Although I never come right out and say it in the book, October 27 is the day the story “begins” in THE FEVER.
A riddle, an obsession, & a lost gold mine…what could possibly go wrong?
I don’t know if it is because I generally write early in the morning and am usually hungry, or just because I like to eat, but food always seems to find its way into my writing. This is one “fictional” recipe that didn’t make it into The Mossback Cafe Cookbook (it didn’t fit into the concept), but this has long been one of my standby quick and dirty meals. I’ll start with a quote from A Curse That Bites Deep. Our hero Sam needs a quick meal but only has limited ingredients. The pantry is stocked with tidbits salvaged from a recently deceased friend, a solitary older gentleman of limited means. He settles on a cheap frozen pizza.
Once the pizza was unwrapped and in the pan he slid it in the oven and checked his watch. After a couple of minutes he pulled it out and lifted one end.
“It’s thawed enough,” he muttered as he proceeded to fold the pizza in half. He pressed the edges lightly.
“Used to use more cheese when I was in college, but this will do,” he said as he moved the pan back into the hot oven.
After a few more minutes he gingerly flipped it to brown the other side. When the allotted time was up he brought it out and tested the top with his finger. It was crispy but not burnt.
“This actually isn’t that old,” he said. “I guess the old guy did manage to eat from time to time despite my worries.”
He moved his meal to a plate and let it cool another minute before he tried a bite.
“Not bad,” he said, “not bad at all…poor man’s calzone, just like in college!”
I found it as a way to enhance a really cheap frozen pizza. Sure, it’s not a true calzone, it’s almost more like a pizza taco, but it certainly moves the drab frozen pizza up a notch. I made these as an appetizer once, cutting them into strips, and people loved them. Years ago I worked as a consultant in northern New Jersey and one day we called in an order for some pizzas. I noted that almost everyone folded their slices in half before eating them; I guess it is a regional thing. I still do it, too, and it was the inspiration for this idea.
Here’s what you do. You need a cheap frozen pizza. Totino’s will do but you can go smaller and cheaper if you want to. Although in the clip above Sam just cooks the pizza as it is, right out of the package, and you can certainly do that, it is better if you add a little seasoning and extra cheese. It’s frozen so you need to thaw it somewhat. At home, I usually use the microwave for that but you can heat it for a few minutes in the oven like Sam does in the novel. You want the crust pliable enough to fold. I made one of these yesterday and microwaved it for about a minute and a half at fifty-percent power.
Take the partially thawed pizza and sprinkle it with some additional Italian spices if you want … or garlic powder, whatever you like. Sprinkle some shredded cheese on half of it. I added some Parmesan too, one “to-go” packet.
Fold it over and press firmly. It’s not going to seal like a true calzone but that’s okay. You can still press down a little more along the edges to get close.
Bake just like the package says, but bear in mind it was partially cooked earlier. If the package said to cook it for 10 minutes at 400, I’d do it for four, carefully flip it and do it for another four. Your mileage may vary. You want the crust to be crisp but not burnt or really hard. The extra cheese should just be starting to ooze a little.
Take it out and let it cool for at least two minutes before eating but take it easy, the filling can be hot.
That’s it, Poor Man’s Calzone, right out of the pages of my novel! As you can see from the picture, it looks pretty good. Simple, good, cheap. Who am I kidding? It was great!
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. You can find more info about his novels and his cookbook at http://thefensk.com
If we were having coffee today I’d be lamenting our lack of coffee sharing lately. I’d end with the “it’s not you, it’s me” explanation.
It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about, but a few weeks ago I found myself glued to the weather channel watching news about my hometown Houston and Harvey. Then I was closely watching the doings of Irma … and even now, Maria’s course is still a bit of a question mark regarding the NC coast.
Ah, hurricane season. Global Warming? Maybe. I’m not a naysayer but I’m also not firmly in the “we humans are totally screwing up our world” camp either. I think the earth is a much bigger engine than we give it credit for. Sheesh, thirty years ago scientists were saying the exact opposite: we were causing a general cooling trend, possibly starting a new ice age. Nobody made a movie about that though. If you follow planetary astronomy, you’d know that the ice caps on Mars have been in decline as well. We’ve thrown a lot of trash at Mars but I don’t think we’ve created emissions yet. Maybe there are solar causes for some of this? I don’t know.
Nobody talks quite as much about the massive loss of tropical rainforests … probably because they are out of our control. I think they have a bigger effect on the global climate engine. And don’t get me started on contrails … sometimes half the clouds in the sky are contrails. Should be cut emissions? Sure. Couldn’t hurt. Save the rainforests? Definitely. Those are the scrubbers of the emissions. Recycle? Sure. But I had to wonder when my local program started just saying separate THIS, but not that … just put it all together. Okay, makes me wonder if that stuff is actually being recycled. Recycling depends on available markets for the materials. But I still recycle. Why? I have curbside recycling but not curbside garbage pickup. If I recycle, I cut down the solid waste I have to haul to the local garbage place by more than a half. Whatever works, right?
But back to the hurricanes. We’ve always had hurricanes. Ever heard of the port of Indianola? Probably not unless you’re from Texas. Even then, probably not. It was once the second most active port in Texas. It was thriving. It was the county seat. It had a nice huge courthouse. It’s gone. It was destroyed twice in the late 1800s. In the 1870s, it was pretty awful but it was rebuilt. In the 1880s people sort of said, why bother after a massive storm really whacked it hard. All that remains are a few foundations and headstones. The county seat was moved and most of the town was reclaimed by the sea. Granted, if you follow hurricanes and the Texas gulf coast they built the town in the exact worst place. Countless storms, including the massive Carla in 1961 and this year’s Harvey would have hit it again.
I live about 200 miles inland from the NC coast. It’s far enough to not worry too much but close enough to take notice anytime a storm is out there. I’ve lived here almost thirty years … one storm whacked us pretty good inland in the mid-nineties.
Everybody I know in Florida did okay through Irma. Most people I know in Houston came through okay, and those unlucky few are alive and working through the rebuilding process. Global Warming? I don’t know. It seems to me that blaming Global Warming outright for a bad storm season is sort of along the same lines as saying God is punishing us for this or that. It’s just a bad storm season. Keep your eyes on the sky and a few extra cans of something for an emergency. Oh, and coffee. I wish I had a gas stove.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC
I might have mentioned before that I’m originally from Houston. The situation there is dire … thankfully, all my friends and family seem to be holding their own so far. My younger sister lives with our 95 year old mother in the house we all grew up in. It has flooded once before, with Tropical Storm Allison. This time, so far (literally knocking on wood here), the water got up to the house but not into it. They haven’t had power since Saturday night.
I’ve seen a lot of conjecture on the media about this situation, but there are a few things you should know.
Houston has *always* had flooding problems. The place is basically a swamp they built a city on. Most often, it is localized, but any part of the city can get at least temporarily inundated. I always hated even the temporary inconvenience of flooding. I’ve had to clean up after a catastrophic flood only once, in 1976 … the first citywide flood I’d seen. I worked for The University of Houston, at the University Center (the student center) at the time and their “satellite” student center flooded. Small wonder, as it was underground. The aftermath was awful, especially in the food service area.
Some of my earliest memories back into the fifties are of our street flooding. Those floods rarely extended much beyond the curbs. The worst one of my childhood was Hurricane Carla. It got about 1/3 of the way up the yard. Unlike Harvey, Carla blew and rained and moved on. That’s what these storms are supposed to do.
This tendency to flood is a major reason I decided to move away. I’m a wimp about flooding, I admit it.
I hear the Mayor, Sylvester Turner, has gotten some undeserved flak about not ordering an evacuation. I knew him in college, he is one of my favorite people from those days. He’s a stand-up guy. He made the right choice. The critics need to understand two things …
ONE: anybody can choose to evacuate on their own. One of my sisters chose to do just that. There was plenty of warning. If you have a place to go, then get there as early as you can.
TWO: where was anybody expecting to go? This storm in particular, was (and still is) a big question mark. San Antonio? Austin? Dallas? There were chances all three might be affected. It is easy to “say” evacuation … but as Houston found in 2005 after Katrina and when Rita was threatening, there are a LOT of people in Houston. People were literally stranded in the worst traffic jam in history. And in this case it very well might have placed hundreds of thousands at serious risk of death or injury. Can you imagine being stuck in gridlock then slammed with a storm? And for all anybody knew, they might be going someplace worse. There was no clear track to this storm. Still isn’t. They’re pretty good with predictions but sometimes, these storms will basically make their own weather.
Twenty plus years ago, we thought we were high and dry here in central NC, 130 miles from the coast when Hurricane Fran threatened. It maintained hurricane strength all the way to Raleigh! It was one of the scariest nights of my life. Not so much flooding here, but trees were down EVERYWHERE and power was out for quite a while.
In short, these are natural disasters. Disaster is the action word here. It’s never going to be good.
Keep your thoughts and prayers with the people in harm’s way, especially my mom.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.
If we were having coffee today I’d tell you about the dreams. Oh, not any dreams. I guess we all have repetitive dreams, but last night I had more of a repetitive theme dream.
These revolve around finding some hidden section or room of the house. Sometimes it is the current house, sometimes it is some past house, sometimes it is even (this will sound silly) some other dream house, a place that seems familiar from past dreams.
These are funny after I wake up, I mean, the notion that a room or in some cases a vast network of rooms, might exist. I guess psychologists would read a lot into that. Our house is cluttered, I guess deep down maybe I really wish I had extra rooms. It wouldn’t have done much good in last night’s dream, the rooms were cluttered with broken furniture and leftover debris.
This dream even had another level. Not another level to the dream, another level to the rooms. During the dream, after marveling at the find, I later went back and looked a little closer and found a stairway and another set of rooms off to the side and below. I guess within the context of the dream it makes sense. The first one was supposedly outside an upstairs window. When outside I had noticed something hanging near an upstairs window. Later I remembered and sought to go out and take it down. The additional level provided access from below. I didn’t get a chance to do more exploration before waking up.
I have had another series of dreams where there were vast furnished rooms branching off a hidden corner hallway, easily doubling, perhaps tripling the size of the house. Oddly, for some reason, it occurs to me in the dream to go into this area and I keep wondering to myself why I don’t use these rooms more. I had a dream once that a house we had looked at when we were house hunting had a complete and fantastic basement section. The house itself was somewhat lacking for our purposes but this basement section made it a no brainer that we should have bought that house. In the dream, when I found this out, I got miffed at the real estate agent for failing to show us the extra rooms.
Anyway, this was so vivid, it was just on my mind when I woke up. I need to go look around now, to make sure I haven’t missed anything in the twelve years since I moved into this house.
What sort of repetitive dreams do you have?
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. For information on his writing check out his web page at http://thefensk.com
If we were having coffee today I think I’d finally be willing to tell you about certain aspects of the backstory.
There was recently a national news story floating around concerning some changes in Texas law … you might have seen it, usually mentioning the plan to make it legal to carry swords or something like that. Actually, that might be some sort of loophole, but what it really means is that the stalwart citizens of Texas will soon be allowed to carry knives longer than 5.5 inches. This law has long been on the books. They classified any knife longer than 5.5 inches as a Bowie knife. Although Jim Bowie was a hero of the Alamo and was famous for his larger than usual knife, it has been illegal in Texas for quite some time — that is until this fall.
The current law was a major dramatic component to the backstory of my first novel The Fever. It was based on a real incident I knew about. It resulted in the arrest of the hero, who felt the same way about the irony of Jim Bowie’s knife. This was the catalyst that threw my hero Sam into jail, where he made acquaintance with Slim, the derelict who slowly died in his arms. Ah, but not before revealing his secret. THAT is the other major backstory component, another bit of Texas lore. Slim, it seems, had some personal knowledge of the location of the elusive Sublett mine.
That’s right. And this, my friends, is a true mystery of mythical Texas proportions. Ben Sublett was a real person who lived in West Texas and there are believable reports that he had access to some quantity of gold. The stories go that he would disappear into the wilds of the parched landscape and return with gold. People tried to follow him but to no avail. He supposedly died without revealing the location to anyone. If you google Ben Sublett you will see quite a few websites and articles dedicated to him and his lost gold mine. They all mention pretty much the same details. Like one curious fact … his name was actually William C. Sublett. Not sure where “Ben” came from.
Here are a couple of my favorite links about Ben Sublett:
This one has a picture of a roadside Texas historical marker: http://www.odessahistory.com/subltmkr.htm
A friend pointed out to me that the historical marker in the first link above is just outside a place called Sam’s BBQ … I promise you that name “Sam” is just a coincidence. Still a bit of added irony, no?
Old Ben apparently never got rich from his gold. He seemed content to use it ,subsidize his life, like a sort of nineteenth-century social security. The common thread in all of the stories about him is that he’d disappear and return with gold. People have speculated on its location for over a hundred years. The Guadalupe Mountains seems to be a common landmark, but if it was in the mountain range proper, well that is a National Park now so good luck with that, but there are a lot of possibilities in the general area.
I used both of these things as the core of my story. An almost ridiculous arrest followed by a chance meeting that resulted in a deathbed confession. “THE FEVER” was wedged into the hero’s soul where it smoldered until it became a full-fledged obsession. THAT is what the story is about … a sort of “what would you do?” scenario.
How far would you go to feed your fever?
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC. Info on his novels, including THE FEVER, can be found at http://www.thefensk.com Before you buy them, be sure to check out his new video trailers on the videos tab.
It’s actually been almost three weeks but it’s been a hard thing to share. Thanks for the condolences.
She was a big dog, about 100 pounds, so at over 15 years old it wasn’t unexpected. She had slowed down considerably the last few months and it was even worse in her last couple of weeks.
We’ve started to get over the initial sudden shock of her passing. Now it is the little things. Like walking down the pet food aisle … we still have cats … and turning to the dog food and stopping mid-turn. All the usually “going out” times are still a minor struggle, especially coming back from shopping or something when in the past taking her out would be the first thing on my mind when I got home (at her age she couldn’t wait too long between outings).
I had some “jingle bells” attached to her coller so I could hear her getting up, especially in the middle of the night. I keep expecting to hear them, but they aren’t there. Feeding time is a totally different routine. I keep looking at the empty spot on the living room floor where she spent most of her time, expecting her to be there. Even the cats avoided that spot for the longest time.
These and dozens of other minor rememberences will linger, I know. The bigger ones will never go away. She was 100 pounds of pure love.
Thomas Fenske is a writer, living in North Carolina. More information on his novels and cookbook can be found at http://thefensk.com
If we were having coffee today I’d still be giddy about my latest video trailers. I have to admit here and now, I have never much messed with iMovie, but it was my grandson Griffin who showed it to me and inspired me.
Okay, my hand/eye/video coordination is not all that great. But it was young Griffin who showed me that they have movie trailer templates.
I’m sure there are probably a thousand apps that do this, but this was easy, it was already there, and I had a few pictures I hoped would work … took me a few tries to cobble together something visually appealing and somewhat informative. I have to admit that after viewing these I was inclined to buy my own books myself.
So give them a try … I put them together on a link off my page.
(The other is an awesome video by a youtube sensation, Hilah Cooking, who highlighted a dish I created within the pages of my novel The Fever.)
Tell me what you think. Even better, tell me they inspired you to check out my books. I also have a new “Amazon specific” page on my website. Look under “MAIN” on the menu.
In case you are also inspired to buy … I also have a new “Amazon specific” page on my website with links to purchase, share, or even download a sample. Look under “MAIN” on the menu.
Hint: put down your cup before you view the video for A CURSE THAT BITES DEEP.
Thomas Fenske is an author living in North Carolina. His film making career is still a question mark. Find out about his books at http://thefensk.com
It makes good use of two unusual casserole ingredients: mayonnaise and potato chips. It makes a brief appearance in A Curse That Bites Deep, mostly because my darling wife made this a few times, so I included a version in the cookbook.
It’s good! Here’s the intro from the cookbook:
“This was one of Mama’s favorite recipes. When I was little, we never opened on Sundays, but most of the time we had this casserole after church. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I don’t know how true that is, but I have to tell you that Sam and I didn’t start getting really serious until after I made this for him at home … and it’s still one of Sam’s favorites. Mine, too, considering the result.”
Wait, you wanted the recipe? Get the cookbook! It’s free here: https://goo.gl/dwGSsp
Yes. My first independent (and unsolicited) review of THE MOSSBACK CAFE COOKBOOK.
A book review blog, The Edifying Word, had previously reviewed my debut novel THE FEVER and they picked up this latest offering, giving it an awesome appraisal. I was especially happy that the reviewer understood the “companion book” intent of the cookbook. As I’ve said before, it is more than a cookbook and provides valuable insight into the world of the other two novels (and those to come).
So check out this review at The Edifying Word and while you are there check out their other reviews.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina — thefensk.com