I’m thrilled to have, as my morning companion in the Virtual Kitchen, Steve P. Vincent, thriller writer and stablemate from Momentum Books – ‘genre fiction providers to the stars’.
Steve has a plate of gumbo and a generous impulse in his heart, but I’ve never eaten gumbo before and I’m taking a little time to make it’s acquaintance. The southern states of American food are an unknown. I’m much more familiar with Mexican, Tex Mex, Californian and West Coast foods, but I think I’ll have to move my wagons down south.
Steve’s new book, The Foundation, a political thriller where the US and China are manipulated to the brink of global war, is described in Amazon reviews as a ‘thrilling read’, ‘fast paced’ and ‘scary’.
What are your memories of your mother’s cooking as a child?
My mum is a great cook. Her cooking is this wild mix of traditional British/Australian fare with some European flair. She always worked long hours, so she mastered throwing together good food quickly. Mum really did beat Jamie Oliver to the 15 minute meal thing. She’s been doing it for years. Unfortunately, Jamie cashed in first.
What was your favourite dish as a child?
Mum’s comfort food was pretty impressive. Lasagna, soups, stews, pudding, pie. A lot of people can do this stuff, but she had it perfected. Top of the list was probably osso bucco. I was always pretty mad for pasta as well, though at one point I did go through a phase of only eating bolognese sauce, though.
My least favourite dish was paella. As a kid I hated the Sundays when she’d cook it all day. I hated the smell. I hated the taste. I didn’t particularly like seafood very much. Now that I can’t get enough of the stuff she never cooks it anymore!
Do you like to cook?
I do. Unfortunately my wife thinks what I cook is rubbish. Given she’s vegetarian, it’s probably not a surprise that she doesn’t find my repertoire of griddle cooked meat very accessible. I can make a passable effort at vegetarian food, but generally she cooks and I clean up. It works for us.
I do venture into the kitchen on the odd occasion, though. Lately I’ve been smashing out some Cambodian food since we spent a couple of weeks there in January, including a cooking class! Fresh spring rolls, fish amok, spicy mango salad…heaven on a plate.
Who do you enjoy cooking for? If you don’t enjoy cooking, then what do you like to eat?
I like cooking for my wife, from time to time. It’s a lot of fun seeing her gears grind while I measure out ingredients into individual bowls, creating far more washing up than necessary. A more common occurrence is getting my caveman on and putting on a BBQ for a group of friends.
Eating? Now you’re talking! Cheese is my nickname. Beyond that, I’m also a huge fan of grazing. Tapas, mini food – it all just feels a little bit more awesome the tinier it is. My friend Kylie is the champion of this movement amongst my friends, and we’re all the richer for it. I’ll give anything a go, though. Except cucumber. Vile substance.
What are some of your favourite books about food?
River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a favourite cookbook in our house. It proves that vegetarian food doesn’t have to suck.
One of my favourite scenes involving food is from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, when the man and boy are on the verge of starvation and come across the doomsday bunker full of tinned awesomeness. Who knew an author could make SPAM and tinned peaches sound so appealing?
And Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss. Classic. A staple of my childhood that I’ll be glad to pass on to my niece when I can. She’s ace.
Your favourite snack?
Cold cuts straight from the fridge. Yeah, I put the awe in awesome. Beyond that? Fresh fruit, dark chocolate and savoury things.
What’s your latest book?
The Foundation. It’s a political thriller about a think tank with some pretty crazy plans to start a war between the United States and China and to take over America. It’s really the most fun you can have with your pants on.
What foods do the characters eat?
I had to think long and hard about this one. There’s definitely a lot of drinking… One character is a recovering alcoholic and another has a passing obsession with whisky, but nobody seems to do much eating. Maybe beer nuts?
In fact, I did a search on the manuscript for ‘eating’. It turned up eight results: seven ‘beating’ and one ‘eating’. I guess food isn’t on your mind when you’re in the middle of all those explosions and all that intrigue!
What do you love most about this book?
I love a few things about it.
Firstly, the pace of it. It was fast when I submitted it, but my editor has helped to turn it from a Volvo into a Lamborghini. It was a lot of fun to write in such a rhythm. I’m about a quarter finished on the sequel, and it’s even better.
Secondly, I love that the characters have such fun arcs. A lot of thrillers have cardboard cutouts. My point of view goodies (Jack, Ernest) and baddies (Chen, Michelle) all have their own story, personality, joy and despair.
Finally, in terms of themes, I achieved what I wanted to, which was to tackle the consequences of the shift in political power away from elected representatives and towards think tanks, media barons and multinational corporations.
Where can readers find it?
The Foundation was released on September 11 where all good ebooks are sold.
Amazon, iBooks, Momentum and other e platforms
Ingredients – ‘Rub’ for seafood
-2 tsp paprika, salt, garlic powder
-1 tsp black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, thyme
Ingredients – Gumbo
-500g salmon (plus whatever other seafood you like… prawns, crab…)
-500g okra (chopped with tip and head removed)
-2 medium tomatos (chopped)
-2 celery sticks (chopped)
-1 small green capsicum (chopped)
-1 large onion (diced)
-2 cloves garlic
-1 litre stock (I use vegetable)
-2 cups white rice
Get oil hot at medium heat
1. Add okra, salt, cayenne pepper
2. Stir constantly for about 10 minutes
3. Add onion, tomato, capsicum, celery, more salt, more cayenne pepper
4. Stir pretty often for 20 minutes
5. Season any fish
6. Add fish, garlic and a few bay leaves
7. Stir it around a bit for 2 minutes
8. Add stock, bring to boil, then simmer
9. Stir occasionally and simmer for about 15 minutes
10. Season any prawns and other seafood then add to pan, cook for another 5 mins (skip step if only using fish)
11. Stir in chilli sauce, remove bay leaves, serve with rice.
Steve is on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads