigger picture that is the story.

People think of food with a range of emotion. People relate to sustenance as a universal language. We connect to others through cuisine and cooking. The experience of food involves all the senses: taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing. The inclusion of these five items is critical to brilliant, captivating writing.

This food writing is not about sensory overload, though. It’s about setting a time and place, creating relationships between the character and the food, the situation, the other characters. It’s about bonding and enjoyment, craving and the simple truth of necessity.

In my first novel, Emerald Obsession, the lead character Lexy, much like myself (shocking), indulges in a variety of food and drink experiences. From the juicy, homey burger at Walker’s to the garlicky, piquant gambas at Las Ramblas, her emotions progress from consolation to camaraderie. A beer with a suspicious character in a neighborhood pub segues into a drinking contest and lends zip to her feisty attitude and competitive nature.

And in my forthcoming novel—I’ll call it simply TB for now—I have the cast meeting the newcomer in a seaside Caribbean locale over crunchy conch fritters and a crisp Turks Head beer, while breezes ruffle the palms overhead.

I hope my stories transport people somewhere exotic and exciting. Writing about food and the surroundings in which it’s shared is a great way to escape the everyday. Or to remind us how good it is.

So, friends, fans and followers, how do you feel when you read about food? Does that delight you and make you hungry, like me? Share your favorite foods and restaurants in the comment section. I’d love to hear what sets your taste buds zinging. One of my ABSOLUTE faves—which I was fortunate to have on a recent visit north—is my mom’s homemade lasagna!!! Check out the photos. I surprised her (not really) by having three servings that night. Whee … heaven! : ) Thanks for reading and sharing = caring.

Lasagne with Mom
Lasagne with Mom
Lasagne, pre-oven
Lasagne, pre-oven
Mom's best lasagne, after I got my hands on it!
Mom’s best lasagne, after I got my hands on it!

PS—If you’re in the St. Augustine area this weekend, 4/23/16, stop by the Annual Taste of St. Augustine for delectable nibbles from our local restaurants, a highlight of my spring. Be on the lookout for me and the hub.

Outside enjoying delicious St. Aug food

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail