I have a file full of recipes with scribbles on them that I've ripped from magazines. I fiddle and scribble on every recipe I use in a cookbook, and so do they. If a cookbook is free of pen marks, I never used it. And I love a huge variety of food--Italian, Mediterranean, Thai, and Southern.
In my romances and mysteries, I try to match the food the people like to their personalities. Because cooking is a personal expression of who you are and what you like. Paula and Tyne--in ROMANCE ON TAP and SPICING THINGS UP--are chefs, so I wanted them to make more exotic/fancy foods. Daphne and Miriam--in SPICING THINGS UP and FIRST KISS, ON THE HOUSE, don't cook at all...and it's better that way:)
In my new mystery series, the only person who likes to cook in her family is Jazzi, so she has her family over every Sunday for a meal, so they can eat with each other and catch up on each others' news. Food is a social event. Jazzi loves to cook, but her food is mostly family oriented.
In the excerpt I'm going to share, Jazzi and her cousin Jerod found their aunt's skeleton in the house they're starting to renovate. Everyone thought their aunt left River Bluffs and never looked back, but she'd been in River Bluffs the entire time...only dead. Hope you enjoy it!
Most Sunday meals were filled with teasing and laughter, catching up with each other, but families were there for each other through good times and bad. They’d weather Lynda’s past and death together. For the moment, though, Jazzi pushed her aunt out of her mind while she cut cantaloupe slices and wrapped them in prosciutto. Then she made the toppings for the bruschetta—diced fresh tomatoes with basil for some and a white bean puree for others. She was sautéing the shrimp and scallops when Jerod and Franny came.
Jazzi added white wine and chicken broth to the pan, then turned and frowned at them. “No kids?”
Franny put a relish tray on the table—her usual contribution to the meal. Franny and stoves were never simpatico. “My parents wanted to take them to the zoo. I figured that might be a good thing if we’re going to sit around talking about a skeleton today.”
“Yeah, I can see that.” Jazzi tossed halved cherry tomatoes and baby spinach in the pan.
Jerod went to grab a beer when Ansel gave a quick knock on the door and held it open for George. “I had to bring him today,” he told Franny. “Emily locked him in the bathroom when I was getting ready to leave.”
Jazzi bent to pet the pug behind his ears. She wouldn’t be surprised if Ansel insisted they eat at outdoor cafés from now on, so that George could come, too.
Franny gave Ansel a sympathetic look. “I always worry about the kids when I leave them, but it’s good to separate from each other once in a while. It builds strength. You don’t want George to be too dependent on you, do you?”
Ansel looked shocked. “George likes alone time once in a while, but he’s never been locked in the bathroom before.”
Emily probably did it to bother Ansel. Jazzi gave George one last pat and started to put glasses on the table. Ansel reached for a deviled egg when there was another quick knock at the door and Dad and Mom came in with Arnie. Dad carried three pies, stacked on top of each other, into the kitchen.
“Hey, good to see you!” Jerod went to pump Arnie’s hand. Their uncle had enjoyed giving Jerod a hard time while he was growing up. At Christmas, he always gave him a fake present before he gave him a real one. One year, when Arnie had heard that Jerod had been grounded for a week, he wrapped a piece of coal in an elaborate box. Jerod loved it.
Arnie looked at Jerod’s waistline and shook his head. “You’re not getting any thinner, kid.”
With a snort, Jerod reached for a deviled egg before Ansel took another one. “How’s retirement, old man? I heard you were just another Q-tip, soaking up the rays in Florida, now.”
If Arnie was a Q-tip with his thatch of pure white hair, he was a damned good-looking one, fit and healthy. Lynda would have had a good life with him.
“Come down and visit me sometime.” Arnie slapped Jerod on the shoulder. “I’ll take you out on my boat and we’ll do some deep-sea fishing. My house has a pool, and I belong to a golf club. I’ll show you a good time.”
Jerod looked at Franny, and she nodded. “Works for me.”
Just then, Grandma knocked and joined the party, followed by Jerod’s mom and dad. Jazzi took a second to study Grams and was relieved. She looked sharp today, like she was with them, mentally acute. She didn’t have the lost look she sometimes got.
Jazzi’s mom looked surprised. “I thought you weren’t coming.”
“And miss Arnie? I called Eli and he came to pick me up.” Jerod’s parents had grown as fond of Grams as Mom was, claiming her as part of their family now, too.
The front room was getting crowded when Olivia joined them.
“Sorry, Thane had to work today. I got a little bit of a late start.” Her sister looked around the room and braced herself. Jazzi understood. Everyone looked wired.
Underlying tension buzzed in the air, so Jazzi said, “Let’s eat. Everything’s ready.”
To make life easier, she’d divided the seafood pasta into two huge bowls, one for each end of the table. People jostled into their seats and passed platters. Jazzi put bottles of wine and beer on the table, and everyone grabbed for what they wanted.