When food opportunity knocks

Among the talent that shows up to work at the family restaurant in my novel What’s Left is a very, very talented baker. As they conversed with him, they could smell opportunity.

Still, these two lines were more than the scene needed:

What can you do here with what we have?

Pierre rolls out a list. We’re impressed.

Oh, I’m so glad Cassia stopped talking like this! In the final version, she’s pretty snippy.

~*~

Let’s just say everyone rose to the occasion. As a result, he started making real French bread to southern Indiana – and a lot more many of us take for granted nowadays.

Of course, the world doesn’t always come to you. When it comes to food or drink, where would you like to travel? Or, for that matter, return?

Advertisements

Getting ready for the big moves to begin

By this point in the story, we have what could well be a business-based fairy tale. Everything seems blessed. For me, as the author, this required a lot of business-cap thinking. For the reader, though, many parts can be distilled and compressed – a suggestion rather than detailed descriptions will do.

Here’s how part of the timetable stood in an earlier draft of my novel What’s Left:

We modify our plan. Bliss will open first, at the beginning of summer. It requires minimal behind-the-scenes support and will give us a sense of the new building’s food storage and laundry functions. The traditional Carmichael’s and Taverna would close for the month of August and reopen in the new space at the beginning of the school year – each with twice the seating of before. Graham worries that what’s felt cozy might now feel cavernous if we don’t attract a lot of new clientele.

Barney will have his hands full training staff and adjusting to the expanded operation. What dawns on us is that we’ll be veering sharply away from a purely family-centered operation. We’ll have to rely on a large staff. The kitchen design, for one thing, now has men’s and a women’s locker rooms, plus staff restrooms. Not everyone can run home to wash up and change into uniform, not the way we have with Big Pink around the corner. Will Barney be comfortable in his new role? This, too, is a gamble. If nothing else, though, he needs an office to shelve his cookbooks. 

Oh, I’m so glad Cassia stopped talking like this! In the final version, she’s pretty snippy.

~*~

Someplace around here I should have been asking myself what Harry Potter would have done in this situation. Despite the fact that many of these details are among those I turned up in my research, I’m on some very unfamiliar ground, as one insider reminds me.

If you’ve ever worked in a commercial kitchen, what would you most want to see in the new Carmichael’s? What common-sense touch would be most welcome from the workers’ end? What improvement is usually overlooked?

A little more lighting on their restaurant redesign

How trendy do we want their restaurant upgrade to be? It’s a great location they’re developing, and they already have an established reputation.

Here’s another passage I cut from the final version of my novel What’s Left:

Barney also welcomes the opportunity to have a menu more in tune with our vegetarian precepts. At first, he reasons this would naturally go in the cellar – Carmichael’s Underground, as he dubs. But we want natural light in the vegetarian enterprise and the building sits right at the edge of the sidewalk, so basement windows are out of the question.

The basement is more suited to the Taverna anyway,

Oh, I’m so glad Cassia stopped talking like this! In the final version, she’s pretty snippy.

~*~

Hey, how about taking a break to make time for a shout-out? Who are some of your favorite food bloggers? What makes them stand out for you? I’m curious how many of your choices are ones my wife already follows.

 

How would it look inside?

As an author, I had to have a clearer idea of where their redesign was heading. So this is what I settled on, even though it felt like too much information when I got to the final revisions. By the way, I’m still not clear how many seats the place should have.

If you’ve been in the food biz, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is 200 too many for Carmichael’s Indiana? Is 60 too small for Stardust upstairs? And how many could sustain the much smaller vegetarian Bliss?

~*~

Would we have lots of booths or one long banquette along a wall with small tables? And if there are booths, will they be tall, for privacy, or low, at seated shoulder-blade or back-of-the-head height?

You take all this things for granted, don’t you? I had no idea. It’s just the way things have been as long as I can remember. Little did I anticipate all the heated discussion!

Baba’s passion for sleek, stainless-steel contemporary design runs into opposition. Not here, Graham insists. Too sterile. Imagine what you’d want coming in off the street on a damp November night. You want warm and comfortable.

Pia pipes up in favor of something organic by local woodworkers and weavers. Something homespun. She’s right.

Could we have wood-burning fireplaces? How efficiently could we clean everything, anyway? Think of a mop between the stools and base of the counter. We’ll still have a counter, won’t we?

Graham takes up another consideration: the restrooms. They need to be integrated into the whole package, not an afterthought.

And what about the wine cellar?

That’s a new one – wine cellar?

Yes, if we’re going gourmet, we’ll need a decent wine list. It’s something the Taverna’s never dealt with.

Oh, I’m so glad she stopped talking like this! In the final version, she’s pretty snippy. And by then, so am I.

~*~

Thinking of great restaurants, Fore Street in Portland, Maine, with its industrial shop airiness, would be at the top of my list. No nonsense and yet crisply ordered. I could mention others, much smaller, in Providence, Rhode Island, or Wellfleet on Cape Cod, or our all-time favorite, a tiny house in South Berwick, Maine.

And we can also name some others with great decor that greatly disappointed us, at least when it came to our plates.

One of my favorites is actually take-out only.

So what’s your favorite place to eat? Does it have a window with a view? Or is there some other dimension beside the food itself? Please, don’t you dare mention clowns or big-screen TVs.

Time to think of a Japanese touch

In the (highly unlikely) movie version of my novel, What’s Left, who would you like to see as her best friend, cousin Sandra?

Of course, that also means thinking of her blended genetic heritage and who could embody it.

~*~

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. (Claremont, New Hampshire.)

Bells of freedom ringing

Thinking of freedom, we can see it as personal expression as well as political opportunity. For some of us, that was a big dimension of the hippie movement.

The 50th anniversary of Woodstock is coming up next month. Normally, that would mark a jubilee, some even acclaiming it as a celebration of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Alas, the dark ages we thought had passed have returned from the dead, in intensified deadliness at that.

Jubilee, by the way, is drawn from the Biblical book of Leviticus, and it’s a most radical idea. Every 50 years, all the wealth in the land is to be redistributed. The scriptural passage is inscribed on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, so don’t tell me it’s not American.

~*~

One of the passages I cut before the final version of my novel What’s Left is one where she’s asking her aunt about the hippie experience:

I’ve never asked you about your own drug use.

OK? Can I say it was just enough to convince others I wasn’t a narc?

So were you really a hippie? I mean, you had such short hair!

You trying to say a hippie couldn’t have short hair? Don’t you know how radical my style was? You ever think I could conform to anything?

Well, you’ve indicated you weren’t stoned. I’m going down the list.

Have you considered the impact of the Pill? Or free love?

Oh, I’m so glad Cassia stopped talking like this! In the final version, she’s pretty snippy.

~*~

For the record, some of the truest hippies I’ve known weren’t promiscuous or do drugs. And some others never marched in a protest.

Still, as an image of the era, let me ask: What’s your impression of Woodstock? Have you ever been to a big, multiday festival? What’s your favorite music? How do you best express your free spirit?

 

Requiem for hippie

In revising the novel that has been recast as Daffodil Uprising, I began grieving. It wasn’t the feeling I had expected. This was supposed to be a celebration of a remarkable time in world history. Some things really did change as a result.

Not all of them for the better, alas. And many of the lessons arising from Vietnam, especially, still haven’t been learned in realms of political power. And while much of the environment has been cleaned up, the global climate is still headed for disaster.

Repeatedly, I felt this was a requiem.

Part of that must have been a consequence of my long effort of drafting and revising What’s Left, which picks up on the central character a generation later. Or, more accurately, his daughter, Cassia.

But moving on with his story, in what’s now released as Pit-a-Pat High Jinks, I’m feeling wounded. Not by the novels, mind you – I think you’ll find them entertaining, enlightening, and delightful. No, the wounds are from, well, all kinds of losses, many of them my own fault.

I have heard that in the retreat from the outburst of the Quaker movement in the radical uprisings of mid-1600s Britain, many of them had a something of a shellshock look for years after. They had come so close to truly revolutionary societal change and lost that to the Restoration. Well, some of those ideals did come to flower in the American Revolution – the Bill of Rights, especially – but even there, we’ll still falling short.

As the liturgical chanters sing out in accompaniment to prayers in Christian Orthodox worship, Kyrie eleison – Lord have mercy.

Yes, mercy. And hope. And grant us peace.