Tag: bourbon


Food and drink and characters and places

   In my household we love to cook. Perhaps that’s why food plays a role in my writing. Whether prepared at home by loving hands or a resident chef, or ordered in a restaurant or take-out stand, food is more than a staple of life. It says something about who we are as individuals and as a society.  In my Swiss series, I can’t pass up mention of spaetzli or rösti, these staples of a ‘real’ Swiss household. And no one in Switzerland would order ‘a coffee’ in a restaurant. The order would be specific: espresso, cappuccino, latte, café Americano. This is not the land of the drip coffee pot. Actually, hot chocolate should have headed that list. There is nothing better than a real European hot chocolate. Here, despite famed Swiss chocolate, I think the Venetians and the Viennese do it best!   Currently, I’m working on a book set in Kentucky. In it, I’ve included bourbon as a food group (actually giving my heroine a distillery). However, there must be food. What to pair with bourbon? A hot brown. This classic open face sandwich was created in 1926 at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. If you’re unfamiliar with it, imagine a slice of toast covered with sliced turkey and tomato, doused with a Mornay sauce and broiled until bubbly and browned. Top with two strips of bacon and enjoy. While this may not feature on the lunch menu at a health spa it sure is good.   In fiction, food can evoke a place and time or cause a reader to step outside the story. If a character eats fried green tomatoes on a hot Mississippi day I can picture the smell, taste, even the sight. If this happens at a picnic in Ohio I am suspicious. Did this family move from the South?  Soft drink names are another great local custom. Soda, pop, coke (for any soft drink) are regional tells. In and around Lexington, Kentucky you might skip the nationally recognized brands and order an Ale-8. Travel farther south west near Kentucky Lake and expect only RC on the menu.    Thinking about food and drink in writing makes we think about creating a menu based on favorite books. I created several menus in Swiss Vendetta compliments of Arsov’s French chef but I’ll have to work on menus for other books now.  What favorite book would inspire food for you? 

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Sights and smells

 I love describing ‘the scene.’ The quality of the air, the view, the buildings, the landscape. I can even conjure up a variety of words for the color of snow. It is smell that sometimes stumps me. And I know how important smell is – the sense that evokes our most vivid memories, able to awaken feelings long buried and place us immediately back in time.   Recently I’ve been touring various distilleries – all part of research! There are many distinctive smells at a large distillery, including the scent of bourbon rising up through the halls of the warehouses. It occurred to me that I feel comfortable describing something as scented with bourbon. But I’m not as sure about the scent of sour mash…. that fermenting smell that fills the other parts of the distillery complex. Can I rely on people knowing what this is, like the scent of the ocean, or freshly cut grass? How much description do we need for smell, or do we have a common store of olfactory knowledge that spans most human experience?  

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Warm Winter Wishes

You may have guessed from my previous posts this week that I have winter issues. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays (Easter being the other) but I’d like it just fine if Christmas came in October. During the dark, cold stretch from late November to early March, I’d just as soon take a vacation from the world, crawl into a cave, and hibernate. But, since I am not a bear, I have to bundle up, go outside, and deal with it. Mysteries help me deal with winter. Solving puzzles (or following along with a brilliant detective and wondering how I missed that oh-so-obvious clue) keeps my brain from going as numb as my fingers. Singing Christmas songs off-key at the top of my lungs along with the all-Christmas music station as I drive back and forth to work also helps but I don’t like to admit that. Drinks that give me the warm fuzzies help, too. Let’s call them comfort drinks. I’m writing this post in the Hearth Room of the Deerpath Inn, one of my favorite places on the planet. I braved the cold tonight because I wanted an Adult Red Velvet Hot Chocolate—a cinnamon and candy cane concoction I saw posted to the Deerpath’s Instagram feed. However, by the time I got to the bar (Called “The Bar”. Really.) it was standing room only. On a Tuesday. With below-freezing temperatures. Everybody in town counts the Deerpath Inn among their favorite places. So, I headed upstairs to my happy place, the Hearth Room. The Hearth Room is exactly as you imagine it—British club room with a ginormous fireplace (complete with blazing fire, of course). Paintings of dogs and bucolic landscapes adorn the walls. Furniture of leather and dark wood. You expect Holmes and Watson to arrive any minute. The place begs to be the setting for a traditional mystery. It’s the perfect place to be on a chilly night. However, I couldn’t get my Red Velvet Hot Chocolate up here. No worries, though. The Deerpath Inn is the sort of place loathe to disappoint. I “settled” for plain hot chocolate with Koval bourbon and whipped cream. Who needs candy canes? A few sips of the chocolate-with-a-peppery-afterburn libation and I felt quite cozy. If I didn’t have to go work in the morning, I’d probably rent a room at the Inn then head upstairs to curl into a tight ball underneath a down comforter in one of their cozy, cozy beds. Since I do have to work tomorrow, I’ll finish my drink and my dinner then bundle up and make my way home (on foot. Don’t drink and drive.) Maybe I’ll read some Agatha Christie or P.D. James before snuggling into my own, somewhat less plush, bed to dream sweet dreams of temperate climes. (Actually, my dreams are bizarre. But never dull.) How do you deal with dark, cold days? Or do you love them? What are your favorite winter-themed mysteries? 

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