12 days until the release of THE SECRET OF EVERYTHING (Tuesday, December 29), and to celebrate, here is another little giveaway.
The Secret of Everything is centered in a little town that has, quite by accident, become a center of food culture. One of the characters in the book is 8-year-old Natalie, who is very particular about food, but not in a traditionally child-like way. Natalie reveresfood–the flavors and smells, the combinations and the colors–and she hates it that hardly anyone takes her passion seriously. She is working her way, one menu item at a time, through the menu at The 100 Breakfasts Cafe (including the eggs Benedict and huevos rancheros, thankyouverymuch), and she has a passion for salt, and that passion weaves a thread throughout the story. Below is an excerpt to introduce you to one of my favorite characters ever, but first, the giveaway.
In the comments, post a story about a favorite food from your own childhood. Next Wednesday, I’ll choose a name and send you a Salt Sampler Collection that includes some of Natalie’s favorites, including Himalayan Pink Salt (pictured left), Fleur de Sel de Guérande, red Alaea Hawaiian, and two others. It was inspirational and delightful to explore the textures and flavors of these salts for the book, and I know some of you will enjoy it, too. (And I know we will enjoy your food stories, too!)
EXCERPT, from THE SECRET OF EVERYTHING, by Barbara O’Neal :
Before Natalie’s dad had to work on Saturday, rescuing somebody who wasn’t supposed to be climbing on the rocks anyway, they were all suppose to go on a picnic. Instead, they got stuck at Grandma’s, eating fish sticks and ketchup, and now they were going on a picnic today and it was hot, hot, hot.
Natalie sat in the shade beneath the tree in the plaza, holding her sister Hannah’s hand, waiting for her dad to come out of the drugstore with sunscreen. They had to walk to the lake, naturally, because nobody could ever just drive anywhere around here. Already her skin was prickly down her back. Her grandma said she should wear a hat, but Natalie just did not see how that would make a person cooler.
She would rather stay right here in the shade all day and read a book. Climb up into the tree, maybe, and then come down later and go into Le Fleur de Mer and look at salts from the Dead Sea, which she imagined was probably a desert, all glittery in the sunshine like diamonds even though it was big crystals of gray salt. The lady in there didn’t like Natalie to come in by herself, she said it was nothing that would interest a child, but she didn’t know Natalie. Or that she had her own salt cellar and was just waiting to find the right salt to put in it.
She swung her feet, banging her heels against the wall and slapped a fly away from her neck. He was drinking the sweat, she thought. Disgusting.
After she visited the salt store, she would go into the drugstore for a cherry phosphate, made with cherry syrup and lime juice and plain soda water right out of the fountain. The man took a maraschino cherry and a triangle of lime and stuck them on a tiny plastic sword, and propped it on the top of the ice. It came in a shapely glass in a silver holder, and a fat paper straw, not plastic. She would sit at the counter on turquoise chairs that swung back and forth, and look at magazines, maybe the one with Rachel Ray on it, because she always seemed really really nice, or one of the ones that had beautiful pictures of cakes on the front. It didn’t matter. When she opened those magazines, it seemed like a whole world whispered out at her, inviting her inside their glossy pages to share a secret.
If she closed her eyes, she could imagine the counter inside the drugstore, the fan swirling air over her head, the pages of her magazine riffling a little. She would take tiny, tiny sips of the phosphate to make it last an hour, and only then would she eat the cherry.
“Don’t nod off on me, sleepyhead,” her dad said, all cheery, like she wanted to walk to some stupid lake and eat stupid mushy bananas and stupid lunchmeat sandwiches.
“I’m not,” she said crossly. “Do we have to go on a picnic? Can’t we just have a picnic here?”
“No!” Jade roared. “I want to swim!” She had a red and white polka dot bathing suit under her shorts, and her hair was braided tightly in one long white horsetail down her back.
“Me, too! Swim!” said Hannah, who still talked like a baby, even though she was three. Grandma said it was because everybody talked for her.
Daddy sat down next to Natalie. “You don’t want to go swimming? It’ll feel pretty good up there. And I got you a surprise for lunch.”
“What surprise,” she asked without excitement. “A candy bar?”
“Nope. Something good. Something only you would think to ask for.”
A kindling of hope sparked in her chest. “Really?”
Sometimes, not often, he actually got it right. She wasn’t holding her breath or anything, but she stood up and put her backpack on. “Okay.” Pedro scrambled to his feet and she took his leash. “Let’s go.”