Also on our big plate

In my novel, What’s Left, having her family own a restaurant opens another dimension to the story – the changing food tastes of the American public.

If Carmichael’s continued solely as a burger-and-fries joint, we’d have a much different type of story, one based on the day-to-day interactions of line cooks, dishwashers, wait staff, and a slew of customers. One of my daughters has already drafted an exciting and entertaining story based on her own experiences in the trade – now, if she’ll only get it published! Realistically, a restaurant like that would likely wind up in bankruptcy halfway through the novel – or maybe even the victim of arson, if not accidental fire.

So having Carmichael’s expand, as I do, shifts the focus to a revolution in the awareness of food itself. We have plenty to play with that way.

As it is, this passage is undercooked. So it went back in the oven:

A block away, the restaurant’s in flux. American tastes are changing. As Dimitri argues, we can’t compete head-on with McDonald’s – and that’s even before we try to reconcile our Buddhist vegetarian precepts with what we do for cash. Hamburger and beer?

 We have more than a few arguments. When it comes down to everyday life, we must begin where we are. Always. And that’s where you need the Dharma most.

Both Graham and Baba are integral to our family’s development that pivotal year.

One thought leads to another:

Dimitri’s desire – no, insistence would be a better term – on expanding the restaurant keeps triggering Barney’s thinking about possibilities, especially as the conversation shifts more and more to three distinct restaurants operating from a central kitchen.

Still, hard as it is to believe this now, the family would have faced a lot of resistance if it pushed too far, too fast:

They recognize that American tastes, even at a major college, are still pretty bland. Even Italian cuisine apart from spaghetti is generally considered exotic, as is Chinese. As for Greek?


We’ve had more than a few intense exchanges in our household as we’ve considered the possible evolution of Carmichael’s. I’ve held firm to a thread of local sourcing that started when the great-grandmothers built their reputation on a daily soup special. Still, it’s difficult to pull off at a reasonable price, even when you’re surrounded by farms.

Another challenge has been trying to pace the developments so that Cassia’s family would time their changes to be the first in town with the next food trend. How much is believable, after all? How much can they handle, and how much should they leave to others?

I remember introducing my mother to broccoli, for one thing. She’d never had it till I cooked it, along with a (real) cheese sauce.

Look around your own community. What’s your favorite food that wasn’t available where you live when your parents were your age? (Hey, I was five when pizza came to town. Yipes!)


A large Queen Anne-style house with a distinctive witch’s hat tower something like this is the headquarters for Cassia’s extended family in my new novel, What’s Left. If only this one were pink, like hers. (Manchester, New Hampshire.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.