Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Food--and Fighting?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, two wonderful topics today—perfect for the Reds and readers.  Martial arts. And food. Only the amazing Tori Eldridge  (whose Ninja series has been nominated for the Anthony, Lefty, and Macavity Awards!) could put hte two together so perfectly. Her brand new book, The Ninja’s Blade, is just out! And we are thrilled to celebrate with her.

With food. And fighting. No, not that kind of fighting. Tori Eldridge--is a ninja chef!
  


The Voracious Appetite of the Modern-Day Ninja


If you’ve read The Ninja Daughter or the newly released The Ninja’s Blade, you’ll have noticed two things about my warrior sleuth: she’s always hungry, and she’s always ready for action. Good thing. The way this woman eats, she needs to burn serious calories.

“I looked forward to whatever Baba might be cooking. But before I could peek down the aisle of woks, a dart-like object flew through the air. I fanned a protective hand in front of my face as a bamboo skewer pierced the sack of rice on the shelf behind my head.”

Lily Wong lives above her North Dakota Norwegian father’s authentic Hong Kong cuisine restaurant. Take a moment to wrap your brain around that, then consider what a dream it would be to have a ready steamer filled with char siu bao, siu mai, and lap cheong zongzi—sticky rice filled with ridiculously fatty, sweet Chinese sausage. Okay, maybe this is my dream; but only if I burned as many calories as my ninja heroine!

Although old enough to be Lily’s mother, I’ve managed to stay reasonably active after retiring from dance and martial arts. Even so, I don’t burn anywhere near the amount of calories as I did back in the day, dancing the Jellicle Ball in Cats, kickboxing with sparring partners, or training as a modern-day ninja. I exercise just enough to stay fit and splurge on the occasional red bean mochi.

Lily balances her voracious appetite by cycling across Los Angeles, leaping from buildings, and kicking ass with Japanese Ninjutsu, Chinese Wushu, and even good old American boxing. Since her fighting expertise stems from my own, I enjoy crafting authentic scenarios that demonstrate real ability and empower women.

“He shoved off the ropes, madder than hell, and turned with a haymaker to my head. Instead of responding with one of the many ninja techniques Sensei had drilled into me, I went with the same technique Eddie’s trainer had done to him: I rolled under his hook and drove a shovel punch into his liver.”

After fighting for her life, a girl needs to eat. But more than fuel or pleasure, food is an expression of culture and community. Whether Lily enjoys “tamales for life” from a grateful taqueria owner who she saved from robbery (The Ninja Daughter) or the soul-infused empanadas made by her Compton-born employer (The Ninja’s Blade), the food Lily eats connects her to people. This is especially true of the Hong Kong dishes her father prepares for her as part of his commitment to anchor her in her mother’s heritage.

“Sweat glistened on Baba’s neck. His muscular arms were pink from the heat. Flames burst from the burner’s dome-shaped stand as he tilted his wok to dump the simmering broth into the trough. No wonder he was sweating, the flames were high enough to singe his arms. Did they remind him of his childhood when he and his siblings used to gather around a potbelly stove to ward off the freezing North Dakota winters? I’d ask him someday. Right now, I just watched him cook.”

Unlike Lily, I’m the head chef of my family, and—as with this book series—I draw from my heritage.

Here’s a simple recipe for a pan-steamed snapper I prepared for a Chinese New Year feast. Leave the head and tail intact to signify abundance. And if you have a special guest at your table, be sure to point the head at her!



Tori’s Pan-Steamed Snapper

Ingredients:
2 pounds whole snapper or white-fleshed fish, cleaned and scaled
1 tablespoons chopped ginger
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
1 bunch baby bok choy
3 green onions shredded
3 tablespoons minced ginger
1 handful cilantro chopped
2-3 tablespoons cooking oil (with touch chili oil if desired)
low-sodium soy sauce

Preparation:
1.    Marinate fish for 15 minutes in chopped ginger, soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil.
2.    Coat bottom of pan with sesame oil, heat, and place fish. Drizzle with the marinade and water around fish.
3.    Cover pan and steam for 10 minutes until the fish is cooked.
4.    Add bok choy (and more water) around fish and steam 5 minutes longer.
5.    Plate fish and bok choy. Deglaze pan if necessary and pour juices over fish.
6.    Cover fish with green onions, ginger, and cilantro.
7.    Heat the cooking oil over high heat until it smokes, then drizzle hot oil over the fish.
8.    Serve immediately with vegetables, rice, and soy sauce on the side.

What foods connect you to your heritage and family?

 HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  That is SUCH a good question.  And oh, the head and tail signify abundance—I didn’t know that! And the head gets pointed at the special guest. Aw. Love that. 

What about you, reds and readers? What foods connect you? OR—do you do martial arts? (And whoa, how about that action photo of Tori? 


PS. (And you can participate in a wonderful event with Tori, Wendy Walker, Karen Dionne and me:—click here for more info! https://bksp.org/ And I bet you will find other interesting J events on the same page. And more to come!)



Tori
 Eldridge is the author of The Ninja’s Blade, out September 1st, and The Ninja Daughter, nominated for the Anthony, Lefty, and Macavity Awards for Best First Novel. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies and her narrative poem appears in the inaugural reboot of Weird Tales magazine. Tori holds a 5th degree black belt in To-Shin Do ninjutsu and has traveled the U.S. teaching ninja arts and women’s self-protection.


78 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new book, Tori . . . and thanks for the recipe.

    I don’t know that we have any special heritage foods, but we enjoy a variety of cuisines. Maybe chocolate and coffee connect us!

    Martial arts? Nope, not my talent, I’m afraid . . . .

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    1. Yes, it’s such an interesting question! But martial arts for me? Nope. It is such a special skill — And requires a very special thought process, don’t you think?

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    2. My pleasure, Joan! Hope the recipe works well for you. As for chocolate and coffee... of course! :D

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  2. Congrats on the new book.

    I'm not sure that I have a food that connects me to my heritage. Something interesting to think about for sure.

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    1. It’s funny to think about! It starts bringing back lots of memories…

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    2. I think some cultures express more clearly with food. I'm from Hawaii, so food is super important! :D

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  3. Howdy Tori! Okay, Huge congratulations on Book #2!

    Novice Cook here (I'm learning!) -- I've never steamed a fish! What kind of pan do you cook the fish in? And where does the steaming part come in? Like...I always think of steaming using a steamer of some kind.

    Food and heritage...that's a hard one for me. Born and raised in San Diego so I grew up eating Mexican food and seafood, and I've been going to China since I was pretty young. So there are the traditional things my mom used to make (stuffing for turkey needs to be JUST SO!), which also included things like a Lebanese eggplant casserole. I just made mapo dofu tonight and it was delish!

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    1. I have never steamed a fish either! It kind of seems like it wouldn’t work… steaming seems like such a delicate method, but I guess it isn’t!

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    2. And yes, turkey stuffing was one of the favorite things in our family… Why do people only have it for Thanksgiving, though? I always wondered about that.

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    3. Hi Lisa. I think you're waaaay beyond novice cooking. I've seen those photos and recipes you've been tackling. YUM! My pan steaming technique came out of necessity. The fish was too big! So I adjusted my "steamed fish" recipe to a steaming braising sort of thing. ;) The nice bonus was a crispy skin bottom!

      I know what you mean about turkey stuffing. And I'd double down for that Lebanese eggplant casserole!

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    4. Hmmm, sounds like I could do it in my saute pan....will let you know!

      As for the cooking, I am learning for sure, but there are still a lot of basic things I don't know how to do (for example, steaming a fish :D )

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  4. 20-year martial artist here (Tae Kwan Do and Tang Soo Do primarily, with Gracie Jiu Jitsu and some Arnis on the side) - sadly retired from teaching and training after a back injury :(. I'm pretty much a Heinz 57 mixed American and grew up without any kind of "homeland" food. But no one (including fancy restaurant chefs) grilled a steak like my Dad, or made a pie crust like my Mom. Those are memories of them I will never forget.

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    1. Kerry that is so wonderful! I was just talking last night about the fried chicken my mother used to make – – well, we would never make fried chicken now, not healthy, but she was very proud of hers! And it was very sweet to think about.

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    2. Hi Kerry! I retired ten years ago to dedicate myself to writing (both were full time pursuits for me). Sorry to hear about the back trouble, but I can surely relate. When I was dancing in CATS back in '83-'84, I missed so many shows because of back problems. Followed me into martial arts as well. And then there was that total hip replacement a few years ago! LOL. We sure can be hard on our bodies!

      Grilled steak is an art, no doubt. And pie crust, especially. My father-in-law passed his secrets onto me so I could carry on in the family. Wonderful how memories can be passed with food. I'm sure you treasure yours. <3

      And, Hank... homemade fried chicken? YUM! I've never ventured into frying. I'd probably set myself on fire. LOL

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  5. Wow! I’m so impressed that I don’t know where to start. Tori, I’m guessing you started writing because that was the only way you wouldn’t be in constant motion. Hahaha! Your personal experience must make the authenticity of your character top notch. Congratulations on the new book.

    The foods that connect me to my family and heritage would be the Southern dishes of corn pudding, country ham, scalloped oysters, grits, and jam cake. From my own little hometown region of the world is transparent pie, found rarely outside the are of Maysville,KY and the surrounding counties. Mint julep and sweet tea are drinks of my heritage.

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    1. Oh no wonder you love Firefly restaurant in Key West! they are your people:)

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    2. OK, I’ll “bite.” What is transparent pie?

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    3. Hank, I I thought it might be similar to apply I'm familiar with, so I looked it up, and I was right. It's a Kentucky variation of chess pie, which is sort of like pecan pie without the pecans.

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    4. You Southern gals are killing me. Corn pudding and scalloped oysters sound amazing!!! I have to watch my sugars, so that Transparent Pie would probably put me in a coma. LOL.

      Thanks so much for the kind works, Kathy. Your comment about constant motion made me spit my tea. Lot of truth in that! The hardest part about writing full time was physical. I switch up writig positions and location constantly to keep my body from cramping or from dozing off. I'm a bit like a shark in that way...I need constant motion. ;)

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    5. Lucy, yes, I'm sure that's why Firefly appeals so much to me, although I quickly learned to love some of the Key West favorites, like the fish sandwich at Caroline's and their mahi mahi/dolphin fingers. Hank, transparent pie is what I grew up with, in the form of little personal size pies, or tarts. We called them transparent puddings, but they are not pudding. And, Julia, you are close in comparing to it being our version of chess pie, but the taste is entirely different. Ours is sweeter, because, well, sugar galore. And, the pecan pie without the pecans is again close, but the pecan pie filling is much thicker. Transparent pie is a bit lighter, but not what you would call light. Tori, it is indeed a diet that likes sugar, and I can't indulge daily. I have learned to drink my tea unsweetened, too, but I have fond memories of my mother putting a big pitcher of sweetened tea on the table.

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  6. Throw in meat loaf and fried chicken, too, although I don’t eat my chicken fried anymore. I know I’m leaving food out.

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  7. Welcome Tori! I grew up in the 1950's when the women were happy to cook things from a can:). And lots of roasts with mashed potatoes and gravy--yes, that's it! Plus yellow cake with mocha icing

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    1. Mocha icing! I have never heard of that! Does it have coffee and chocolate? Wow, that sounds delicious.

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    2. Very simple to make, Hank. And btw a trick I learned from King Arthur flour, when making chocolate frosting use some cold brewed coffee as the liquid, It won't make it taste like coffee, only intensifies the chocolate flavor.

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    3. Interesting how era is as significant as heritage and, of course, region. Mocha icing sounds delish. Thanks for the tip about cold brewed coffee, Judi!

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  8. Tori— how did you first become interested in martial arts? Do you remember your first class, or the motivation that got you there?

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    1. My first lesson was epic. I wouldn't wish it on anyone (might be horrifying), but it was perfect for me.

      After watching my then 5-year-old son in karate, I enrolled. It was a small group with all ranks up to 1st-degree red belt. The teacher new of my dance background and wanted to see what I could do. I performed the first two kata solo and executed every kick and hand strike in the repertoire, including jump spinning heel kicks, striking targets no less! Then he suited me up in full sparring gear and put me in the ring (so to speak). He asked if I could do a double round kick to his head (he was 6'3"). I did, but since it was my first day, I wasn't allowed to actually strike anyone in the head. They, however, were allowed to strike me anywhere they dang well pleased! LOL It was exhilarating.

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  9. Congratulations on The Ninja's Blade Tory !
    The whole fish:abondance and the head towards a special guest, very interesting .
    Food vs family ? Chicken pies, fishes ( my father liked to fish), pea soup, pouding chômeur.
    I practice Tai Chi, a slower form of martial art.

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    1. Thanks, Danielle! I have fond memories of fishing with my dad when we visited his good friend up in Washington state and my relatives in North Dakota (they had a lake house in Minnesota). He took great pride in teaching me how to gut the fish. hehehe Pan-fired trout is still one of my favorite breakfasts.

      PS: Tai Chi is a wonderful art!

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  10. You are amazing! I do have a long-dusty black belt in Okinawan-style karate, but frankly, this morning I'm just glad I can still walk up and down the stairs in our antique house. Not sure how I've missed this series. I plan to remedy that, stat.

    My mother and both my grandmothers were remarkable bakers, so I'd have to say it's Christmas cookies and pies all year round that connect us. I didn't discover fabulous savory foods until I went to college and became a world traveler. And your fish recipe sounds wonderful - am saving it.

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    1. Edith, congratulations on your Book Birthday!

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    2. Many thanks, Edith! I hope you enjoy the Lily Wong series. I love blending culture and complex family dynamics in fast-paced mystery-thrillers. There's even a bit of romance!

      Christmas is my favorite holiday. I used to go crazy when I was younger (as in full dinner buffet for 200 guests and 7 desserts crazy). LOL. But there's something special about baking secrets passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter. That sounds very special. Thanks for sharing, and three cheers for your latest book release!

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  11. Congratulations on THE NINJA BRIDE, Tori! And I have to say, I've always been daunted by whole fish (what to do about the bones?) but that steamed snapper looks utterly delicious.

    My family heritage food is German. My maternal grandfather's family came from Germany back in the mid eighteen hundreds, but the reason we love German food is because we lived there for several years when my siblings and I were children.

    So I cook sauerbraten and kartoffelsalat and homemade spaetzel. And every holiday, we always have Himmel und Erde (mashed potato, turnip and apple) on the table.

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    1. The bones lift out in one piece, if you know how to do it right. My husband can do it.

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    2. Thanks, Julia. But don't marry off my ninja sleuth quite yet. She's still stressing about her first dating experience in seven years! (It's The Ninja's Blade) As for that whole fish... it is a little intimidating, right? The only whole fish I'd cooked before this snapper were trout, not nearly as daunting.

      As Karen say, the skeleton bones do lift out in one piece. The Chinese way is to pick at the meat. We use the flip side of our chopsticks, or serving chopsticks, or serving forks to take our portions. Then we flip the whole fish and start again! Lots of fun.

      I adore sauerbraten. My hubby, not so much. I have to indulge on the sly. I'm also a huge fan of turnips and apple together - parsnips too. Your holiday meals sound scrumptious!

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  12. Congratulations on The Ninja's Blade, Tori. Marshal arts, Best Training Ever, except for modern dance. Uses a lot of the same muscles. I just loved it. Dojo closed, sensei moved. But I still, after 45 years, have a few moves!

    Ethnic food, yep. Tons of it but my favorites are probably potato pancakes for Hanukah and brisket on Rosh HaShana. Another holiday coming up without seeing my cousins. SIGH.

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    1. Thanks, Judy. And yes to dance! I performed in a bunch of Broadway musicals in my youth (CATS 1st National company, touring with Anthony Quinn in ZORBA, understudying opposite Michael York in THE LITTLE PRINCE AND THE AVIATOR) before dancing on THE LOVE BOAT as a Love Boat Mermaid for the final year of the television series. I had a background in jazz, ballet, tap, hula, and -- like you -- modern dance! All of that training gave me an enormous movement vocabulary. So when I started martial arts, it was only a question of what combination and to what purpose. By that time, my body had moved in just about any direction. LOL

      You have a rich heritage and delicious food. One of my fondest NYC memories was Rosh HaShana dinner with my college friend. Sorry you'll have to miss another holiday without your relatives. These pandemic times are very challenging. Hugs.

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    2. This is jaw-droppingly impressive! We need to invite you back to tell us all about it!

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  13. Love the idea of a main character who is a female ninja! Also, food in novels is much appreciated, always. Our book club members, pre-Zoom meetings, always try to fit the potluck offerings to the book we read. Which means we've had cuisine from around the world, including eels in sauce once.

    My whole freshman year of college I took Judo once a week. It's such an old-fashioned martial art, you never hear of practitioners these days. I think if I needed it, though, the muscle memory would still kick in. It did once in my single days, and I don't know who was more surprised, me or the guy who'd just tried to manhandle me. He was lying on the floor, all the breath knocked out of him, before either of us knew it.

    I'm also interested in how you got into this practice, Tori. And how long did you dance with Cats?

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    1. Oh, yeah, food. My grandmother's potato salad is so different from any other I've had, but it's a family favorite. (It has both mayonnaise and vinegar in it.) It was one of the first things I learned to cook as a newlywed, and I've taught all three of my daughters to make it, and now my grandson can, too. Several years ago I had a party for a friend and one of the guests, a German man, asked me about the potato salad I served, with tears in his eyes. I told him my grandmother was Hungarian and I thought that was why it was so different. He concurred, and said it was exactly the way his own Hungarian mother had made it. So now we call it Hungarian potato salad.

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    2. I took judo in college, too, Karen!

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    3. Wasn't it fun, Edith? But I'll never forget how sore I was after the first class. It took two days before I could walk down steps without amazing pain.

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    4. My older sister's girl scout troop took it, too, and since my mother was the leader, I got to go along. I was 4'6" at the time. The instructor, who was 6'4", picked me out and made it look like I flipped him! Yes, my sister was royally pissed...

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    5. I love food in books and book club conversations! I have a whole page on my website dedicated to book clubs with videos of me performing exciting ninjutsu demonstrations, more recipes, and these awesome book club kits for THE NINJA DAUGHTER and THE NINJA'S BLADE with self-defense tips, tea recommendations, dream casting, more recipes, and the expected discussion questions and interview. :D I'm totally into the whole virtual book club meeting vibe. So much fun! I've even sent members personalized bookplates stamped with my personal ninja warrior chop and packs of loose leaf tea. :D

      Judo is an excellent martial art! I began my training with Tang Soo Do, but since my teachers had broad backgrounds, I also trained in kickboxing, escrima, and Jujutsu ground fighting. Very effective! It's amazing what we retain with muscle memory. "A thousand repetitions" are bound to stick. ;)

      Here's how I answered Hank's question about getting into the martial arts:

      My first lesson was epic. I wouldn't wish it on anyone (might be horrifying), but it was perfect for me.

      After watching my then 5-year-old son in karate, I enrolled. It was a small group with all ranks up to 1st-degree red belt. The teacher new of my dance background and wanted to see what I could do. I performed the first two kata solo and executed every kick and hand strike in the repertoire, including jump spinning heel kicks, striking targets no less! Then he suited me up in full sparring gear and put me in the ring (so to speak). He asked if I could do a double round kick to his head (he was 6'3"). I did, but since it was my first day, I wasn't allowed to actually strike anyone in the head. They, however, were allowed to strike me anywhere they dang well pleased! LOL It was exhilarating.

      As for CATS...I was in the original cast of the 1st National tour We opened in December 1983 (soooo long ago) with six months in Boston and six months in D.C. I left part way through D.C. to move to L.A. and try my hand at TV and film. That's when I landed the series regular gig on THE LOVE BOAT.

      Edith... That's hilarious!

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    6. Tori, I've started taking tai chi, and am mucho impressed that you could perform perfectly after seeing it done once! No wonder you were a dancer.

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    7. Oh... I had been watching my son from the mom bench for a couple months. And the first two forms in Tang Soo Do were pretty simple. hehehe But, yeah... even when I was auditioning for B-way shows, learning choreography quickly was a strong suit for me.

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  14. I look forward to reading your books and am so glad you stopped by Jungle Reds. Cats is one of my favorite musicals because of the dancing - it must have been wonderful to dance in it. I'm also fascinated by Brazilian capoeira. As for family influenced foods, my maternal grandparents were Welsh and German, and from Indiana, but their favorite food was grits! No Welsh or German dishes in their repertoire ~

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    1. I'm rather fond of grits! Tried it for the first time when I was on tour for some show or another. Definitely not in Hawaii. hehehe

      Thanks for the good wishes, and I hope you enjoy the Lily Wong series!

      Brazilian capoeira is glorious, isn't it? So agile and athletic. I wrote another novel (before writing THE NINJA DAUGHTER) that is mostly set in Brazil. Such a rich culture.

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  15. Oh, Tori, the steamed fish sounds fantastic. So elegant in its simplicity but so complex in its flavors. Can't wait to try it.

    Congratulations on your new book. I have someone missed The Ninja's Daughter. An oversight I need to rectify immediately.

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    1. Thanks, Kait! I really enjoyed preparing and eating this fish. Such a beautiful presentation. :D

      I hope you enjoy the Lily Wong series. Although the new book, THE NINJA'S BLADE, is the second in the series, it can stand alone. You'll fall right into Lily's amazing family, dangerous life, and perplexing love interest. hehehe

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  16. Tori, welcome to Jungle Reds! I remember you from the Left Coast Crime in San Diego. And Congratulations on your new novel!

    Your novels sound intriguing! Your heroine never worries about her weight, right? I admire female characters who Never obsess about their looks or weight. This is my eccentricity. LOL.

    And thank you for the recipe. I wonder if your background is similar to my friend's. Her Mom is Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, and Scottish. Her father is Dutch and Scandinavian.

    Diana

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    1. Hi Diana. Great to find you again here on Jungle Reds! We jammed a lot of fun into the one and only day of LCC. Too bad the conference was shut down before the big second day. I was so looking forward to co-hosting a banquet table for my Lefty Award nomination. I had so many fun gifts for my guests. Sigh. I'm all geared up for the Anthony and Macavtity Awards ceremonies during Virtual Bouchercon. Fingers crossed!

      Lily obsesses about quite a few things, including her mother's image perceptions of her. But she doesn't worry about her weight because 1) she's always burning calories, and 2) she hardly ever gets to finish a meal! LOL

      Love that you have a Hapa-Hawaiian friend. Our ethnic mixes are very close and very common. Hawaiian + some kind of Asian + some kind of haole (Caucasian) is super common. I always felt welcome in all communities.

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    2. Hi Tori,

      Fingers crossed! I'm looking forward to the Virtual Bouchercon! I need to find out when we can sign up for the Virtual Bouchercon.

      Happy to hear that you always felt welcome in all communities.

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  17. Wonderful to see you here, Tori! We signed together at the Poisoned Pen last year and your talk was fabulous as is your blog post today. Really looking forward to reading Lily's next adventure!

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    1. Hi Jenn, so great to see you again! That Poisoned Pen was so much fun. If I remember correctly, you and I bonded over outlining. LOL So exciting for me to be up there with such accomplished bestselling authors. Thanks for the support. I hope you enjoy THE NINJA'S BLADE. I really love this book.

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  18. Our family is a Heinz 57 mix so no ethnic heritage-influenced meals. Mom grew up in the Depression so her cooking was always plain. Biscuits, cornbread, iceberg lettuce salad, fried chicken, one round steak cooked in a skillet and cut into strips for us to share, you get the picture. Catfish filets rolled in corn meal and fried. Chili. Her cooking expanded when we moved to New Orleans: trout amandine, red beans and rice, gumbo, and other yummy dishes.

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    1. Sounds like American soul food with lots of heart. Delish!

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  19. I do tai chi, and once took tai kwan do. My punches lacked force, but the one time I punched someone, it was so out of character that everyone else in the room was instantly engaged in removing the offender from the premises.
    Mom made wonderful chicken noodle soup, homemade noodles drying on the backs of kitchen chairs, and I'd put her pumpkin pie recipe up against anyone's . . . oh, as chicken fried rice, after a lesson from Aunt Yoko. ;-)

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  20. It's amazing what can come out of us in a dangerous situation. I remember getting slapped for the first (and only non-training time). This was long before I discovered martial arts. I punched the guy in the nose so fast I hardly knew what happened. My fist just flew. No training. Just reaction.

    Homemade noodles are the best. I went through a whole gourmet cooking era when my eldest son was born. Bouillabaisse from scratch, homemade breads and pasta, art cakes that took seven hours to decorate... My hubby misses that era. ;)

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  21. My cultural heritage is such a mish-mash, there isn't one, single dish that connects me to family. I like them all.

    I am a second-degree Black Belt. In fact, the whole family has Black Belts (The Hubby and I second, The Boy a third-degree, and The Girl a first-degree). My daughter's background came in handy the night a boy deciding to get, um, a little handsy at a party. Turns out she remembers how to do a finger-lock. :)

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    1. I love martial arts families! :D It's such a magical thing to have a family of black belts. My hubby and sons all trained in Tang Soo Do for a bit. Eldest son joined the UCLA Wushu team. Hence why my protagonist Lily Wong also has a background in Wushu. heheh I trained with my son's sifu in spear and bo. Long weapons were my specialty in ninjutsu and I wanted to augment our style with Wushu. So enriching.

      Watch out for those finger locks1 LOL Your daughter will love the Lily Wong series.

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  22. Hi Tori! Apologies for being so late to the party today, and for not having read your series, the latter of which I will rectify! I love food, I love interesting heroines, and especially interesting heroines that can kick butt!

    I took a year of karate when I was nineteen and I loved it. But then I injured my knee on a kick, then re-injured it on a hiking trip, and that was pretty much that.

    No real cultural cooking traditions in my family, although my mother and my grandmother were both very good cooks. My best friend's parents cooked real Southern/Texas food--fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, all those things, and I was always a bit envious. My mom, however, was a very adventurous cook. We had everything from ceviche to crawfish etouffee to sweetbreads, and my friend envied me!

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    1. Hi Deborah! It's great to se how many women in this forum have taken some form of martial arts. Even a little is very helpful. Sorry to hear about the knee. Re-occurring injuries are such a bummer.

      I'm sensing a theme wit the fried chicken and biscuits! But that ceviche and crawfish etouffee sounds amazing!

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  23. I did take tai chi for a while, and absolutely loved it. But only for relaxation and peace. I would have to hit someone back very very slowly :-)

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  24. Tai chi is wonderful for relaxation and peace. But you know it's a combat art, right? However, most people who practice it have never been taught the fighting application.

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  25. Love that pic of you, Tori! (As an aside, we recently made some lap cheong zongzi at home.)

    Food is a huge tie to my heritage. I have so many dishes to choose from that I can't decide! In regards to the steamed fish, our family always said the fish eyes were a delicacy. The kids were chosen to eat those because it would make us "smarter."

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