Sizzle Blaze FebMy latest release from Harlequin Blaze, SIZZLE is at its heart a food book. The story takes place in California on the set of Premier Chef–The Masters. All of the chefs are skilled professionals but all have different reasons for being in the competition–some are trying to prove something to themselves, others are trying to prove something to the world. Staci Rowland is squarely in the first camp. She wants to prove that all the talent and potential she showed as a young chef is still there. Remy Cruzel…I’m sorry Remy “Stephens” is trying to prove to himself that he can cook and isn’t just getting by on his family name.

Every important event in my life is associated with a meal, I don’t know if that’s because of my Italian-American maternal side or just good-natured love of food, but it’s a fact. When I eat a dish I’m always assailed by memories. Like how my grandmother served steamed broccoli cold instead of hot. Or how my mother always added a dash of garlic powder to it. When I eat broccoli I’m back in my grandmother’s house sitting at the coffee table with my sisters eating coldish broccoli flavored with garlic powder.

Here’s a snippet from SIZZLE:
He didn’t say anything else on the drive and when they pulled up to the roadside diner on Sepulveda and everyone piled out of the vehicles, Remy took her hand and stopped her.
“What?”
“I just wanted us to be together when we go up there. What is it about this place that speaks to you?”
“The tradition of it,” she said. “And it reminds me of a trip I took with my mom and grandmother to New York City. We ate in a diner there…it was a good trip. The only real vacation I had with my mom since she was working all the time. When I take a bite of the pastrami sandwich here I remember that day and her laughter.”
Staci feared she’d said too much but Remy just nod¬ded. “For me it’s beignets at Café du Monde. My dad and I used to walk down there every Sunday morning and I’d sit while he read the paper. It was just the two of us…”
“Food should do that every time,” Staci said. “I can’t always capture it but that’s why the traditional recipes are important. Finding that familiar flavor and taking it some place new.”
“Yes,” he said.
But Staci could tell that he was lost in his own thoughts. She wondered if she’d given away too much by bringing him here but then she had learned over the years that most people only saw what they wanted to in her and in themselves. Remy wouldn’t realize how important food was to her and her past or that it was the key to her future.

What’s your strongest food memory?

I’m giving away electronic copies of SIZZLE today to three lucky blog participants. Normally I’d say happy reading, but today it’s bon appetite!


31 thoughts on “Food For Thought

  1. Karen says:

    My earliest food memory is of my southern Grandmother’s home cooking. All her fruits and vegetables were home grown. Her creamed corn was my very favorite. We would pick, shuck, and then cream it on a laundry scrub board (which was never used for its actual purpose). My G-Ma taught me that the simplest foods could make a bountiful feast for the body and soul.

    1. Karen–my Grandmother had an amazing garden, something that my mom still has. I love visiting her and eating tomatoes fresh off the vine. I do find the simplest foods taste the best. One of my other childhood food memories is going claming and then coming back to shore and standing around the adults as they shucked the clams and handed them to us on with a squirt of lemon. Delicious!

  2. Mia Marlowe says:

    One of my more memorable food experiences was a rite of passage of sorts. I was meeting my DH’s family for the first time–a large Norwegian family that celebrates with all the traditional Christmas food, most notably lutefisk. For the uninitiated, lutefisk is codfish which has been soaked in LYE! (Legend has it the Swede and the Norwegians were fighting once and the Swedes sent them some poisoned fish. Imagine their surprise when the Norwegian’s LIKED it!)

    So I was expected to eat lutefisk. All I can say is this dish is proof that anything is palatable if you dip it in enough melted butter!

    1. Mia–you must really love your husband to try it! I have found that butter makes everything taste better though.

    2. Deb says:

      As a Dane, I admire Nords who eat lutefisk. Uff da! ;) Have you seen the play “Church Basement Ladies”? Unless you’re a Scandi, some people would miss the words and such.

  3. Deb says:

    I am Danish, and thanks to my immigrant grandfather, my mother learned about traditions and foods of Denmark. We still make traditional Danish cookies and pastries every Christmas. One of my earliest memories was going to Grandma and Grandpa Nielsen’s (every Sunday after church) during the Christmas season and Grandpa would have a Danish paper woven heart basket for each of us. He’d pluck it off the lower branches of the tree and it was filled with goodies and candy.

    My maternal grandmother was an awesome cook; she never followed a recipe. Her pie crusts melted right in your mouth and her cherry pies made from the cherries of her Dwarf Dark Red tree were masterpieces. I do remember a time that I was making a bar recipe of hers that she made up and had to call her when I came to the part of the recipe that said ” 2 glubs of oil”. Gram, I asked, what is a glub of oil? “You know”, she said, “when the oil comes out of the bottle, it makes a glub noise.” Bwahahaha, love that!

    1. Deb–you are making me hungry for cookies! My mom and I have been looking for a family sausage recipe from my Great-Uncle (he was a butcher and made the best Italian sausage). She called me to tell me she’d found it but it was just a list of ingredients and no measurements so we are still experimenting and haven’t figured out Uncle Sonny’s secret yet.

  4. Ann s. says:

    I remember getting a box of cookies at Christmas from my Aunt. She lived in Minnesota and baked cookies for us here in California once a year. I remember how excited my Dad was when that box arrived at Christmas.

    1. Ann–Your story reminded me of my something my father loves. Star bread from an Italian bakery in Springfield, MA. The bakery was very busy and prosperous during his youth but has since closed and the family now just makes bread on one Saturday a month. My cousin Patty Ann always schedules her trips to Florida on the day after and brings my dad some of his favorite bread.

  5. Tania says:

    My favorite “food” memory has more to do with dishes. When I was a little girl, we always had lunch after church at my grandparents’ house. There were 6 granddaughters in my family & we all wanted The Rose Plate (china plate with roses on it). Grandma didn’t have lots of cupboard space, so her stack of plates sat on the counter. It was tall & we never knew that there was more than one Rose Plate in the stack. “I get The Rose Plate!” was shouted the minute a girl ran in the door after church. Whoever shouted it first got “dibs” for that Sunday lunch. In 1996, my grandma gave each one of us a Rose Plate for Christmas!! We all had to sit down together to open our gift, so we knew it would be something special. She had written on each one. Mine says, “A Rose Plate for Tania, filled with memories and love,” and it hangs on the wall by my kitchen table. My sister & my cousins all have their own Rose Plate prominently displayed as well. It’s a treasure & it always reminds me of lunch at Grandma & Papa’s.

    1. Tania–that’s such a lovely memory. I am going to steal that idea for when I have grandkids. :)

  6. CateS says:

    Popcorn… Sunday nights with parents and the tv in the 60′s..

    1. CateS–my mom used to smother our popcorn in freshly melted butter it was so delicious and messy. :)

  7. CrystalGB says:

    Sunday afternoon dinners after church. My Mom made the best fried chicken and always had a scrumptious dessert.

    1. CrystalGB–I love homemade southern fried chicken. There is nothing else like it in the world!

  8. Shana Shana says:

    I’d have to say asparagus. I thought it was awful. I could not get the taste out of my mouth. I like it now, but it is definitely an acquired taste.

    1. Shana–I will spare you the stories of my mom’s infamous whole-wheat bread that she used to make. It resembled a brick and was about as tasty as one. I still can’t eat wheat bread.

  9. catslady says:

    My grandparents had a rented farm and then later on had a huge garden – so many wonderful fresh vegetables. I would pick lima beans because the taste is as different as night and day from frozen or canned and the real deal! Don’t enter me because I won you book last month and am anxiously awaiting it!

    1. Catslady–Thanks for sharing your memory. My daughter loves lima beans and used to call them bubble gum when she was little. I think your book should be arriving this week. I already heard from someone in CA that there’s arrived. Will you email me if it doesn’t arrive this week?

  10. bn100 says:

    chocolate chip cookies right from the oven

    1. BN100–that’s it I’m making chocolate chip cookies today. :)

  11. Marcy Shuler says:

    The book sounds great! I’m a Top Chef fan and this reminds me of it. ;)

    We always had a large vegetable garden and one of my favorite memories is of eating ripe, juicy tomatoes straight off the plant. MmMmMm…

    1. Marcy–I’m so addicted to Top Chef its not even funny. I will watch re-runs of the old series when its not on. Sad, I know. I love tomatoes as well, will eat them straight off the vine or any other way. :)

  12. chey says:

    Shortbread at Christmas.

    1. Chey–yum! I’m going to pick up Walker’s Shortbread at the grocery store this morning. :)

  13. Lorelei says:

    I’d say my strongest food memory i have is of oranges and rice when I was little. Then it was spaghetti sauce made from scratch, like in Italy with lots of basil leaves in it. My mother in law taught me how to make it when I married, then I planted basil seeds which grew into bushes, and when there was a breeze, the aroma would fill the air with its sweet smell… :D
    Thanks for the opportunity!

    1. Lorelei–the smell of fresh basil is one of my favorites. :)

  14. Melody May says:

    My strongest food memory was having top ramen with ground beef. Not only that it was chicken flavor top ramen. When I made that my husband thought it was the weirdest thing to do, because it was chicken flavor with ground beef. However, it was something my grandma made.

    1. MelodyMay–Sounds interesting. I’ve never had top ramen. I will have to try it.

  15. Nikki H says:

    My favorite/oldest food memory is a soup my mom used to make for me when I was sick, consisting of tomato juice, potatoes, onions, celery and seasonings. It was very plain, very basic, but it always made me feel better. I made it for my own kids a few times, but neither of them liked it.

    1. NikkiH–None of my food memories are around soup I think because I grew up in Florida and it just doesn’t get cold enough to really enjoy soup there. But the one your mom made sounds delicious. :)

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