Hello, People; Tonette here…
As I promised, today I have another special
guest, my FaceBook friend, author Ashton Lee.
Ashton is already an accomplished writer, but there is quite a bit of buzz about his upcoming release,”The Cherry Cola Book Club”, (Kensington Press, NY)
(But I’ll let him tell you more about it).
I am pleased and honored that Ashton has agreed to share thoughts about his
book and about food, friends and family with us.
So, Friends, I bring you… Ashton Lee!
Hello everyone! Tonette has asked me to comment on the role comfort food and its preparation plays in my forthcoming novel–‘The Cherry Cola Book Club–‘ from Kensington Books. It will be released on April 13th but may be pre-ordered now from your local book store.
First, a bit of background about myself. I’m a Deep Southerner, as I like to say, born and brought up in the historic town of Natchez, Ms. My enormous extended family gave me lots of fodder for my future fiction. You cannot grow up with nineteen first cousins who are like brothers and sisters and not observe generous helpings of human behavior.
One of the happiest memories I have of growing up is of Sunday dinners in the country with my cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, and, of course, my maternal grandfather, who hosted these feasts. The fare was almost always the same: fried chicken, succotash, sliced tomatoes, cornbread, rice and gravy and applesauce pie for dessert. For the adults this was preceded by mint juleps, while we kids drank tea or soda pop.
The feeling of great security and comfort derived from these dinners still sticks with me today. It provides emotional shelter in unstable economic and political times, and I return to those memories often both when I am writing and while simply daydreaming.
My maternal grandmother added a different layer of comfort whenever we all visited her house. She and my grandfather were separated, but never divorced, and the matter was never discussed. Instead, it almost seemed like both of them competed for our affection with lavish displays of comfort cuisine. For my grandmother, that consisted of tomato aspic and baked custard. She always had legions of both in the refrigerator, and her standard statement after hugging and kissing us was: “Now you simply have to eat something. What do you want–aspic or custard?” Even if we’d just eaten elsewhere, we had to accept one or the other with a smile. In truth, either one was a cup of her affection for her family, and it was easy to picture her spending most of the day before a visit, toiling in the kitchen to greet us properly with these staples.
“The Cherry Cola Book Club” is filled with characters who use food in just such a manner, plus more: to reach out to strangers, to set the table, if you will, for stronger existing friendship, to offer a bit of themselves through a shared experience that everyone must indulge.
If you’d like more information on the plot and characters, just go to facebook.com/ashtonlee.net and click on the big ‘Like’ icon. You’ll be kept updated on reviews, book tour dates and other buzz. There is a special recipe section in the back of the book which I know you will enjoy. Everything from frozen fruit salad to chicken spaghetti and that tomato aspic and baked custard. I hope all of you will be reading and comfort cooking when spring gets here.
[Tonette’s back:]Thank you, Aston; it would seem that the premise of ‘The Cherry Cola Book Club” is tailor-made to complement this blog. “Food, Friend and Family” is not just a title; it’s a philosophy. I don’t meant to imply that food is all, but everyone eats and there is not a culture in the world, (past or present), that has not celebrated with foods and used them to comfort and welcome others. Food is a wonderful way for people to connect, to open their hearts; to lead people to share their stories and their cultures. As families fragment and drift apart, we need to try to find the time to pass down heritage, share family stories, and to make new ones to tell later on; family meals, visits and celebrations are probably the best ways.
I am not the only one who has been waiting with fervent anticipation for “The Cherry Cola Book Club”; Ashton and Kensington Press are bracing for great success, (in fact, a sequel is already well on its way!) I hope the book tour goes as planned,( or better) , because it should bring him waaaay up north within a couple of hours of me and I have every intention of driving out to meet him in person, get a book, get an autograph and give him a hug!
I hope you feel free to bring on any questions here that you may have for Ashton.
[Sorry, he can not share any of the recipes that he mentioned because of prepublication and copyright restrictions; we’ll just have wait and get our hands on the book! ]
Who wants to start us off?