It’s slowly coming together. What? Why, THE MOSSBACK INN COOKBOOK! What is it? Well, what I’ve tried to do is create a 1980s look in a cookbook, based on a fictional eatery that figures largely in my Traces of Treasure novel series. Hey, I collect cookbooks I know what it’s supposed to look like. […]
If we were having coffee today I’d have to confess to a bit of hankering for the old country.
I saw a posting on Facebook the other day from what used to be my favorite Mexican restaurant back in Austin, Texas. I both love and hate those postings … love them because they remind me of so many great Tex-Mex meals at El Patio. I hate them because they remind me I haven’t eaten there is such a gosh-darned long time. Oh, seriously, I don’t hate the posts and could never hate the restaurant. It just makes me homesick. It’s been a long time.
El Patio is part of a vanishing breed of old-school Tex-Mex restaurants. It’s been way over sixty years in the same location, right next to the University of Texas. My wife’s parents were fans of this place from the start and she even went on a date or two with one of the current owner’s cousins back in the sixties, although that doesn’t have anything to do with the restaurant, but when we got together it was one of the things we had in common: El Patio!
It’s not particularly fancy and it doesn’t concentrate on trendy additions to the menu. It simply and surely continues a long tradition of serving quality traditional Tex-Mex food. The postings really do make me homesick. Back in the day, I knew people who turned up their noses at El Patio as being old-fashioned and out of step. I always figured that was too bad for them as that was their loss. To me, it is comfort food and THAT, my friends, is never out of step. Old-fashioned? Let me tell you something, it was the pioneers like the Joseph family who put traditional Tex-Mex cuisine on the map. Spread that on your corn tortilla and eat it. The so-called trendy places of today would not even exist without the original trendsetters who blazed the trails (quite literally in the case of Tex-Mex).
I missed El Patio so much, I included a cameo snippet of it in my last novel, A Curse That Bites Deep … the snippet is based on my 1980s memories of the place, so it is appropriately set in the 1980s.
” “You’ve been away for a while. There anyplace you miss?… How about El Patio?”
Sam thought for several seconds … “Okay, I could do with some classic Austin Tex-Mex,” he said, smiling.
The small Mexican food eatery was in the shadow of the University of Texas and had a loyal following among the school community. Inside, savory aromas sparked his taste buds, which he thought was odd since he was bombarded with similar smells virtually every day at The Mossback.
They munched on saltines and hot sauce. The saltines were a throwback to the early days of Tex-Mex when fried tortilla chips were not automatically part of the meal. ”
Oh, in the 80s that saltines thing was the norm there. Now they have sort of caved-in to the times and started serving chips. It was a cost thing. But in truth, in the old days of Tex-Mex, saltines were the standard at most places. ( BTW, “The Mossback” is the small fictional restaurant where he works in West Texas in the novel. )
So, to my buddy David Joseph at El Patio, I hope you keep posting those tempting pictures even though they make me homesick. Perhaps if I sell enough books, I’ll get back by and enjoy another opportunity to feast for myself. You can read about the restaurant on their web page … http://www.elpatioaustin.com/ If you go visit Austin … go there! Tell David I sent you. He might just give me some free guacamole on my nachos if enough people tell him that.
Thomas Fenske is a writer currently living in North Carolina. More information and buy links for his two novels, THE FEVER and A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP can be found on his website, http://thefensk.com
Remember, if he sells enough books, maybe he can go to El Patio too!
If we were having coffee today, I’d have to talk about the cookbook.
Well, it’s this way: I saw somebody else had a cookbook based on their book series. I was downright gobsmacked. I’m a cookbook collector, I’ve created a couple of cookbooks before, my novel series Traces of Treasure has a small country cafe as a central locale, and I’m just slapping myself in the forehead for not thinking of this before.
Sure, I’m being derivative. So, who isn’t? As a collector I have to tell you, everybody and their dog has put out a cookbook. Everybody is being derivative.
So, I’m cobbling one together. I actually have the concept pretty well nailed down, I’ve got the recipes copied and (mostly) formatted. Formatting, that’s the key. Takes time. And I need to find some more royalty free art to sort of jazz it up. I’ve got a little, just need a little more. Then finalize things and it will be ready to go.
If you’re interested, I suggest you sign up to my mailing list. You can find a link for that on my web page. That will be part of the promotional part of this, to get the mailing list moving along. Anyway, I think it is an awesome cookbook. Since the novels are set in West Texas there are lots of Southwestern recipes and just a little bit of fun too. It’s written as if the fictional proprietress of the little cafe has put it together. She’s a lot of fun.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. You can find out more information about his books and subscribe to his mailing list at:
If we were having coffee today I’d have to hurry because I’ve been busy researching and want to get back to it. Book three in my Traces of Treasure series has been off to a slow start and I am finally making some progress. I’m pretty much what they call a “pantser” in my writing. Well, a total pantser just starts writing, as if by the seat of their pants, going wherever the story may take them. I’m not that hard-core. I have the germ of an idea and I cobbled together a basic outline based on that idea.
But at this stage of the story, early in, I tend to get bogged down in simple details. I want to set the stage just right, and possibly set up for future action. Working in the past (the story is set in 1983) is tricky and I am in a somewhat unfamiliar locale. Limited resources prevent me from traveling there so I use a combination of Google maps & Satellite views and USGS topographic maps to help me. I’m lucky on the latter because I can get USGS maps from the past. Most of my action takes place in far West Texas so things don’t change too much. But they do change, so I rely on the topographic map to keep me in the time frame.
I used to buy the maps for some location work. Ironically, one of the characters in my first book did the same thing, spreading them out on the floor with a huge magnifying glass and a big lamp. Now, you can get those same maps in PDF format. I have to say, zooming the PDF gives one a much better view than any magnifying glass. Awesome details emerge.
I found something so interesting, I had to write to the actual ranch I identified in the PDF to get some clarification. I hope they write back. They should. It’s a big operation and they have their own web page and had detailed contact information. It’s a working ranch so I’ll have to be patient. It is funny where research takes you. Their web page had a history of their ranch and it was a fascinating look into a place I’d never heard of before. But it was a typical story too, one small piece of history that helps to fill in an overall sense of time and place. Really interesting.
It feels really good to be actively writing again. Getting excited about this story. I think it is going to rival the other two in suspense and mystery. I had to take off so long because of my eyes, then got lazy because of that downtime, it’s been tough to start up again. Today was the first day I felt like I was really back.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. Yes, a writer. And he’s writing. I promise. More info: http://thefensk.com