Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Rick R. Reed for taking the time to talk with us today.
Title: Dinner at Fiorello’s
Author: Rick R. Reed
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Genre/Sub-Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance
Henry Appleby has an appetite for life. As a recent high school graduate and the son of a wealthy family in one of Chicago’s affluent North Shore suburbs, his life is laid out for him. Unfortunately, though, he’s being forced to follow in the footsteps of his successful attorney father instead of living his dream of being a chef. When an opportunity comes his way to work in a real kitchen the summer after graduation, at a little Italian joint called Fiorello’s, Henry jumps at the chance, putting his future in jeopardy.
Years ago, life was a plentiful buffet for Vito Carelli. But a tragic turn of events now keeps the young chef at Fiorello’s quiet and secretive, preferring to let his amazing Italian peasant cuisine do his talking. When the two cooks meet over an open flame, sparks fly. Both need a taste of something more—something real, something true—to separate the good from the bad and find the love—and the hope—that just might be their salvation.
Rick R. Reed’s books, even the ones that are obviously about food and romance, like Dinner at Home and his latest, Dinner at Fiorello’s, often pay homage to the kitchen as well as the bedroom. Rick sees a real link between the heart and the stomach.
So we sat down today to not only celebrate his latest Dreamspinner Press love story, but also to talk about food—making it, eating it, and why it matters just as much as love. The two are inextricably linked.
Shall we begin?
There’s a lot about food in your writing. Was cooking a big thing in your family growing up?
Oh yeah. I grew up with a Sicilian mom and, for Italians, food is at the heart of not only every celebration, but also daily life. Not only did my mother’s simple southern-Italian cooking she learned at the apron strings of her aunts and grandmother (her mom died at a very young age, so my mom was raised by other relatives) help inspire me and guide me on my journey toward loving and respecting food, but it also showed me how you could show your caring for someone by ensuring they ate…and ate well.
Whenever I visited Italian relatives as a kid, we rarely sat in their living rooms. It was always around a big kitchen table. And there was always plenty of food—especially around the holidays—which you better dare not refuse. An Italian woman who wants you to eat cannot be refused!
So, yeah, food was and continues to be a big deal for me.
What are some of your favorite dishes?
I am pretty much indiscriminate when it comes to loving different cuisines (some might say a food slut, but I prefer the term foodie). I mean, there’s very little I won’t eat, unless it’s processed or fast-food crap, and I love all different nationalities’ cooking. My favorites, though, I think would have to be Vietnamese and Korean (easy to find here in Seattle, where the Asian population is huge). And when it comes to my own cooking, it’s simple, nourishing, and comforting. I love to make my mom’s spaghetti sauce and meatballs on a Sunday, letting it simmer all day and fill the house with memories of other Sundays. I make really good soups and stews, often from scratch and assembled from what’s on hand in the fridge and pantry.
Who cooks more, you or your husband? And who is the better cook?
I would say I do about 98.9% of the cooking at our house. Bruce does the cleanup and we are both very happy with this arrangement (well, at least until I use three saucepans, two skillets, a baking sheet, and four mixing bowls to make dinner). But I enjoy doing all the cooking. I read somewhere someone had three rules in the kitchen: shoes off, music on, and a glass of wine at hand. I ascribe to that philosophy. It just makes me happy to feed my loved ones.
And I don’t think Bruce would mind a bit if I admitted that I am the better cook. Yet, when he puts his mind to it and gets in the mood to cook, it’s always wonderful. His roast chicken is a thing of beauty that not even I can rival.
Who taught you how to cook?
My parents. Both my mother and father were excellent cooks. So I never had the sense that cooking wasn’t something for boys. My mom, who was Sicilian, showed my how to cook with love and that the simplest and freshest things were often the best. She taught me how to make the good, hearty peasant-type food the Sicilian aunts and grandmother who raised her made. My dad was more of the chef. Like me, he loved reading recipes and getting ideas, getting inspired.
Do you follow recipes or do you prefer to make up your own dishes?
Ah, definitely the latter. Even when I follow a recipe, I seldom stick to it—I have a need to add my own touches. Since you asked, here’s one of my own recipes and a personal favorite (we eat low-carb these days, so this recipe accounts for that and omits white potatoes—I guarantee you will not miss them!):
Rick R. Reed’s Beef Stew
2.5 lbs. beef stew meat
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large sweet potato
1 cup baby carrots
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 turnip, peeled and diced
1 cup red wine
1 can beef consommé
2 T Better than Bouillon (Beef)
3 T Worcestershire Sauce
2 T tomato paste
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1 T dried thyme
2 T Herbes de Provence
Salt and pepper to taste
- Sear beef in a little oil in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven; do not crowd—do in batches if necessary.
- Remove beef to platter or plate. Deglaze pan with red wine and a little Worcestershire. Reduce down to a syrupy consistency.
- Add vegetables, wine, consommé, tomato paste, bouillon, and seasonings to slow cooker.
- Add meat, pour reduction over all.
- Cook on low 8-9 hours.
Thanks for having me. Hope people will consider taking a bite out of Dinner at Fiorello’s!
Vito came to the door that led to a set of stairs that would take him to his big two-bedroom, above a dollar store at street level. He unlocked it with his key and trudged up the stairs. Vito was a big man, and his tread was heavy. Every night, it alerted his girls, Gabriella and Concetina, Gabby and Connie for short, that he was home. Vito permitted himself a smile as he heard them send up a chorus of barks and whining. Connie would always scratch at the door when she realized her master was making his homecoming, and Vito knew if he ever moved, he’d need to paint that door before taking his leave.
It was nice to know that someone was happy to see him, someone wanted to welcome him home. Even if they were just two mutts, hungry for their suppers.
Vito sighed. He hated leaving the girls cooped up in the little apartment all day, even if Victor, the old man living next to him, took them out for walks a couple of times a day. They were big girls, German shepherd and pit bull mixes, and Vito often wished he could give them more room to frolic and roam.
He tried to make up for it by showering them with love and affection. And he spoiled them! They slept on the bed with him, and every night he brought home food from the restaurant for them. It was usually scraps and leftovers, things that would have been thrown away anyway, but what dog would complain about a veal cutlet, a bit of roast chicken, say, or a nice piece of flank steak?
Vito pressed his key into the lock and, as usual, had to jam his shoulder hard against the door to open it, since the girls were frantically pushing on it, jumping in their excitement to see him.
Finally he got the door open and slipped quickly inside. He fell to his knees before the dogs, hugging them and allowing them to lick his face all over. The welcome never failed to make him laugh. The girls were so excited they were whimpering.
But the welcome also saddened him, because it always brought about the memory, not so long ago, when he was greeted at the door with human kisses, human touches, excitement, and love.
He couldn’t allow himself to think about that. Think about that, and he might just be tempted to go throw himself in bed and pull the covers over his head. He might stave off the night licking his wounds and wallowing in sorrow. He kissed each dog’s forehead and clumsily got to his feet.
He smiled down at the girls and said, “You ready to go outside? And then we have our supper, no?”
He was sure the dogs understood every word. To prove his point, they both moved over to the area opposite from the door, where their leashes and harnesses hung from hooks on the wall. Vito took them down and suited Gabby and Connie up.
They tugged at his hand, eager to get outside, to do their business and see what new smells awaited them. He remembered a certain little dark-haired boy saying they were reading their “pee-mail” and shut the memory quickly from his mind.
Outside, the girls led him straightaway to the spot near a streetlight where they often peed. Both squatted, and Vito indulged them by saying, as he always did, “Brave raggaze,” or “good girls.”
They trotted on, stopping here and there to sniff. Tonight he had brought home some ground veal, left over from that day’s special—meatball subs. He couldn’t wait to watch the girls enjoy the meat, although it would be gone so quickly, he would wonder, as he always did, if they even tasted it.
Later, after the dogs had eaten their feast, everyone was in a mellow mood. Vito was curled up on the couch with the latest Lee Child thriller he was attempting to get through on his chest, and the dogs lay at his feet, Connie snoring loudly. “Sawing logs again,” he whispered. Sometimes the dog snored so loudly at night she woke him, but the evenness of her breathing, fortunately, almost always worked to lull him back to sleep.
He couldn’t concentrate on the book. Times like these, he thought, shutting the book after dog-earing the page where he left off, were the hardest—when it was quiet, when his hands and mind were unoccupied. It was part of the reason he loved working in a busy kitchen. There was always something to do and scarcely a free moment to think. There was always another order. That busyness was a blessing.
He told himself, as he had a thousand times before, he shouldn’t do it, but he got up carefully off the couch, placing his feet so he didn’t awaken his girls, and headed for the bedroom that wasn’t his. “Why do you do this to yourself?” he wondered aloud.
He crept into the bedroom softly, almost as though he were afraid he might wake its occupant, but the moonlight streaming in through the single window bore witness to an empty room. The silver light showed, in a kind of black-and-white reality, a twin bed, neatly made up with a Sesame Street comforter. Atop the bed was a stuffed rabbit, one ear up, one down, its synthetic fur worn down in spots, demonstrating that it was much loved. Above the bed was a poster, a framed blowup of the cover from one of the Harry Potter books. Opposite the bed, a bookcase, filled partially with Golden books and paperbacks of Harry Potter. There was also a collection of all the Wizard of Oz books. Interspersed with the books were toys: a fire truck, a baseball and glove, a battered Candy Land board game, and more stuffed animals.
Vito sat down on the bed, which creaked under his weight. He put his head in his hands and wept. The visitation to this room was one he tried to avoid, because this was always what happened when he broached the doorway. He lost control. He could never keep the tears at bay.
He cried until his throat felt raw, sore, and his eyes burned. He lifted his head and tried unsuccessfully not to allow himself to remember sitting on this same bed, reading a chapter from one of the books in the room to a little boy with serious eyes, who would always urge him to read just a little more, just a little more, until Vito would tell him that enough was enough, kiss his forehead, and tuck him in tightly. “Buona notte e sogni d’oro,” Vito whispered every night after the kiss, and he would ruffle the little boy’s hair. Good night and golden dreams….
Would Vito ever have them again?
Wearily, he got up from the bed, feeling as though his very bones weighed more, such was the effort to drag them across the room.
He paused in the doorway and thought, for the thousandth time, he should get rid of all the toys and kiddie books. He could donate them to a charity where some child could actually get some joy out of them, instead of having them lie fallow here, like museum pieces.
He could turn the room into a study for himself, perhaps get a leather recliner and a reading lamp, a nice side table, and come in here and have a glass of wine or a grappa, read at night, instead of brooding over what could never be changed.
He sighed and left the room, closing the door behind him.
About the Author:
Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). His novel, Raining Men, won the Rainbow Award for Best Contemporary General Fiction. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”
1-May Hearts on Fire
4-May Prism Book Alliance
5-May 3 Chicks After Dark
6-May The Novel Approach
7-May MM Good Book Reviews
8-May Joyfully Jay
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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