My grandmother should have been a chef. She was a beast in the kitchen, who used to make the best Sunday hot dinner rolls ever. I would just watch the butter drip down the sides. When I make Thanksgiving dinner each year, I always try to channel my inner “Granny.” She had thirty grandchildren, and each would fight over those rolls. I didn’t have to. She’d hide a tray of five rolls just for me. In college, I tried to make those rolls, and while I never came close to producing the masterpiece that was her creation, I enjoyed trying.
I cooked full course meals for many of my first dates. I don’t even know how good the food was, but my dates loved being cooked for. And served.
When I wrote He Said She Said, I guess I was thinking about my grandmother, because food plays a big role in the story. Here are five dishes that are mentioned in the book, along with some of the places around the world where I have experienced them:
1. Shrimp and Grits
(Photo credit: FoodNetwork.com)
My favorite place to eat Shrimp and Grits is in Charleston, SC, which also happens to be the setting for He Said, She Said. Take you pick on the place: Magnolias, Virginia’s on King, Hominy Grill, or if you’re lucky, you might get invited to famed chef Nathalie Dupree’s house for dinner. I haven’t yet, but I’m hopeful…A little closer to home is Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC which does a decent enough job…in between my trips to Chucktown.
2. Fresh Mozzarella, Sliced Tomato, and Basil
I’d never had this dish, until I went to write in Italy with eight other writers, during the summer of 2010. We lived in a villa on the mountainside, next to a vineyard, and we had our own chef, Riccardo, who made 5 course meals every night. The second day, the first course, he serves fresh mozzarella and basil, and it was heaven. By course three, I was done, so I just leaned back in my chair, quite happy.
3. Fish Tacos
(Photo credit: Coastal Living)
I took my three year old to Juanita Greenberg’s Nacho Royale in Charleston one evening, and we both ate about ten of these. Not too pricey. Tasty. A quick eat. I wished they served fries along with them. These tilapia tacos make an appearance in the novel at a very critical juncture in the book when the main character, Omar, is confused, distressed, and out of answers. Everyone has a place they go when they need to figure things out. Juanita Greenberg’s is Omar’s.
(Photo credit: Deanna Nikaido)
The summer I was in Italy, me and poet Van Garret (from Texas) decided to take the train to Paris, stay overnight, and come back the following evening. Well, when we arrived 14 hours later, at Gare de Lyon, it was announced that the train conductors and other workers, in Italy, were going on strike. This meant, of course, that we would be stuck in Paris. Until the strike ended. 4 days later. Can you imagine being forced to stay in Paris. Oh my! Here’s what I discovered: Jazz in Paris is cooler than Jazz in America; Pomme Frites are better than French Fries; Europe is EXPENSIVE; and, mussles. At a place called Léon de Bruxelles, on the Champs-Elysées, Van suggested I try the mussels. I’d never had mussels before and the name alone sounded ridiculous. Well, I tried them. And tried them some more, and an hour later, I’d eaten over one hundred mussels. This may be my favorite dish ever.
(Photo credit: Monica Brockmann)
This has nothing to do with He Said She Said, other than while I was in Brazil with some of my writer friends, I worked on my rewrites, drank coconut water, and ate LOTS AND LOTS OF PLANTAINS! Also, while in Ghana last year with another group of writers (I tend to travel a lot with other writers… makes for a storied journey), I ate plantains every day for three weeks. Fried, Fresh, and Sweet. Best tasting comfort food ever. And, they just look good too. Oh my!