Food is an ongoing theme in my writing. Recently, the subject was pierogi. Or pirogie. Four months ago I’d sent a query to an agent and she requested to see the whole manuscript. During the months that she had it, I wrote a few other books. When she passed on it, it was my opportunity to self-publish again. Well, I discovered upon rereading the book that there were several recurring themes in two of the books. I eliminated some of them, but the pirogies had to stay.
In one story, Bittersweets – Terry and Alex, the pirogies are prepared for a special dinner for a new boyfriend at the suggestion of a loving father.
In the other, The Jade Emperor, the book the agent had for part of the year, a mother prepares a special dinner for her adult children in an attempt to overcome her own broken heart. There are several emotionally charged events occurring around the pirogies; shopping for them, the children’s responses, especially one son who discovers the mother is at a Trader Joes type of store and text messages her, “Does this mean the pirogies are frozen?” I had to keep that line in because I laughed so hard when I wrote it.
Thinking about food reminds me of the importance attached to it when I was growing up. My English mother was such a good cook. I see her dressed in a shirtwaist dress wearing loafers, standing at the stove. Her specialties revolved around roasted meats with potatoes and vegetable. She always served a fresh salad.
My Greek father was an excellent cook in his own right. I share his recipe for Avgolemono Soup whenever I can as a way to honor him. When my own family was growing up, dinner was so important to me, a chance to reconnect with my children after I’d been at work all day. My husband commuted two hours to Manhattan and we’d wait until seven-thirty to eat. Being around the table, hearing everyone sharing their day, well I still well up when I think of how wonderful it was. That finds its way into my stories, too, the mother’s focus on finding a way to bring her family together, to nourish their bodies and in the same way, nourish her own soul.
Dino’s Avgolemono Soup – Greek Chicken, Egg and Rice Soup
Family-pack sized chicken parts, probably five pounds.
Celery, onion, garlic to cook with chicken in at least a gallon of water.
Two cups of raw, white rice rinsed and cooked until just soft.
Lemon juice from three lemons. We like it tart so we use more.
One dozen eggs separated.
Stew chicken in at least a gallon of salted water into which you’ve added the vegetables. Bone and cut up chicken meat and place back into large pot. Skim fat if the chicken has skin on.
Temper the egg yolks by slowly adding some of the cooled broth. It’s okay if they cook a little; it’ll be like egg drop soup.
Beat egg whites until stiff.
Add lemon juice to chicken and broth. You can adjust your lemony taste now, or even add canned broth.
Fold eggs and egg whites into chicken and broth, heat through. Add cooked rice.
My dad generously peppered the dish, too. He used so much chicken he never needed to add extra broth. His soup was more like chicken and rice that you’d eat with a fork. I’m starving for it now!