Saturday, August 16, 2014

Penny Pike on Death of a Crabby Cook

RHYS: This has been a fun week for me with various friends as guests while my vision finally gets into focus after cataract surgery on Tuesday. Today it's another of my favorite people, Penny Warmer. Penny and I have toured together and had adventures over the years. I've loved everything she's written and her wicked sense of humor.
So I'm delighted to help celebrate the launch of her new series today under her new name PENNY PIKE.  So Welcome Penny and tell us all about Crabby Cooks!


            I have heartburn.
It’s from all the research I’ve been doing for the first book in my new series, DEATH OF A CRABBY COOK, featuring food trucks and food festivals. But if eating a lot of different foods is the price I must pay to make sure my story is authentic, then so be it. Could be worse. I could be writing a book about insects and have to do research on the larvae cycle of the tse-tse fly. Luckily I chose food.
I had my first food truck experience a couple of years ago before the “meals on wheels” phenomenon swept the country. I was in Napa, CA, doing research for another book (AKA drinking a lot of wine), and spotted a circle of colorful trucks offering intriguing specialties. I decided to try some plein air dining.
Now, I’m not the adventurous type when it comes to trying new foods. When I go out to dinner, I order the same foods at the same restaurants—rigatoni Bolognese at the Italian place,  cheese enchilada at the Mexican place, and teriyaki at the Japanese place. So I was a little hesitant to sample the wares from trucks named Kung Fu Tacos, Happy Dumplings, The Boneyard, Fins on the Hoof, Me So Hungry, and Naked Chorizo.
Turned out I liked just about everything!
            Now that food trucks have finally come to my hometown, I can please my inner glutton every weekend—and combine it with research for my new series. I head over planning to have just “one bite” of everything, and end up stuffed to the gills.
Here’s my typical game plan: I start my research at Cluck it Up, ordered garlic parmesan wings, and called that the appetizer. Next stop: the Grilled Cheese Bandit, where the sandwiches are named after folk legends like Jesse James and Butch Cassidy. I had the Giuliani (a folk legend?), a grilled mozzarella, parmesan, tomato and pesto sandwich, and called it lunch.
After that it was a blur. A Peruvian pork sandwich from Sanguchon. A burrito cone from Twister. A Coca Cola braised pork sandwich from the Chairman. And I’d only made it half way through the trucks. Luckily I had just enough room for dessert. I managed to down two cream puffs from the Pacific Puffs truck—chocolate and salted caramel—before I spotted the Frozen Kuhsterd truck and had to have the ice-creamy sundae with caramel, chocolate and salted almonds. I knew, with a hospital located right across the street, I could seek medical attention after this food orgy if needed.
These visits to the local food trucks were my inspiration to write a series set among the food truck community. I created Darcy Burnett, a total foodie who loves to eat, but barely knows how to heat a frozen dinner in the microwave. To complicate things, I made her a restaurant reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle, suddenly downsized, and desperately in need of a job. While eating a therapeutic Caramel Espresso Cream Puff whipped up by Jake Miller from the Dream Puff Truck—and recognizing a hot food trend when she sees one—she’s inspired to write a cookbook full of food truck recipes.
Her first source is the upcoming San Francisco Seafood Fest. Darcy plans to use her journalistic skills to gather recipes for everything from Crab Mac and Cheese from her aunt’s Big Yellow School Bus food truck, to Hangtown Oyster Omelets from the Bacon is the New Black truck. Combined with the local food festivals—The Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, Gilroy Garlic Festival, Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival—she’s sure the book will be a best-seller, filled with recipes for such tasty treats as “Red Velvet Whoopee Pies,” “Garlic Ice Cream,” Key Lime Cream Puffs,” “Cronut Dossaints” (croissants crossed with donuts) and so on.  (Recipes included in the book!)
Writing DEATH OF A CRABBY COOK was such an inspiration, I’m thinking of opening my own food truck.  I plan to serve Vanilla Zantac, Chocolate Prilosec, Curry Maalox, Grilled Pepto, and Tums-on-a-Stick. I think it will be a hit.

RHYS: And we’re sure THIS book will be a best-seller, Penny. Now I’m ready to drive around the Bay Area trying your favorite food trucks.
So how about it Reds—do you have a favorite food truck? I have to confess to liking the sinfully cholesterol-laden Navajo flatbread that shows up at Arizona art festivals.


  1. ::sigh:: There's not a food truck in sight. I think I need to track down a copy of “Death of a Crabby Cook” immediately . . . .

  2. Penny, welcome! I love this idea:). You poor thing with all that research--I think you may have even worse than I do.

    Can't wait to read this one!!

  3. Hilarious! What a great idea! And I have never eaten from a food truck--although they are all over Boston!

    (Penny Pike is so there a story behind it?)

  4. I'm told that we have a few food trucks in town, but I've never actually encountered one.

    I've been wary of street food since meat pies in Jamaica 40 years ago resulted in my sleeping on the bathroom floor in my hotel room for the rest of that stay, so even if I found a food truck, I probably wouldn't eat anything from it.

    My street food indulgences are now limited to big pretzel bagels or hot roasted chestnuts when I'm in New York. We used to have a pretty neat popcorn wagon in Milwaukee, but the owners retired (it and themselves).

    I might make an exception to my street food aversion, though, if I could find the truck that sells Milwaukee's infamous chocolate-covered bacon on a stick.

  5. The Chip Trucks of Ontario.

    Yes, I know Canadians have gone all American and now call them "fries" but the food stands are still Chip Trucks and they dot the secondary highways of southern Ontario (and downtown Toronto) and they are The Best.

    such as this one:

  6. Thank you for inviting Penny to be a guest author on JRW, Rhys. I met you when you and Penny had a joint book event. At that time, you were writing the Evan Evans series.

    Penny, welcome to JRW. I just started reading your new Death of a Crabby Cook novel. I wonder if Connor Westphal will have a cameo appearance in the next book or the book after the next? I love the recipes in your book. I am going to try them out!

    There were a few food trucks in college. Now I see many more food trucks. In some towns, there are designated days for food trucks like Wednesdays. I have not tried food trucks Yet.

    On KQED, which is the local PBS, there is a show called Check, Please. One of the guests loved the Bacon food truck. All of the guests tried the bacon food truck and they showed clips of people visiting the Bacon food truck.



  7. There are no food trucks in my neighborhood and I haven't gone downtown Minneapolis where I hear there are lots of terrific ones. Tums-on-a-Stick - love it!


  8. Welcome! Well, it's a tough job, but someone has to do it.... : ) In all seriousness, there's a Michelin-star chef who closed down his restaurant and has a food truck in Providence. I'm blanking on the name, but we track him down every summer. There's even a phone app to find Providence food trucks!

  9. Susan,

    Your story about the chef in Providence sounds similar to the movie Chef with Jon Favreau. Did you see the movie?

    That's brilliant to have a phone app to find Providence food trucks!


  10. Hank,

    I think I know the story behind Penny Pike. She can tell you the story. If I recall correctly, I think her agent suggested the name.


  11. Penny, first I loved the title of your book with its alliterative "crabby cook," and then I started reading all of those wonderfully crazy names of the food trucks and their specialties. I am now hooked on this fun foray into the food truck business.

    I admit both a fascination and a wariness with these food businesses. In light of your delightful descriptions, I think I might be a bit more adventuresome in this area now. I do remember that there was a food truck in D.C. over by the Smithsonian Castle Building that had the best hotdogs ever. Our town in Kentucky has just passed an ordinance to allow food trucks downtown, but it has been slow going in attracting them. I'm hoping that will change.

    So, I'm off to add another book to my TBR pile and look forward to reading Death of a Crabby Cook.

  12. Im Sacramento we have the wonderful Bacomania truck with bacon covered brownie bites ....

  13. Many years ago when I was in college I had a summer job at a place that was visited daily by a food truck. The food was ordinary but well within the budget of a college student!

    In the past three or four weeks, a few different friends have told me about a food truck, specializing in selling lobster, that's out on a commercial road in our town. Each and every person has nothing but praise for the quality of the food. I'd better get myself over there before the owners decide to retire on the money I hear they're making!

  14. Oh yum. I live in Houston which is a very international city, believe it or not. Anyway, we've had food trucks for years. Great names and great food for the most part. Some owners have restaurants too.

  15. Dallas is supposed to have great food trucks, but I've never eaten from one. Now I'm going to have to plan a food truck expedition with my daughter.

    I had a turkey sandwich on whole wheat for lunch. Can you guess how hungry reading this post made me?

    Can't wait to read the book, Penny!

  16. There was a segment on national news tonight about the animosity between the food trucks and restaurants, focusing on D.C. The owner of The Dubliner (I've eaten there once) was saying that his lunch business has been severely damaged by a food truck that sits close by his restaurant. Another restaurant owner decide that if you can't beat them, join them, and she opened up her own food truck in front of her restaurant for lunch. The Dubliner's owner was adamant that he would not do that. I'm thinking maybe he should reconsider. The segment also explored the different ordinances that different cities had about the food truck, from nothing to making the trucks move every 30 minutes. Hmm, I see some dicey issues and hard feelings lining up for your murder mystery series, Penny.

  17. Just ordered the book! I loved the first line and had to have it!

  18. Fun and Thoughts, you will love the book!

  19. Fun and Thoughts, you will love the book!

  20. Kathy Reel,

    I have been to the Dubliner. I thought it was a nice place. Some people may prefer restaurants to food trucks. I have mixed feelings about food trucks.

    In college, there was a classmate in one of my classes coughing and sneezing. it looked like she had the flu. I went to the food truck and I saw the same person serving food. I did not want to take a chance catching whatever that person had.


  21. Deborah Crombie,

    You will love the book. Do you remember seeing anything like food trucks in England? When I visited Cambridge University, I remember seeing a potato stand, It looked like a wagon and they sold all kinds of baked potatoes,

    You could put anything ~ sour cream or butter or pineapple or other toppings that were available.

    Wagons are different from food trucks, right?

    Please let us know how you and your daughter liked your food truck expedition in Dallas.


  22. Lucy,

    I think you will enjoy reading the book.


  23. Ellen Kozak,

    I get what you mean about aversion. In college, there was a classmate who looked like she had the flu. She was showing the symptoms.

    At lunch, we went to a food truck and saw her serving food from the food truck.

    I steered clear and did not buy lunch from any food trucks that day because I did not want to get sick.

    Let us know when you find the food truck with chocolate covered bacon on a stick. Sounds interesting,


  24. Thank you all for your comments! I love the stories about your food truck experiences. I've certainly become a more adventurous eater since I started doing the research on food trucks. And they're not without their controversies, which makes for great story lines...and murder...

  25. We have food trucks in a parking lot of Saturday nights here in town. I've gone a few times and enjoyed it. However, it's hard to get excited about it when it is so hot out on a Saturday night right now.

    I realize I'm a couple of days late, but I do want to say I read the book last week and absolutely loved it! I can not wait for the next book in the series.