Food Tuesday: Getting Food In Your Books Without Putting On Weight
#writing #DanAntion #DreamersAlliance #SecretsHeldAgainstEvil #thrillers #books #bookstagram #writingprompt
I invited Dan Antion to talk about an aspect of his Dreamer’s Alliance series that caught my attention. It isn’t an element that breaks into the “suspension of disbelief” a books charms the reader into, but it caught my attention because I’m a chow hound.
Marian offered to host me on her blog, which was most generous, When I asked if there was something she wanted to talk about, she said:
“I’d like to know which of the restaurants/bars in the books are real ones or based on real ones, if the meals are imaginary or if you’ve had them, and what the meals/places are based on, if not actual meals/places.
Do the meals/places have significance? Why do you choose to specifically mention them, rather than just say, for example, ‘We stopped to eat when we pulled off for gas.’?”
I’m going to bounce around a bit while answering these questions. The meals do have significance because I think life is better when we enjoy the things we must do. We have to eat, but going to a favorite restaurant, or having a favorite meal is something to look forward to. One of the restaurants that is real is Eat’n Park which was part of the Big Boy restaurant franchise when I was growing up. When our daughter and I drive to Pittsburgh, we usually go across Interstate 80 and the first Eat’n Park is in Dubois, PA (which is pronounced, doo-boys). We always stop. Marian, you will appreciate the reason Faith became enamored with Eat’n Park.
Faith is a vegetarian, and Pittsburgh is a meat-eater’s town. The first time I took her to Pittsburgh, my goal was to show her all the places from my childhood. Of course, the Eat’n Park in my original hometown was one of them. They gave us our menus, and on the page with images of bacon, ham, sausage and steak and egg dishes was a notice – “Customers can substitute fresh fruit for meat in any entrée and take a dollar off the entrée’s price.” She was sold.
Patsey’s Bar and Grill is the other establishment that appears in all four books in the series. There is no Patsey’s—sorry. However, there was a bar and grill in my hometown called Vogliani’s and they had the best fried shrimp. Our father didn’t drink (alcohol) but he loved Vog’s shrimp. Our mother wasn’t a fan, so dad would take my brother and me there for a shrimp dinner when he was in charge of feeding us. Patsey’s menu borrows from another bar. My dad didn’t own a bowling alley, but he managed one. After it closed, he took a part-time job tending bar at Dempshire’s Bar and Grill. Dempshire’s had a bar side and a restaurant side. Mrs. Dempshire cooked for both. She served a variety of bar food, among which was a basket of deep-fried mushrooms that were the best I’ve ever had.
The picture of the back door to Patsey’s that appears in the book trailers, is the back entrance to First and Last Tavern in Hartford, CT. A small restaurant that reminds me very much of both Vogliani’s and Dempshires.
The reason Patsey’s is significant is that it’s a safe place for Billy. There are no cameras and very few strangers. Although it isn’t mentioned, Adam, the bartender, knows about Billy and Zach, and their secrets are safe with him. Billy, of course, is an excellent cook and prepares many meals throughout the series, including some lovely pies. That trademark gesture of Billy is based on some southern charm by an “aunt” of mine in Virginia.
In 1976, a good friend of mine was applying to Law School, and I was a applying to graduate school at the University of Virginia. We had both advanced far enough in the process to be invited for interviews on campus. My mother arranged for us to stay with her cousin. My friend drove to Morgantown, WV from Columbus, Ohio. Then we drove to my aunt’s house south of Charlottsville. We told her we would be arriving very late. We got to her house about 2:00 am, and she welcomed us with coffee and a fresh baked pie, still warm from the oven.
One of the things we always tend to get, if available, at a bar is soft pretzels. These make their first appearance in Secrets Held Against Evil, when Rascal orders them at O’Malley’s. Cantina Azteca, the Mexican restaurant introduced in that same book is based on El Azteca, in Ames, Iowa.
Of course, the bar in which Zach meets Thomas Slocum and where Amber is the bartender is a local bar. It’s one of two that are featured on Saturdays. Amber, in case no one picked up on it, is a play on the fact that Zach is drinking lighter beers than everyone else in his cohort.
Last, but in no way least is the Mediterranean cooking of Uncle Mike. That is a tribute to my brother Bruce. Bruce is a retired history teacher, and he is an excellent cook. He regularly makes meals that were served by our Syrian grandmother.
As I recall how these meals made/make me feel, I hope that I’ve brought that feeling into these stories. I hope that it makes it easier for readers to relate to my characters.
The Dreamer’s Alliance series chronicles the challenges and dangers faced by Zachary Amstead and William Terrance, two men who have been gifted with and plagued by paranormal abilities. From their struggle to understand and control these powers through their battles with the attempts of corrupt authorities to either exploit their powers or eliminate them.
A WRITING PROMPT FROM ME TO YOU: What does food mean — or not mean — to you?