Formerly an aquatic toxicologist contracted to the U.S. Army and currently a freelance reporter, Southern author Maggie Toussaint loves writing mysteries. She’s published four romantic suspenses and four mysteries, with Death, Island Style and Murder in the Buff her most recent releases. Makes sense that she loves to solve puzzles. Sometimes that translates into writing a who-dun-it cozy mystery, but other times it translates into trying to find something to bring to a pot luck. Read more about Maggie at maggietoussaint.com or mudpiesandmagnolias.blogspot.com.
Ever noticed that whether it’s a party or mealtime, people gather in kitchens? Today’s kitchen represents the proverbial hearth of days gone by, calling friends and family to meet for food, drink, comfort, and care.
Each kitchen reflects the personality of the nester of the household. Which is really nice is you enjoy cooking. If you’re like me, the whole chore of cooking is something I’ve come to dread.
At my empty nest home, the food’s mostly carryout or DIY. Light years ago, I operated under the assumption that the world would end without balanced meals all around. Fast forward a few years to the kids being involved in everything extracurricular, and mealtime became a rolling experience, literally.
We’d eat in the car running from this thing to that. Even so, I was keeping up and managing to get in all the food groups.
Then one daughter announced with a dramatic swoon that she’d never ever eat meat again. My other daughter would only eat one kind of vegetable. And my hubster went on another low carb diet.
I changed out my mobile meal hat for a poofier short-order cook hat.
Then I discovered nuances to the food group categories. Fruit, bread, and ice cream became staples. Cheetos, too – they’re in that vague, orange-ish, therefore it must be a vegetable category.
It didn’t take long before I flamed out in the mulitverse of meal plans, and we began having sandwich night, soup night, carry out night, breakfast night, and pizza delivery night.
I even tried handing off Sunday evenings to the kids, ostensibly to teach them how to cook, but after two straight months of jar spaghetti and fat, gummy noodles, I realized they missed my wacky noncooking.
We mangled our way through menus in the teen years, but my reduced cooking interest became a problem at Pot Lucks when I tried to bring iced tea, plates, rolls, or potato chips. One lady finally pulled me aside and said I wasn’t to do that anymore. Those categories were for the single men. Hmmph.
So I cast about for a new solution and came up with the bag salad; that worked pretty well until we moved and one of the pot luck ladies made a bigger, better, and fresher salad than mine.
Nowadays I bring cut up fruit to pot lucks. It’s healthy and goes with most desserts so I’m no longer getting those scathing, catty glances from the women who know how many corners I’m cutting.
By the experience of unease with cooking took my muse to a new place. I used that trouble and inadequacy and don’t-care-anymore attitude about meals and plugged it into one of my recurring series characters.
Cleopatra Jones’ mother is quite a character, and she expresses her creativity in the kitchen, creating dishes such as spickle fish lasagna. In the first book of the series, Mama’s lasagna is served to guests instead of the normal lasagna Cleo expected her to make. A teenaged boy has the first bite, pronounces it wonderful, then he laughs and laughs as everyone else gags on it. Cleo throws the dish out and orders pizza.
Which brings me full circle to my DIY kitchen. How did our mothers survive without carryout and home delivery? Thank goodness I wasn’t born in those pioneer days…
And now you, dear readers. What is mealtime like in your house? Has it progressed like Maggie’s, first with balanced meals and then with craziness? Comment in the next few days to win A Taste of Murder – Diabolically Delicious Recipes from Contemporary Mystery Writers.