In my new novel, What’s Left, her parents’ generation recognizes their family business will need to make big changes for survival. For her uncle Dimitri, that includes corporate planning and big investment, once the dust settles.
But first, he has to see exactly what they’ve inherited.
No matter how much I like the details that shape the events, some just had to be cut from the final story:
One of the conundrums I’m left with in my new novel, What’s Left: What if you don’t like her father, her deceased Baba, as she recovers him? (Or recovers from him.) Is it essential to your enjoyment of the story?
It’s prime time for hot soup. We’re not talking about anything out of a can or a package dropped into boiling water. These are the ones made with fresh ingredients – or things you froze in season for use later. Probably with a good homemade stock, too.
Tomato. Seriously, my wife’s is always a hit – and the glutten-free, lactose-intolerant, or vegans aren’t left out of the pleasure. Our secret ingredient is the tomatoes we cook down and stick in the big freezer in high summer in anticipation of this.
Potato-leek. Simply comforting. Again, with our own leeks. Storing them through winter is a special challenge – so far, we find peat moss works best in buckets placed at the back of the cellar.
Split pea and/or lentils. I imagine there are whole cookbooks devoted to the possibilities.
Ramen. Remember, Japan created restaurants purely for this. Forget that cheap stuff in the plastic bag – though if you do, add tofu, the way we do.
Pho. A hearty Vietnamese dinner in a wondrously big bowl.
Seafood, meaning clam chowder or lobster bisque. (OK, that’s two. I just love both.)
Hot and sour. Fresh Chinese bamboo shoots can make a world of difference.
White bean. Last one I had was an Iranian version with lamb’s neck and another eight or nine ingredients. It was heavenly. Or you can stick to a hambone. Just don’t disparage good beans, OK? (Well, let’s add a footnote for turtle black beans, especially as a great Cuban bowl.)
Ravioli. Yes, as a soup. Slurp ’em up!
Asparagus. We put those stems we cut off to work later.
Well, India’s Mulligatawany belongs on the list, too. I doubt we’re done here yet.
The big break with the status quo that occurs in my new novel, What’s Left, still demands a respect for all that’s led up to the transformation.
As she perceives, from a customer’s point of view:
They miss the reliable owners’ familiar faces behind the stools and salt and pepper shakers, along with their comforting banter. Could we ever fill their sturdy shoes? Can we live up to their dependable standards or their reasonable prices? Can we even serve a decent cup of coffee or will we lose our shirts and have to quit the place?
The challenge and opportunity go way beyond that.
It’s a sharp break to a new generation, in more ways than one.
Cassia never has to consider this with her own brothers:
From everything I see, there’s an uncommon bond between the brothers, despite their sexual differences. Yes, they’ve both been promiscuous – and then settled in.
Or does she?
In writing a novel that’s told by a single character like Cassia, I have to remember that she knows far more about her family than I ever will. Maybe I can’t answer everything, but suppose you had an opportunity?
What would you ask Cassia over dinner? Or somebody in your own family, one on one? (Present or past?)
In the family, Cassia may have had food like this.
In some family businesses, the accounting can be rather slipshod. Many of the figures might be stored in someone’s head, rather than on paper. Or on random slips stuffed in a cigar box. Or even scattered around an office. Maybe it’s just one of the hazards of being your own boss.
In my new novel, What’s Left, her grandfather, Stavros, continued some of that custom, but not nearly as much as his parents and their business partners, who happened to be siblings.
When her uncle Dimitri returns to town with a Masters of Business Administration in hand, he needs to get those numbers in order quickly if there’s to be anything of the restaurant and its investments for his brothers and sisters and himself to inherit. It’s a race with time, even before his parents die in their prime, victims of a late-night car crash.
From what Nita’s said, I’m sure Dimitri was putting in much less – formally, at least. My guess is that he was always thinking about our venture, and many of the social events he attended were primarily for schmoozing. I’d ask Barney, if he’d only answer his phone. And these days, whenever I run into him somewhere, I feel the brush-off. As for knocking on his door? Not as things stand now. Oh, well, maybe someday.
Maybe we’ll always have things we’re supposed to do but shrug off all the same. Put them aside, unfinished. Simply ignored them. And then there are the emotional blowups. (I’ve been accused of being stuck at age 14 or 17 on that front. What’s wrong with that?)
Have you ever wanted the adults in your life to be, well, more grown up? Like even answering your questions?
In my novel, the family restaurant could have been like this.