Deli owner Gwen "Nashville" Katz has certainly had some very un-Kosher experiences since her move from New York--dead customers, dead street musicians, dead deliverymen. Sometimes the country music capital of the world feels more like a cemetery. But Gwen is finally knocked flat on her tuchas when a van comes plunging through her roof, causing an explosion and barricading her inside with her employees and Nashville mayoral candidate Tootsie Pearl. Was this an attack on the mayoral hopeful, or a war against Gwen herself? With her deli in shambles, Katz is hot to grill the putz responsible for turning deli into a culinary nightmare.
"A really humorous cozy. . . Readers will thoroughly enjoy this deli tale." --Once Upon a Romance on One Foot in the Gravy
"Full of intrigue and suspicious characters. . .great addition to a fun series." --RT Book Reviews on To Kill a Matzoh Ball
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Fry Me a Liver
By Delia Rosen
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Jeff Rovin
All rights reserved.
Before I get into how a good day went horribly—no, make that apocalyptically—bad, I'm going to tell you something you probably already know. But it's important that I put it out there since—well, thereon hangs part of the tale. It's the part of the story that isn't a mystery but is the glowing beacon of hope in a sometimes dreary world.
Before I become freakishly poetic and you think the real Gwen Katz has been body-snatched—the hard-nosed, men are really starting to annoy me, give-me-liver-or-give-me-death Gwen Katz—what I have to say is: there are several kinds of family.
First, of course, there's the family you're born with. The tantes and siblings, your cousins and your bubbes and, of course, your parents. I've talked about some of those before. The father who abandoned my mother and me; the uncle who left me his deli in Nashville; the elders who came from impoverished shtetls in the Old World and we re filled with muddy, gray-sky wisdom. Or as my father's in other used to pronounce it, "visdom." It's funny; I still hear the word that way in my head ever y time it's spoken. We'll get back to most of those people from time to time.
Second, there are the friends you make. The neighborhood kids, the schoolmates, the fellow athletes or Chess Club companions, the people you meet on the train or at the bus stop or at the gym, or friends of friends who become your friends and sometimes stay your friends when the original friends disappear.
Finally, there are your coworkers. These men and women are often the closest type of family, since you spend most of your waking hours with them. In my case, I' d toss in a few of our customers at Murray's Deli as well, regulars like mail carrier Nicolette Hopkins, bus driver Jackie and her auto mechanic girlfriend Leigh, banker Edgar Ward, and advertising executive Ron Plummer. In many ways, they're the closest type of family because you become involved in their lives. Not in the same sticky w ay as you do with family and friends who assume they can rely on you or intrude on you or—vay iz mir, worst of all, borrow money from you. No, these are people who affect you and move you and become part of your life because you rely on one another all day, ever y day, and become bound up in their problems and joys and hopes and disappointments—big, medium, and small.
The lovely part of it is they also take an interest in you. Some of it is sweet and superficial, like when mail carrier Nicolette suggested that we print "forever menus" with no prices or when personal banker Edgar recommended that we offer "frequent farfel" cards for fans of our pasta or dear advertising man Ron who said he thinks we should sponsor a contest offering free food for anyone who catches a gefilte fish in Percy Priest Lake. Even the negative input has value since it unites us, like when we give what-for to Luciano Doody, the personal trainer who comes in and orders tea at least three times a week, scopes out people who eat more than they should, then openly solicits them to train with him and, if they turn him down, loudly denounces their body fat ratio. Or when the staff ribs me each time Jackie and Leigh make suggestions that, while flattering, are not personally interesting—though, talk to me in a month or two or three if the drought of intelligent men continues. Which brings me to nauseating Robert Barron, the treasure hunter who lives on a boat and continues to ask me to come "rock the deck" or check out his main mast. And the newspaper publisher with questionable ethics, Robert Reid, who will do anything for a stor y, including pretending to be straight to date me. And more troublesome of all, Stephen Hatfield, the local slumlord, who is rotten to Yhis nonexistent soul but charismatic as the devil. I didn't want to date him but I did want him. Fortunately, I had alert and God-fearing staff to talk me out of that.
And lest I forget, there are the delivery people we like or don 't like or don't see because they come too early in the morning, or the oddities who give my staff agita which they transmit to me with knowing looks, like the witch who has teeth tattooed on the outside of her mouth, the fussy ladies of the Repe at Returner Club who only order bargain plates, and the ever-changing rain bow of music industry types, local politicos, loud cell-phone-talking students from Tennessee State University, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. We smile politely when they arrive and sincerely when they go. We chat for a minute when we can't avoid it and pretty much everyone goes away happy. In their wake, my staff and I bond in the way that bomber crews and astronauts do when they're on a mission.
As you must have gathered by now, for me the only real family I have is the one I'm with twelve hours a day, six day s a week . It isn't jus t that I have no real friends down here, since I haven't t he time or energy to socialize; it isn't only the lack of blood relatives in New York and elsewhere around the globe; the fact is, I really like these people. They're my people, my crazy shmendricks.
For those of you who came in late or have lives and haves imply forgotten The Saga of Gwen Katz, my affection for the crew came in quick stages. First, when I opted to move down here after my divorce, I only knew from accountancy and finance—not latkes and herring, except to eat them with applesauce and chopped, respectively. These people not only showed me the ropes because they had to, they did it because they love this place. There's my African American, evangelical, fifty-two-year-old manager Thomasina Jackson who never met a crisis that a loud, heartfelt "Lawsy!" couldn't stop dead in its wicked tracks. She believes so strongly that Jesus is by her side that I swear there are times I can see him. Or maybe I just want to see a young Jewish man with grace, I don't know. There's my young, tatted-up cook Newt Spengler who opens the place each morning and fancies himself a wit and a stud; I can only attest to the former and he is as witty as most twentysomethings who tweet and blog, which is to say he's more snarky and rude than clever. Born in a trailer park with forebears who hail from Louisiana, Newt was on his way to ruin when Murray hired him. The teenager had been stealing components from high-end cars when he was caught. He spent six months in prison before he was paroled and my uncle was the only one who would give him a job. Thom doesn't entirely trust him and keeps one sharp eye on the till, but in all the time I've been here there's never been a discrepancy.
On the scale of sweetness, Newt is far surpassed by young busboy Luke, who has a good, good heart even if his brain is closed to everything but his music and his girlfriend. Not that there's anything wrong with that; he's probably the happiest of us all, even though I don't understand a lot of what he say sand fail to se e how he's going to survive in the world if pop star lightning doesn't strike. He didn't finish high school but, God bless him, at least he works hard and doesn't seem to mind it at all.
Rounding out the team is my fortysomething wait staff Raylene and A. J. They are the older sisters of the group, telling the kids how they should and shouldn't live with the provocative certainty of a schoolyard bully picking a fight. There's A.J.'s daughter, A.J. Two, who works her e when she's home from school. And then there's my only hire, the young, pierced, dyed-buttered-pop corn-yellow Dani who has the afternoon to dinner shift and has just moved in with her boyfriend, Luke. I forgot to mention that Luke has a band, the Gutter Crickets, who play local gigs whenever they have the time and aren't squabbling among each other. I've heard them in person through two layers of wax earplugs and I've watched the YouTube videos. Their mixture of punk and folk—which they call "polk"—isn't my cup of meat, but the audiences who show up seem to enjoy them. Dani is singing with the band now, the Yoko who is causing friction but is tolerated because she knows how to get the attention of the crowd in ways that have nothing to do with her voice.
As you've probably gathered, their individual and collective moods are my moods. Their industry inspires my own efforts. We go through daily labors together, relying on one another to get several big jobs done six days a week: setting up in the morning, serving breakfast to an ocean of people in a hurry, followed immediately by brunch, lunch, and early dinner, cleaning in a way that will satisfy the fussy health department, doing inventory, storing deliveries. We go through the joys and hard, hard personal blows together. I worry about them, and they about me, when they're here, and I think about them when they're not and know what they're doing even when our place of business is dark. In the case of the deli, we've even shared a number of deaths together, from the freakishly unprecedented to the openly homicidal.
That, hardly in a nutshell, is the core of my life. There are times I feel blessed and there are times I feel stressed, but I never go to bed angry because of anything they've said or done. That makes our relationship very, very rare.
I have enjoyed that unprecedented feeling of family for the past twenty-one months. That's how long it's been since—in case I've failed to mention it, or, if I did, I like mentioning it as often as I can—I divorced my rat of a former husband, Phil Silver, and left my career as a Wall Street broker behind, moved to Nashville, and took over the deli run and founded by my late uncle Murray, whose father was a butcher and who secretly wanted to have a career as a songwriter. They were very large shoes to fill—as a restaurateur, I mean—not just among the loyal customers but among the staff.
Almost two years after my arrival, the entire staff is still here. Given the fact that my husband and father both betrayed me, that's a pretty impressive accomplishment. Though I'm sure, from their perspective, I'm the outsider who's still here ... not them. In a way I guess they're right.
Whichever point of view is true, they are family. The one I inherited. The one I love.
The one that was about to take several hard hits in the kishkes.
Before I get to that, I have to tell you about other developments that have shaken up my world, including one that I sort of helped to coordinate but which fell into the "another rejection" column when it finally came to pass.
Excerpted from Fry Me a Liver by Delia Rosen. Copyright © 2015 Jeff Rovin. 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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