Posted in 1930s, Atlantic City books, Food, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—A joint holiday celebration

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This year, my Chanukah- and Christmas-themed snippets come from Chapter 20, “Dueling December Holidays,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

There have been a lot of religious conflicts during December 1938, as young immigrant Sparky (real name Katherine) and her family are inundated with symbolism of a holiday they don’t celebrate, and a variety of responses to their refusal to adopt Christmas as a secular holiday “everyone” celebrates. However, Sparky’s family has agreed to come together with their hosts the Filliards for a joint celebration of the eighth night of Chanukah and Christmas Eve.

This has been slightly tweaked to fit 10 lines.

Painting by Yelena Flerova

The Smalls had brought schnitzel, Kartoffelpuffer, chicken soup, brisket, candied carrots, bolussen, applesauce, and, best of all, plenty of Berliner Pfannkuchen, while on the Filliards’ side of the table sat roasted goose with stuffing; dried fruit compote; mushroom soup; gołąbki; pierogi stuffed with chopped mushrooms and mashed potatoes; kotlety; stuffed mushrooms; mazurek stuffed with dried almonds, chocolate, and apricot jam; chocolate sernik; zefiry; and several heaping platters of cookies. There’d be more than enough for everyone.

“You don’t know what you’re missing,” Mrs. Filliard said as she cut into a gołąbek. “You’ve been generous to share your food, and oughta taste some of ours in return.”

“Perhaps next year, we can cook by your recipes in our kitchen,” Mrs. Small said.

“It’s ‘with,’ not ‘by,’” Gary gently corrected her. “You’re making the mistake of directly translating a German expression into English. Sometimes being too literal results in improper English.”

“My mother and I made that mistake too, when we were learning English,” Mr. Filliard said. “That expression translates from Russian the same way it does from German, and it took a long time for me to realize I wasn’t being grammatically correct.”

Kartoffelpuffer are German latkes; bolussen are Dutch sweet rolls; Berliner Pfannkuchen are jelly doughnuts. Among the traditional Polish and Russian Christmas foods, gołąbki are cabbage leaves wrapped around a savory filling (usually including meat); kotlety are small, pan-fried meatballs; mazurek is a sweet, flat cake; sernik is cheesecake made with quark; and zefiry are similar to meringues.

Posted in 1930s, Atlantic City books, Historical fiction, holidays, Urma Smart, Writing

WeWriWa—New Year’s Eve 1939

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes from the final chapter of the book formerly known as The Very Next, the chronological second of my Atlantic City books. Though it’s an episodic story with an ensemble cast, the main focus is on Cinnimin Filliard.

At the beginning of March, Cinni’s father gave Urma, Mortez, and Samantha Smart a temporary place to stay, and this situation has been nothing but trouble for everyone. Urma and her daughter Sam are fire and brimstone fanatics who think everything but breathing and reading the Bible their way is a sin.

This has been slightly tweaked to fit ten sentences.

frog-nye

“Celebrating New Year’s is the work of the Devil,” Urma pontificated. “Don’t ask me to drink any of your demonic libations at the stroke of midnight.”

“I’d never waste my good champagne on you,” Mrs. Filliard said. “My alcohol is only for my family and friends, and you’ll never be my friend.”

“I’ll have some champagne,” Mortez said.

Urma gave him the evil eye as Mrs. Filliard filled an especially large champagne flute.  She covered her eyes when Mr. Filliard mixed a cocktail of strawberry syrup, lemonade, and champagne for all the underage members of the household, using a shaker in the shape of a penguin left over from Prohibition.

“How can you be anti-alcohol when Christ’s first miracle was changing water into wine?” Mr. Valli asked.

“He changed wine into water, that’s all you know.  I’d be glad to lend you one of my copies of Minister Hodges’s true version of the Bible, if I trusted I’d get it back in one piece and undefaced.”

bette-davis-nye

Mortez has never had any part of his wife and daughter’s extreme religious conversion, though they usually railroad over him and shut down any attempted protests or lectures. He’s always loved Urma much more than she’s ever loved him, though he can’t forgive her for the slanderous story she told her parents after they conceived Samantha as unmarried teenagers.

Posted in 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, Atlantic City books, Food, Historical fiction, Russian novel, Third Russian novel, Writing

Writing about vintage candy (and other sweets)

I’ve always had a major sweet tooth, and love writing scenes with ice-cream, candy, chocolate, sundaes, and baked goods. It’s particularly fun to research vintage candies and sweets, and to create characters with a sweet tooth. My Cinnimin has a particularly intense sweet tooth, and is frequently shown indulging it. Her habit of keeping a bag of candy under her bed and in her purse must’ve been influenced by Claudia in The Baby-Sitters’ Club.

Here are some of the vintage candy ads and dessert recipes I’ve collected, with accompanying excerpts.
Dubble Bubble

1940:

Cinni bought the biggest container of popcorn, along with three chocolate egg creams, ten Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, a giant rainbow-swirl lolly, and a large bag of Dubble Bubble.  Max and Harry got popcorn, egg creams, and a big bag of Tootsie Rolls.  Sparky could only look at all the wonderful candy and treats, imagining what they must taste like.  This might not be a grand movie palace like she’d gotten used to, but it was hardly some hole in the wall.

Chiffon pie

1940:

Cinni went around to all the baskets of free samples, taking the biggest pieces and digging for crumbs.  A few of the samples were those dreaded, boring, adult sweets like lemon cookies, almond cake, and maple walnut rolls, but almost everything else pleased her palate—thumbprint cookies, chocolate chip bread, blueberry crumb cake, apricot coffeecake, chocolate cookies, cinnamon buns, raspberry bars, hot cross buns, brownies, cupcakes, chocolate éclairs, cherry danishes, fudge, macaroons, meringues, doughnuts, and cookies and cupcakes made to look like cartoon characters and sporting balls.

Strawberry meringue cake

1940:

With the house all to themselves, mostly, Babs and Cinni lay on the living room davenport listening to the radio.  When lunchtime came, Babs went into the kitchen and made them sandwiches with peanut butter, hot fudge, caramel sauce, and marshmallow crème.  She set them on a tray, then added two extra-large glasses of fruit punch with lots of sugar stirred in.

“What are you doing home from school so early?” Mr. Filliard asked when he ran across Babs on her way back to the living room. “I thought I heard the radio in the background, but I assumed it was your mother or aunt, or even that kooky Jasper.”

“Oh, Cinni didn’t feel well, and I took her home.  It’s not a big deal.  She’ll be better by tomorrow.”

“In that case, bring her some sweets.  I won’t hear of my pet child not having her every want catered to when she’s ill.” Mr. Filliard loaded up the tray with fudge, chocolate chip cookies, cherry pie, chocolate doughnuts, and strawberry danishes.

Grape LS

1939:

This is yours,” Barry said, extending a large basket. “I’ve never given mishloach manot to Gentiles before, but everyone in your family deserves one for being so good to us.  Without your father, we’d still be in Europe, with God knows what kind of future.”

Cinni returned the smile and eagerly took the basket.  She headed back to the davenport with it, and delightedly discovered oranges, hamentaschen, saltwater taffy, gumdrops, chocolate-covered peanuts, a bottle of grape pop, and five silver dollars.

“I packed that one just for you,” Barry said, smiling at her again. “I know what a sweet tooth you have.  You’d never be happy with the mishloach manot we made for your parents and siblings.”

Black Crows candy

1938:

Sparky stood back as Cinni, Violet, Tina, and Babs rang the bell and held out their pillowcases.  The woman who answered the door bent down for a large pail of candy and gave each girl a 5th Avenue bar, 3 Musketeers, Tootsie Rolls, and Snickers bars.  Sparky was a little hungry when she saw all the candy they were getting just for putting on costumes and showing up at someone’s house.

GPC vintage

1922:

Ivan comes home to laundry strung through the apartment, the smell of chicken dumpling soup, baby cries, two strangers in his living room, and his fiancée lying unresponsive on the davenport, a cold compress on her forehead.

“Papa, I’m very hungry,” Tatyana announces. “Did you buy me candy after you left work?  I didn’t eat any lunch.”

In a daze, Ivan opens his metal lunchpail and hands her two Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, with the wrappers open for her convenience. “Can someone care to explain to me what in the world happened today?”

Whitman's 1944

1942:

Yuriy turns into the first ice-cream parlor that appears and finds a green corner booth that almost matches his uniform.  He translates the menu for Inga, and she orders a sundae with chocolate ice-cream, hot fudge, cherries, and crushed candy bars, with an orange egg cream.  Yuriy orders a humbler strawberry ice-cream float.

Orange LS

1933:

Inside the theatre, Vsevolod gets Nadezhda a chocolate ice-cream soda with a cherry and whipped cream on top, and gets himself buttered, salted popcorn.  He wishes he could try all the candy on display to make up for twenty-six years of subsisting on reindeer meat, root vegetables, winter berries, and bread.

Posted in 1930s, Atlantic City books, Cinnimin, Historical fiction, holidays, Writing

WeWriWa—Special Christmas present

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This scene comes right after last week’s, on Christmas 1939, as young Cinnimin Filliard starts opening her presents. Her overly indulgent father has bought her an extremely special, grownup gift meant to last her for several more years to come.

vintage-christmas-card-gifts-cover

Cinni went right for her plumply-stuffed stocking and shook out the contents.  Just as she’d requested, she’d gotten lots of candy, oranges, a red yo-yo, money, a few Chinese puzzles, and upscale costume jewelry.

“Care to open this?” Mr. Filliard set a long blue parcel in her lap.

Cinni peeled back the wrapping paper and beheld a box stamped with the logo for Elzinga Furs, a store she often window-shopped at in van Meter Plaza.  When she pulled off the lid and layer of white tissue paper, her eyes filled with the sight of a leopard fur coat.

“My first real fur!  Is this really all mine, to wear till it doesn’t fit me anymore?”

vintage-leopard-print-coat-seventeen-magazine-1946

Vintage leopard fur from a 1946 Seventeen magazine, close enough to 1939 to have a similar style

Mr. Filliard made sure to get the coat in a somewhat larger size, so it’ll keep his pet child warm in the winter for as long as possible, and with enough extra material to grow into. He’s enclosed a special letter, reflecting on how much she’s growing up and inviting her to the New York World’s Fair for her birthday in August. Though Cinni knows her father’s heart was weakened by rheumatic fever in 1937, she’s in such denial about his declining health, she doesn’t realize that trip to New York is meant as a goodbye present, and that the fur coat has to be bigger than her actual size because her father won’t be there to upgrade her coat every year.

The original reason for Mr. Filliard’s declining health and eventual 1940 death was some totally ridiculous, made-up disease only a preteen with an overactive imagination could think up. When I began my radical rewrites and restructurings of these four prequel books in 2011, I started looking for a similar but real disease which could kill the victim slowly. Pretty quickly, I hit upon rheumatic fever, which was responsible for legendary comedian Lou Costello’s premature death of a weakened heart.

*****************************

Tomorrow’s post will celebrate the 120th anniversary of the first public showing of movies to a paying audience. There are obviously a number of films which were made before 1895, but the difference is that they were more experimental and not meant for public consumption.

P.S.: Happy 30th anniversary to Simon and Yasmin LeBon! They’re one of my favorite famous couples, not just because they’ve been married so long and aged so well, but because they’re proof real soulmates find their way back to one another even if they’ve been apart. They initially broke up because Yasmin didn’t want to have premarital sex, but it was obviously meant to be if they got back together.