Tuesday, October 18, 2011

China--Country of Contrasts

I just finished reading Patti Lacy’s fourth novel, RECLAIMING LILY, which is partially set in China. I truly believe it’s her best one yet! The book was just released Oct. 1 by Bethany House, and I had the privilege of reviewing it for Faithfulreader.com. Here is the link to the review.



Patti is graciously stopping by Taste the World today to share some thoughts on China, Reclaiming Lily, and her writing in general.

Q. Patti, your plots encompass family secrets, fractured families, segregation, and illness. Do you see an "author's theme" developing through your work?

A. God gifted me a career verse, Romans 8:28, as a theme for my “Spanning Seas and Secrets” novels. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Dear ones, He will work for your good even in the throes of abandonment. Rape. Rejection. Miscarriage. Fatal disease.

Q. In researching Reclaiming Lily, you traveled to China. Do you claim any social, business, or cultural ties to that country?

A. In 1987-1988, my parents taught English in China via the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board. YEARS later, God whispered, “Write Reclaiming Lily,” which tells the story of a brave Chinese doctor who just HAPPENS to be Mom’s physician. Can you believe God’s ways? To capture China on paper, I just HAD to go. In May 2010, China unfolded in a BEAUTIFUL way. A soulmate friend who’s a Chinese national guided me to areas rarely seen by Westerners. I explored the complexities and incongruities of this great land.

My passport proves I spent 17 days in a glorious land. I spanned over 15,000 miles, drank gallons of green tea, dined on food rivaling Europe’s gastronomic delights, tiptoed through courtyards where emperors lived, amid their 8,000 buildings and countless servants.

Contrasts abound: Women rinse clothes in a stream swollen with garbage. Women dressed haute couture stroll by. Mercedes limos swerve past rickshacks. Post-modern, neon-lit skyscrapers tower over timeless hutongs (walled neighborhoods) fueled by propane, most with no running water or modern bathroom facilities. My heart found the rhythm of these neighborhoods where we sat on stoops and shared drinks and food with locals. Though I inhaled China books (over 20), the great lady blew to smithereens my every preconception.

Q. How was the street food?

A. We survived (THRIVED) on street food. Locals who saw us eyeing their entrees waved us onto compact stools and said, “Dig in!” Chopsticks tweezed food into six mouths, then back to a communal platter. Never ate better. Never felt better. Since Chinese only eat right-handed, I was a CELEBRITY…and lost eight Midwestern-winter-gained pounds while gobbling stinky tofu, chicken stomach and feet, quail eggs, dumplings stuffed with wild mountain greens, and a dizzying number of delicious veggies and fruits.

Q. Other thoughts on China?

A. China is a ginormous place. But Oh. My. Her beauty swept me away.
Did I gain admittance to orphanages? Interview one who’d relinquished hold on a beloved child? No. Yet if I got it right, China and its people infuse every page of Reclaiming Lily.

China. Kinda like life. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.
Oh, China, I do not know you. But I love you.

Thanks, Patti. And what would a “Taste the World” author interview be without a recipe? Here’s a Chinese recipe that Patti sent to share.

Black Pepper Chicken

1 skinless, boneless chicken breast, about 8 oz. (cut into thin strips)
1 onion (sliced)
1 green bell pepper (cut into thin strips)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (use 1 tablespoon to marinate the chicken)
1 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon Maggi seasoning
2 tablespoons oil

Marinate the chicken strips with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce for 10 minutes.
Heat up a wok and add cooking oil. When the cooking oil is hot, add the sliced onions and quickly stir-fry until aromatic and follow by the bell pepper and black pepper. Stir-fry for 1 minute and add in the chicken strips. Continue to stir-fry until the chicken is cooked. Add in soy sauce, Maggi sauce, and sugar. Continue to stir-fry until the onions are caramelized. Dish out and serve hot.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kickin' Back in Kenosha

My blog has taken a 3-month hiatus (maybe it was travelling the world) as I’ve pursued some writing goals and prepared my next travel show. Now I’m back and it’s back, so let me tell you about a fun little stop we made on our way to the Dells this summer. But first, I must announce the cookbook winner, chosen from those who left comments on the previous post.

Congratulations, Tammie Shaw! You have won the Beef, Pork, and Lamb Cookbook, composed of recipes by various chefs. And since you waited sooooo long to find out, you’ll get a little something extra, too.


Today’s destination: Kenosha, WI, which actually is not on the way to the Dells from my Chicago suburb, but was worth the extra travel time. We chose Kenosha for two reasons: 1. They have a diner there that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (more on that below); and 2. My next travel show is Taste of the Midwest, and I needed photos of Kenosha’s Civil War Museum. Now we have another reason to return to Kenosha: Tenuta’s Italian Grocery and Deli. Love it!

So, for all you Food Network fans out there, here’s the scoop on FRANK’S DINER, located at 508 58th St. Unless you were specifically looking, you would drive right by it. Small front, a few tables along the sidewalk, nothing to catch your eye. But inside…pure delectable deliciousness. Their claim to fame is the “garbage plate” – a sumptuous combination of hashbrowns, green peppers, onions, jalapenos, eggs, and choice of meat and a variety of veggies. Prices run from $6.50 to $10.50, depending on the ingredients and whether you choose half or full size. Half is normally more than enough for a man-size appetite. Other signature items include cinnamon swirl French toast and a chili and cheddar omelet. We ordered a deep fried Twinkie, just for kicks. Yech. Enough said. Expect a long wait if you go on a weekend, but also expect the unexpected.

CIVIL WAR MUSEUM AND LAKEFRONT, 5400 First Ave. – The best description comes for their own website: “Through state-of-the-art museum technology, life-size dioramas, and interactive engaging exhibits, visitors travel back in history to the social, political and economic influences that contributed to the Civil War.” Across from the museum is a huge flea market and craft fair, which I believe runs every Friday throughout the summer. Across the street, the beautiful lakefront, complete with lighthouse, beach, and rocks for climbing or resting on as you gaze at the water.

TENUTA'S – Even before entering the store, you’ll know you’ve found a gem. In nice weather, the outside cafĂ© is open, with menu items like eggplant sandwiches and Tenuta’s hom
emade Italian sausage. Inside, Italian food galore…and more! First, the piano player greets you with old-time music and a corny joke as you enter. That alone is priceless. As you proceed, you’ll find entire aisles of pasta, olives, giardiniera, and a huge variety of imported olive oils (the good stuff). And the delli, mama mia! Not only fresh meats and cheeses, but fresh cannolis and a plethora of other rich, gooey desserts. That doesn’t begin to cover it, so check it out for yourself if you get the chance. Here’s their website: www.tenutasdeli.com.

If you go to Kenosha, don’t miss the OUTLET MALL, which is technically in Pleasant Prairie, but close enough. All in all, a great place for a day or weekend trip.