I guess it’s not a secret at this point that I love food. Cooking, eating, trying new things, whipping up old classics—I love it all. One of the interview questions I’m most consistently asked: What’s your favorite dish?
And I never know what to say. Because while I have many favorites—from childhood and beyond—I have also always had a sense of the many flavors and foods yet to be tried. I’m intimately familiar with the glories of good biscuits, salt-cured Virginia ham and red-eye gravy, but I’ve never tasted bucatini all’amatriciana, or the pungent flesh of the durian fruit, or Oysters Rockefeller! So how do I know what my favorite dish is?
A lot of professional chefs share that restless curiosity about new foods. It’s certainly something the hero of my most recent novel, On the Steamy Side, is familiar with. Devon Sparks is a jaded celebrity chef trying desperately to maintain his identity as a cook in the face of fame and scandal. His first instinct is to experiment with new techniques and odd flavor combinations—but something is missing.
Meanwhile, my heroine, Lilah Jane Tunkle, is going through her own identity shift after moving to
These characters butt heads over many things, but one of the central conflicts that arises again and again is the issue of fancy, experimental food versus old-fashioned comfort cooking. (Imagine Gordon Ramsay throwing down with Paula Deen—man, who would win that fight?) True magic only happens when Devon and Lilah start sharing ideas and collaborating in the kitchen, producing delicious new dishes with
So what’s your favorite dish? Would you rather try something new or stick to what you know satisfies? Comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of On the Steamy Side, a farmer’s market tote and a Tastebook (I’ve filled it with recipes from my kitchen and the kitchen of chef friends).