A chance to read one of my favorite books aloud, my daughter Olivia on my lap, to entertain convivial guests after a five course meal – all to facilitate a generous donation to our school programs?
Sounds like a good Saturday night at our house.
Here’s how it happened.
First, you have to know, it’s an understatement to say my wife Diane and I like to cook. If you come to our house, bring your appetite and all your senses. You’ll float into our kitchen like a classic cartoon cat, one big lazy, satisfied backstroke through twin smell streams of fresh-baked bread and garlic sizzling in hot oil. Then I’ll pour you something and my wife will offer you just a bite… that explodes with flavor in your mouth, bringing you back for more.
A bit dramatic, there, but just as I’m passionate about music and storytelling, breaking bread with gusto, with friends? That’s where we live. Shared passions foster growth in a partnership and adventure in the kitchen is where Diane and I meet. And when we can bring friends together to do it, that’s our la dolce vita.
We’re not trained cooks. We don’t aspire to our own stunt cooking show or bed and breakfast. We laugh at cooking that’s all head, no heart – and deliberately serve Cheesy Potato Casserole to food snobs, just to watch them pale.
We just love to get something going in the kitchen.
We try it all, blending cuisines like I blend genres in my writing – yes, Indian spices do go in a Portuguese sauce, of course you can serve that red wine with seafood, put more peanut butter in that sesame oil and cayenne pepper, and please, please, please spare me your damn gluten-free!
So, Saturday night, with an able pair of extra helping hands from our friend Sue, Diane and I cooked and served:
- Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with a Fontina Crouton
- Crab Cake with Cilantro Lime Relish / Pasta with a Light Butter Sage Sauce
- Beef Tenderloin with Béarnaise Sauce
- Lobster Mashed Potatoes and Seasonal Roasted Vegetables
- Tossed Field Greens with Camenbert Baked in Phylo
- Chocolate Soufflé with Mixed Berries
- Coffee And Tea
Blend tastes, mix up people, watch sparks fly. Of course, wine stimulates all of the above, so for those interested, I poured wine pairings I thought were interesting, from unoaked Pinot Gris to classic ripe Riesling to soft Bordeaux to rich, old vine Pinot Noir.
Let’s just say the recycling container was hard to lift this week.
Our guests were all strangers to us at dusk; they had purchased the dinner, as I mentioned, at a benefit auction for our schools, paying generously to enjoy “a multi-course dinner for six with a private reading by a local author.”
So, on a rare night away from the children – I believe I mentioned heading back down to the cellar again for more wine? – as they enjoyed their soufflé and coffee, this local author read them a children’s book. A children’s book – or rather a Not-for-Children Children’s Book™ called The Littlest Bitch.
The Littlest Bitch, co-created with Michael Davis and illustrated by Devon Devereaux (Sellers Publishing, 2010) looks and feels like a picture book for tots, but behind the bright pink covers, you won’t be getting the warm and fuzzies. In the tradition of classic Mad, Edward Gorey and Charles Addams, it’s an illustrated fable for adults who like their humor with a wicked twist.
(Ah, there’s that genre-blending thing again… and yes, I published similar titles in the comics direct market with indy comic publisher Sirius, The Red Flannel Squirrel, The 13 Days of Christmas, but with this book, we broke through the comics firewall to the book market, too.)
Little Isabel is a Wall Street CEO trapped in a five-year-old’s body. She can make Gordon Gekko look like a pussycat. Other times, as when she tosses a street person a quarter, saying “I can be nice. Off the record, of course,” she has a heart.
We’ve had a lot of fun with our little princess. Still available at comic shops, bookstores and online retailers, she’s inspired two printings and some interesting transmedia possibilities. Readers seem to love, or at least they love to hate, Isabel as she claws her way up the corporate ladder to meet her destiny. Her people even engage with her directly at The Littlest B on Facebook. Check it out. Like her and she will remind you too that, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
Our guests laughed through the reading. That’s good, right, it is supposed to be funny, but then again, the wine…
They enjoyed watching my daughter crawling up into my lap quite naturally to remind me to show everyone the pictures.
(Right. Notes from my six-year-old. That’s my life. See “Geek Dad War Journal.”)
Don’t worry about the kid, the only part of the book that’s not appropriate is the title, and Olivia knows not to say that one in school. And I haven’t even told her the title of the sequel I plotted, The Littlest Prick.
Each guest left with a book, inscribed to him or her by The Littlest Bitch herself.