Her uncle Barney undergoes a remarkable awakening in my new novel, What’s Left. Instead of going to college, he stays home and soon finds himself fully responsible for managing the kitchen of the family restaurant.

He has, though, tasted the social upheavals in the wider world and quietly rebelled at the strictures of his parents. The status quo is endangered.

The return of his older brother, Dimitri, changes everything. Barney is pressed to expand the menu into dishes drawn from unfamiliar cuisines, flavors, and ingredients, and that requires mastering more demanding techniques and advancing his ability to taste subtle nuances. All of that puts him at the center of intense debate and experimentation, abetted by his wife, the lively Pia, plus the family circle of Graham, Nita, Yin, and Cassia’s father, even before their business expands into related food fields including a bakery, a brewery, and a natural foods grocery.

It’s a lot to put on his plate, but I know it can be done. Barney has that kind of curiosity, for one thing, and a tongue to match.

As Cassia discovers, in a passage that’s evaporated from the final version:

Barney’s into astrology and palmistry, through the grandmothers. When I ask about drugs, all I’m told is, Not the hard stuff. And even with the Buddhism, for him, hippie is about the music, more than anything else – as you’d hear in Carmichael’s kitchen, night and day.


Let’s get back to basics. Imagine yourself sitting down with this group for a night off. They’re phoning an order for home delivery. What’s your favorite pizza? Why? Who do you think wants the one with anchovy?


Kore in Acropolis Museum. (Photo by Ricardo Andre Frantz via Wikimedia Commons.)

Cassia’s roots included inspiration like this.

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