What's In a Name?

April 20, 2017

I love culture. American culture. Mexican culture. Jewish culture. Indian culture. You name it -- I love it. Culture comprises my favorite things: faith, family, music, stories, architecture, clothes, language, and, of course, food. Take away the tortilla, and you take away a huge part of Mexican culture. Take away sushi, and you lose a huge part of Japanese culture. 

 

"The World's Greatest Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops" is a love letter to cultures: foodie culture, restaurant culture, San Francisco culture, jazz culture, various ethnic cultures, etc. Since food was the centerpiece of this love letter, I gave most of my characters food-related names:

 

Dallin Caraway (Zoey's best friend) - Caraway is a spice. 

 

Royston Basil Boarhead (food critic) - Basil is an herb. Boarhead is a company that specializes in premium deli meats & cheeses.

 

 

Kim Chi (journalist) - Kimchi, a staple in Korean cuisine, is a traditional banchan made from salted and fermented vegetables.

 

Faruq al-Falafel (food writer) - Falafel is a traditional Middle Eastern food. A deep-fried ball, doughnut, or patty made from ground chickpeas and/or fava beans. 

 

Miss Lemon (banker) - You know, the fruit. 

 

Chef Kung Pao (restaurateur) - Kung Pao is a spicy stir-fry Chinese dish made with chicken, peanuts, vegetables, and chili peppers.

 

Chef Cannoli (restaurateur) - Cannolis are Italian pastries from the Sicily region. The singular is cannolo meaning "little tube."

 

Mr. Bregenwurst (grocer) - A bregenwurst is a German sausage. Perhaps I should have named him Herr Bregenwurst.

 

Sandesh Curry (real estate agent) - Curry is a dish originating in India, featuring a complex combinations of spices or herbs, usually including fresh or dried hot chillies.

 

Knuckles (biker, outlaw) - A knuckle-sandwich. Get it? 

 

Big Masi (competitive eater) - Masi Popo is a Samoan coconut shortbread. 

 

Jambalaya Barbos (Alcatraz tour guide) - Jambalaya is a meat-veggies-and-rice dish of Louisiana origin of Spanish and French influence.  

 

The food-theme naming scheme was also a handy way to pay homage to a character's ethnic heritage without having to say, for example, "she was of Korean descent."

 

Chef Zoey Kate's parents are part of a jazz band called Valentine & the Nights Owls. I gave these characters music names:

 

Suzy "Valentine" Kate (band leader, Zoey's mom) - Named after Chet Baker's rendition of "My Funny Valentine." 

Michiel Hendryckx, used by permission.

 

Kenny "Gershwin" Kate (band manager, Zoey's dad) - George Gershwin was a composer. His most famous piece is "Rhapsody in Blue." 

                                                                               Photo by Carl Van Vechten

 

 

Bird (Night Owl, saxophone) - A tribute to Charlie Parker Jr., arguably the most famous jazz saxophonist of all time, went by the nickname "Bird." 

                                    William P. Gottlieb [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Four (Night Owl, bass) - Four strings on a bass.

 

Monk (Night Owl, piano) - A tribute to my favorite jazz pianist, the one and only Thelonious Monk.

                                     William P. Gottlieb [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Fat Jo (Night Owl, drums) - This character showed up with his name already attached. Jo doesn't relate to any specific part of music history, but he looks a lot like Juan Nelson from the band Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, so I say it counts. 

 

The only character who didn't get a food or music name was my protagonist, Zoey Kate. She's my daughter. That's her name. That's what's in the book. 

 

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