“I think food, culture, people and landscape are all absolutely inseparable.” Anthony Bourdain.
A quick confession, I was a chef for over 20 years. I worked in professional kitchens for eight years prior to going to culinary school in 2003. After graduating from culinary school many jobs opened up to me in resorts, hotels and high end restaurants. One thing did not change from working in bars during college and high end, white tablecloth restaurants: the people who loved the food at these restaurants.
I met Anthony Bourdain at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, AZ. in the late 1990’s. He was on his Kitchen Confidential book tour. I loved this book because he was telling the truth about what went on in the back of the house. I only met he briefly, but I can still remember it like it was yesterday.
What does this have to do with my book?
When I introduce Alvarie, she is just a beloved food vender in a street market. She just grills fruit with spices in the poor part of the capital and loves Zenith and her friends. What is so special about that? Markets are the social gathering places for many cultures throughout our own world. Business men, the working class, even the poor all gather in one place for one reason, food.
When I was developing Zenith, Nami, and Megan’s characters, the one aspect that I though up was: what did they eat? Growing up impoverished, like many around the our own world that are impoverished, they would mostly eat a diet that contained legumes, for the protein, vegetables, rice, fruits, fish, whatever meat they could hunt, and bread.
“Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.” Anthony Bourdain
When Alvarie grills her fruit and adds spices, her food is simple and delicious. When Zenith and her friends go to live at Navari’s estate as her bodyguards, Cooks mostly makes soups and stews. Cooks does make simple food like a pastie, (think of a calzone, only made with pie crust and filled with lamb, veggies and gravy.). Stews are simple to make and feed a lot with only a few ingredients. Many stews and soups made with a base of chicken, beef, pork, or vegetable stock, starch (potatoes, legumes.) and then veggies. Stocks are so simple, yet add so much flavor. A stock is bones, usually roasted until a golden brown, along with veggies, deglazed with a liquid (wine or water) and then put into a stock pot, brought up to a boil then the heat will be reduced to a simmer. A good stock will simmer on the stove for hours becoming thick and rich with flavor.
Think of all the simple foods in this world that are totally delicious and nutritious: Hummus, one of my favorite foods to make and eat only takes a few ingredients and about 5 minutes to make. Peanut butter, 20 minutes to roast the peanuts and 5 minutes in the food processor while adding salt, honey and oil to taste. Pesto: basil, oil, garlic, sometimes parmesan cheese, and pine nuts, blend and salt to taste. Simple, nutritious and awesome to add at so many different foods. Bread and pasta and almost made the same way with flour, and salt but differ with pasta adding oil and egg yolk and bread adding yeast and water. Simple and delicious.
I could go on about what Zenith and her comrades would eat daily, but I won’t. I just wanted to give the you all a little insight into Zenith and her friends and how they grew up.
Thank you for reading this,