Friday, July 23, 2021

Give Me Blue Plate, or Give Me Nothing at All

by Pam Hillman

The other day, I bought these off-brand BBQ potato chips. (Yes, this is writing related.) The chips were pretty tasty, and as someone who hasn’t eaten too many chips the last few years, I probably enjoyed them more than they deserved. The description on the bag stated “Zesty BBQ” and the flavor certainly lived up to that. Too much, actually. They were a bit too zesty to enjoy. Basically, I tasted bbq and not much of the potato chips.

As I consumed the last of the zesty bbq flavor, I was thinking about this blog post. (Let’s just say that I needed the chips for inspiration. Yeah, we’ll go with that.) I tend to create analogies out of thin air, or in this case, out of potato chips. But it occurred to me that just like we all have foods we like or dislike, or even really have no preference one way or another because we’ve never tried them, it’s the same way as writers and even as readers.

Before we talk about how these two things are related, I’d like to share another food-related incident. I’m not a mayonnaise snob, but I was raised on Blue Plate mayonnaise. I’ll eat a different brand if I’m at someone’s house, but I buy Blue Plate exclusively, unless it’s an absolute emergency. However, several years ago, we took a long road trip when my oldest graduated from high school. After eating fast food for almost a week, I decided that a picnic on the rim of the Grand Canyon would be a nice change of pace. We found a grocery store and stocked up on all the fixings for some sandwiches and a few bags of chips (I’m sure we bought Ruffles or Lays, not the off-brand Zesty BBQ ones!) But the mayonnaise… there was not one brand of mayo on the shelves in that store that I was familiar with, so I picked the one squeeze jar that seemed to be the best. Maybe squeeze mayo isn’t made to keep in an ice chest, but regardless, let’s just say it left a lot to be desired. I still remember that it wasn’t Blue Plate well over 10 years later. It’s also a blessing that I don’t remember the brand since I’m sure it would be somebody’s favorite. :)

So, back to reading and writing. As a kid, I was enamored with horses and books, so naturally I read a lot of books about horses, which led to Louis L’Amour westerns, then to historical romance books as I grew older. Besides reading, television/movies I enjoyed were John Wayne, Gunsmoke, and Bonanza. Naturally, even my early attempts at writing consisted of westerns and prairie romance type stories. I liked my “Blue Plate” and wasn’t interested in trying another brand.

Fast forward a few years and I was asked to head up the ACFW Book Club. Part of the duties (and a perk) of the book club coordinator back then was to receive a copy of the book club pick, read it and facilitate the discussion. During my tenure, I read Women’s Fiction, Suspense, Science fiction, Lad Lit, Chick Lit, Dystopian, Biblical, Historical, Contemporary, Amish romance, and enjoyed every single book club pick in the 3-4 years that was coordinator. I specifically remember loving Kathryn Mackel’s Outriders (Fantasy/Science Fiction, Thomas Nelson, 2005), and ended up buying Trackers, read them both, then passed them on to my teenage son, who also loved the books.

Now, one more food-related story. I had the grandkids yesterday and we had some leftover fried rice from their favorite Japanese restaurant. Ella (5 yo) likes Yum Yum sauce with her fried rice, but I didn’t have any. I was throwing together a quick lunch with the rice, some chicken nuggets, and my special homemade honey mustard sauce (mayo, honey mustard, and Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ). I also whipped up a bit of white country gravy (from a packet) to put on my own rice. Ella and I taste-tested a bit of the rice with Pammy’s honey mustard sauce AND the white gravy and we decided the combo was just as good, if not better than the real store-bought Yum Yum sauce. Well, maybe that’s stretching it, but when the grand-doll declares it, it is so, yes?

I guess I’ve gone around the world to try to tie all this together, but as I munched on those zesty bbq chips that weren’t bad, but they weren’t Lays, then when my granddaughter and I figured out how to make a sauce that tasted enough like Yum Yum sauce that she ate her lunch quite happily, I realized that there are times that I try something totally new and love it even more than what I thought was my “favorite” thing.

As a reader, I would probably have never tried Science Fiction/Fantasy if I hadn’t been the ACFW Book Club coordinator. But I’m glad I was willing to branch out. I’ve enjoyed many genres since then. Do I still have my favorites? Yes. But I know that there is more out there than just one genre.

And as a writer, even though all of my published fiction to date has been historical in nature, I’ve worked on some contemporary romances and some romantic suspense. I suppose I might try my hand at any number of genres, but it would be a stretch for me to attempt to write a sci-fi, and I’m pretty sure that I’d draw the line at reading or writing horror. (The fact that my sister-in-law and I were both huddled in the floorboard of my brother’s car at the drive-in trying to NOT watch a slasher flick over forty years ago scarred me for life!)

Other than that, who knows what the future may hold writing and reading-wise. 

But I’ll stick to Blue Plate, thank you very much.

CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of.


  1. Hellman's is my favorite mayo. IMO, the others pale in comparison. Shortly after marrying my hubby, we had the mayo discussion. Hailing from San Fran, he swore some Western mayo was the best and would out shine Hellman's. Turns out we learned his brand was the same as Hellman's, but packaged with a different name for West Coasters. I can't remember the West Coast name, but Google says it's Best Foods Mayo. Two names, one product. Go figure.

    I love being in a book club because it "forces" me to read outside the suspense genre, which is my favorite. We're currently reading THE FOUR WINDS, by Krisin Hannah.

    Are any BBQ chips left? If so, pass over the bag, please. :)

    1. Debby, around here they sell both Hellman's and Best Foods. I was confused the first time I noticed that they both had the exact same label with a different name. Either of those is probably our favorite, but we also buy the store brand, as long as it says mayonnaise and not dressing. There is a difference!

    2. Debby, that's funny about your husband and you debating the merits of mayo after you married. Seems like it might be a good idea to hash out which brand of mayo each spouse preferredbefore the wedding! lol

  2. Hi Pam:

    Variety may be the spice of life but a lot of spices for a lot of people taste terrible! I could never be in a book club because I will not spend hours reading a book I don't like. Life is too short and there is so much more out there that I'd love to read but have not yet.

    It's like eating a poor dessert and not liking it and then thinking, "I wasted my calories on that when I could have had a Dove bar?"

    Now I do like the idea of wine testing tours at a local vineyards. A wine tasting type book club might prove popular.

    What do you do when a book club selection is something you don't like? Do you read it anyway, just skim it, read reviews and fake it, be honest and say, "It was so bad I could not finish it."

    1. Vince, you make an excellent point. I'm currently not in a book club, but thinking back to when I was, I do remember one book that did nothing for me. In large online clubs, people sit out on reading books all the time. I'm not sure how small, face-to-face groups handle that. Discussions could be interesting, for sure.

  3. Fun post, Pam. I have never heard of Blue Plate mayonnaise so guess we don't have that brand around here. I guess you would be disappointed! My husband is that way about ketchup. He only likes Heinz, although I bought a different brand one day because it was on a shelf for only a dollar. I told him I would eat it, but he ended up eating it too and said he liked it. I think a lot of people have certain brands of food that they will only eat.

  4. No Blue Plate here, either! I've never heard of it! But I'll take your word for it. If I'm ever WAY down south, I'll have to try it.

    I tend to read all genres of books (except horror - I've never read more than a page of a Steven King novel) and I enjoy most of them. I tend to read in binges, though. Right now it's Regency romance (thanks to Erica, Michelle Griep, and others!) Earlier this year it was cozy mysteries. Thanks to a generous gift of a bunch of Guideposts cozies from my aunt, I have a feeling I'll be spending the rest of the summer in mystery land!

    Thanks for food analogy, Pam. It was great!


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