[Note from Frolic: We are so excited to have author Sarah Smith guest posting on the site today. She’s sharing the inspiration behind her new novel, Simmer Down! Takt it away, Sarah!]
Anyone who knows me knows that the two things I adore most in the world are food and romance. I combine these two loves in my latest book Simmer Down. It’s a rivals-to-lovers romcom set in Maui about Nikki, who runs a Filipino food truck with her mom, and Callum, who runs a British pub food truck with his brother.
One day when Nikki pulls up to her parking spot near Makena Beach, Callum is parked there. Even though it’s against island food truck etiquette to park too close to other food trucks without their permission, Callum doesn’t care. He thinks that because there are no laws governing food trucks on Maui, he has every right to encroach on Nikki’s territory. This of course kicks off an epic battle between Nikki and Callum for the coveted parking spot. Their frequent public spats and attempts to sabotage each other quickly go viral, making them the most popular eateries on the island. Soon the heat between them turns into attraction, which leads to one hell of a steamy romance.
So what exactly gave me the idea to write about food truck rivals heating it up in the kitchen and in the bedroom? My mom, of course.
Yes, I know, that’s a weird source of inspiration, but let me explain.
I grew up with a mom who was a dynamite cook. My whole life she whipped up incredible food for my siblings and me. Loads of those were Filipino dishes she ate growing up and put her own spin on when she became a parent and had to appease the picky taste buds of her children. As my siblings and I grew up and moved away, food was one of the ways she would show her love for us when we visited home. I remember countless times calling my mom to let her know when I was planning to be home for the holidays or a weekend visit, then she would excitedly tell me which dishes she would whip up for my arrival. My mouth would be watering all the way until I walked through her door and saw a mountain of lumpia or a giant wok full of pansit that she had cooked. It was such a comfort.
When I started writing romance books, I knew that someday I’d like to write a story that incorporated my mom’s recipes. I wanted readers to not only be exposed to the deliciousness of Filipino-American cuisine, but also the amazing food that she raised my siblings and me on. Last year when I needed to pitch a new book idea to my publisher, that’s when the idea for Simmer Down hit. I was thrilled to finally have the chance to write something that would honor this part of her life and culture in a mainstream book.
While I was writing the first draft of Simmer Down, my mother was sadly diagnosed with a terminal illness. I went home to help take care of her, and whenever I had downtime, I wrote. It was strange and emotional balancing writing with caretaking and simply spending time with her. I waffled back and forth between feeling grateful that I could be with her and dread at the direness of the situation.
Writing about her food became a kind of solace for me, especially after she passed. I had so many memories with my mom that centered around the meals she cooked for our family. Being able to document them in a book that lots of people will potentially read felt like I was honoring her memory in a unique and meaningful way.
I’ve received loads of comments from lovely readers who have read Simmer Down and said that reading about my mom’s lumpia, pansit, chicken adobo, fried rice, and other dishes made them so hungry and eager to try Filipino cuisine. It always makes me smile because it reminds me of how I felt every time I’d call her on my way home and she would tell me what yummy dish she’d be preparing for my siblings and me. In a way, it’s like my mom is reaching people she doesn’t even know through her food. She’s still making people hungry and happy even though she’s gone. And I think she would be really proud to know that.
-1 12-oz. package of dried rice noodles
-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
-3 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 small head of cabbage, thinly shredded
-3 to 4 carrots, thinly shredded
-2 cups of diced chicken, shrimp, or pork (your preference)
-1/4 cup soy sauce
-1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
-Soak the rice noodles in a large bowl with warm water. When noodles are soft, drain and set aside.
-Heat the vegetable oil in a large wok or skillet over medium heat, and saute the garlic until soft and fragrant.
-Add the chicken/shrimp/pork and saute until cooked through (10 minutes for chicken or pork; 3 to 4 minutes for shrimp). Set aside.
-Saute the cabbage and carrots until they begin to soften (3 to 5 minutes).
-When the vegetables are cooked through, turn the heat to low and add the noodles and meat to the pot.
-Pour the soy sauce (and optional fish sauce) over the noodles, meat, and vegetables, then toss together.
-Transfer to a serving dish and enjoy.
About the Author:
Sarah Smith is a copywriter-turned-author who wants to make the world a lovelier place, one kissing story at a time. When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking, eating chocolate and perfecting her lumpia recipe. She is the author of Faker, If You Never Come Back, and Simmer Down.
Simmer Down by Sarah Smith, out now!
In this finger-licking good rom-com, two is the perfect number of cooks in the kitchen.
Nikki DiMarco knew life wouldn’t be all sunshine and coconuts when she quit her dream job to help her mom serve up mouthwatering Filipino dishes to hungry beach goers, but she didn’t expect the Maui food truck scene to be so eat-or-be-eaten—or the competition to be so smoking hot.
But Tiva’s Filipina Kusina has faced bigger road bumps than the arrival of Callum James. Nikki doesn’t care how delectable the British food truck owner is—he rudely set up shop next to her coveted beach parking spot. He’s stealing her customers and fanning the flames of a public feud that makes her see sparks.
The solution? Let the upcoming Maui Food Festival decide their fate. Winner keeps the spot. Loser pounds sand. But the longer their rivalry simmers, the more Nikki starts to see a different side of Callum…a sweet, protective side. Is she brave enough to call a truce? Or will trusting Callum with her heart mean jumping from the frying pan into the fire?