Tag Archives: food

When Books Come to Life (and other related musings)

Populated (Tales from the Sheep Farm Book 2)

Cover for Populated, written by Susan Helene Gottfried

No, this isn’t a post about Populated. I mean, well, it is. But it’s not.

A couple of years ago, a group of ten women met at one of our houses, intending to start a cookbook club. We were masked, we were mostly strangers to each other. I was new enough to our parent organization to think this would be a good way to meet people. And food was involved. How could it go wrong?

Well, sometimes the recipes we cook go sideways.

And sometimes, life works out in a way that would make Delia Ford, whose story is told in Populated, proud.

A year ago, the woman who’d organized us and opened her house to us for that first meeting — and many times thereafter — found a cookbook author who was new to most of us. And so we did what we usually do: we each picked a recipe and made it.

But then, our fearless (and highly creative) leader discovered more in the cookbook that made it unique. And much fun was had. As we always do, we came together at a dining room table, over food.

And THEN, our leader said, “Why don’t we host the author for a weekend?”

Yesterday was the culmination of a year’s plans.

It was a lot of work for the seven of us, but when I was sitting with author Jennifer Abadi and handling the in-person cookbook sales for her, I asked her how it felt. I’d noticed her taking pictures of all the tables, but hadn’t thought too much about it.

“You brought my book to life!” she told me in a hushed, exultant, wondering voice that was so full of emotion that I didn’t just get it, I thought this is something Delia Ford would do.

And that made me even prouder. That wasn’t something we’d set out to do, per se. We’d wanted to showcase some of the recipes Jennifer has archived, from countries around the world. We’d wanted to make it fun, so we’d mined the interviews she’d included. And we’d wanted to have some fun.

But we gave Jennifer a gift, a greater gift than I think any of us had expected.

Like Delia in her book (although, series spoiler: we do see her again in future books), I woke up Sunday morning and realized many things about the women in my cookbook club — and many of the women not in the club but who I’ve gotten to know over the years.

Like Delia, my world has become strangely populated with people who value me, who respect me, who enjoy my presence, who I like to be around.

So here’s to Jennifer Abadi, who so graciously came to my city and cooked and ate and sold cookbooks and met me and my friends and hopefully loved the hospitality Pittsburgh is actually famous for. Here’s to my cookbook club, who wound up giving Jennifer a gift, bringing her book to life.

And here’s to my friends, who are helping bring my own book to life in such very very different way.


It’s a Pizza Party!


Graphic of a crossed sword and a pencilToday’s rant is brought to you by the letter P. P is for Pizza, after all. Right?

Well, to judge by how often characters go out for pizza, yes. P is indeed for Pizza.

Now, maybe this isn’t so strange. According to sources, Americans eat six thousand pieces of pizza in their lifetimes. And CiCi’s pizza learned that “A third of consumers eat pizza at least once a week and one in 10 grab up to three slices as many as three times a week. A die-hard 16 percent eat 15 slices each month.”

Our lives are, indeed, one giant pizza party!

If this one food is so darn prevalent in our lives, why do I grow weary of seeing book after book, manuscript after manuscript (So clients, yes, this is you too!) eating very little other than pizza?

It’s our default food. I get it.

But I also worry about the cholesterol levels of your characters. And if they ever eat anything else.

How about it? Think we can have characters who eat subs, or calzones, or wings, or salads instead, when they want to pick something up that’s fast? How about sushi? Chinese? Mexican? What’s wrong with grabbing tacos on the run? Pittsburgh’s filling up with great taco shops, and we are generally behind the trends when it comes to food.

Pizza’s great. Don’t get me wrong.

But just like you vary your word choices, your sentence structure, your character names, and more, you might want to vary what they are eating, too. Because right now? I kinda never want to look at another pizza again.

Remember, if you need my keen cuisine sense operating from an editorial standpoint, I’m booked solid until October 2021. But after that? I’m possibly here if you need me. Inquire gently.


Susan Speaks: Frequently Asked About The Eye


I am trying to keep my computing time to work time, so from now on, whenever these questions pop into my inbox, I’m sending you the link to this post. Because do you really think I won’t update here and on Facebook when things change? Really?

No, I mean that. REALLY?????

Sigh. You did, didn’t you?

So. Here we go:

How’s the eye?
Well, it’s still in my head. It’s still got a gas bubble in it, so it’s like looking through a prism. That, in turn, is worse than being both seasick and drunk at the same time and no, at least in terms of my eye, those two things don’t cancel each other out. So there’s a lot of people out there thinking I’m winking at them when really, I’m just keeping the injured eye closed. Trust me: the world at large is not this good looking that I’m doing this much winking.

How do you feel?
I didn’t realize how sick the altitude sickness medicine made me until I stopped taking it. That’s when I stopped sleeping twelve hours or more a day, too. Which was kinda sad. I mean, you do a lot of healing when you’re sleeping that much. Of course, I don’t miss the huge number of crackers I had to eat to keep my stomach calm. Now that I’ve kicked the meds and the crackers out of my diet again, I feel overall better. Just lazy and a bit slow. And that part? I’m kind of enjoying. How often do YOU get ordered to sit on the couch and pretend you’re a woman of leisure hanging out in Bora Bora? Although, cripes, I hope the furniture in Bora Bora is more ergonomically perfect for a woman of my lack of height.

How can you be such a good sport about this?
Well, what choice do I have? Dude. I’m a single mom. I own a microbusiness. Before this happened, I hadn’t chosen an easy path through this thing called life, but one thing I have learned is that if you can’t laugh, it ain’t worth enduring. So I am making the choice to make jokes. My favorite was to a friend who was happy she could roller skate after a layoff of like twenty years. “Just like riding a bike,” I said on Facebook. “Wait. We all know what happened the last time I rode a bike. Nevermind.”

That may be my crowning moment, but I’m always looking to top it.

Besides, you all are having a lot more fun following along when I’m leading the charge into the field of funny. And don’t forget, my eye is full of LAUGHING GAS. It kinda goes with the healing.

What do the doctors say?
My surgeon, who I like a lot, says very little. So there is no prognosis, either short-term or long-term. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. See above about having fun with it.

Any verdict about a concussion?
Nope, and no one seems to care about it. My massage therapist earned his keep again last week (and not just because neither of us could remember when we last shaved our legs) when he discovered I’ve got a lovely case of whiplash. So this one, we’re just not going to know about. But I still have headaches and I still have other symptoms, but they could all be explained away by the eye, so… maybe? Probably?

It’s the not knowing that is making me nuts. In fact, it’s easier to accept we won’t know anything about the eye than it is to accept that we’ll never know for certain how this impacted my poor brain.

However, I have been told that this little escapade of mine has made me funny. Or funnier, depending on who you ask.

When can you drive again?
Well, think about it. Do you really WANT someone driving when her eye is full of laughing gas? Just beyond the risk that presents to my vision if I do something dumb, and just beyond the fact that I have to keep my eye closed so I don’t have the acid trip-drunk-seasick thing happening…

I know driving me and my kids around is a pain in the rear. I get that. Trust me. I used to do it on a daily basis. I can’t wait to do it again. But right now, we all have to wait. And be it in six more weeks or a year from now, I promise to either pay it back or pay it forward. This does not mean I’m going to go drive for Uber, btw.

If I had a shot for every time I’ve been asked about driving, I bet I’d stop complaining about that weird acid-seasick-drunk effect my healing eye gives me. And not just because I’d be too pickled to care.

Can I bring you dinner?
This is a dicey one. For one, I’m independent as hell and the kids and I love to cook.

But here’s the bigger problem: people have shown up on my doorstep with food. Which is super nice, except… I have other health issues. And most people have shown up with some variant of red sauce, pasta, and/or beef, pork, or lamb. All of these foods (except for maybe the tomato sauce, but the jury’s out about me and nightshades) promote inflammation, and I have an inflammation issue already. So these good-hearted gestures are really doing a lot of damage, and at a time when I can’t exercise to offset some of the effects.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the gesture. I do. But… my favorite foodie care package came from Dawn, who took the time to ask what I was craving. She came up short on a quart from Bruster’s (not that I blame her), but she delivered trail mix from Aldi, who makes the best trail mix ever, and my most favorite food item yet: a bag of baby carrots!

It sounds kinda crazy, but the snack foods — and healthy, anti-inflammatory foods, at that — have been the biggest blessing. That’s because I eat more than one meal a day. And I am a snacker, so a handful of trail mix, a handful of carrots… Oh, every day, I say a silent thank you to Dawn for her ingenuity.

I did also ask for super ripe cantaloupe at room temperature, perfectly crisp and chilled watermelon that’s been cut into cubes and snaps when you bite into it and then turns into juice on your tongue, and blueberries. The blueberries were delivered, thanks to a friend who was running to the grocery for me anyway. The rest, I think we’ll have to wait to summer for.

So what DO you need?
Honestly? Company. Pick up dinner (oh, how I could go for my local Chinese takeout) and bring it over and hang out with me while we eat. Together. Or lunch. Lunch is good. Come get me and let’s go out for a quick meal – but it’s got to be quick, and it’s got to be somewhere I can show up in my sweats. Because, dude, I’m allowed to be lazy, so I’m milking this. And it’s got to be quick because I swear the whole world is staring at me and yes, I’m the rare and beautiful Cyclops right now, but… like I said, there just ain’t that many good-looking people in the world who are worth winking at. Besides, I do get tired easily. After all, I’m busy healing! (I hope)

Which brings me to the final question:
Why did you get over the hot young thing?
I didn’t.

It’s the off-season.

Drooling, lusting, sighing, and off-color jokes will resume closer to my birthday. However, any of you who encounter him (and I’m looking at my nineteen-year-old pro athlete here) are free to tell him to quit wasting his time on my Twitter feed and friend me on Facebook instead. Because as most of you know: we’re having a good time over there. Think what he’s missing out on!


Fiction Outtake: This one’s for us girls! (Post-Trevor’s Song era)


Mitchell wasn’t having much luck reading his guitar magazine. He knew it was stupid to sit at the kitchen table and try to read in the first place, but Kerri wasn’t helping matters any.

She was pacing around the cooking area, stopping to open the pantry, the refrigerator, the cabinets. She’d move things around, dig a bit in the freezer for something near the back, close everything up again, and move on to the next spot.

Over and over.

She was on her twelfth circuit when he’d had enough.

“Woman, what the fuck are you doing?”

“I need chocolate. I can’t believe we don’t have any chocolate. Why is there no chocolate in this house?” she asked as she took every single thing off one of the pantry shelves.

Mitchell got up to take a look at the things she was putting on the floor. Pancake mix, syrup, cans of tuna, corn starch — that was the sort of stuff he was expecting to see. And he supposed he remembered picking up that bottle of Big Buck’s Bodacious Sauce the last time he’d been at a Big Buck’s for some ribs.

But when it came to things like a dry scone mix, a paper cup of corn chowder that needed to have water added before it was anything but powder, and six varieties of balsamic vinegar, all he could do was scratch his head. Some of it he could blame on Val, who loved to force her gourmet finds on them. Some of it might have come from Nancy, and some of it… who knew? Maybe one of Amy’s jokes again?

“Ker,” he asked softly as she growled and started putting things back, “where’d some of this come from?”

She looked at the can of baby bay shrimp in her hand. “You know,” she said slowly, “I have no clue. And you know what else?” she asked, fixing him with a stare that was so bright, it made him wince. “I don’t care. It’s not chocolate and that is what this is about. Where the fuck is the chocolate?”

He thought fast. The boys were still with Nancy; he had time before she’d want to leave for the day. He could pull this off — if he moved now.

Mitchell grabbed Kerri by the shoulders and turned her toward the door leading to the garage. “Come with me,” he said.


She tried to resist, so he bent and slung her over his shoulder.

“I’m taking you out and we’re buying out every single peanut butter cup the store’s got. What doesn’t make you puke in an hour’s going into the freezer.”


When she struggled, he set her down as gently as he could, worried that the way she was moving, she’d hurt herself. Or, worse, he’d hurt her.

“I don’t want peanut butter cups. I want…” She licked her lips, her eyes roaming the ceiling. “I want brownies.”

“I think I saw a box on the floor.”

Kerri looked at him, her hazel eyes twinkling. “Race ya to ’em.”

“Nah, you go. Call me when they’re done.” He started to stroll off, but she tackled him. Thankfully, not hard enough to bring him down, but hard enough to knock some of his wind out. He gave her a scornful look over his shoulder.

“You’re eating?” she asked. “Then you’re helping bake.”

“Only if I get to smear batter on you and lick it off.”

“Nope,” she said calmly, picking the box of mix up off the floor.

“You do it to me?” he asked hopefully. “Would that be chocolate enough for ya?”

She pressed up against him and gave him one of those infuriating closed-lipped kisses. “Try it and see. But… after we bake these puppies and I’ve had a few.”

Mitchell frowned as she tore into the box. She peered inside, looking so cute he wanted to melt, then with a sheepish smile read the back for the cooking directions.

“You know,” he drawled, ready to break and run before she could throw something at him, “in two days, you’ll be telling me to take what’s left over to the studio because you don’t want to gain three pounds just by breathing in their scent.”

“You know,” she answered, cocking her head slightly, “you could forget about that smearing batter thing, get out of my sight, and let me enjoy my brownies in peace, motherfucker.”

Mitchell decided that even Trevor wasn’t enough of a fool to hang around after that charming invite. He grabbed his guitar magazine and headed out onto the back porch. Anything to avoid the evil brownie fumes; Kerri would find a way to curse him so he gained three pounds, he was sure of it.

Be sure to pick up a copy of The Demo Tapes: Year 1 at your favorite retailer: