A Second Bite at the Apple

A Second Bite at the Apple

by Dana Bate


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A Second Bite at the Apple by Dana Bate

"Bate's writing is smart and compelling." —Publishers Weekly

From the acclaimed author of The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs comes a witty, honest novel, perfectly seasoned with both humor and heart, about daring to bite into the life you really want. . .

Sydney Strauss is obsessed with food. Not with eating it—though she does that too—but with writing about the wonders of the gastronomic world, from obscure fruit hybrids to organic farming techniques. Since food journalism jobs are more coveted than Cronuts®, Sydney pays her bills working for one of TV's biggest egomaniacs—until she's left scrambling for shifts at a local farmers' market.

Stacking muffins for the Wild Yeast Bakery isn't going to win her any James Beard awards. But soon Sydney is writing the market's weekly newsletter, and her quirky stories gain attention from a prominent food columnist. After years of putting her love life into deep freeze, she's even dating again. And then Sydney gets a shot at the story, one that could either make her career or burn it to a crisp—along with her relationship and her reputation. . .

"A breezy, idiomatic voice." – Publishers Weekly

"Full of humor and lots of genuine heart." – RT Book Reviews

"In smart and crisp prose, Bate tells a winning story about food, love and second chances, with recipes appended. Great fun." - Booklist

Praise for The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs

"Bate deftly conjures up a witty, resilient heroine, surrounds her with delightful friends and frenemies, and sends them all on a rollicking quest for love and delicious food." —Kirkus

"Engaging. . .Even Bate's implausible happy ending feels right."
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"The food—oh my goodness—the food! From the Dupont Circle farmers' market to the Maine Avenue Fish Market, Hannah leads readers on a culinary tour of D.C.'s locavore scene. Do not read this book hungry." —Washington Post

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617732607
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 11/25/2014
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 510,423
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Dana Bate is the author of A Second Bite at the Apple, the forthcoming Too Many Cooks, and The Girls’ Guide to Love and Supper Clubs, which earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly  and has been translated into five languages. Before writing fiction full time, she was a Washington producer and reporter for PBS's Nightly Business Report, where she won the Gerald Loeb Award for a series she produced on the Indian economy. She studied molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University and received her master's degree from North western’s Medill School of Journalism, where she won the Harrington Award for outstanding promise in the field of journalism. She lives outside Philadelphia with her family.

Read an Excerpt

A Second Bite at the Apple

By Dana Bate


Copyright © 2014 Dana Bate
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61773-261-4


Just when I think this morning can't get any weirder, I spot Charles Griffin skiing down Seventeenth Street. Skiing, like we're in Aspen. Or Vermont. But we're in Washington, DC, and unlike the rest of the residents of this city, who are drinking hot cocoa and snuggling beneath their fleecy blankets on this snowed-in December morning, Charles and I must subject ourselves to the vagaries of Mother Nature and the incompetence of the city's Department of Transportation.

"Hey, there!" Charles shouts as he glides through the mounds of snow, stabbing haphazardly at the ground with his ski poles. Even muffled by his scarf, his voice resonates with the deep gravitas of a TV news correspondent.

I wave and stumble toward the corner, plowing through a waist-high snowdrift as I clutch my notebook to my chest. Charles presses his knees together and manages to bring himself to a stop next to me.

"How about this weather?" he says, dabbing his forehead with his gloved hand. "When's the last time we got this much snow in December?"

"Someone at the Chronicle said 1932. They're calling it Snowzilla."

He laughs. "Where's Tony?"

"Grabbing the gear upstairs. He'll be down in a minute."

I pull my gray fleece hat tighter over my head as I glance down Seventeenth Street. Normally, at this time of morning, cars would barrel southward toward the bustle of K Street, that infamous east-west thoroughfare known for its lobbying firms and major office buildings. But today, instead of a thick flow of cars and taxis and buses, all I see is snow. As someone who once dreamed of penning articles about soufflés and famous chefs, I have to wonder how I ended up here, half-frozen and clad in snow boots, producing a live shot for a TV news correspondent on skis.

"I can't get over how quiet the city is," I say. "I've never seen the streets so empty."

Charles taps on his skis with the tip of his ski pole. "More people need to invest in a pair of these bad boys."

I roll my eyes. "How about we get you out of those bad boys and into position."

Charles raises his arm to prevent me from coming any closer. "The skis aren't going anywhere."

"Charles ..."

"No—listen. I thought we could start with a tight shot of me skiing down Seventeenth, and then Tony could pull out to a wide as I approach the camera. To give people a sense of how much snow there is."

"Have you cleared this with New York?"

"I don't need to clear it with New York."

I raise an eyebrow. "I do."

"No, you don't. It'll be fine. Trust me. I do stuff like this all the time."

This is true. Charles is basically The Morning Show's resident jackass, though officially, he is a general assignment reporter. He possesses an uncanny ability to make himself the center of every story, and, as his producer, my job involves, among other things, bailing him out of the binds that result from his asinine pranks. I'd say this behavior is part of his midlife crisis, but from what I gather, he has been acting like an idiot for years. Last year, when we visited a farm in Loudoun County to report on farm subsidies, Charles decided to do his standup while driving a combine harvester—a machine he had never driven before and that was probably bigger than my first apartment. Charles also happens to be a terrible driver. I begged him to choose another standup location (there is a reason he calls me "Square Sydney"), but when Charles gets an idea in his head, it is impossible to reason with him. He mounted the combine harvester, and the shot ended with him crashing through the poor farmer's fence. It was not one of my more enjoyable afternoons.

As Charles shuffles his skis back and forth, Tony trudges down the sidewalk from our bureau, gripping his camera gear with his big bear paws. Tony is built like a tank, with broad shoulders, a thick neck, and a perpetual five o'clock shadow. He regularly lugs multiple pounds of equipment from shoot to shoot, setting up and breaking down in record speed, and lifting boxes filled with lights and batteries as if they were filled with feathers.

Tony sets up Charles for his live shot, snapping the camera into the tripod and looping the wireless microphone through Charles's jacket. I tug the scarf away from Charles's face and apply a thick coat of foundation to his weathered skin, trying to smooth the peach-colored gunk out of the creases around his eyes and mouth. Not much of his face shows, framed as it is in fleece and wool, but his distinctive wide eyes peer out beneath his woolen hat, and a few tufts of his graying chestnut hair stick out around the edges.

"Up for a test run?" Tony asks.

Charles adjusts his hat. "I skied all the way from my apartment in Kalorama. I don't need a test run."

"Okay, man. Suit yourself."

Tony's attitude, always so laid back and calm, must be a requirement for his job. If reporters like Charles aren't complaining about their appearance on camera, producers like me are yelling at Tony for not getting enough video. But somehow he manages to take it all in stride, never raising his voice or saying a mean word. I don't know how he does it.

"What's our hit time?" Charles asks.

"The first is at 7:25, then every thirty minutes until ten. Unless there's breaking news."

Charles waves his ski poles in the air. "What could be more important than this?"

That pretty much sums up Charles's attitude in life: If he isn't involved in something, how important could it be? An intergalactic explosion, the defection of a political leader, the extinction of the human race—irrelevant when compared to the prospect of watching Charles slog through the snow on an old pair of cross-country skis.

At the top of the hour, Charles treks up Seventeenth Street, using the narrow tracks from his descent as his guide, and turns around when he reaches his self-proclaimed starting point. I call into the bridge in New York, where I hear Bridget, The Morning Show's coordinating producer, moan at the sight of Charles on her preview screen.

"Is Charles really wearing skis?" she asks.

I sigh into the phone. "Yes. Unfortunately."

"Sydney ..."

"It wasn't my idea—I told him not to do it."

Bridget clicks her tongue and doesn't say anything. She knows it wasn't my idea. I'm Square Sydney. Skiing live shots are not part of my vocabulary.

I hold my phone to my chest and yell up to Charles. "Five minutes!"

Tony finishes adjusting the camera. "Can you believe this guy? What a clown."

Thirty seconds before we go live, Charles rubs his skis back and forth into the ground, as if he is Bode Miller, preparing for the downhill race of his life. Every Olympic season, Charles catches Olympic fever something fierce, and this past year was worse than most. For years, he has been angling to travel to the main event as part of the network team, and for years, including the last one, he has been passed over in favor of another reporter. I'm sure these skis are his way, however small, of throwing up a symbolic middle finger at the network executives for having left him in Washington.

"That's right, Diana," Charles says, staring into the camera as he pushes off from his perch just below M Street. "This was how I got into work today—pushing my way through the snowdrifts that have brought the city to a crippling standstill."

As Charles speaks to the camera and, by default, our anchor Diana Humphrey, he picks up speed as his skis lock into the tracks made by his prior descent and ascent. He builds up momentum until, much to the surprise of both him and our viewers, he is moving at quite a clip, flying toward the camera, his eyes wild with terror. He stabs at the ground with his ski poles, but the mountains of snow lining the sidewalk rip them from his hands, and he loses them.

"Please fucking tell me he knows how to stop," Bridget yells into the phone, which is pressed tightly against my ear.

I wish I had an answer for her, but I am too busy watching Charles panic as he realizes he is heading straight for the camera.

"... and as you can see, it's pretty treacherous out here...."

He is fifteen feet away from the camera now and shows no sign of stopping. He continues to fly toward Tony, his arms flailing at his sides as he tries to keep his balance, his knees turned inward as he tries to bring himself to a halt. It worked earlier, but it isn't working now, not when his skis are stuck in the grooves of his track marks and he is coming at us like a freight train. When he is only a few feet from me and Tony, he surrenders and throws his arms over his face in a brace position.

"Oh, jeez!" he yells as he crashes full-force into the camera. Tony and the tripod go tumbling to the ground, and Charles lands on top of them.

It is just the sort of jackassery I've come to expect from Charles, and if past is precedent—and I believe it is—this will all be my fault.

After the show ends, I slog up to the fifth floor of our building, my fingers stiff and cold like spindly icicles and my nose the color of a maraschino cherry. I ran out of tissues around eight o'clock, so the sleeve of my puffy black ski parka is covered with crusted snot, and I may or may not be sporting a booger mustache. Some days in this job are definitely better than others.

When I reach my desk, I shimmy out of my coat and make my way toward Melanie, the show's senior Washington producer, whose desk is located at the far end of the newsroom. She hugs the phone to her ear as she types at her computer, speaking in a hushed tone, and sits up abruptly when she notices me approaching her desk.

"Gotta run," she barks into the phone. She throws the receiver into its cradle and leans back in her chair. "What the hell was that?"

"That was Charles."

She whips off her black-rimmed glasses and dangles them by one of the arms. "Bridget says New York is pissed."

"Charles says New York loves what he does."

"The skis?"

"His idea. I told him not to use them. And anyway, he took them off after the first live shot."

"After which he proceeded to throw a snowball at an old lady," she says.

"In his defense, she looked like a child all bundled up like that."

Melanie runs her hands through her chestnut, ear-length bob. She has the kind of hair I've always wished I could have: pin straight, always falling in exactly the same way no matter how windy or humid it is. A few months ago she added bangs, a style I haven't attempted since fifth grade due to my thick, unruly waves. I'm still traumatized by my class photo from that year, in which my forehead seems to have spontaneously grown a toy poodle.

"Come on—the snowball thing was kind of funny," I say.

Melanie rips open her file drawer and pulls out a Kashi bar. "Laugh all you want. You won't find it so funny when the suits make their announcement."

"What announcement?"

She stops halfway through peeling her snack and sits frozen in her chair. "You haven't heard?"

"Heard what?"

She bites off a hunk of the Kashi bar. "Suffice it to say, major changes are on the way."

"Major as in ..."

"Think restructuring." She swallows. "Listen, I don't have any details. I shouldn't have said anything."

This is how Melanie operates: doling out a bit of juicy gossip, but then backtracking, assuring you she has already said too much, but ah, how lucky you were to catch her in a moment of weakness.

"They wouldn't do anything so close to the holidays, would they?"

She shrugs. "Who knows? Like I said, I shouldn't have mentioned it."

"I'm glad you did," I say. "Could you let me know if you hear anything else?"

"Sure. Assuming I hear anything. For now ... I'd watch my step, if I were you. These are dangerous times." She picks up her coffee mug, and as she goes to take a sip, she narrows her eyes. "By the way," she says, "you have snot running down your face."

This day just gets better and better.


Melanie may love gossip, but she also has a pretty good track record when it comes to knowing what's going on behind the scenes at our network. She knows which anchors are about to get the boot and which reporters are about to get a promotion and which correspondents are sleeping with the network executives. So if she says major changes are coming, major changes are coming.

I scoot back to my desk, which is wedged between a rectangular column and the wall: a less than perfect location for a less than perfect job. I know, I know—I shouldn't complain. It's a paying job, after all, and to most outsiders, it sounds fantastic. Associate producer for a national morning show? Who wouldn't want that job? Well ... me, actually. It's not that I hate my job. In many ways, it's a great gig. I put together stories seen by millions of people every morning, regularly interact with on-air personalities like Charles Griffin and Diana Humphrey, and meet interesting people, from politicians to inventors, all the time. But the truth is, I ended up here by mistake, and if I had my choice, I'd be producing segments for the Cooking Channel or writing food columns for the Washington Chronicle. But I'm not. I'm here, working for a correspondent whose contribution to the journalistic profession includes a live shot on skis.

My fingers are still red and raw from our two hours in the snowy outdoors, so I sit at my desk, rubbing my hands together to thaw them. As I press my palms against each other, my cell phone hums and buzzes on my desk. It's my younger sister, Libby. I can only imagine what she wants to talk about this time.

Libby recently moved in with her boyfriend, relocating to an apartment in downtown Philadelphia only twenty minutes from the house where we grew up in the Philly suburbs, and has taken to calling me regularly with "crises" that involve crown molding and paint colors. I toy with the idea of ignoring her call, but I decide talking to her about Benjamin Moore's "Lavender Whisper" is better than talking to Charles, who is currently parading around the office in long johns.

"Syd—hi," she says, her voice tense. "Are you sitting down?"

As if by command, I sit up straighter. "Yes ... Why?"

"I have news." She takes a deep breath. "Matt and I are engaged!"

My stomach curdles. This is an inappropriate reaction, I realize, but it is my reaction nonetheless. "What?"

"I'm engaged," she repeats. A brief moment passes. "Hello? Are you there?"

"Yes—sorry. Wow. Congrats, Lib. That's ... great news."

"That almost sounded sincere," she says.

"Sorry, I'm just ... How long have you known each other? Six months?"

"Seven," she says. "And they've been the most wonderful seven months of my life. I thought you'd be happy for me."

"I am. Sorry. I am. Really. Congratulations."

"Thank you," she says. I can hear her smile through the phone. "And to think, everyone thought you and Zach would be the ones to get engaged first!"

"Yeah. To think."

"Sorry—I didn't mean ... It's just funny, is all."

Our idea of what is "funny" is one of the many ways Libby and I are nothing alike. We are three years apart, but to look at us you wouldn't think we were even related. She inherited my mother's honey-brown hair, her blue eyes, and her fair skin, whereas I am my father's likeness: thick, sable-colored hair, so dark it appears almost black, green eyes, and freckles, all set atop a wiry frame. At my best, I can look cute—the classic nice Jewish girl from a good family—but Libby is flat-out beautiful and always has been. She never went through an awkward phase, whereas I looked like a mutant Chinese crested dog for most of middle school.

To speak to us, you wouldn't know we were related either. Libby was the popular, sporty one in school, destined to become captain of the field hockey team and president of her sorority at Penn State. She dated with such frequency and enthusiasm that I could never keep track of the flavor du jour. One week it was James so-and-so, and the next it was Mike what's-his-face. With her bubbly laugh and outgoing personality, men flocked to her like a bunch of lovesick fools. Until now, she's had no interest in maintaining a long-term relationship with anyone, but that's because she knew she would always have a date, even if it was with a new person every time. She didn't even have to try.


Excerpted from A Second Bite at the Apple by Dana Bate. Copyright © 2014 Dana Bate. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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A Second Bite at the Apple 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Sydney has always been a food funkie and dreamed of being a food writer where she can connect food and people.  She took a job in television as a back up plan and stopped pursuing her dream.  Through a series of events she is now pushed into really finding her dreams and going after them.   A perfect combo of family drama and love drama - this book really presented Sydney as a whole person who was having relationship issues, family issues and professional issues.  I loved that the author really represented all of the aspects of one's life and that they can all explode at the same time or at different times and you still have to deal with them all. 
gaele More than 1 year ago
When choosing a book, most often it is the cover that encourages me to read more – then I look at the synopsis. If I have an ‘ooh moment’  there, then I’m grabbing the title. With a foodie / romance / chick lit theme, I just couldn’t resist this title.  And Dana Bate did not disappoint.  Far from being a passive read that just entertains, the protagonist, Sydney is teetering between funny  and confident and a hot mess: from being let go from her job, to finding a new position for a rather difficult boss, but in the food industry  that she so desperately wants to break in to, her trajectory and learning curve in this book are amazing.  The food descriptions (and recipes at the end) are luscious and delectable: you will want to try each one out, and snack as you read.   Sydney loves food: the taste, color and texture are all described and detailed with care, and bring instant food memories to the reader. Food is common to everyone, and appears simple to write about, but the skill and detail is far more specific and difficult than you would  think at first glance.   Yet this story is bound together by more than the ingredients in the meals and snacks: Sydney is slowly developing her eye and voice for  her ultimate goal of food-journalism. The opportunity to write the ‘newsletter’ for the farmer’s market that soon parlayed into writing for the  local paper is going to test Sydney in ways she never expected.  Sydney has to grow up significantly and see how the secrets she keeps (and that others keep) are not necessarily all that define them, but sharing those secrets to gain her own biggest dreams has the potential to ruin everything.  I love that the author made her so real  and tangible, with flaws and the ability to make mistakes and then learn from them. Sydney’s best moments for me were when her life was falling apart: she really had to dig deep and reevaluate her life, her relationships and even her own unwillingness to forgive some of the people in her life.   There was a nice mix of laughter and interactions that ran the gamut between funny to deeply emotional, with a solid voice for Sydney and decently developed secondary characters that fuel the forward motion of the story. This was a fun read that moved quickly, carrying surprising depth in characters and choices in the end.  I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review:  all conclusions are my own responsibility.