Thursday, May 6, 2010
Don Does the Dangerous Research
By Elaine Viets
Potato chips orange as a traffic cone. A sandwich that would defeat a slew of Certs. An omelet that looked like an accident scene.
My husband, Don Crinklaw, ate these foods and more. I wrote about these culinary delights in “Half-Price Homicide,” my ninth Dead-End Job mystery.
I do the job research for that mystery series. In “Half-Price,” Helen Hawthorne and I worked at a designer consignment shop. I buttoned shirts, hung up shirts and dusted pricey knickknacks. The only real threat was when my butter fingers handled the breakables. I managed not to drop anything the whole time I was at the store.
Don did the gut-wrenching research. Helen’s future husband, Phil, is based on my Don. Both have blue eyes and silver hair. Both have shadowy backgrounds as spies. Both adore foods blacklisted by the Heart Association.
Phil and Helen have dinner at the Floridian, an old-style diner on Las Olas, in “Half-Price Homicide.” It’s hard to escape many Las Olas restaurants without a bill the size of a mortgage payment. But the Floridian, affectionately known as the Flo by locals, serves generous portions at reasonable prices.
These are meals for “serious grease abusers,” as I wrote. “If you were in the right mood, the Flo was friendly, funky and affordable. If you weren’t, you could turn up your nose and decide the place needed a good scrubbing. In that case, the Flo hoped you’d order braised quail with kumquats somewhere else. It didn’t need your business.”
The Flo is a favorite of Helen and Phil’s. “Phil ordered a beer and a ham-and-cheese omelet with a side of chopped onions.” That dish was a little heavy maybe, but fairly reasonable.
Here’s where the meal crosses into the red zone. “When his omelet arrived, Phil smothered it in ketchup until Helen couldn’t see any egg, then topped it with onions and hot sauce.”
Phil ate the whole thing. So did Don.
One day, Don brought home a giant bag of cheddar-and-sour-cream potato chips. The chips were blaze orange – the color hunters wear to keep from getting shot. A color not found in nature.
"Ew,” I said.
“They’re pretty good once you get past the first bite,” Don said.
I couldn’t. He ate the bag alone. But I felt readers had to know about that death-defying feat. Phil ate the same chips in “Half-Price Homicide.”
Phil doesn’t have to worry about heart attacks in his fictional world, but I worry about Don’s eating habits. I tried to persuade him to eat healthier food. Later I discovered him eating a sandwich. A really smelly sandwich.
“What’s that thing?” I asked.
“Onion with rye bread,” he said.
“What else is on the sandwich besides onion?”
“You’re eating a butter-and-onion sandwich?” I couldn’t hide my horror.
“You’re always telling me to eat healthy,” Don said. “This is a Bermuda onion. It has powerful antioxidants.”
“It has something else powerful, too,” I said, waving my hand. “At least it’s not Limburger.”
“I can’t find that cheese down here.” Don looked innocent as a puppy.
“Good,” I said.
Elaine Viets’ “Half-Price Homicide: A Dead-End Job mystery” received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Its food will never get gourmet stars, but the mystery is meaty. For more information, go to http://www.elaineviets.com/
Elaine and other authors from The Lipstick Chronicles have donated books to the Brenda Novack On-Line Auction to support Diabetes research. Click here to view the collection.