Clinical psychologist Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib) is the author of eleven mysteries, including TOPPED CHEF, the third Key West food critic mystery--coming May 7. Her books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She's a past president of Sisters in Crime. You can find her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/lucyburdette), Twitter (www.twitter.com/lucyburdette), Mystery Lovers Kitchen (www.mysteryloverskitchen.com), and Jungle Red Writers (www.jungleredwriters.com).
Food, Glorious Food by Lucy Burdette
When I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey and Detroit in the fifties and sixties, haute cuisine consisted of adding a can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup to the dish in question. Spinach, green beans, chicken-they all got the same treatment.
Red meat selections, on the other hand, were married to Lipton's onion soup (pot roast) or Campbell's alphabet soup (meatloaf.) Just add a crisp, pale wedge of iceberg lettuce dressed with a glob of other-worldly-orange bottled French dressing and voila-fancy company fare.
Oh, we had ethnic dining options too: heat up a can of slimy lo mein noodles and flaccid vegetables and sprinkle with crunchy faux-noodle topping.
With that background, you might wonder about my qualifications to write about a food critic character. Basically, I love to eat. And I love to eat good food--not fussy, just delicious. My husband teases that "Isleib" (my family name) means "is stomach" in German. His other fictionalized translation for my name is "large lunch followed by a restful nap."
I don't think I'd enjoy being a food critic in real life--when I go out to eat, I like to choose what I feel like eating, not what I think other folks want to hear about. And I draw lines where my character Hayley Snow, cannot. For instance, tentacles. Raw fish and meat. Slimy things. Like that:).
In TOPPED CHEF, the third book in the Key West food critic series, Hayley Snow gets roped into being a judge for a reality TV contest. During the contest, three contestants cook their way through a variety of challenges, beginning with presenting their "signature dish." I had lots of fun imagining how the three chefs would think about food and what they'd prepare. One of them leans toward home-style Southern food (a carping judge calls him "Paula Deen squared"); a second cooks from the tradition of molecular gastronomy; and the third, now that I think about it, is a little lost. Although she did produce some killer key lime cupcakes for the wedding challenge. (Recipes for the cupcakes and the shrimp and grits dish made by the fictional chefs will be posted on www.mysteryloverskitchen.com on May 2 and 9 to celebrate the launch of TOPPED CHEF.
My husband says the shrimp and grits could be the best thing I've ever made.)
As usual, I've gone on too long about food and not told you much about the book. Here's the tiniest little snippet to whet your whistle: "Four little judges, judging for TV. One swinging from the mast, and then there were three. Three little judges, tasting wine and roux. One couldn't swim, and then there were two".
Hayley Snow, Topped Chef
TOPPED CHEF will be in stores on May 7, but you can pre-order here: http://www.us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780451239709,00.html?Topped_Chef_Lucy_Burdette
And you are invited to "like" Lucy on Facebook (www.facebook.com/lucyburdette) or follow her on Twitter (www.twitter.com/lucyburdette)
If you had been persuaded to enter a cooking contest, what would your signature dish be?