Congrats to Lynn Charles on her debut novel! I have the pleasure of having a guest post that gives her...
Thoughts on The Last Meal
by Lynn Charles
In Chef's Table, after our heroes have enjoyed the throes of good lovemaking and a huge, fatty, made-with-love breakfast, they begin to talk about something chefs all over the globe talk about late into the night after long shifts, when the booze is flowing and conversation is loose.
It's the last meal of your life. Whether on death row, or the world is ending today, or somehow you know, for reasons unfathomable, that the meal before you will be your last. Ever. No more food. No more living. You're done.
What would you want to eat? Where would you want to eat it? Who would prepare it? Who would you eat it with? But always, always, what—what would that meal be?
And as I wrote that scene and debated the answers for my characters, I had to contemplate it for myself as well. How could I not?
What I learned is that for me anyway, it's not as easy of a question to answer as I would have expected. Food and I, we have a strange relationship anyway. Good food and I have even a more warped journey. I'm Type II diabetic and have had to ease up on the carbs. That means pasta (oh god, my longing for pasta is almost painful), fruit, bread, and of course… dessert. I mean, aren't those the main four food groups?
So, my first thought was to just dive into a vat of carboliciousness and call it a day. The Day. But the more I contemplated, and as much as I love pasta, there's not a pasta dish that would be The One for me. I guess I've learned to be satisfied without it. Go figure.
And what I keep going back to, is a roast beast of some kind. A roasted bird even. Something long cooked and crisped on the outside, its fat melting away into the meat so that the meat in turn melts in my mouth. With that, it's time to carb it up. And in that sense, I guess I projected a bit of myself into Evan's answer. Really, what's better than a perfect whip of rosemary mashed potatoes? Fresh rosemary, garlic, warmed cream and butter. If this is it, let us not be shy with the butter. Or the gravy. Pan juices shall never be put to waste.
Oddly enough, a vegetable would be nice here too. And I can hear my mother laughing that I'd actually include a veg in my final meal, but the crunch of a nicely roasted and seasoned vegetable makes that forkful pretty damned special.
To top it all off? Chocolate. Dark. Rich. Creamy. Decadent. Think the chocolate torte Evan served Patrick at chef's table at Il Boschetto. (Or remember it as you read that scene)
Who would fix this meal for me? Well, if I couldn't do it myself—because I know how I like it—I'd want Evan and Patrick, of course. It would be a meal for just my husband and I and we'd eat it in our brownstone in The Village—which doesn't exist, but you know, rumor has it Evan and Patrick aren't real either.
What would you want as your last meal? I'd love to hear of your thoughts in the comments!
by Lynn Charles
Chef Evan Stanford has climbed the New York City culinary ladder one proper rung at a time, earning himself the Rising Star James Beard award and an executive chef position at one of New York City's favored restaurants in Hell's Kitchen. But in his quest to build his reputation, he's forgotten what got him there; the lessons on food—and life—from a loving neighbor back home in Illinois.
Patrick Sullivan lives a contented life in Brooklyn cooking at Johnny's diner, keeping the memory of his grandmother and her Irish cooking alive even in the foods she never taught him to prepare. When Chef Stanford comes into his diner requesting and enjoying one of his grandmother's specialties, he's swept up by Evan's drive, his passion, forcing himself to reconsider if a contented life is a fulfilled one.
With much in common, the two men—and Evan's particularly spoiled pug Dini—begin a journey through their culinary histories falling into an easy friendship. Even with the joys of their newfound love, and the guidance and support of friends old and new, can they tap into that secret recipe of great love, great food and transcendent joy?
So, instead of walking home from the DeKalb station, he stopped into Johnny's hoping Patrick was at the grill. The other cook, Oscar, was fine enough, but he needed a dose of Patrick. Of his food. Of his ability to speak through his food. His cheesecake, the special off-menu treats he'd whip up for Evan, all had a piece of Patrick in them. Evan didn't know his story, of course, but somehow he felt as if it were right there laid out in front of him, waiting for him to learn it.
Fate was on his side.
"Why don't you come on back, Chef? How long has it been since you've worked in a small kitchen, huh?"
And now he'd been caught staring.
Evan looked away, flushed and too tired to care. But when he looked back at Patrick, he was met with a friendly smile. "I should probably learn a more stealthy way to stare."
"Only if you want..." Patrick glanced up at a ticket on his rail. "Seriously, how long has it been?"
"Quite some time and—" Evan looked around. The diner was almost empty, winding down another day. "You still have some patrons. Thank you, though."
"Who cares? Besides, I figure you won't strain your neck that way.”
But Evan wasn't longing for the days of a small space and a small staff, although upon reflection, it did seem like a simpler time.
For all of his psychobabble and emotional meanderings on the train, by the time Evan had arrived at Johnny's and sat down at a prime counter seat for the show in the kitchen, it had come down to this: The view was tremendous.
Patrick's arms were strong and cut, lifting soup and stock pots as if they were wicker baskets. His skin rippled over flexing muscles that tested the strength of his shirt seams as they strained under the movement of his arms. The bastard even whistled along with the music as he worked—and it wasn't annoying.
Evan felt heat rise to his cheeks and ears, and Patrick simply smiled, waiting for a reply or a motion, something more responsive than a prepubescent mouth-hang.
"I'm only coming back if I can help."
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Lynn Charles’ love of writing dates back to her childhood, but took shape as an adult, when she found herself expressing her grief in a years' worth of journaled letters to a lifelong friend who passed unexpectedly. She has been writing works of fiction in the online fan community since 2002, where thousands of readers have enjoyed her stories.
She lives in central Ohio with her husband, two adult children and a small menagerie of animals. When she’s not writing, she can be found working at her county library, riding bikes with her husband and strolling local farmer’s markets in search of ingredients for new recipes.
Chef’s Table is her debut novel.
Connect with Lynn at her website or on Twitter
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