The Shopping Habit

 

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One definition of ‘addiction’ is ‘the condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or involved in something’ and this definition brings one of life’s pleasures to mind: shopping.

I don’t think I’m actually addicted to shopping, but I do believe I could easily become addicted, given the chance. Living in the country, miles from any shops, is a help or a hindrance depending on your point of view. I think it’s a help, but if someone wants to throw some spare cash my way, I’m willing to test the theory.

What is decidedly not helpful to a shopping addict is the advent of internet shopping. A while back, when I was driving north with He Who Prefers Not To Be Named, I noticed an enormous, huge, ginormous Amazon warehouse had been built within ten miles of our home, ‘Just for us,’ we agreed. We are both seriously addicted to buying books on Amazon. It is just too easy. However, I have curbed my need for the services of the said warehouse: most of my Amazon purchases now are eBooks.

Research shows that many people buy things they don’t need, some buy things they don’t even want and most of these folks are a bit concerned about their shopping habits, some admitting they are ‘addicted’ to shopping.

In the developed world, merchandisers play to this addiction. Millions of Pounds, Dollars, Euros and Yen are spent every year on advertising. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work.

Advertisers play on our emotions, telling us we deserve more and better than we have, assuring us that our life will be enhanced if we buy their products. It rarely turns out to be that way. In the words of an exceptionally wise man: Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses. (Luke 12:15) and another wise man: A mere lover of silver will not be satisfied with silver. (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

No wonder many shopping addicts are concerned about their shopping habit. They may well have come to the same conclusion – that it is just not bringing them satisfaction. But how to cure the addiction? Often professional help is needed. Identifying the underlying problem is necessary. Having a supportive friend or relative is helpful.

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Several things inspired me to write my novel, ‘Making It Home’.

Being just a teeny bit addicted to shopping was one. The thing is, I can live fine without it until I’m there, in the shopping mall or on the High Street, then I feel as though I’ve failed some test or other if I go home empty-handed. And I know I sometimes fall into the category of buying things I like but I don’t actually need. I mean, do I really need yet another ‘wee top’?

What is it about shopping that gets me?

My addiction is under control now, though it was never a serious problem. In my case, it wasn’t need or loneliness, but it was dissatisfaction with my looks and my figure. I had lost my sense of identity while raising our children and hadn’t found it again yet. I was constantly looking for that perfect dress, the one that would make me look tall and slim, those perfect jeans that would not only be comfortable but would make me look young and vital, that special wee top that would make me feel young and pretty again.

In analysing that, I got caught up in the idea of writing a story about someone who – unlike me, I hasten to add – just couldn’t stop buying things even when the money had well and truly run out. I thought it would be interesting to explore what her underlying problems could be and help her find some help to deal with them.

The discovery of a deceased relative’s secret addiction to shopping was another inspiration, albeit a sad one. Who knew Auntie J was filling her home with purchases she had no use for, filling cupboards and rooms with unopened carrier bags, receipts dating years back still inside them with the items she’d bought: the overwhelming sadness of her loneliness clearly unabated by hundreds of shopping trips? Who knew? Childless and widowed years before, she lived far from extended family and had few friends, mostly by choice, being a very private person. Reluctant to visit or be visited, her secret was only discovered when her home had to be cleared for sale after her funeral.

I used my overwhelming sadness to tell a little of Auntie J’s story in my novel, Making it Home, allowing a fictional character to carry her secret and share her loneliness. I like to think she might have enjoyed the alternative ending.

Making It Home

41C9fKLVtzL._UY250_ Kate had a home, but her heart wasn’t in it – or in her marriage. So she left them both.
Phyllis had a home – and her heart was in it – but she wanted something more. So she shopped.
Naomi had no home and her heart was in cold storage, frozen by grief and fear. So she shopped.
They found one another in a department store in Edinburgh.
The trouble with ‘retail therapy’ is, you can overdose.
As friendship grows between these three women, they help one another face up to their problems, realising along the way, every heart needs a home and it takes more than a house to make one.

Christine Campbell Amazon Author Page

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What about you? How do you feel about shopping: love it or hate it? Do you know what compels you to shop, or is it something you have to force yourself to do when you need a particular item? Please share your shopping thoughts and stories, good or bad, in the comments. I’d love to read them.

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Finding Style at any Age

Once again, I have a guest to introduce to you, and I’m certain you are going to enjoy meeting her. I met Andrea Pflaumer online when I booked in to watch her seminar, Vital, Vivacious, and Visible after 50. I enjoyed the seminar very much and felt drawn to Andrea’s gentle yet authoritative personality as well as to the guests she interviewed.

As an author, I often write about ordinary women who find their strengths and become more courageous as they age, so the title of the program intrigued me, and I wondered if could I use this information to help keep my characters authentic.

In the event, not only did I find it helpful on that level, but I also found it encouraging and reinforcing on a personal level.

So, without further ado, I shall let Andrea tell you about herself and what she does.

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Sixteen years ago, at the age of 52, I started a new career as a journalist, writing shopping and human interest articles for local and national magazines and newspapers. Because fashion and style had been long-time passions of mine I began writing a non-fiction book based on principles of individual coloring and personal style typing. On the face of it, wearing the most flattering clothing always seemed like such a superficial thing, but the deeper I went into studying the background material for my book, the more profound and personally affirming it all became. And based on the comments I’ve received from my readers, it has for them as well.

Now, that I’m at an age when the entire issue of appearance is fraught with a lot of societal judgement and personal angst, I started asking my friends and my readers how they felt about their personal appearance as they reached their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. It came as no surprise that many of them expressed dismay. They described the experience of shopping as extremely frustrating because they had a hard time finding hip, affordable, and flattering clothing targeted to older women. They described becoming “invisible” to fashion designers and marketers, not to mention to the opposite sex. Not only did this invisibility apply to their appearance, they told me, but it reflected a larger dread: That they longer had a meaningful place in the world. It’s a common thread and a very troubling one.
So I set out to see if I could change their – and my own – thinking on this. I searched for women who were traversing the aging minefield in a more gracious way. And, I discovered many spectacular women who are doing so, not just in gracious ways, but in bold and dynamic ways. This was the start of a series of video interviews I conducted for a program I call Vital, Vivacious, and Visible after 50. My guests included women who have had successful careers but decided to go in new directions after 50, 60, 70 and even 80. Some were forced into those changes due to divorce or widowhood. Some simply decided to follow their curiosity or to unpack old passions that had been locked away for decades. And some made changes in their lives, literally, to save their lives.
Along with these inspiring women I also interviewed three wonderful men who offered practical fashion advice for older women: one is one of the most famous red carpet stylists in New York, another is the most sought-after “makeover” expert in the US, and lastly, I interviewed my own color and style mentor, John Kitchener, Director of Personal Style Counselors.
I came away from the experience energized and hopeful, not just for myself, but for my entire generation of women. I learned that by gaining certain habits and skills we can look forward to our later years with energy and enthusiasm. I also came away realizing that the knowledge and coping tools we have gleaned over a lifetime can enable us to become very visible, both in our own lives and also as role models for younger generations of women. These skills and tools have enabled us to move through change – and sometimes profound loss – and have made us stronger and more resilient. They have also allowed us to connect with deeper, more grounded parts of ourselves.
So from a completely new and unexpected direction, developing Vital, Vivacious and Visible after 50 helped reinforce my primary goal when I wrote my first two books: to help women and girls maintain individuality, authenticity, and courage throughout all the stages of life.

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SRY_3D_front-500px1-200x358 Andrea Pflaumer is a speaker and educator, and the author of Shopping for the Real You, the only book based on the Personal Style Counselors (PSC) system, providing a detailed guide to wardrobe, color, and personal style.

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Her new e-book, She’s Got Good Jeans, applies that same critical eye to a popular subject: where to find (and how to style) the best jeans for one’s body shape, style and budget.

Her series Vital, Vivacious, and Visible after 50 will be available on both video and as audio podcasts in early May.

You can follow her blog at http://shoppingfortherealyou.com

her Pinterest pages at https://wwhttpsw.pinterest.com/andreapflaumer/

and her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/shoppingfortherealyou/

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Christine Campbell, author and blogger, has six published novels:

Family Matters, Making it Home, Flying Free, Here at the Gate, Searching for Summer, and Traces of Red; all Contemporary Women’s Fiction, often with ‘mature’ female protagonists.

You can find out more about Christine and her books at: http://author.to/ChristineCampbell

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A Day in the Life….

…of a Writer.

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My name is Christine Campbell, and I am a writer.

There, I’ve said it.

I said it and believed it for the first time after I published my debut novel in 2008.

There can be few things more validating for a new writer than to hold years of hard work in your hands. Feel the paper smooth on your fingers. The weight of your very own book, the smell of it, the sound of pages as you run your thumb over their edge, letting them flip one against the other. The sight of the words you penned months before, tumbling over one another to fill hundreds of pages, painting the pictures from your imagination in words and letters, to tell your story.

It’s intoxicating.

But how did it come to that point?

What does a writer’s day look like?

For me, the day probably looked a lot like anyone else’s.

I had a husband, a family, responsibilities.

Writing was what I did in secret, what I did in snatches, in corners, in cafés. Not because I was ashamed of what I did. Not because my husband didn’t encourage and support me. Only because I didn’t believe I was a Writer with a capital W.

Then ‘Family Matters’ was published and I held in my hands the evidence that I was.

I am a Writer.

My days look different now.

Brazen, I sit at my computer while the dishes sit by the sink. My fingers fly across the keys making that special music of storytellers, while the washing churns in the machine. Dinners are simple affairs the days I’m writing well, more elaborate when I have thinking to be done. As I chop the carrots, I set out plot points in my head. As I brown the meat, my head fills with neatly turned phrases and enticing story twists.

If you pass me in the supermarket and I don’t seem to see you, I probably don’t. I’m somewhere else, in the world my characters inhabit, doing something else altogether. If I didn’t rouse myself occasionally to check my shopping list, goodness knows what I’d remember to pop in my trolley for tonight’s dinner. Whatever my protagonist fancies, I suppose.

Hours can pass and I think it’s a moment since I sat down to write.

A day in the life of a writer doesn’t look so very different from a distance. On closer inspection, it belongs to a different world, a different time capsule.

My family are grown now, and my long-suffering husband smiles at my passion and shares the washing-up. The washing gets done, the beds get made, no-one is neglected. But time is set aside to write, to edit, to think, to plan, to research.

It’s what I do.

I am a Writer.

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#6 — Food in Fiction

To Cook or not to Cook

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Some people love to cook, others have no interest in the workings of the kitchen, and there can be many reasons for this. For instance, the overbearing mother who never allows her child near the stove or the mixing bowl for fear they might make a mess, and knowing she can do it better herself, is unlikely to rear a happy chef. By contrast, the mum who bakes fairy cakes with her three year old, with flour clouding around her elbows and pink icing in her hair, may well produce the next Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver.
There are exceptions to every rule, of course, and from time to time there will be someone determined to strive against discouragement to become a master at the craft.

Another reason many people don’t cook is lack of time. There are many frustrated gourmet chefs sitting in stuffy offices dreaming of steamy kitchens, planning the dinner party they would throw if they only had the time or funds.

Some learn their craft at their mother’s side, others in a school of Haute Cuisine.

The popular film, Julie & Julia, contrasts the life of chef Julia Child in the early years of her culinary career with the life of Julie Powell, a young woman in New York who sets out to cook her way through the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook. She aims to do it in one year. That’s 365 days for 524 recipes. She describes her efforts on her regular blog.
The screenplay, by Nora Ephron, is adapted from two books, an autobiography by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, called My Life in France, and a memoir by Julie Powell, Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen documenting her daily experiences cooking each of the 524 recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
In Julia Child’s book, My Life in France, she describes how she signs up for cooking classes at the École du Cordon Bleu where she learns the art of French cooking.

While the books and the film, Julie and Julia, are not completely fictional, I think the film, in particular, made a very interesting drama and could be used as inspiration for writing food into your fiction.

If you don’t know what to write about, here is a suggestion for you:

Perhaps you could write a short story about attending a cookery class. It could be a class in the local village hall or in a College kitchen. Ask yourself, why does this character want to learn to cook? Perhaps they can already cook, but want to improve. Perhaps it’s to pass a rainy Thursday night in good company.

Or a story about someone’s first attempts at following a recipe.
There’s a lot of potential for humour: mishaps and disasters are common in a kitchen setting, particularly with inexperienced cooks, and can sometimes be very amusing.

I hope you find this next excerpt, from an as-yet-unpublished novel I have written, falls into that category. I always think it’s dangerous to claim you’ve written something funny. Humour is such an individual thing. But I hope it at least makes you smile.

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Sauce for the Goose
by
Christine Campbell

By the time she turned into the communal stair of the flats, Sandra had built up a fair head of steam in her boiler, fuelled by the indignity she suffered at work set against the memory of Hugh lying warm and sleepy in their bed when she left him this morning and sitting with his feet on the coffee table all day watching day-time trash on the unlicensed box, as she imagined he had most of her long, torturous day. ‘Sauce for the goose…’ Colleen’s remark flared in her memory. ‘Equal opportunity…’ She was ready to blow.
A blanket of fresh, enticing, foodie smells doused her anger as she opened the door.
“Don’t…em, don’t come in the kitchen!” Hugh yelled. “Surprise! It’s… it’s a surprise.”
Sandra still had her key in the lock, the door still standing open, the sudden cooling of her anger leaving her frozen in disbelief.
“You’re cooking!”
“Guessed it must be about my turn,” Hugh planted a kiss on her cheek as he busied past her with candles for the table.
“But you never cook. You hate cooking.”
“I didn’t say that, or not exactly. It’s just that…” he ran his hands through his floppy hair, pushing his swimming goggles onto his forehead. “It’s just that you do it so much better. Onions,” he added in answer to her unspoken enquiry about the goggles.
“Yes, I see. But the candles, wine?” She closed the door and followed him through to the living room.
“A sudden pang of conscience. You out there every day working for us. Me in here watching tele.”
A weary snort of recognition escaped from Sandra.
“One of these interminable talk shows. ‘Is your man a loser?’ Suddenly saw that, yes, your man, me, was… am… a bit of a loser Wouldn’t be watching that dreadful program otherwise. Decided to do something about it.”
“A job would be nice.”
“Yes. Yes, I suppose that would be nice. The ideal really, I imagine.” Hugh stood with his hands on his hips, his hips girded with a tea towel, nodding his agreement.
“Yes.”
“I did… I er… did go… to the job centre again.”
Sandra looked up expectantly.
Hugh spread his hands. “Nothing.”
“Nothing?”
“Suitable, I mean. Nothing suitable.”
“If it pays money, it’s suitable,” Sandra muttered.
“Mustn’t lose sight of the big picture, as it were. You know, the right job, best career move.”
Sandra sat down wearily. “Oh, Hugh. What are we going to do? I know you want a career, but, right now, it’s a job you need, just a job. One that pays money. One that pays off the overdraft.”
“Mmm, know what you mean.”
“Do you, Hugh? ‘Cos I wonder sometimes. You’ve had this great Public School Education. The Stiff Upper Lip, English Gentleman, Posh University kind of stuff, but, really, has it prepared you for living in the real world? Has it taught you how to put meat on the table? Has it dickie-bird!”
“Meat on the table, yes, see what you mean.” He sniffed the air, “Sorry, back in a mo. The meat. Need to do some stirring.” And disappeared into the kitchen.
“Smells nice.” She sat up, alarmed by sudden realisation. “How? where did you get the money for meat? We can’t afford…”
“Sold the picture.” Hugh shouted.
Her eyes flew to the empty place on the wall.
“My grandmother’s painting! You sold my grandmother’s painting.” She was on her feet, her anger reignited.
“Don’t come in,” he yelled as she started to push open the kitchen door.
“You sold my grandmother’s painting!” She shouted, her forehead against the door, her fist banging it in frustration. “You had no right.”
“Hunger!” he shouted back. “Hunger gave me the right.”
“It was mine.”
“It was ugly,” he asserted as he squeezed through the door, barring her entry to the kitchen.
“It was mine.”
He looked helplessly at her. “We needed food.”
“I was bringing food.” She held up the carrier bag. “Bread, cheese, pasta.”
“Macaroni cheese?”
She nodded.
“Yes. Yes, I see. The thing is, actually… well, I’m… well, I’m sort of fed up with macaroni cheese, as it happens.”
“But…”
Hugh took off the goggles and ran his fingers through his untidy hair again, reinforcing his air of perpetual bewilderment. “And I was… I was sort of… I was fed up with that hideous picture staring down at me all day.” He tossed a petulant glance in the direction of the offending, now absent, painting.
“It could only stare down at you all day, if you were here all day.”
“Yes, of course. Yes. Well. It seemed the ideal solution, killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. Instead of Capercaillie on the wall, we’ve er… we’ve sort of… sort of got chicken in the… in the er, wok, so to speak.” his voice trailed off the way it often did, though he smiled shyly at his own wit. “You’ve got to admit it was a particularly ugly painting,” he added bravely.
“It was my painting.”
“Chicken stir-fry. Lots of peppers and mushrooms. Garlic,” he cajoled, waving a hand in the general direction of the smell of cooking.
“Painted for me by my grandmother.”
“Spring onions, ginger. Oh, hell! Something’s burning!” He dashed out to the kitchen again. “Don’t be cross about it, darling,” he called back through. “Think of it as, well, as sensible use of resources, so to speak.”
“Why couldn’t you have sensibly used some of your own resources? Oh good grief, what on earth is all this for?”
“I told you not to come through.”
“How many are you expecting for dinner?”
“Just…eh… just us.”
“But there’s so much. All these peppers.”
“I thought it seemed a lot,” he frowned. “But that’s what the recipe said.”
“Which recipe? Let me see.”
He lifted the book to show her.
“Feeds six,” she read out.
“Oops!”
“Oops, indeed. But, even for six, it’s an awful lot.”
He took the recipe back and pointed to the ingredients list. “Look, six chicken breasts, fourteen oz of potatoes. Oz, I knew that was ounces,” he informed her with some pride. “And I knew sixteen ounces equals one pound, so I weighed out nearly a pound, then half as much of peppers, same of mushrooms.”
“But I don’t have ounces on my scales.”
“Yes, you do. ‘Course you do.” He drew them over. “See?”
“Grams and Kilos,” she showed him. “It measures in grams and kilos. You’ve cooked a kilo of potatoes, four chicken breasts and there are several kilos of vegetables chopped up here.” The sweep of her hand indicated the heaps of vegetables covering every available work surface in their little kitchen. “For two of us.”
He scratched his head. “I wondered how it was all going to fit in the wok.”
“Well, it’s not, is it?” she said, weariness giving an edge to her voice.
“No, I suppose it’s not. Sorry.” He shrugged his apology like a child caught in some minor misdemeanour. “What… er… what do you… er… should I…”
Sandra sighed. “Let me get my coat off.”
“Sorry,” he said again, his large brown eyes begging her forgiveness.
How could she be angry with this gentle, schoolboy of a man? “Oh Hugh,” she said, drawing him into her arms. “What are we going to do?”
“I thought, perhaps, eating might be a good idea?”

And, in the end, the meal was delicious. That evening, the next evening and, in various forms, the next three evenings after that: stir-fried; curried; roasted; the vegetables liquidised as soup, and finally as sauce.

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So how about you having a go at writing a story in which food plays a leading role. It might be fun. Let me know how you get on.

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#5 — Food in Fiction

We’ve been looking at how Food is used in Fiction. The places where your characters eat and drink can also be helpful in telling your story.

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Photo taken in the Vintage Tearoom of The Caledonian Bicycle Company

In my second novel, Making It Home, two of the main characters meet regularly in a coffee shop. A coffee shop or tearoom is a neutral location. No-one has to act as hostess. No-one has to assume responsibility for the business of getting fed and watered. So it is a useful setting for a writer to use. It allows dialogue to flow as easily as tea or coffee from the pot, or with as many splutters and stutters as a malfunctioning coffee machine. That’s up to the writer and what he or she wishes to accomplish in the scene.


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In Making It Home, Kate and Phyllis meet for afternoon tea, and in this short excerpt I haven’t woven in many references to the food and drink, more using the setting to allow space for the characters to get to know one another and the reader to listen in and get to know them too. The reference to the strawberry tarts, is used to show how Phyllis diverts attention from herself, afraid perhaps of revealing too much about her unusual lifestyle.

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“So tell me about yourself,” Phyllis demanded after they’d bought their coffee and cakes and were settled at a small round table in Harrison’s Coffee Shop.
The surroundings suited Phyllis. Kate had never really paid much attention to the place before. It was just somewhere to have a break and refreshment. Now, she noticed that it was quite elegantly furnished: dark wooden tables, comfortably padded chairs. It all had an air of old-fashioned elegance: the perfect setting for such a delightfully old-fashioned lady.
“You’re married.” Phyllis nodded in the direction of Kate’s wedding ring. “Any children?”
“Two. A girl and a boy.”
“Ages?”
“Vicky’s thirty-four. Paul, thirty-two.”
“You must have been a very young mum.”
“I was.” Kate blushed. “Sweet sixteen… and wish I’d only been kissed!”
“Pregnant when you married then?”
Kate was a little taken aback by the older woman’s directness. Often that generation were a little bashful about such topics. Her own mum certainly was. In fact, she never quite recovered from the shame of Kate’s disgrace. She had made a great point of telling everybody that Vicky was a honeymoon baby. ‘Six weeks premature,’ she’d said. Pretty hard to be convincing though, when Vicky was a bouncing seven-and-a-half pounder!
“’Fraid so,” she admitted.
“And no help for it in those days?”
“Absolutely not. We ‘Had To Get Married’. No other choice. My dad made that very clear. Anyway,” Kate laughed a little wryly. “I wanted to get married. Thought it was really romantic. Getting married, having babies. It’s what I’d always wanted. Or at least, I thought it was.”
“The romance wore off then?”
“Quickly. Once I had two toddlers and a husband who didn’t have a clue what to do with kids. I’m afraid Dan didn’t have much time for them until they could watch the football. Although, to his credit, he was a good provider. Worked hard. ‘Department of Trade and Industry’. He’s quite high up in it now and very well respected, as far as I can tell. Not that he talks about his work. Just that my neighbour’s husband works in the same department. Under Dan, actually. He seems to think the world of him. Says he’s a great manager.” She shrugged. “He’s beginning to get tired though. I think they’ve worn him down. He’d love to get out.”
“Any chance?”
“Oh heavens! I hope not. I couldn’t be doing with him underfoot all the time.”
“He’d surely get something else though?”
“Perhaps.” Kate shuddered.“Anyway, what about you?”
“Oh you don’t want to hear about me.” Phyllis held out the delicate china plate of cakes. “Here! Why don’t you try one of these strawberry tarts? They really are delicious.”

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And in this next excerpt, the tea and the tea tray help to show a scene of family domesticity. No longer a neutral location, Kate is in her own kitchen with her son, a more intimate setting, allowing us to see another, more intimate, side to her character. There are things you may not mind talking about to an acquaintance in a coffee shop, and there are other, more personal things you would only feel comfortable sharing with family or close friends in the safe environment of your own kitchen.

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“You mean you’ve been slipping out of the house, every Saturday for weeks, without telling him where you’re going?”
Kate nodded. “Well, only one so far.”
“Do you think that’s wise, Mum? I mean… what if he thinks you’ve got a fancy man or something?”
She laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous, Paul. Why on earth would he think that?”
“Well, isn’t that what happened to his Dad when he was a wee boy? Did his Mum not run off with someone or something?”
“Yes, but his Mum was a floosie.”
“A what?” Paul hooted.
“Shh! He’ll come through to see what’s keeping his cup of tea.”
“Well, really Mum! A ‘floosie’! Where on earth did you come up with that?”
“Oh, you know what I mean. I don’t know what the current slang is for a loose woman.”
Paul hooted again.
“She fell in love with all things American during the war, particularly, all ‘things’ in uniform. His father wasn’t even sure that Dan was his kid. Then she upped and left him to bring him up on his own. I don’t think they had much of a homelife.”
“Probably why he’s such a miserable sod now.”
“Paul!”
“Well he is. And I do know what the current slang is for that. But, in deference to your feelings…”
“Thank you.”
“So, where does he think you go every Saturday?”
“Shopping, I suppose. He doesn’t ask, so I don’t tell him.”
Paul picked up the tea-tray and started towards the kitchen door. “Fair enough. If he’s not interested enough to ask. It would serve him right if you did have a fancy man. Hey!” He spun round to look carefully at her. “You don’t, do you?”
“Of course I don’t! And watch that tea, you’re going to spill it!”

~~~

You can find Making It Home, internationally, on Amazon

FREE for three days, from Tuesday, November 4th till Thursday, November 6th

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#2 — Food in Fiction

In Part One of this Food in Fiction Series, we talked about the books we remember where food plays a role, either strategically or casually. Some of you were kind enough to mention books I had not thought of.

Lisa Page remembers the book The Food Taster, about a man whose job it was to taste the king’s food. Interestingly, she remembers it was “about the man whose job it was to make sure the king’s food wasn’t poisoned.” But she goes on to say, “Don’t remember much about the book, but do remember thinking it was a clever angle!” This shows that the food in the fiction made an impression, more of an impression than the rest of the book.

In some ways, this shouldn’t surprise us, because food plays such an important role in our lives. Let’s face it, most of us in the developed world eat three meals a day, sometimes four if you count your bedtime supper as a meal, plus snacks and treats. How much time does that take? Add the time we spend thinking about what we are going to eat, buying the ingredients, preparing and serving the food, if that’s our role. If it was possible to count it all up, I reckon it’s a huge proportion of our waking time — for most of us — I know not everyone thinks about food as much as I do —  especially when I’m trying to cut down.

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The fact that Lisa remembers the title and the clever angle shows the effectiveness of said title and angle. I found a novel by that name, written by Peter Elbling, the blurb of which says, “Ugo DiFonte is the duke’s food taster: the duke loves Ugo’s daughter, the daughter loves the cook, and Ugo alone can save them all, though any bite could be his last.”

I don’t know if this was the book Lisa referred to, but it certainly is a clever angle. One reviewer said,”The bulk of the detail is reserved for descriptions of the outlandish dishes the food taster must sample in his role as poison detector.” You may or may not enjoy the book, and I haven’t read it myself so offer no recommendation or otherwise, but I’m sure you’ll agree it seems to illustrate well one role of Food in Fiction.

Wendy Janes (http://wendyproof.co.uk/)  remembers, “the amazing picnics that the Famous Five had in the Enid Blyton books that I read as a child.” She goes on to say, “Bringing things bang up to date, Susan Buchanan’s books Sign of the Times and The Dating Game feature food and drink that forms the backdrop to some great scenes between her characters.”

Susan Buchanan (http://www.susancbuchanan.blogspot.co.uk) herself comments that Anthony Capella’s The Food of Love has to be her all-time favourite. That one is described as “A delicious tale of Cyrano de Bergerac-style culinary seduction, but with sensual recipes instead of love poems.” Hmmm … interesting … this one gets you on two sensory levels! Good ploy!

~~~

As you can see, the topic Food in Fiction, brings quite a variety of books to mind.

The fact that eating is something we all, without exception, must engage in, gives it an importance in real life that can be reflected in fiction. In Part One, we chatted about how much we can tell about a person by their attitude to food, and how we can use that understanding to get to know our characters, and, subsequently, help our readers get to know them too.

I gave some thought to the main character in my novel, Family Matters, and the kind of food she would probably cook. As a single, working parent, bringing up two children on her own and with a small income, I reckon she’d be frugal, cooking well-balanced, nutritious meals. Her concern would be with producing good food at minimum cost and with minimum expenditure of time. Winter soups and warming casseroles in the winter, I would imagine. Simple, tasty salads like this tuna and boiled egg salad in the summer:

IMG_2884

or this smoked salmon, prawn and feta cheese one if she felt a bit flush after payday:

IMG_2885

I think Sarah would care about the presentation, She would want it to be colourful and appetising as she placed it in front of her children, and what that would show about her character is that while being a hard working, busy Mum, she still makes time for the niceties, the aesthetic, artistic pleasures in life, she is meticulous in things, is affectionate, and takes pride in what she does.

Why not read Family Matters and see if you agree.

You can download it FREE on the 15th and 16th October.

http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B00BR9JUV8

~~~

Please keep your thoughts coming. It’s great to share them and I already have some more friends’ memories to share with you in Part Three of #FoodinFiction 

~~~

 

#1 – Food in Fiction

When writing a novel, it is important for us, as authors, to know our characters well. We need to know much more about them than we directly reveal to our readers. With that background knowledge of them, their makeup, their likes and dislikes, we hope that our readers will deduce a lot about them from how we make them behave in the story we weave.

One of the questions an author might ask about their characters is what kind of food they like to eat or to cook. Perhaps they are a ‘Foodie,’ cooking up great culinary delights to please their family or guests who dine at their table. Perhaps they are too busy to cook but love to eat good food and dine out regularly, or perhaps they throw together some weird concoctions just to satisfy their hunger pangs, with no sense of pleasure in preparing or eating their sustenance. At one end of the spectrum, we might be writing about a poor damaged soul, with no happy memories of delightful family mealtimes, at the other, a well-adjusted, happy individual who spends much time, energy and money on producing and delighting in delicious food.

image

Photo courtesy of Gillian Wightman, Edinburgh

From anorexia to obesity, the relationship your character has with food can reveal a lot about them and their history. You may not choose to discuss it much in your novel or short story, but knowing what that relationship is can go a long way in helping you and your reader get to know your character.

Food plays such an important part in everyone’s life, whether happily or unhappily, that it is fundamental to knowing a person well.

With that in mind, I got to thinking more about the part that food has played in fiction over the years.

~~~

According to The Good Food Guide:

“Children’s literature makes for rich pickings when it comes to culinary descriptions: there’s moment after juicy moment in Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or James and The Giant Peach. The description of Amy’s ‘pickled limes’ in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women – ‘plump and juicy’ in their ‘moist, brown-paper parcel’ with their ‘delicious perfume’ – pops out from the pages. Other mouth-watering moments can be found in John Masefield’s The Box of Delights, or Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, and the fabulous tea party in Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland. C.S.Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe couldn’t fail to prompt a fascination with Turkish delight, and the great feast which magically renews in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is another enduring image.”

The Good Food Guide rounds off with: “one of the most extraordinary ventures in the entire history of catering: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, from the book of the same name by Douglas Adams. The restaurant ‘is built on the fragmented remains of an eventually ruined planet which is enclosed in a vast time bubble and projected forward in time to the precise moment of the End of the Universe. In it, guests take their places at table and eat sumptuous meals whilst watching the whole of creation explode around them.’ Now that alone would merit a place in The Good Food Guide’s Top 50.”

You can probably think of many, many more books where food features in fiction: Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest; Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; Dickens, A Christmas Carol; Chocolat by Joanne Harris; Babette’s Feast by Isak Dinesen; Proust’s Remembrance of Things PastTo The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, and an endless list where food is mentioned in passing or dwelt on enough to make your mouth water.

Please do get in touch through the comments, telling me about your favourite Food in Fiction. Perhaps it’s a passage in one of the ones I mention here. Perhaps something else altogether. Please, do share. Share the part of the book you have in mind and what it told you about the characters. I might even include your thoughts here in

#2 — Food in Fiction

Coming soon.

~~~

By the way, the 2015 Good Food Guide is now available. Wonder if I’ll find more literary foodie treasures there in the coming year.

http://www.thegoodfoodguide.co.uk

~~~

Home Free on Friday

FREE on AMAZON KINDLE

FRIDAY, 10th & SATURDAY, 11th JANUARY

Making It Home

THE book cover

In the run-up to the release of my third novel, Flying Free, I am offering you the chance to sample my writing without it costing you a penny. You can download it for free from Amazon Kindle wherever you are.

If you prefer reading an actual book, Making It Home, is also available in paperback, but I’m afraid that’ll cost you the price of a cup of coffee and a cream cake.

Let me tell you a little about Making It Home:

Kate had a home, but her heart wasn’t in it … or in her marriage.

So she left them both.

Phillis had a home, and her heart was in it … but she wanted something more.

So she shopped.

Naomi had no home, and her heart was in cold storage … she didn’t know what she wanted.

 So she shopped.

They found one another in a department store.

The problem with ‘retail therapy’: you can overdose.

As friendship grows between these three women, they help one another face up to their problems, realising along the way, that every heart needs a home and it takes more than a house to make one.

A contemporary novel about women who want more.

~~~

Link to download for FREE: http://bookshow.me/B00BR9YS0G

~~~

Reviews of Making It Home

By CJ Heck on June 8, 2013

Format: Paperback Amazon Verified Purchase

This wonderful book is one of my newest all-time favorites. Christine Campbell
has written a masterpiece, a book worthy of everyone’s bookshelf. I wouldn’t
be at all surprised to see it made into a movie — the characters are incredibly
real and the emotions evoked are profound. There were several times when I held
back tears and, by the final page, I no longer fought them and let them flow.Move over Nicholas Sparks, you have new competition in Christine Campbell.
This woman writes from a heart of gold to the hearts and souls of us all.
If only I could give it ten stars ..
Respectfully submitted,
CJ Heck, Author
Format: Kindle Edition Amazon Verified Purchase

In this book we meet Kate, who has a fairly normal life, but it is slowly unwinding like an old clock and she is beginning to realize that it is time for a decision about what kind of life she truly wants. Phyllis, an older woman who befriends Kate, helps open Kate’s eyes to how much she has been sleep-walking through her life. They both recognize that Naomi needs their help but they can’t quite work out how to offer that help or what all it will entail.So far it could be any politically correct book on the “women’s literature” market – but this book rises above that. The characters deepen and when men come into the story they start out almost as caricatures and then find their own realism as the women in the book begin to see them as real people with real thoughts and ideas. The people in this book stay with the reader and seem to grow even after the book concludes. It is a gentle read that sinks into your mind and soul and gently helps you change your assumptions about others.I am really impressed with this author and with this novel. I recommend it to anyone who isn’t looking for a cookie-cutter story-line. “Making it Home” doesn’t come at you with a message or a sermon; it simply shares the lives of the people in it and lets you decide for yourself. This book gives me the same peaceful experience I found reading D.E. Stevenson’s work – but updated for modern times.
~~~

Amazon.co.uk links.

paperback: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-Home-Christine-Campbell/dp/1849237743/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364061887&sr=1-1

ebook: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-It-Home-ebook/dp/B00BR9YS0G/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364061887&sr=1-1

Amazon.com links:

Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Making-Home-Christine-Campbell/dp/1849237743/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389111343&sr=1-1&keywords=making+it+home+by+Christine+Campbell

Kindle edition:  http://www.amazon.com/Making-It-Home-Christine-Campbell-ebook/dp/B00BR9YS0G/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1389111766&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=making+it+home+by+Christine+Campbell

~~~

REMEMBER!
The Kindle edition of Making It Home is
FREE
on FRIDAY 10th & SATURDAY 11th, JANUARY
~~~

Making it Home

Making It Home

THE book cover

Kate had a home, but her heart wasn’t in it…or in her marriage.

So she left them both.

Phillis had a home…and her heart was in it…but she wanted something more.

So she shopped.

Naomi had no home and her heart was in cold storage, frozen by grief and fear.

So she shopped.

They found one another in a department store.

Shopping.

The problem with ‘retail therapy’: you can overdose.

As friendship grows between these three women, they help one another face up to their problems, realising along the way, that every heart needs a home and it takes more than a house to make one.

A contemporary novel about women who want more.

 Amazon links.

paperback: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-Home-Christine-Campbell/dp/1849237743/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364061887&sr=1-1

ebook: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-It-Home-ebook/dp/B00BR9YS0G/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364061887&sr=1-1

Curry and Beer Night

curry

A rather tasty short story for you today, but with a bit of an aftertaste.

It was inspired by a couple of different things. One of my daughters and her husband instituted  ‘Curry and Beer Night’ every Friday in their house and I always liked the idea. The other part of the inspiration came from learning of someone whose wife left him, leaving him, not only alone, but with thousands of pounds worth of debt. But, there, I don’t want to give too much away…

***

Curry and Beer Night

by

Christine Campbell

 

Turmeric-bright splatterings still decorate the kitchen wall, serving Dave as a reminder that he’s no saint. When his mother-in-law tearfully tells him how wonderful he is, the way he cares for Sharon, his eyes wander to the stain and he silently disowns the praise. 

He came in that night, having worked late yet again. The house was cold and empty. No light burned to cheer him, no voice called out in welcome. There was a note this time. That was something. A ‘Post-it’ stuck to a packaged meal. ‘Out with girls. Don’t wait up.”

Dave closed his eyes, letting the weariness and disappointment pass over him. Microwave curry again: the taste of loneliness. It had been when he was a student, and it was now. He had hoped that marriage would change the flavour. When he vowed to be with Sharon for better or worse, he hadn’t bargained on Chicken Madras being part of the ‘worse’.

Curry ‘n’ Beer night: the weekly treat. Before he married, he’d go to the pub with his mates after work every Friday, celebrating the week’s end with a few beers followed by a visit to their favourite Indian restaurant.

He’d had the offer tonight.

“You comin’ down the pub, Dave?” Gary had asked.

“Working late,” he’d replied, with a shake of the head.

“Sucker! Honeymoon over, is it? Not rushin’ home t’ Sharon, then?” Gary had never married, liked to pretend by choice, and sneered at the idea of domestic bliss. He’d been making the same ‘honeymoon over’ crack for seven years now. That and his, “Need the money, d’ye? Patter o’ tiny feet, maybe?” accompanied by an insensitive, ‘knowing’ wink. “Friday! Curry ‘n’ Beer night! Bring the wife! We’re not prejudiced!”

That’s how he’d met Sharon. Gary had managed to persuade a group of girls from the office to join them: promises of good food, good beer and good company. The plan had failed to provide a wife for Gary, or even a girlfriend, but it had worked for Dave. He and Sharon had gravitated to a quiet corner of the bar and spent the evening flirting outrageously with one another. She became a regular Curry ‘n’ Beer night member and, when they got married, had instituted the cosier version: the two of them curled up together on the sofa with a good film, a few cans and a home-made beef curry.

The tradition now persisted in almost unrecognisable form; the sentiment had not survived the miscarriage at all. Dave wasn’t sure their marriage had either. They still lived under the same roof, if that constituted a marriage. Shared joy had turned to private grief and neither of them seemed able to help the other.

He’d wanted children, felt he had a lot to give, could see himself the kind of dad who’d bath the baby, change the baby: a ‘hands on’ dad, a caring dad. Dave sighed, pushing the pain back to the shadows, wondered if he’d ever have a chance at pushing a buggy.

Instead, he pushed his hands through his hair and braced himself to ‘cook’ his meal.

Curry ‘n’ Beer night: cardboard illustrations promising undelivered succulence and drinking alone: the ghost of what might have been.

Slipping the outer sleeve off, reading the instructions, piercing the film lid, all accomplished with a sigh; slamming the door of the microwave, punching the buttons, more of a growl. He should’ve gone with Gary and the boys. Could’ve had a decent curry, a proper curry, instead of the muck he’d thrown in the oven.

The mechanical hum reverberated through his chest, whirred in his head, building on disappointment till it became frustration; frustration, till it became anger. She could’ve told him this morning. She could’ve let him know he’d be on his own again.

Snatching up the cardboard sleeve, he twisted it roughly in his hands and stuffed it in the bucket.

And that was when the explosion started to build inside him.

Price tags.

No attempt made to hide them.

New jeans, a new top.

He dug further.

Boots. Leather boots. Expensive. Paid for by credit card.

He upturned the bucket onto the table, rooting through wet teabags and empty tins, mouldy cheese and milk cartons, snatching at scraps of paper. Tossing them aside till he found what he sought.

Receipts.

Hairdresser. Jeweller.

What else had she bought this time?

How much overtime did he hold, crumpled in his hand?

He swept the rubbish from the kitchen table with his arm, the angry movement sending the mess across the floor.

He kicked a chair after it as he lurched through to the living room. The unit drawer was where they kept the paperwork needed to run a household; to control its budget. The furious force he used to open it brought it all the way out, sending its contents fluttering around him. Credit card statements, store card statements: she hadn’t even tried to keep them from his scrutiny. Hundreds, thousands of pounds set out in columns of threes and fours, marching to the tally at the bottom of each page.

With a bellow of pain and rage, he threw them from him and stumbled back to the kitchen.

The plate she had set out for his meal he hurled at the wall, fragments of pottery flying where they would.

Tearing open the door of the microwave oven, he grabbed the hot, plastic dish from its depths and hurled the hated curry after the plate.

And, as it hit the wall, like a bright, fragrant, messy explosion, the volcano inside him spluttered the last of its vitriol.

Exhausted, he pressed his head against the cool tiles of the kitchen wall and wept.

As lumps of rubbery chicken slithered down the wall in a sluggish stream of sauce, he took a pack of beers from the fridge and settled himself on the sofa for the evening, the television blaring, unheeded, as he drank himself to sleep.

When Sharon came home, her first wave of revulsion was caused by the stink of his sweat and his belly’s exhalations. “Pig!” she muttered, opening the window. She had unzipped her new leather boots and slipped tired feet out of them in the hall, so, when she stepped back, her feet found the sticky, wet patch of beer-soaked carpet beside the couch. “Slob!” she sneered.

She turned off the blank television, her nose wrinkling in disgust at the stickiness of the remote control and the puddle of beer in which it sat. She picked up the upturned glass and headed for the dishwasher.

Turning on the kitchen light, shock threw her back from the aftermath of his eruption. Her bright, modern kitchen smelled like a curry-house, and looked like the alley behind it. All that was missing were the marauding cats.

Not intending to waken him, she had hoped to slip upstairs and have the luxury of the empty bed, but her involuntary exclamation and the light from the kitchen roused him.

“What on earth?” she saw the price tags and receipts among the rubbish and swung round to register the paperwork strewn over the living room floor. “Oh!”

Dave struggled against the grogginess of beer and sleep, covering his eyes against the light.

Sharon gathered her dismay into a tight defensive ball and threw it aside with a defiant toss of her head, deciding that the mess was his and he could clean it up in the morning. She headed for the door.

Looking at his watch, noting it was well past midnight, he demanded to know where she’d been.

“Out!”

“With?”

“Friends!” As she walked back through the living room, she slipped her arms out of the soft leather jacket that had been delivered this morning.

He grabbed it from her as she went by the couch.

“Where did you…? This is new!” He smelled it. “It’s leather!”

“So?”

He flung it to the floor. “How much did that sting me?”

“Nothing yet. I got it from the catalogue.”

“Good, ‘cos it’s going back!”

Set to argue the point with him, she stood, legs apart, hands on hips, rebellion blazing in her brown eyes.

“Look at you!” he spat. “All that make-up! You look like a tart!” His eyes swept over her: long, brown hair flowing freely round her shoulders; tight jeans; low-cut, tight-fitting top. “Tart!” he repeated with a sneer.

“I’m fed up with you telling me what I can wear and what I can’t wear! Where I can go and where I can’t go!”

“So, who’ve you been with, eh?” And he rose from the couch, grabbing her arm, twisting it behind her.

“Stop it!” she said, frightened now. “You’re hurting me!”

“I’ll break that sweet little neck of yours,” he said, the menace in his voice carried to her face on his foul breath. “It’s not enough that you bankrupt me with all this rubbish,” he said, pulling at her clothes. “You want to cheat on me too, do you, slut?”

“No, Dave, honestly. I haven’t! I’ve been with the girls. Ask them. Please, Dave. You’re hurting me.”

Suddenly, he released her and sat down on the sofa again, his head bent, hands covering his face. “Look what you’ve brought me to!” He shook his head. “I’ve never hurt you before. Have I?” He looked up, his eyes filled with remorse. “Have I ever hit you?”

She backed away, lifting her jacket from the floor, shaking her head. “I’m no good for you, Dave,” she told him. “You should let me go.”

“Go?” He was on his feet again, anger reigniting. “Where? Where d’you want to go? To your boyfriend?”

She shook her head. “No, Dave. You’re wrong! There’s no-one else!”

“No? Why all this then?” His gesture took in the make-up, the clothes. “Not for me. You know I don’t like all this trash.” Disgust retched in his voice. “Cheap! It makes you look cheap.” He laughed. “That’s funny, that is! Don’t you think that’s funny? It makes you look cheap. You’ve run up debts of, what? Ten thousand? Twelve thousand grand? And you look cheap. Don’t you think that’s funny?”

Sharon was edging towards the door.

“You’ve ruined me. You’ve driven me to the edge of reason, and now you think you can walk out on me?” He stepped between her and the door. “You’re right. I should let you go,” he said. “But I’m not going to. I married you. In front of a church-load of people, I married you, and you belong to me.” He leant into her space. “You are not going to humiliate me in front of all those people,” he hissed. “You are going to stay here and learn to be a decent wife. A proper wife.”

Tears were flowing unhindered down Sharon’s face.

“No more gallivanting.” He took the jacket from her hands. “No more shopping.” He snatched up her handbag. “No more new clothes.” He threw the jacket across the room. “Children! We’re going to have children, and you’re going to cook and clean and care for us like a proper wife. Right?”

With a last gasp of bravado, Sharon straightened her back, tossed back her head and looked him in the eye. “No! I’m not some clockwork doll you can dress up how you like, then wind me up and make me dance to your tune. I am not your slave. Neither are you going to turn me into your mother. You will not imprison me in this house.” And she pushed him with all the strength she could muster and caught him off-balance.

As he moved to the side to steady himself against the doorpost, she ducked under his arm, grabbed the keys from the hall table and bolted out the front door. Her unshod feet slipping on the grass, she ran across the garden, unlocking the car as she went. Wrenching open the door, she jumped inside, started the engine and had reversed half-way down the drive by the time he reached the car.

His fist banging on the window made her jump.

Her wet foot slipped on the accelerator.

The car coughed and lurched but she caught the pedals before the engine stalled.

Pressing her foot down hard, she swung the car down the driveway and round into the road.

Into the neighbours’ car, parked behind her.

With no seatbelt on, the bump threw her forward, hitting her head on the windscreen.

Dave grabbed at the passenger door.

She threw the gear stick into first and stamped on the accelerator.

Just as the car leapt forward, she remembered the hired skip parked beside their driveway, ready for the rubble of next-door’s renovations. But she had lost all control now, could do nothing about it.

Her car charged into the hulking, rusted, metal wall.

 

“Oh, my, she looks so pretty!” Evelyn exclaimed. “You do so well, looking after her,” she added, her eyes misting with tears. “Always keep her so nice.” She straightened the lacy collar of Sharon’s blouse. “I wish we didn’t live so far away.”

“Come on now, Evelyn. Don’t get all maudlin again. We were having such a nice time.”

“Yes, yes. I know. It’s just so hard seeing my wee girl like this. Does she still not remember anything?”

Dave shook his head. “Nothing from before the accident.”

“Nothing at all?”

“They don’t think so,” he shrugged. “Though it’s difficult to be sure since she doesn’t speak: can’t tell us.”

“Oh, I wish there was something I could do.”

“I know, Evelyn, I know. That’s why I asked you to bring the photograph albums. See if anything from her childhood jogs her memory.”

“What about her appetite? Is she eating yet?”

“Not much. A little at a time. I’m making curry tonight. Friday: Curry ‘n’ Beer night. She used to like a curry. Thought it might help her remember. You know, familiar foods, familiar things. I’ve got a film out too. I’ll cosy up on the couch with her, like we used to,” he shrugged. “Who knows? Something might…”

His mother-in-law nodded. “No progress with the walking?”

Dave stroked the handle of the wheelchair and sighed as he shook his head.

“I don’t know how you cope,” Evelyn told him. “She’s like a doll. You have to choose her clothes, wash her face, dress her.” she shook her head. “Everything. She can’t go out or come in without you.  My poor girl. Totally dependent. Like I said, I just don’t know how you cope.” She patted his arm and smiled at him, gratitude and admiration in her eyes. “Thank you.” Tears gathered in her voice. “You’re a saint, I tell you. A saint!”

Dave glanced into the kitchen where he knew without seeing it, that there was a bright, yellow, Turmeric stain on the wall.

***

turmeric heart

And now, as a special reward for you for reading my story, while you’re chewing it over, I’ll give you a recipe for Chicken Madras. It’s not my recipe: you can breathe a sigh of relief. I have many talents, but my children will line up to be first to tell you I’m not a great cook. My lovely, loyal husband would disagree with them, but, there, he still loves me after forty-six years of marriage, bless him!

This Chicken Madras Recipe is based on a Gordon Ramsey recipe which has been adapted slightly for a spicier palette and the ingredient quantities as listed are enough to make 4 portions.

chickenmadras

Chicken Madras Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts, one per person!
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2cm block of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped – Depends how much garlic you like. Personally I don’t like it to be over-powering
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 400g ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 300ml water
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Coriander leaves, to garnish

The following spices can be varied to your own personal taste, but if this is your first time with this recipe, then I’d suggest the following:

  • 2–4 red chillies, finely chopped – You can de-seed if you prefer, but this will make it not as spicy
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1–3 tsp (or more!) hot chilli powder, to taste – Adding more or less will vary the hotness
  • 6–8 curry leaves
  • Juice of half a lemon or lime (you can use vinegar here instead, but not both)

Preparing the Chicken Madras Curry

Cut the chicken into strips or cubes and put aside. Heat the oil and add the onions and cook until they start to soften which will be about 5 or 6 mins. Once the onions have started to brown add the chillies, the garlic and the ginger and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Then add the turmeric, cumin, coriander, curry leaves and chilli powder and leave to cook for a further minute or so.

In that time, season the chicken you set aside earlier with the salt and pepper and add to the pan and cook stirring the pan until the chicken begins to go golden brown all over.

At this stage you’ll want to add the water and the chopped tomatoes and then bring to boil. Once the pan is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pan stirring ever so often. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes and add more water as needed if it begins to stick or the sauce becomes too dry – remember to stir well if you do need to add water. At the end of the 30 mins, stir in the garam masala and leave uncovered for another 10 mins, again taking care not to let it dry out.

When the cooking’s finished and you’re ready to serve the chicken madras, garnish it with some coriander leaves (not the stalk!) and I usually have it with rice or a Garlic and Coriander Naan bread, although it’s equally as good with chips(!), a jacket potato or even and this is controversial…in a large Yorkshire Pudding!

Read more: Is this the BEST Chicken Madras Recipe Ever? http://www.currytastic.com/best-chicken-madras-recipe-ever/#ixzz2VC5tSa88

For more fabulous curry recipes visit http://currydemon.com/

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