Monday, November 14, 2011

Lit LIte but (maybe) Fattening

Aftertaste [ a novel in five courses] by Meredith Mileti, Kensington Books, New York, 2011
makes no effort to hide the calories
but does a great job showing a modest but successful businesswoman/chef/lover. In some ways it resembles A Dinner to Die For

Puns are popular throughout lit-lite, just as they are in women's detective novels:
Diane Mott Davidson, The Grilling Season, 1997
Tamara Myers, Gruel and Unusual Punishment: A Pennsylvania Dutch
Mystery with Recipes, 22002, and Assault and Pepper, 2005.
Laura Childs, The English Breakfast Murder, 2003.
Elinor Lipman, The Inn at Lake Divine, 1998
Laura Shaine Cunningham, Beautiful Bodies, 2002
Starbuck O’Dwyer, Red Meat Cures Cancer, 2002, 2004
James Howard Kunstler, Maggie Darling,A ModernRomance, 2005
Marie Celine, Dishing Up Death, 2005
Some reviewers refer to these titles as “cozy fiction” and they are written for a female audience, though not all novels in this category are food-oriented. The broader category might be termed “lite fiction,” mystery novels built around main characters who cook, are fussy about food, cater or contrive recipes.
Diane Mott Davidson and Tamara Myers (whose titles are puns) are widely popular and generally include actual recipes. The Madison,Wisconsin, Library has a website with many titles based on puns. Lou Jane Temple’s Red Beans and Vice is a typical example
Nothng malicious or deprecating is implied in my use of the words "chick lit", a term used among book sales vebues, reading clubs and so forth, seems to show that mainly females are the book's audience and media reviewers.
This term might easily be applied to Peter Mayle's novels - Hotel Pastis or A Good Year.I find the stories highly entertaining, downright funny, informative, and edgy enough to keep us interested. His plots have a somewhat predictable pattern, but they are fun, nonetheless.

These stories are also aimed at female readers. The name “chick lit” came up soon after the success of Helen Fielding’s 1998 novel, Bridget Jones.
“Beautiful Bodies” by Laura Shaine Cunningham, 2002, is awfully good and there is no reason why a male reader shouldn’t enjoy it. That applies to a former colleague, Nevada Barr. Her series detective is Anna Pigeon of the National Park service. Barr, a former actress and model, also served as a ranger and writes realistically from first hand experience. Pigeon moves to a new assignment in each novel – Mississippi, Florida Keys, the Rockies.
Another writer, Jennifer Coburn, defines the genre in this manner:
I define Chick Lit as contemporary women's fiction with
a protagonist who's both searching for something missing
in her life (usually love) and willing to show readers her
flaws. Like chick-flicks, the genre appeals to women, though
I'm pleasantly surprised by the number of men who write to tell
me they too enjoyed The Wife of Reilly.
Laura Childs is the pseudonym of Gerry Schmitt, former owner/CEO/Creative Director of a marketing /advertising firm in Minneapolis. She writes in two series: Scrapbook Mysteries and Teashop Mysteries. The latter includes the titles Death by Darljeeling, 2001; Gunpowder Green 2002; Shades of Earl Grey, 2003; The English Breakfast Murder, 2003; The Jasmine Moon Murder, 2004.
English Breakfast takes place in genteel present-day Charleston, SC, with yacht races off of The Isle of Palms and the older resort area, Sullivan’s Island, founded in the 19th century by Old Money as a refuge from the city’s summer heat. Theodosia is both sleuth and gourmet tea consultant.
It is probably routine but somewhat colorful for Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning to support Charleston's Sea Turtle Protection League by herding hundreds of tiny green loggerheads safely into the sea. But, of course, she spots a dead body bobbing in the waves. Always more insightful and energetic than local authorities, Theo goes after the villain before the culprit's greed stirs him to kill once more. More damned tea breaks and informational inserts than Rudyard Kipling might have invented.
Could plausibly be in chapter 12, Sleuths and Detectives, but cozier here,
Laura Shaine Cunningham, Beautiful Bodies, 2002
or “romantaics vs the realists? A male night merde.
A lit category or genre since the success of Bridget Jones by ???Helen Fielding/ Six women have been close friends for two decades none has attained aspired goals they shared 20 years agop Downtown jopurnalist Jessie organizes a party at her loftand it is set for the storm of the century. They sort of strike out to be a little more independent in each others company. Will they all show up? What might hold them back? Aspiring actresss (more hopurs as waitress), a lawyer a baby showeer for an unwed mother bohemian Claire who thinks that she still has a psychic bond with her boyfriend,one year gone!a spacey painter and an overweight spa ower. Whew! Details on women’s possessions and their neighborhoods tastes and status witty and very feminine Now they are mid 30ss-40s they have little in common except the living arrangements at a boarding house many years ago
Elinore Lipman, The Inn at Lake Divine, 1998
This is the engaging story of Natalie Marx who, though beautiful and trained as a chef, foregoes a perfectly good job in the family’s somewhat dusty and kitschy real estate office to marry the man of her dreams and take over her own kitchen at his family’s former country inn.
Lest one think that it is easy, there are a few bumps in the road, but food is a major element of the plot, and humor is a major ingredient. Many of the food scenes have to do, in part, with contrasting bland WASP menus (hot turkey sandwiches, Welsh rarebit, and a trifle) toeffervescent )?) Catskill Jewish fare (pickled tomatoes, potayda kugel, blintzes, and the melon cup).
Our heroine is a very capable cook makes grocery lists and manages to save the day several times with some un-WASPy things for that era: roasts and chickens and a very special fresh Christmas turkey, shrimp cocktail, hearts of palm, pot roast and noodle pudding (what her Jewish gramma would have called gedempte fleysh and lokshn-kogel (Lipman’s spelling)
Lipman’s 1970s dialogues are crisp and authentic for twenty-something characters and for their conservative, suspicious, protective and sometimes slightly bigoted parents.
Patricia Cornwall Blow Fly
forensic thriller with Sherlock Holmes award for best hero (heroine?)1998. Kay Scarpetti, ed examin
Davidson, Diane Mott. The Grilling Season.1997
O’Dwyer, Starbuck, Red Meat Cures Cancer. 2002, 2004
“Sky” Thorne, senior vice president of Tailburger, a fringe fast food chain, batter dipped and 96 oz. steak, A satirical voice ridicules America’s
excesses. This is the same attack on junk food depicted by the authors in chapter 10, Horror and the Grotesque, but it’s now from the corporate office, inside that oak door and probably in a meeting or just out to lunch.
“Red Meat Cures Cancer” By Starbuck O’Dwyer Vintage Books Review by Johnny Yuma "Red Meat Cures Cancer" tackles the world of fast food corporate culture – although not quite the way we'd expect – with the story of Schuyler "Sky" Thorne, a sort of everyman executive hoping to coast through his last year of work so that he can collect retirement. A threat from his grossly obese, good ol’ boy boss to raise market share “or else” triggers a series of outrageous events that threaten Sky’s chances of finishing off his career in peace. As Senior V.P. of Tailburger, an underdog burger chain whose target audience is convicts and other assorted lowlifes, Sky's life takes a turn from bad to worse...
Marie Celine, Dishing Up Death, 2005
The heroine is a graduate of a high class gourmet culinary arts school but has chosen to prepare meals for the pets of the Los Angeles rich and famous. Someone is poisoned and she gets framed. We think that the cat did it.
Tamara Myers, Gruel and Unusual Punishment: A Pennsylvania Dutch
Mystery with Recipes, 2002; Assault and Pepper, 2005
The female narrator pursues a humble, aw-shucks attitude , matter of fact affairs and many relations in the Amish-Memmonite commm,unity
In the 2005 book, a pastor drops dead, face down in a bowl of chili. Maybe poisoned? She pursues suspects methoddically, chiseling charactrs out of rough stuff. She speaks economically, bluntly, almost like Sam Spade with a smile.
Her beau is a middle aged man of uncertain strengths a middloeaged retired Jewish doctor from NYC. She calls him “the Babester.” The man’s mother is prone to staying out several nights a week, “visiting with Ima Dunce,” he tells the narrator. The guy thinks it’s a sick aunt but it turns out to be a retired local doctor. Our heroine sets him straight.
Chapter 5 offers “Puppy’s Breath Chili” and 10 consiss of the reciope for Chili and Dumplings. Simply Bisquick and “your favorite reciope for chili.” Real helpful and understated. Names like Tobias Gindklesperger, Samson Livengood, Noah and Magdalena Portulaca Yoder lots of biblical refernces keep the fun at a high pace. Many one-liners, some prtty good Lives in Hernia, Pennsylvania, and the Chief of police is the heavy suspect. and “Laziness if a heathen virtue, but I will conced gtthatr thee are times whenit makes sense.” (159)

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