Tales from the Curious Cookbook
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date of Publication: April 8, 2015
Word Count: 26K
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Emmett Gant was going to tell his father something really important about himself one morning, but his father died before he got the chance. A year and a half later, Emmett’s life is a muddle of the life he thinks he should have and the man he really wants. Can the gift of a mysterious cookbook give him the clarity he needs?
Cooking With Amy
By Amy Lane
Sh—do you want in on a little known secret? Promise not to tell? I mean, nobody but us can know, okay?
So here’s the deal—and you didn’t hear it from me.
Amy Lane can cook.
Sh! No! Don’t spread it around! It’s not well known. In fact, I’ve been waging a misinformation campaign on the internet and in my personal life for going on twenty-six years now. My parents assume I can’t cook—they frequently grace my husband and children with pitying looks when we visit. My stepmother will serve up perfectly seasoned meats and a casserole and smile softly as if to say, “We are very aware that our child is housework-disabled, overemotional, strange, and a detriment to any social group whatsoever, but we are grateful to you for taking her off our hands and allowing her to breed, and as a thank you, we shall cook for you, as we are very aware she can’t do this either.”
And my husband will smile in the interest of keeping the peace, and the children will be polite and say thank you.
And then they’ll get in the car and we’ll stop at McDonald’s because we’re starving and I don’t feel like cooking.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t cook.
In fact, I have a decent repertoire of things I can make. Potato salad, sausage dressing, pizzadillas, barbecue chicken sandwiches, curry stir fry, chicken teriyaki, cilantro lime pork roast–
It’s following recipes I have a little trouble with. And cleaning up, of course, but I do have several live-in eaters who are required by the birth pact to clean up for me so no worries there. But mostly the problem is the following of recipes. I mean, I can cook—and make it good—but can I repeat that recipe?
Do I want to?
Uhm, well, sort of no on both counts.
I mean, I know that when I boil my corned beef in beer for a long time it comes out tender and savory—but it’s not always the same. Because we don’t always have the same kind of beer.
I have two kinds of two curry—I don’t always use the same one. Sometimes I have coconut milk, sometimes I have 1%. Sometimes I have hot dog buns, sometimes I have bagels.
It’s a crapshoot, really—it all depends on my reality when I was shopping, and seriously? I mean, the last time I went shopping was a thousand years ago in brain-time. I was worshipping a whole different flavor profile then.
So I can cook. Five days out of the week, when Mate asks me, “Do you want me to bring home anything?” I can responsibly reply, “No, I’m making something.”
“Ooh! My favorite thing!”
And it is, too, because it’s not always the same thing, but 99 times out of 100, it’s an edible thing, because like I said before, the truth is I really can cook. We just don’t like to put a name on it.
In fact, the one thing we can put a name on is that thing that happens the other two nights a week when Mate asks me what I wanted to plan for dinner. My answer on those nights is “SMDM”, which is our family’s acronym for “Something Mama Didn’t Make.” And honestly, no matter how good the pizza-dialla or braised pork roast or curry chicken was that I made during the rest of the week, “SMDM” is pretty much always my favorite thing to have for dinner. I’m just picky that way.
So, you might be asking yourself, how can this woman who only knows how to cook in a very loose, unstructured sense of the word, have written a novella based on cooking?
Well, as it turns out, the recipe that Emmet follows in Food for Thought is actually one I invented about a year ago. We were getting vegetable deliveries at the time, and excitingly enough, our potpourri box came with five gigantic beets. Yeah, I know. I mean, beets are sort of trendy among the recipe book crowd, but for someone who considers diced tomatoes or mushroom soup “recipe rescue” they’re sort of out of my range of sophistication. But that didn’t stop me from trying.
I sautéed a bunch of other vegetables—some peppers, some mushrooms, some onions—in a broth with chipotle soup cubes and chicken. While that was cooking, I put the beets in the new food processor and sliced them up. I thought. What I really did was turn the beets—which are hellaciously hard to cut into chunks, in case you were wondering—into beet meal. I mean, five huge beets—we had a pot full of beet meal. I threw this in with the veggies and the chicken, and after an hour of simmering, what I had made was…
It looked like hell—I mean, seriously, it looked like it should have had eyeballs and chicken feet floating around in it, because it was blood red and had a texture like viscera, but it tasted amazing.
And my family is used to eating with their eyes closed anyway—it’s a byproduct of having mom throw random stuff into the pot, add some magic seasoning, and proclaiming it dinner by industrial magic.
So we ate the beet porridge—and it was delicious. There was also a lot of it, so it lasted us like, a week, and I’m pretty sure I can never reproduce it. But that’s okay—because this odd concoction made it into my novella about Emmett Gant and Keegan Malloy, and they’re adorable.
So when you’re reading about them cooking the beet porridge, remember: there really was such a thing, once. And it was as ephemeral as magic, so it really does belong in a magic cookbook full of recipes that produce rather odd—and definitely singular—results.
Dust for Dinner
Emmett Gant looked at himself in the mirror of his dorm room, and wondered how gay he looked. He had a long bony face and gray eyes, so usually he looked just… solid and placid, a sober, rawboned specimen of American manhood.
But he knew he was gay. He’d known since his long ago junior high crush on his best friend Vinnie. His crush on Vinnie had gone away—for one thing, Vinnie was just too awesome a friend to crush on for long. He was the kind of friend who would sneak all the seniors on the football field in the pissing rain, after the last home game, so they could perform their competition band show without instruments, singing their parts at top volume. He was the kind of friend who would show up at your dorm in Sacramento from his dorm in Chico, with a keg in the back of his aging Mini Cooper and a plan to go eat sourdough bread and look at girls on the beach.
He was the kind of friend who would nurse Emmett through a broken heart and not ask the name of the person who broke it—wouldn’t even ask the gender.
He was a brother kind of friend—but he wasn’t a crushing on kind of friend, not anymore.
Emmett had lived through the crushing on kind of friend, and had broken his heart, and he’d managed to pull his grades out of the toilet from that semester, and managed to put on some of the weight he’d lost too.
And now it was time to tell his father why he’d looked like hell for three months. Because right now, only two other people in the world knew, and they weren’t likely to tell a soul.
Emmett decided that whether he looked gay or straight, his sandy hair wasn’t going to get thicker or more interesting looking and it was time to go. He pulled out his cell phone and hit his dad’s picture. Ira Gant had a farmer’s face—but he’d been a factory worker, so maybe that was just the kind of face he was supposed to have. Raw-boned, like Emmett, unsmiling, he always seemed to be looking at a grimmer version of the world than Emmett could imagine, and his picture in Emmett’s phone wasn’t any different.
“Hey Dad? You must be outside mowing the lawn. Anyway, just a reminder that I’m on my way today, okay? I’ll cook dinner—I know you get tired of eating out. See you when I get there!”
Emmett’s dad didn’t say… well, anything, but Emmett had figured out that his dad liked it when he cooked. When he’d been about six, he’d once tried to make popcorn in a pressure cooker, because he’d been home alone and hungry, and they’d had an air popper, but he hadn’t been able to reach it. He had, fortunately, not killed himself by blowing up the kitchen, but the lid to the pressure cooker had frozen, and when his dad got home, Emmett was crying over the pressure cooker, because he was starving and all of the popcorn was right there and he couldn’t pry the lid open.
His dad had taught him how to make noodles then, and Mac & Cheese, and even open a can of beans and add hot dogs. Emmett had been the one to find the kids’ cookbook at the library, and then Vinnie’s mom, Flora, had helped him through the basic recipes.
Emmett’s dorm had a hot plate and a minifridge, but once a week and on the holidays, Emmett went to his dad’s place and made things like chicken cacciatore and roast pork with new potatoes, and he enjoyed that. He didn’t want to do it for a living, but being able to give his dad some sort of substantial proof that Emmett was grateful for his upbringing: that was important.
Emmett didn’t remember his mom—she’d left before he went to kindergarten—but Emmett’s dad had… well, been there. He’d hugged Emmett when he’d cried—although he hadn’t offered any advice on how to stop. And he’d tried to make sure Emmett grew up as a healthy child, although Emmett had needed to go next door to Vinnie’s house to know how to grow up as a happy one. No, a communicator Ira Gant was not, but Emmett was still sort of sure his daddy loved him.
For one thing, every Sunday when Emmett arrived, his dad was sitting out on the rotting wooden porch of the old stucco house waiting for him, even if it was near the summer and a zillion degrees outside.
This particular mid-April day, it wasn’t supposed to get above 80, so Emmett was surprised at the end of the two-hour drive to find that his dad wasn’t there on the porch. The house looked like it always did—the stucco was chipped and peeling, the porch needed to be painted, and the roof was probably falling down—but Emmett’s dad was nowhere to be found.
It’s called comfort food for a reason.
Not much is known about the cookbook, except that years ago, the mysterious Granny B collected a set of magical recipes and wrote them down. Over the years, each book has been modified, corrected, added to, and passed down through the generations to accumulate its own unique history. The secrets behind these very special recipes are about to find their way into new hands and new lives, just when they’re needed the most.
Food created out of love casts a spell all its own, but Granny B’s recipes add a little something extra. This curious cookbook holds not only delicious food, but also the secrets of love, trust, and healing, and it’s about to work its magic once again.
Amy Lane has four children, two cats, a love starved Chi-who-what, a crumbling mortgage and an indulgent spouse. She also has too damned much yarn, a penchant for action adventure movies, and a need to know that somewhere in all the pain is a story of Wuv, Twu Wuv, which she continues to believe in to this day! She writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and m/m romance–and if you give her enough diet coke and chocolate, she’ll bore you to tears with why those three genres go together. She’ll also tell you that sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write.
$25 Giftcard to Dreamspinner Press
Paperback copy of Tales of the Curious Cookbook
$25 Giftcard to Dreamspinner
Press Print copy of Behind the Curtain