Eating Authors: DJ Cooper

No Comments » Written on May 31st, 2021 by
Categories: Plugs
DJ Cooper

I very much do not want to be one of those people who is always going on and on about the weather, but a week ago we were touching the bottom of the 90s and this weekend the high was about 50°. C’mon, spring, get with the program.

And I say that as someone who has also finally gotten his act together. Last week, after more than a month’s delay, I completed another novel. It’s off in the hands of my hardworking Typo Team, and soon I’ll incorporate their kind feedback and let the folks at Amazon have their way with it. By that time, I expect to be well underway writing a new Barsk novella, and after that I have even bigger plans — but hey, no spoilers.

Instead, let me direct your attention on a much-warmer-than-yesterday Memorial Day to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, whose latest novel builds off that classic quotation from Alfred Henry Lewis, “There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy.” It’s a chilling line, an ironic choice for this blog, and a snapshot into the work DJ Cooper. She’s taken Lewis’s point seriously, not only as an author of post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction but also as a prominent figure in the preparedness community where, among other things, she is both the executive producer and host of Surviving Dystopia from the American Preppers Radio Network.

DJ lives in New England and when she’s not writing about the end of all things she is working to complete a Master of Science in Marketing, which will surely come in handy if all her fiction turns out to be just, you know, fiction. I should note that the meal she is about to share also makes an appearance in her latest novel, Terminus State, so the lines are already blurring.

LMS: Welcome, DJ. If you wouldn’t mind, please share the story of your most memorable meal.

DJC: I call out from the open refrigerator door. “Would you like some breakfast? I have eggs. Wait, there’s no bacon; maybe an omelet?” The crisper drawers open and close one at a time. “Dang there isn’t much to put in an omelet either.” Looking up at him sheepishly smiling I shrugged. I quickly realized I’d forgotten to stop at the grocery store for even the staples. There was nothing in the fridge worth eating, I’d not gotten any food for the weekend at all, let alone stuff for a good breakfast; and on the only morning we actually could spend some time together. “What do you say we try that little place up at the circle? I just love small diners, they have the best food.” Coyly winking at him as I closed the door to the fridge. As usual, he just smiled and said, “It’s your call, you know I’d eat a bowl of cereal.” Anyone who knows me knows there is no cereal in my house. Yuck!

I must admit we often look like a mismatched pair. I stood in front of him, all of five foot, five… “and a half,” of me. He readily agreed and twenty minutes later we were dressed in our winter gear— for the weather had gone from cold to arctic overnight. Me in heeled boots and a long black wool coat with a scarf that wrapped about my neck. Him in a hooded sweatshirt and work boots. The sight of us may have made you question our compatibility. Lady and the Tramp never seemed so poignant and yet fascinating as you observe his devotion and gentle nature.

The lot was full, which I took to be a good sign. Sliding into a tight space with his big red truck he hurriedly came round to the passenger’s side and opened the door for me, offering me his hand to help me down from the cab. He even opened the door for me to enter the diner, and as he did a warm breeze flowed from the opening that carried on it a scent of bacon with a hint of something baking. Oh, the wonderful smells that hovered in the air as we entered and found a small table in the free for all seating. I sniffed the air as we considered our favorites from the menu. At this point one might think that my poor choice of skipping the grocery store might have turned out for the best and in we went.

The Beginning of the End

The pancakes seemed like just the thing on such a chilly day, and they were to be garnished with real maple syrup? Perfect. This combination of buttery and sticky sweet would be mouthwatering. Anticipation is evident, waiting for the savory tastes of the tart blueberries and sticky sweet real maple flavor. The smells made me crave bacon with my fluffy blue flecked disks. I was ready, I knew exactly what I’d order, and I could just imagine the greasy kitchen, the hot stove littered with eggs, pancakes and bacon splattering its greasy rain as it danced atop the grill.

The waitress approached placing her hand on the back of his chair and leaning over him, she seemed pleasant asking, “Can I start you guys with some coffee?”

“Yes please,” I piped up. “And could I also get a glass of water?”

Still considering the menu, he just nods to her. I interject, “Make it two.”

She rolled her eyes, turned and retreated to the waitress station.

Once we’d ordered I felt full of optimism, ready to take on the day and start it off with the kind of wonderful food you can only find at such little local establishments such as this. The homecooked goodness of real food. My face was alight and mood high.

She’d returned and brought his dish. Across the table his spread held a man-sized steak with a couple of eggs, some home fries and pristine toast laid across the massive platter neatly segregated, yet gently brushing each other as though it were doing a ballet across the plate for his enjoyment.

The imminent arrival of next order was at hand, and for sure this platter of pancakes would be steaming hot slabs of fluffy, lightly browned, gently flavored with vanilla, heavenly pancakes. Donning those sweet-smelling disks would be telltale dark blue spots of the largest ripest blueberries. The napkin laid out neatly in my lap, for it was the ladylike thing to do, I waited mouth waterning. Like an opera, the older blonde waitress strode, gliding across the floor; plate in hand, coming straight for the table. A broad smile emerged as she approached and laid the plate on the table. Any smile swiftly diminished when I looked down at the single pat of butter sitting atop the two flat slabs with black specks.

Sun's Fury

My disappointment was evident with the change in my expression. The flaccid pancake drooped lazily off one side of the plate as the small pat of butter disappeared into a hole dead center. No matter, it was a lovely day with breakfast and conversation to enjoy. Trying to disguise my disappointment I looked to her and asked, “Could I please have some extra butter?”

She glared in my direction, huffed, turning on her heel, and without a word, she retreated from whence she came. A bit later she returned, the scowl on her face had not changed. A single piece of her stringy blonde hair hung across her furrowed brow as she pulled two small containers of Country Crock Margarine from her stained white apron. She dropped them on the table. They rolled like dice, tumbling in my direction. Her demeanor changed when she turned to le’ boyfriend, and she smiled asking him. “How’s your coffee, sweetie?”

He grunted at her without looking up and pointed to the two small cups on the table, “Babe, that’s margarine. You don’t eat that.”

The waitress glared at me as though I’d made her look bad in front of her boss or something. I wondered what I’d done to make her so disagreeable towards me. I just grimaced and said, “It’s fine every once in a while.” We’d discussed the differences while shopping only last week. He liked Country Crock, but I refused to buy it calling it “practically plastic.”

Looking down at my very flat pancake-like food and then up again, I smiled. He’d not cared what she’d done, only that my food was what I’d wanted. Being the quintessential optimist, I was not going to allow any of it to spoil the day. After all, I didn’t have to cook or clean up.

I poured the roughly two tablespoons of real maple syrup onto the pancakes and tried to stretch it out. After eating about a quarter of one pancake, the maple syrup had disappeared. I sat there considering the possibility of requesting more from this surly woman who’d chosen to stand but twenty feet away and chat with another and laugh, while watching my obvious displeasure. Or… I could just live with the brown colored corn syrup that was offered at the table.

I’d only wanted a pleasurable morning, and this was turning out to be a serious detriment to my psyche. Rather than face off against the gruff waitress, I opted for the lesser of miseries by choosing the table syrup. Grasping the clear plastic ketchup bottle with the brown sticky syrup in it, I tipped it upside down and prepared to squeeze out a string of this thick ooze onto my flat slabs flecked with black spots. Thinking to myself how this was not how I’d intended to have breakfast. As I awaited the agonizingly slow descent of the ooze toward the opening of the container, again I thought at how I’d not gone shopping. Resolving that after this I would not be remiss in this task again, or I’d likely face another bout of waitress rage.

Terminus State

The ooze had made its way to the cap and was ready to be applied to the slabs. Grasping the bottle, I gave it a squeeze. Plop! The top had not been screwed onto the bottle properly and I now had a deluge of gelatinous brown sticky liquid oozing over the sides of the plate onto the table and headed for my lap in a slow creeping motion. Looking about the room of tables, searching for a savior with those ever present white soggy towels. There was none to be seen… Anywhere. The waitress was suddenly missing as I sat looking at the floating rafts in my plate and contemplating how to avoid the wave of ooze headed for me in a slow-motion slide toward the table edge.

After what felt like an eternity of panic, the realities of these consequences of my failure to obtain the proper food items had again flashed before my eyes. She sauntered over and asked my man if his food was ok; ignoring my precarious position with the ooze closing in on me. I was becoming angry, thinking to myself “Is his food ok?” I interrupted her and asked, “Can I get a rag for this?” Feeling as though I’d done something wrong, I continued, “The top…it popped right off.”

She rolled her eyes as she wadded up the placemat and told me to lift my plate, so she could wipe. You know… the one with the floating pancake rafts and syrup dribbling over the side? I handed it to her and said, “I’m finished, thank you.”

She wiped some of the brown ooze but left the mat and a huge swath of sticky goo on the table in front of me never to return. When rising to leave I said, “I’ve got the tip.” He stopped and turned, looking at me shocked, “Really?”

I pulled a bill out of my wallet, grinned, and slapped it hard onto the table. Right in the sticky mess she’d left, turning it over, making sure the entire bill was well covered. Wiping my hands, I smiled at him, winked, and took his arm to go. I was still hungry but a bagel from Dunk’s would surely be better than this.

An old woman who’d been at the table beside us witnessed the whole ordeal. Smiling at me with pure white hair and tiny crooked fingers, she pointed her tiny finger at the bill, giggled and said, “That’s how it’s done honey.”

Thanks, DJ. You’re far more forgiving than me. Fake butter or fake syrup, one or the other, but both? No, it’s just too much. Sure, everyone (even surly waitrons) are allowed to have a bad day, but there’s got to be a limit if we’re to save civilization!

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

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