From Scratch

From Scratch

by Rachel Goodman

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476774695
Publisher: Pocket Star
Publication date: 07/20/2015
Series: Blue Plate Series
Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 315
Sales rank: 248,486
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Rachel Goodman is the critically acclaimed author of the Blue Plate series. She was raised in Colorado on Roald Dahl books and her mother’s award-worthy cooking. Now an engineering professor at her alma mater, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, she has not lost her passion for culinary discovery or a well-told story. A member of RWA, she continues to hone her craft through the Writer’s Path at SMU while seeking to create the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe.

Read an Excerpt

From Scratch

ONE



LIP SMACKIN’ DELICIOUS flickers in red neon above the diner’s door.

Salivating addicts are crammed in the entryway and spilling onto the sidewalk, all vying for their Blue Plate Special fix. The chalkboard menu posted behind the register says today’s offering is the James Beard—a dish dripping with enough cholesterol to clog even the healthiest arteries. Served all day and only seven dollars.

I elbow my way through the horde, careful not to maim someone’s toe with my stiletto. The air inside feels as heavy as sausage gravy, and smells of it, too. The sounds of my childhood surround me: forks clanking against plates, snippets of conversations, and a Bob Seger tune blasting from the Wurlitzer jukebox.

Scanning the crowd, I search for the familiar mop of black hair that belongs to my father. All I can see are shiny bald heads, gray hair, and baseball caps as they line the stainless steel counter, obstructing my view of the kitchen. But I know my father is there. I can hear his boisterous laugh booming over the noise.

Turner’s Greasy Spoons is my father’s pride and joy, his existence. He’s been running the joint for the past twenty-five years. The regulars have dubbed him Old Man Jack. Right now, he’s on my to-die-painfully-by-butter-knife list.

Weaving around tables, past servers carrying pitchers and balancing dishes, I spot my father standing over the flat-top grill, flushed and grimy from oil splatters. He wipes his forehead with his sleeve. I march toward him, and when he notices me, a grin spreads across his face.

“Folks, Lillie Claire Turner, the best damn cook in Dallas and my only child, has arrived,” he says, gesturing at me with a metal spatula.

Swiveling around on stools, patrons nod and tip their hats.

“Your only child wants to know why you’re not in emergency surgery,” I shout as my father disappears from view. A beat later he steps out from the kitchen and meets me behind the counter, wrapping me in a hug. I inhale the scent of hash browns and coffee. I pull away. In my five-year absence, he’s aged tenfold—deep creases around his mouth, salt-and-pepper hair, tired hazel eyes, lanky build.

“I went to the hospital and the house, and this is where I find you?” I try to quell the frustration and anger sweeping through me.

He furrows his brow. “Course it is. The surgery isn’t happening for another three weeks.”

I shake my head. “You’re unbelievable.” Fishing my cell phone out of my suit pocket, I put his voice message on speaker.

“Hey, baby girl, I don’t want to worry you, but I’m here at the doctor’s office. I’ve been feeling run down lately and my bum knee’s been giving me trouble again. Anyway, he’s saying I need surgery . . . Ah, Doc’s back with the paperwork for the hospital. I gotta go.”

“See,” he says. “I never said it was scheduled for today.”

I huff in exasperation. “I called you seven times, Dad. Seven times without an answer.”

“I got busy with the breakfast rush,” he says, then shrugs at me, as if this whole thing is a simple misunderstanding. I have a brief, out-of-body moment where I see this crazy-haired, wild-eyed woman about to kill her father.

“You scared me,” I say, recalling my dash through O’Hare, the restless flight to Dallas, my panicked drive around town to locate him. “You made it sound like this was an emergency.”

A bell rings and plates appear in the kitchen window. My father trays the order. “Well, listen, I’m sorry about that, but I told you not to worry.”

I throw my hands up as a fresh wave of anger swells inside me. “You mentioned hospital paperwork, and then you didn’t pick up your phone. How could I not envision the worst?”

“Easy there, baby girl. Calm down. It’s just a simple operation to fix me up,” he says, tapping his kneecap with his knuckles.

“So it’s not even serious?” I ask.

“Doc says after some intensive therapy, I’ll be shining brighter than a freshly minted penny. Now let me look at you.” My father clutches my arms. “You’re skinny as a green bean. Don’t people eat where you live? And why are you dressed like one of those stuffy lawyers on Law & Order?”

“Because I was at work prepping for an important meeting,” I say, my voice rising. At this very moment, I should be on the thirty-eighth floor of the United Building, overlooking the Chicago River, presenting to the executive board of Kingsbury Enterprises about their product launch. I’m the senior consultant on the account, the success of which determines if I make partner. “I dropped everything to be here, and you’re acting as if I’m the irrational one.”

“You don’t belong in that job anyway. It’s about time you came home. Five years in that frozen tundra is long enough. Now, how about some real food? No more of that bird crap you’ve been eating.” He winks, and his lips curve up into a bright smile.

The fire burning inside me dies, replaced with exhaustion, and I slump against the counter. “I’m not hungry.”

“Sure you are.” My father pops his head into the kitchen window and speaks to Ernie, his right-hand man and short-order cook. “Can you plate up a James Beard for Lillie?”

“Coming right up, boss.”

“Make sure you add extra syrup and bacon.”

I cross my arms. “Dad, no. I—”

“You love this stuff.” He pats my wrist.

“I’m not a little girl anymore.”

“I know that. But you’re never too old for tradition,” he says, pointing at the wall on the far side of the diner.

Intermixed among rusted diner signs—with phrases like If you’re smoking in here, you better be on fire; Unattended children will be towed at owner’s expense; and Jack Turner’s diet plate: half the food, half the calories, full price—are candid photographs from years past and framed high school newspaper columns written by yours truly.

Most normal parents tape their children’s accomplishments to the refrigerator. Not my father. No, he creates menu items about them. Like today’s Blue Plate Special, for instance. Inspired by my first column for The Bagpipe about legendary food pioneer James Beard’s famous quote, “I’ve long said that if I were about to be executed and were given a choice of my last meal, it would be bacon and eggs,” the special consists of three strips of bacon piled atop eggs scrambled with cheddar cheese and fresh vegetables, all drizzled with Vermont maple syrup.

The column was part of a monthly feature called “The Yummy,” which focused on simple, delicious foods. Of course, I wrote those columns back when I cared about things like developing the perfect hush puppy recipe or discovering the key ingredient that made a pasta dish unforgettable. Back before I outgrew the diner and cooking altogether.

Ernie rings the bell and places a steaming dish in the window. The scent of hickory smoked bacon tickles my nose, and my stomach rumbles. Traitor.

Before I can protest, the plate is on the counter in front of me and a fork is in my hand. “Dig in,” my father says.

I stare at him, refusing to cave.

My stomach rumbles louder. Bacon has always been my kryptonite. I’ve never been able to resist the mesmerizing sound of it sizzling in the skillet, the way its intoxicating down-home aroma wafts through the air, how the succulent flavors of juicy fat and crispy meat explode on the tongue.

“Go on,” my father says. “I know it’s your favorite.”

My mouth waters until I can’t handle it anymore. I take a bite. My eyes flutter shut and a moan slips from my lips. Double traitor. Somewhere around my fourth strip of pork heaven, I faintly recall my promise to eat no more than one.

“Slow down. Nobody’s going to snatch it from you,” my father says. “Heck, when you’re in charge, you can sneak as much bacon as you want.”

Freezing midbite, I look at him. “What?”

“You’re taking over the Spoons.”

His words hit me like a sucker-punch pie in the face. Usually I can sense when my father’s about to hurl one my way—trickery and unwelcome surprises have been his standard operating procedure for getting his way since I learned to crack an egg on the edge of a mixing bowl—but I guess I’m out of practice because I never saw this one coming.

Once upon a time, the diner was as familiar to me as my own heartbeat. I said my first word, “cookie,” crawling across the stainless steel counters. Lost my first tooth when I tripped and collided face-first with the walk-in pantry door. Solved my first fraction while measuring ingredients for a boysenberry crumble.

As a little girl, I gravitated toward the diner’s kitchen, basking in the sweet and savory smells swirling around me. For hours I’d sit on the prep counter watching my father chop, dice, and slice, mesmerized by the careful cadence of the knife. As I got older, my life became food—experimenting with it, creating it, indulging in it—and a deep-seated passion for forming something with the palms of my own hands took root.

But that’s my past, a past I duct-taped in a memento box hidden underneath my childhood bed five years and a lifetime ago.

The fork slips from my hand and clatters on the counter. I push the plate aside. “Are you delusional? I’m not managing the diner.”

“Yes, you are.” My father says it so matter-of-fact I almost believe him.

“No, I’m not,” I say, anger building inside me again.

He steals my last strip of bacon and eats it. “Doc says with my surgery I’ll be out of commission for a long while, so you can’t expect me to run things while I recover.”

“You can’t expect me to do that either,” I say through gritted teeth, thinking I really will kill him with a butter knife.

My father pretends he doesn’t hear me, rambling on as if this was always the plan. “You can spruce up the joint a bit if you want. Do some small renovations. But keep the red booths and the checkerboard tile. The jukebox is a classic, so don’t even think about getting rid of it. Though I suppose you could paint the walls a different color and replace the counters. Maybe order some new neon signs. The kitchen could use a new icebox—”

Pressing my eyes shut, I breathe in deep and count backward from ten. “I’m not moving back to Dallas. My career, my life, is in Chicago,” I say, thinking about how far I’ve come.

When I first arrived in the city, heartbroken, scared, and alone, I took a thankless position as a receptionist in a dentist’s office to pay the rent and studied for the business school entrance exam at night. After two years of grueling coursework and a massive amount of debt, I graduated with an MBA at the top of my class from Northwestern, landed a job at White, Ogden, and Morris—the best consulting firm in the area—and worked my way up from a lowly analyst. Now I’m the youngest senior consultant being considered for partner, assuming I haven’t ruined my chances.

But I won’t let that happen. I love my job: the satisfaction of winning a new client, the excitement of finding the missing puzzle piece to a complex problem, the thrill of closing a deal—it gives me a rush.

“My daughter shouldn’t be living in a place with a baseball team that hasn’t won a World Series in over a century. Those Cubs look more like a bunch of high schoolers, if you ask me.”

“I’m happy there, Dad.”

My father twists his mouth so that the whiskers of his mustache touch his nose like he does when he disapproves of something. He grabs the coffeepot and walks down the line, refilling people’s cups.

Trailing behind him, I continue, “I love that it has four true seasons and deep-dish pizza and Oprah. I love the fog that rolls off Lake Michigan, its crystal-blue waters, and the fact that I’m minutes away from Oak Street Beach. I love how the river turns green on St. Patrick’s Day and that the city’s residents are unpretentious people who never sugarcoat their words with fake southern politeness and ‘bless your hearts.’ ”

True, with my career taking off the way it has, I don’t experience these things as much as I’d like, but I still love them on principle.

“Nonsense. Nothing’s better than Texas. We even got the best state fair and Tex-Mex in America to prove it. Ain’t that right, folks?” my father says to the patrons at the counter. They nod and murmur their agreement between bites of greasy burgers and slow-cooked pot roast.

I step in front of him. “Drew is in Chicago.”

Frowning, my father returns the coffeepot to the burner and tosses a dishtowel over his shoulder. “You’re still with that boy? I told you he ain’t right for you.” He always says this. My father thinks I belong with someone who’s not a blue-tie-wearing, Wall Street Journal–reading, Cubs-cheering accountant. Someone more like Nick—my first love, the man who shattered my heart, and one of the driving forces behind why I left Dallas. But my father only remembers Nick as the vibrant, passionate boy I fell in love with as a little girl, and not the bitter, angry man he’s become.

Besides, my father hasn’t even met Drew. He doesn’t see the way he complements me. He doesn’t understand that we prefer to spend fifteen minutes shuffling through stacks of delivery menus, contemplating our dinner options, promising to one day stock our fridge with something other than bottled water and yogurt, rather than prepare a home-cooked meal. Or how our idea of a fun Saturday afternoon is sitting on the couch working on our laptops with work documents scattered around us and the History Channel on in the background.

“Yes. You know we’re still together,” I say. What my father isn’t aware of is “that boy” recently proposed and I accepted. It’s not as bad as it sounds. I haven’t been in the mood to listen to my father’s grumblings. I will tell him, just not right now when I want to strangle him.

My father crosses his arms. “Well, I get what you’re saying about . . . all that, but since you’re already here, you should reacquaint yourself with how we do things at the Spoons. Three weeks will be here sooner than you realize.”

“Dad,” I say, softening my tone. I move closer to him so that maybe he’ll see me—really see me—and finally grasp that I can’t do what he wants. “Please don’t ask me to do this. This place isn’t me anymore. You have Ernie, and I’m sure there are plenty of people around town who would love to help out while you recover. All you—”

He quiets me with a look—the one I received countless times as a child—that indicates if I don’t shut my mouth, I’ll be on permanent potato-peeling duty. I remember one time in high school when he put me on potato-peeling duty for a week because I came home six minutes after curfew. At thirty, I’m still scared of that look.

“The Spoons has been in our family since before you were born. I’m not trusting it to anyone else but flesh and blood. You’re still a Turner, even if you live in a different zip code.”

The firmness in his voice, his insistence, sets off an alarm in my head, and an uneasy feeling settles in my stomach. “There’s more happening here than what you’re telling me,” I say, now certain that whatever is really going on is the real reason he called me this morning and why he wants me to manage the diner. “What is it?”

“I’m not sure what you’re referrin’ to, baby girl. I’m having surgery in three weeks and need you here to run things. Simple as that,” he says, but I don’t believe him. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that my father is a vault of secrets. Whatever his true motivations, he won’t share them until he’s good and ready.

“I’ll work from Dallas until your surgery”—or at least until I find out what you’re hiding—“but that’s it.”

“We’ll see,” he says, then picks up another James Beard special from the window. I notice the slight limp in his stride as he delivers the dish to a little girl in pigtails spinning around and around on a stool taller than her. Maybe it is just his knee, and this whole thing is some convoluted way of bringing me home permanently.

Around me, the life of the diner goes on as usual. People crowd the doorway. Servers hurry by, carrying pitchers of sweet tea and delivering orders. Several patrons lounge in booths, rubbing their stomachs as clean plates sit discarded in front of them.

My gaze drifts to the dent in the counter where I banged a rolling pin after messing up a piecrust. I spot the doodles I scribbled on the wall in the prep area. The tile grout under my feet is stained from when I spilled beet juice.

When I refocus my attention, my father’s prattling on about how folks have been begging for my recipes. “Just the other day Gertrude Firestone commented how she misses your four-napkin Sloppy Joes,” he says, straightening a pair of salt and pepper shakers. “And none of the regulars like my version of your mother’s peach cobbler as much as yours.”

My heart drops to my stomach as anger rises up. It happens anytime my mother is mentioned. Someday I’ll stop being surprised by it.

I have few memories of my mother, each one fragmented and fuzzy, as if I’m seeing them through a glass Coke bottle. I recall skin that smelled like honeysuckle, the soft swish of her apron, and long, graceful legs gliding about the kitchen.

I used to miss her in a bone-deep aching kind of way. When I was younger, I’d imagine what her voice sounded like. Soft and gentle as a whisper? Or maybe bright and lyrical with hints of mischief. Either way, I’d pretend I could hear it in my head, keeping me company, guiding me. “That one looks delicious,” her voice would say, as I flipped through the pages of a cookbook. “Or maybe try the recipe with the clementines instead.” No matter the task, her voice followed.

At night, in the silence, I’d curl up in my twin bed and wish she were there next to me, combing her fingers through my hair and humming pretty sounds until I drifted off into dreams. It was easier than wondering what I’d done wrong to make her disappear all those years ago and never return.

But as I got older I realized I couldn’t miss someone I didn’t remember.

“Time to prep for the dinner rush,” my father says, ripping me from my thoughts. “Go get washed up. There’s an apron for you in the back room. The carrots need chopping.”

My chest tightens. Only my father can make me feel like everything I’ve worked so hard for is slipping away. I squeeze my eyes shut and force deep, steadying breaths into my lungs.

“You coming, baby girl?” my father calls over his shoulder on his way to the kitchen.

He expects me to follow. I don’t. I can’t. I may have been raised in this place, but that doesn’t mean I belong here now. Instead I make a beeline for the exit, careful not to knock into anyone or anything on my way outside. I don’t want to add another mark. I’ve already left too many.

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From Scratch 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written, if a little predictable. Thoughtful characters and intersting plot.
PollyBennett More than 1 year ago
I loved it. I chose it thinking it would be a light frothy read. But, it's so much more than that. This is a serious story about relationships, lost, and then found again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Majorly_Delicious More than 1 year ago
Rachel Goodman debut book is the pairing of a sweet romance with down home charm. Nick and Lillie were childhood friends who became first loves. But after tragedy and heartache Lillie flees her home, friends and the love of her life for Chicago and a fresh start. Fast forward 5 years and Lillie is coming back home. When Nick and Liilie meet again for the first time things are strained. They bother have moved on with their lives and Lillie can't help but remember the pain she ran from in the first place. I really enjoyed this book, I couldn't put it down once I started. I received an eARC copy of this book via NetGalley for my honest review and opinion. All ratings and reviews stated are my own.
gaele More than 1 year ago
3.5 Stars rounded Rachel Goodman’s debut offering gives you a lovely slice of ‘lose yourself in a book’, but be warned: you will want to snack through most of it! I read this title in one sitting, and it was a second chance at romance story with plenty of family memories, favorite foodstuffs, some betrayals and lots of heart. Lillie dashed off to Chicago leaving the family diner behind in Texas. She’s refocused her life successfully: a career and a new fiancé, she’s not looking over her shoulder at what was. Until she is pulled back to Texas because of her father’s bad health and an upcoming ‘you can’t back out of if” baking competition coming up. Utterly engaging, Goodman’s writing style brings a fresh voice to a familiar trope: returning home and facing your long ago love is always a favorite with readers, instantly engaging our what-if thoughts. Lillie’s worries about her father’s health are just one more thing to deal with after coming face to face with Nick. And the “Bless your heart” (if you live in the south, you know that this means exactly the opposite) ladies, not to mention some pretty serious disdain and hurt feelings from those she left behind. Nick was Lillie’s BFF since childhood, her first love and the first man to break her heart and spirit. His own refusal to give while taking everything when they were younger nearly broke her. But, now, after her life is moving ni a direction that is good for her, she’s brought back to Texas. And has that old quickening heartbeat and flutter to deal with when she sees Nick. But, there is Drew, waiting for her in Chicago, expecting a quick return. Laden with deceptions all meant ‘for Lillie’s sake”, hurt feelings, unresolved angers, passive aggressive judgments made with a Bless Your Heart and a smile and Lillie’s torn feelings between family obligation and loyalties and her own desires made this one that was difficult to put down. So often, romance ignores the ‘messier’ side of life and the obligations and expectations that are contrary to our own desires and career path. Goodman navigated those minefields nicely with great character development and voice, solid secondary characters that have you laughing or groaning in equal measure and the question of Lillie’s final decision. 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.
Sandy-thereadingcafe More than 1 year ago
3.5 stars--FROM SCRATCH is a romantic, contemporary storyline from first time author Rachel Goodman that focuses on a second chance for two people destined for one another but torn apart by anger, stress and lies from the past. This is professional consultant Lillie Turner, and Nick Preston’s storyline. Told from first person point of view (Lillie) FROM SCRATCH follows the rekindling of a relationship between Lillie and Nick, as well as Lillie’s return to her hometown of Dallas, Texas. Five years earlier, following several months wherein Lillie and Nick’s relationship started to implode, Lillie walked away, leaving Dallas behind, and starting fresh in Chicago, Illinois. Struggling to make ends meet, Lillie gets her MBA and focuses on a new life and new career never forgetting the people she left behind. But an urgent message from her father, demanding her return to Dallas, finds Lillie torn between helping her father or running from the man that broke her heart. Lillie and Nick were childhood friends, high school sweethearts, and eventually lovers but everything began to fall apart as Nick’s internship at the local hospital began to eat away at his personality and his relationship with Lillie forcing a heartbroken Lillie to make a decision that would destroy any hope of a future together. Leaving Nick and her father behind, Lillie embarked on a new direction, and thought she found what she was missing in a new town. FROM SCRATCH has a large ensemble cast of strong and charismatic characters including Lillie’s friends Annabelle and Wes-a couple whose own relationship is crumbling around them. We are introduced to Lillie’s father Jack Turner, and the local busy body Sullivan Grace who may or may not have designs on Lillie’s dad. There are also numerous friends, extended families, and the local band whose name is beginning to rise on the country music circuit. Lillie’s competition for Nick’s heart is a vindictive woman who targets Lillie with hatred and malice. FROM SCRATCH is an emotional storyline where small town mentality finds our heroine the object of scorn and derision; gossip and innuendo by the local townsfolk that frequent her father’s diner. There are secrets and stories of which Lillie becomes aware, and in this she no longer feels welcome in the town where she grew up. Lillie is verbally attacked on more than one occasion-and my heart broke for a woman who wanted love and acceptance from the man who pushed her away. There is a happily ever after but the path was not easy for Lillie and Nick. I she a few tears throughout the story. Rachel Goodman’s first novel touched on my emotions. Although I wasn’t always a happy camper with the treatment of Lillie Turner, there are always demons to overcome, and bumps in the road in any romantic storyline.
jeanniezelos More than 1 year ago
    From Scratch, Rachel Goodman Genre: Romance Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews  ** N.B. possible spoilers** I like these kind of second chance, southern town romances – usually – but there were things in this that were too much to ignore. For me it was a potentially good story let down but the issues that irritated me.  I guess the first thing that struck me was this is a romance...so why do we only get very fleeting glimpses of Nick until almost halfway through? There were a couple of passing moments where they saw each other, and muttered a few words and then we actually got him for a few pages, but we didn’t really meet him until halfway through. Even then I didn’t really get a sense of the man Lillie loved, I couldn’t see what it was that made him the one for her. I know they had a childhood close connection, but people change as adults and when she was – in her words – crying herself to sleep every night, barely seeing him, and in the final conversation she says they’ve not really spoken for a week, he refuses to talk about his problems, his work, never asks about her day, how she’s feeling and they don’t go out or take any time for each other and I just wondered – What is it that she sees in him? He just seemed like a selfish jerk, taking out on her his frustrations because he’s too cowardly to face up to his parents about his career choices.  By this time he must be 26-27 or so, so its not like he’s a teen....and Lillie quite rightly has enough one day and leaves. I had to stretch my belief a bit to get her from someone in a place where she knew no-one, had nothing, no job, no place to live and yet was in the running for partner 5 years later...but I accepted that. When she came home though – well, that confident lady seemed to go – to become once again that downtrodden girl that everyone walked over, talked over and when even her best friend who knows the whole story blames her for leaving it made me furious. What could she have done – she tried talking, he wouldn’t, she tried to find out what was wrong but he said everything was fine. She couldn’t stay there unhappy as she was, and no one can make another person happy, so the change had to come from Nick, and he wasn’t budging. I couldn’t see what else she could do – if she’d left him but stayed she’d have no doubt been bullied back to him, she had to get right away. Then when she comes back everyone knows things she doesn’t, she’s still treated by so many as someone to just bully into doing what they want – even her dad does it. Career going great after all her hard work, boyfriend back there you love – you’re happy Lillie – but none of that matters, we think you should come back! Arrgghh... With friends and family like that who needs enemies, as the saying goes. Then there’s one of my pet peeves, common to so many US books. Baby. What is it that makes grown men, women and parents call grown children/lovers Baby??? ( and don’t get me started on the m/m books when two hot alpha males call each other Baby....) It sounds so demeaning, so artificial – it died out in UK back in 60’s thankfully, and it makes me cringe every time. Here its almost symptomatic of how everyone treats Lillie – as a child. Those are my biggest problems, but I’ve another short rant – something that crops up too often books and in real life. Lillie’s friend parks in a disabled parking spot, saying she’s “only going to be a few minutes”. WELL, THAT DOESN’ T MATTER – ITS THERE FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED