Simmer & Smoke:
Southern Tale of Grit and Spice
Genre: Women's Contemporary Fiction
Date of Publication: Peggy Lampman
Number of pages: 380
A single mother who dreams of becoming a chef.Excerpt:
A food writer who just lost the love of her life.
Two women discover what's worth fighting for in this deliciously rendered novel that illuminates the power of food, love, friendship and family on the human heart
1. ASSEMBLE INGREDIENTS:
Shelby Preston--a young, single mother trapped in a hardscrabble life in rural Georgia--escapes her reality as she fantasizes herself a respected chef in a kitchen of gleaming stainless steel and pans shimmering with heat. Mallory Lakes--an Atlanta newspaper food writer--may lose her job, and searches for her muse in a shot glass of illusion.
Mallory secures her job by crafting a zealous doppelgänger to satisfy the expectations of an illusive cyber audience. This also mollifies the memories of her lover who recently bolted; no warning. Shelby persuades her mother to take care of her daughter so she can pursue her dream of going to chef school in Atlanta. She cooks them a special dinner said to bring good luck; Lord knows her family could use a pot of something good.
Chasing desires and ambitions, the women's lives unravel down a path beyond the kitchen, then weave together in an unsettling culinary landscape of organic farms and shadowy borders--some borders not meant to be crossed. As Mallory combats her demons with booze and pills, and Shelby battles the odds stacked against her for becoming a chef, the women discover what's really worth fighting for.
Memos from the edge, self-help hieroglyphics, throwaway lines galloping off paper, most of them unfinished. These are the words I should have said to Cooper the day he left, bade farewell, adios, arrivederci—however you say goodbye. Itchy, my dearest friend, is returning a platter and will ignore them, assuming they are recipe scribbles. But if these tourniquets had a voice, their banshee wail would rant, rage and scream, shaking the foundations of Atlanta.
Dearest Cooper. What a splendid feast you made of me. A sprinkle of salt, a grind of pepper, you chewed me up then spit me out. Was I that abhorrent?
Visceral, grisly, teeth-gnashing words; much better script. I write, post, then return to my cutting board. Chopping furiously, I collect, examine, and discard words much too ordinary to assuage my grief. Words... words... I need more words; what words can I write that will ease the pain of what you’ve done?
Which five characters from novels would you have dinner with and what would you serve?
(Click on the picture to take you to the recipe)
I would serve Zelda Bourbon-Pepper Flat Iron Steaks accompanied by a Mint Julep (Ernest Hemingway would most certainly not be invited). Zelda and Scott demonstrated as much passion towards the bottle as they did to one another.
I would serve this restorative, healing soup to Pearl and her mother Winnie (a Chinese immigrant) towards the end of the novel after they revealed painful truths about their past to one another.
I would serve Chicken Mole (Chicken in a sauce made of chocolate, spices and peppers) to Tita and Pedro before Pedro dies and before Tita eats matches igniting the fire that engulfed the rest. The fire is symbolic of their passion. I’d make the above abbreviated version as I would want to escape the ranch before being burned alive.
I would love serving my favorite recipe for Fried Chicken (above) to Hetty after she escaped Charleston after being held as a slave and subjected to immense cruelty her entire life. Sue Monk Kidd created an evocative, brilliant character in Hetty. I love her!
I would serve Cheryl Strayed the classic Steak Diane after the adventurous trek she took as a young woman across the Pacific Crest Trail. First she would need the protein; secondly the dish is named after the powerful, ancient Goddess of the Hunt, Diane. I enjoy having this dish (as per my blog) served to me on Mother’s Day. Amongst other themes, “Wild” is a touching testimony to the power of mother-daughter relationships.Giveaway:
Peggy Lampman was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in communications, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter and photographer for Hill and Knowlton, a public relations firm. She moved back to Ann Arbor, her college town, and opened up a specialty foods store, The Back Alley Gourmet. After selling the business, she wrote under a weekly food byline in The Ann Arbor News and MLive. This is her first novel.
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