Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Meredith Mileti

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author answers three questions about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.


How excited am I to welcome my amazing friend and writing colleague Meredith Mileti to WRITERHEAD to celebrate the publication of her debut novel Aftertaste?

Almost as excited as I’d be if I could actually host Mira Rinaldi–the main character in Aftertaste–herself. Mira is one of those characters who will stay with you forever. She kicks ass in all the best ways (literally and figuratively)…and I love that.

For the past week or so, Aftertaste has kept me up at night turning the page, urging me onward. I was so bummed when I had no more pages to turn…but also satisfied and content.

(And for all you Pittsburghers out there, you’re in for a hometown treat. Part of the book takes place in the ‘burgh and many favorites make guest appearances–Mineo’s, Pittsburghese, the Strip District, Mellon Bank, the Post-Gazette, and loads more. It’s like coming home.)

Remember, I’m giving away 3 signed copies of Aftertaste today. Just leave a comment here to enter. (Complete guidelines below).

The Scoop About Aftertaste

Mira Rinaldi lives life at a rolling boil. Co-owner of Grappa, a chic New York City trattoria, she has an enviable apartment, a brand-new baby, and a frenzied schedule befitting her success. All of that changes the night she catches her husband, Jake, wielding his whisk with Grappa’s sexy waitress. Mira’s fiery response earns her a court-ordered stint in anger management and a demotion to lunchtime cook at her own restaurant, but that is only the beginning of Mira’s legal and personal predicament as she battles to save her restaurant and pick up the pieces of her life.

Mira falls back on family and friends in Pittsburgh as she struggles to find the right recipe for happiness. Slowly, buffered by her best friend, her widowed father’s girl friend and an unanticipated career twist, Mira starts to assemble the ingredients for a new, very different life. But the heat is really on when some surprising developments in New York present Mira with a high stakes opportunity to win back what she thought she had lost forever.

For Mira, cooking isn’t just about delicious flavors and textures, but about the pleasure found in filling others needs. And the time has come to decide where her own fulfillment lies even if the answers are completely unexpected.

The Buzz

“Meredith Mileti’s Aftertaste is as honest, hearty, and deeply satisfying as the Italian peasant fare cooked by her heroine. A delightful debut novel about the important things in life: food, family, and love.” ~ Ann Mah, author of Kitchen Chinese

“I loved this unflinchingly honest portrayal of a woman’s fresh start—in life, in love, and in her very special kitchens.” ~ Melissa Senate, author of The Love Goddess’ Cooking School

“Hot. Funny. Sexy. This is one delicious story and Meredith Mileti is one steamy good writer!” ~ Jamie Cat Callan, author of French Women Don’t Sleep Alone and Bonjour, Happiness!

First Sentence

“The best thing about the location of the Manhattan County Courthouse is its proximity to Nelly’s.”

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And now, Meredith’s writerhead

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

You can’t plan or induce writerhead, but I can often tell from the moment I open my eyes whether it will be one of those blessed days. (I realize there’s no scientific evidence to support this contention, but I suspect that if you were to take a PET scan the brain you’d be able to actually see writerhead glowing silvery-blue or plum, or some equally incandescent and mysterious color.) Externally I feel a gentle tingling, a slight buzz in the surrounding atmosphere, a bit like I imagine someone might feel just before they spontaneously combust. It’s nerve-wracking, thrilling, heart-stopping and wonderful all at once.

If I sense it might be a writerhead day, I tread softly and take extra precautions to try to minimize the interruptions. I’m an early writer. I love being up in the morning before anyone else is awake in my house. I make a vat of coffee and retreat to my office, making sure my “Disturb Under Pain of Death” doorknob sign is in place. I don’t check my email. I just jump in.

Often I can’t type fast enough. Words and images swirl around my head waiting for me to corral them and assist them onto the page. Writerhead, at it’s best, is like listening in on a party line conversation between two characters who have come to life in a way you hadn’t imagined. I’m just the scribe.

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

Once, years ago, when my son was small, I was working on a something—I can no longer even remember what it was, (probably for the best)—when Mark toddled into my office. He was in that language acquisition phase where he would repeat one word over and over. He sidled up to my chair and began repeating “button, button” over and over again and, mad to finish the paragraph I was writing, I kept repeating “button, button,” with all kinds of goofy inflections, trying my best to forestall the inevitable interruption. Suddenly, my screen went blank. He had pushed the “off” button on the computer tower and, of course, because I was in my altered-writerhead state, I was not focused on the earthly and mundane task of saving my work. The word “button” still occasionally strikes terror in my heart. We both ended up in tears. Happily, Mark has lived to almost-adulthood and the scars barely show anymore.

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

I recently started running. (Actually, I’ve been saying I’m a runner for years now, but that meant I’d made it 4 times around the high school track without feeling like I needed CPR.) You always hear runners talking about “the runner’s high.” Well, I never felt anything but achy, cranky and occasionally on the brink of death until this summer when I finally managed to break the 4-mile barrier and experienced my first runner’s high. (Okay, there’s probably not a marathon in my future, but still it was a big deal for me.) It feels like you could go on for miles, your body tingling, your feet barely skimming the ground; it’s peaceful, heady and exhilarating; all the outside distractions seem to fall away. It’s very much like writerhead. Now, if I could only write while I run…

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Meredith Mileti lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and their three mostly grown children. Since producing her first batch of gluey brownies from her Easy-Bake oven, Meredith has loved cooking for her family and friends. She is an adventurous and eclectic diner, and appreciates any well-cooked meal, whether from a lobster shack in Bar Harbor, a friggitoria in Naples, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris or an undiscovered little gem in her Pittsburgh neighborhood. Aftertaste is her first novel.

Hungry for more? Visit Meredith at her web site. Give her a high-five on Twitter (@winsomechef). Or raise a glass to her on Facebook.

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Q4U: Readers / Writers / Looky-Loos / Cooks / Eaters / Pittsburghers / Primanti Fans: The sign Meredith hangs on her office door when she’s writing reads “Disturb Under Pain of Death.” What does your sign read?

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GIVEAWAY!!!

Today—Wednesday, August 31, 2011—I’m giving away 3 signed copies of Meredith Mileti’s debut novel Aftertaste.

RULES: To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment right here on WRITERHEAD for Meredith. Tell her that you pre-ordered Aftertaste and have just cracked the spine. Talk to her about a particular dish you love to cook for your family and friends. Describe your favorite spice. Delight in a shared writerhead moment. (Or for you Pittsburghers out there, you can even dish about your favorite Primanti’s sandwich.)

*Comments must be posted before the clock strikes midnight on September 1, 2011. (That’s Eastern Standard Time U.S.)

**This contest is open internationally.

***Winners will be drawn on Thursday, September 1. Be sure to check back to see who wins.

****Though I welcome all charming comments, only one comment per person will be counted in the contest. (I know, I know…but this isn’t American Idol.)

****The winner will be drawn randomly by the highly scientific method of my 3yo pulling a name out of a hat (or some other convenient container).

 

31 Responses to Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Meredith Mileti

  1. Dear Meredith,

    This sounds just like my kind of book! I am looking forward to reading it. I already have my free sample on my kindle and look forward to buying it once it’s available. Or maybe I get to win the contest. Fingers crossed.

    Lately, we’ve had honey-glazed duck with creamed cauliflower on the menu quite a few times as a special request from my soon-to-be hubbie, despite his initial reluctant reaction when he heard the word honey and duck spoken together. I generally like easy and fast recipes, especially because my time is limited with a freelance career and a 22 month-old boy demanding my undivided attention.

    In short, what I do is dry the duck with kitchen paper and season it all over with coarse salt. I add some thyme and bay leaves into the cavity, then place the duck on a rack over a roasting tray and put it in the 220C pre-heated oven. After about 10 mins, I reduce the heat to 180C and cook for a further 45 mins, basting the bird with honey every 5 mins or so for the final 20 mins of cooking.
    My fiancée likes the duck well done, so I cook it an additional 10mins before setting it aside to rest, uncovered.

    Meanwhile, I cook the cauliflower and 2 finely chopped shallots in butter over a low heat for 20 mins until softened and any liquid has evaporated. Then I spoon into a liquidiser with 4tbsp of cream, whizz to a purée and season it.

    Last step is making the garlic crisps: I place 6 thinly-sliced garlic cloves in a pan along with 300g of milk and slowly bring to the boil.

    Then I remove from the heat and strain the garlic slices, discarding the milk and leaving the garlic to drain on kitchen paper. I cover the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil or butter and fry the slices, a couple at a time, until golden and crisp, then remove with a slotted spoon.

    The finger-licking duck goes well with sprigs of watercress, sprinkled with the crisp garlic slices.

    As for my favourite spice – although I don’t use it in the duck recipe – it has to be cinnamon. I use it a lot in the food I cook and in my morning coffee. It reminds me of my childhood days in the countryside, when grandma used to cook semolina for breakfast and sprinkle it generously with cinnamon and sugar. Whenever I cook this for my son, making sure I replace the sugar with honey,
    I can almost instantly smell the burned wood in the stove mixed with the winter crisp air coming through the open door. I see the snowy hills looming from my bedroom window and my grandmother in the doorway carrying an armful of wood branches for the fire. I hear the gurgling water boiling in the big pots on the stove and the rooster cock-a-doodle-doo-ing on the fence.

    In the morning I like looking at the the old photographs of my mom, uncles and late grandfather hanging on the wall next to the bed. I do this every morning. My grandmother has to go through the same ritual of telling me stories about my mom growing up, about the great great parents and grandfather I never knew. I love listening to stories about people and places I’ve never known.

    Up above on the wall, watching over us, hangs a big St. Mary and baby Jesus icon in front of which, every morning and evening, I say the prayers grandma taught me.

    • Maria, Thanks so much for sharing your recipe and your beautiful story. My mouth is watering and I’ve just eaten breakfast! Your idea of steeping the garlic in milk first is brilliant. Can’t wait to try it. What time is dinner? (Lucky, lucky, hubby-to-be, by the way!)

      Your comment about cinnamon really resonated with me. (My emotionally evocative smell is basil–it instantly transports me to my grandfather’s kitchen.) Smell is our most powerful sense–without it there is no taste. Imagine, all those memories bubbling to the surface with a simple whiff of cinnamon–and what wonderful memories you are making for your son. What a way to start the day!

      • Meredith, I wish I could say the recipe was mine, but I have to give credit to bbcgoodfood.com. Nevertheless, I cook it with much love each time. As for the memories we give to our children, it dawns on my from time to time that I am so lucky to be one of the people who’s going to hopefully make such beautiful and delicious memories for my son.

        Congratulations on your first novel! I can’t wait to read it.

  2. Wow, I think I am now traumatized by the word “button”! I’m glad you have both gotten past that.

    Congratulations on your debut – I’d love to win a copy!

  3. This sounds like an amazing book, one that is right up my alley!

    I’m so happy that tomorrow is the first day of September; commence with the fall baking! Autumn is my favorite time of year, and I’m so looking forward to roasting sweet potatoes and baking pumpkin pies, making pumpkin butter, and all manner of sweets with cinnamon and nutmeg. Yummmmmm

  4. Congratulations on publishing your first novel! Reading about the sections set in NYC will likely have a ring of familiarity but I especially look forward to the Pittsburgh background, which was so fascinating in the novels of the mystery writer K.C. Constantine. You’re now a part of an increasingly impressive cohort of Pittsburgh-based writers. My appetite has been whetted for Aftertaste.

  5. Meredith,
    As one who loves the idea of enjoying cooking, I most enjoy eating food cooked by others. My husband is the one in the house who treats the kitchen like his canvas on the weekends, while I get something on the table to eat weekdays. Prior to having children, my husband cooked for us ALL of the time.
    My 8-year old son enjoys cooking with his Dad. This weekend, he came in and said “I think the meat on the grill is done, Daddy”. (I do not know when meat on the grill is done!) Perhaps someday I’ll have 2 men in the house cooking for me.

    The reference to the Easy Bake Oven resonated with me. I never had one, myself, but childhood friends did & I was fascinated with them. Actually, I am more of a baker than a cook so I CAN do something in the kitchen.

    Your book sounds like an inspiring journey for Mira. Being a Pittsburgher, myself & currently residing in South Carolina, I realized on our 4th of July visit to the ‘burg that I eat my way through my favorite foodie experiences when there. Brings me back to my roots. I love the ethnic offerings of the ‘burg and since leaving I miss that most.

    Regarding Cinnamon! We just moved and I unpacked my son’s cinnamon grinder with cinnamon sticks in the last few days. We also unpacked our LARGE supply of spices (including a large container of cinnamon) we could purchase cheap from an Mennonite Cheese store where we just moved from in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. After school yesterday, my son asked “Momma, can I make some cinnamon?”. Not needing any for cooking as we are well supplied, I said sure, go make some in the back yard. From the kitchen window, I could see him pacing circles in the yard as he ground his cinnamon for a good 10-15 minutes. It pleased him so much that my 6-year old daughter HAD to follow in his footsteps. She came back in after about 30 seconds. She so wanted to enjoy it, but didn’t. Regardless, we have the most cinnamoned yard in the South!

    I thoroughly enjoy reading how Writerhead works for the different writers Kris brings to her site. Thanks for sharing!

    Please pick me Tully!

    Thnx,
    Amy U

    • I love it! Cooking men–lucky you! Actually, I come from a long line of cooking men. The women in my family sat around reading novels while the men made dinner–everyone was a winner! I learned to cook from my grandfather. We were the type of family who would linger at the lunch table chatting about what we were having for dinner.

      Funny you should mention you are more of a baker than a cook! Mira has a particular theory about cooks versus bakers. I wonder if you will agree… (By the way, I’m not sure I do!)

  6. Dear Meredith,

    When I read the synopsis of your book (referred to me by my friend Mike Buzzelli), I immediately thought of two things: the first was the wonderful ethnic, quirky, savory foods of Pittsburgh cuisine and how much I miss them since recently relocating to Lexington, Kentucky. The second was the story of searching for strength and finding inspiration in your family, friends, and passions when your life is turned upside down. I think it’s a very relatable story for young people who are so involved in their careers or what they do they often miss the bigger picture. It sounds very similar to the story of Eat, Pray, Love, but even more personal for those of us from Western Pennsylvania. I think it will be a great read and I look forward to possibly winning a copy signed by you!

    Sincerely,
    Ben

    • HI Ben,

      I hope you are enjoying Lexington, KY. I hear it is a great town.

      I love it– Eat, Pray Love, Western PA style! You are absolutely right– Pittsburgh has great local cuisine. It’s such a terrific food town, I’m always surprised so few people know about it. Much of Aftertaste is set in Pittsburgh’s Strip district. If you read it, I guarantee you will recognize several local Pittsburgh restaurants and foods!

      Thanks so much for your comments. I think we all need the occasional reminder to reassess our priorities and spend some time thinking about what is most important in our lives.

      Tell Mike, I said ‘Hi!”

  7. I will definitely be getting this book! While I love any book that talks about food the glimpses of Mira’s personality is making this a “must have” for me. Good luck, Meredith!

  8. Meredith – Congratulations! I have an e-mail saying my copy of Aftertaste is on its way, hope it’ll be here tomorrow.
    You’ve combined two of my favourite things – a story and food. I can often be found in my kitchen listening to an audio book, creating some kind of concoction for dinner. My kids tell me they love my cooking, it’s weird, they add, but they love it. It’s weird I think because I love to see what’s available and then put all the tips and methods I have learned in England, Italy (especially) and America to come up with something new. I have had some absolute disasters, of course, but I love going into the kitchen and seeing the empty plates as a blank canvas. The kids also think it’s fun to ask what tonight’s dinner is called. Hmm. Sometimes it is actually called lasagna or risotto, but quite often it’s Sunday Special, Wednesday Wonder and so on and so forth.
    One recipe that the family loves and I’d like to share here is a twist on the already great BLT. Take your favourite BLT combination and simply add 2 ingredients, avocado and shrimp – yum!
    Ci vediamo presto, un bacione,
    Hilary

    • Hurray! I do hope you enjoy Aftertaste, Hillary.

      I love your comparison of empty plates to blank canvases. It reinforces the notion that cooking is an incredibly creative endeavor. BTW, I’d love to know how you’ve combined your Italian, English and American methods. I wonder what you have taken from each… Can’t wait to try your BALTS. What sandwich couldn’t be improved with a little avocado and shrimp?

      Si! Ci vediamo presto. Molte bacione back at you!

  9. Meredith, I so relate to the idea of writerhead being like listening in on a party line conversation between characters. Great description. And the “button, button” story is hilarious!

    I loved Aftertaste when I read it the first time pre-publication (I count myself lucky to have gotten to do so) and I’m salivating over the printed book sitting on my desk right now. I wish I had an audio version (available?) so my niece and I could listen in the car tomorrow while we drive her back to culinary school in Providence RI!

  10. Hi, Julie–

    Happily, the button story is now funny. (It wasn’t always the case.) Poor little guy–he had no idea why his mother was lying face down on the bed for hours, sobbing.

    I count myself lucky that YOU read Aftertaste pre-publication! Re: the audio version, believe it or not, you aren’t the first person to ask. A reader forwarded me the email he got from Audible in response to his inquiry about an audio version and they said they would look into it. I guess we shall see. In the meantime, I could just come along and read it to you!!

    Have a safe trip and wish your niece good luck this semester for me!

  11. Naturally I am thrilled to cheer on a debut author with a food-focused novel! I must admit I don’t know much about Pittsburgh food (although of course I’ve heard of Primanti’s) but I do just love how each corner of the country and the world has its very own set of foods that just mean something special to current and former inhabitants. Congratulations on your debut, Meredith, and I’m wishing all good things for you and AFTERTASTE!

    • Thanks so much, Jael. Fellow foodie novelists unite! (I loved The Kitchen Daughter!) There have been quite a few food-focused novels lately and they see to be attracting a wide variety of readers. I’m interested in (and of course, delighted by) their wide appeal–men and women, cooks and non-cooks. Comfort food for the readers’ soul? If you ever find yourself in Pittsburgh, please let me know–I’ll love to take you on a culinary tour!