Tales From A Hungry Life

February 26, 2014


by Maria Schulz

Recently, I had to take a trip that meant I was going to be flying for several hours. My family and I were very excited because we couldn’t wait to escape from New York. Why, you ask? Because it’s been snowing here every couple of days and it’s one of those times when traveling to Alaska might get me to a warmer place.

Once upon a time, you could consider flying anywhere to be the highlight of your trip. The stewardesses waited on you with a smile, there were meals and dessert, plus they served real drinks. You did not pay to have them transport your luggage. The airport waiting room was clean, and you could even dash up to the gate and board at the very last minute, just like in the movies. Anybody remember Coffee, Tea or Me with Karen Valentine? Educating Rita with Michael Caine? No? Okay so I’m the only one watching really old movies.

Like this, only not like this

Like this, only not like this

But, just for a moment, channel your inner Don Draper and imagine flying the friendly skies from days gone by. There’s a hot towel for your face, a stiff drink to warm you up, and that 3-course meal that you’ve actually been looking forward to. Can you picture it? Good.

Now back to reality. You had to get to the airport 2 hours ahead of your flight so you could stand on a line that moves at a glacial pace, then take off your shoes, coat, jewelry, and bag so you can be harassed by security. When you finally get through, it takes you another 20 minutes just to get everything back on.

You rush to the gate, which has no seats left anywhere and so you have to sit on the ledge near the window. That’s when you notice that your flight has been delayed into the foreseeable future. Even when you are ready to board, there’s a good chance that your flight will be overbooked. Bummer.

That's all the peanuts?

That’s all the peanuts?

If you’re lucky enough to get on that flight (eventually), the flight attendant (don’t call them stewards or stewardesses) throws a bag of peanuts at you and bring you a very small “free” drink. That bag of peanuts wouldn’t satisfy a squirrel, and you’re about 100 times bigger than him…so now you and your inner squirrel are left hungry and annoyed.

Meanwhile, you’re crammed into as many seats as humanly possible (or I should say, inhumanly possible). The result is a feeling of claustrophobia that would have made Harry Houdini FREAK OUT.

Now I'm ready to fly

Now I’m ready to fly

Riding that bus in the sky is enough to keep you home. So what got me through? Reading. Yeah, that’s right: books! There are only so many times I can play Angry Birds before I get infuriated by those little green pigs. You mean to tell me that YOU, a little green pig, are going to laugh at me because I can’t clear the level? I’M ON A QUEST TO SAVE THOSE BIRDS, WHO ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES THAT ARE ANGRY!!!

Obviously, putting away Angry Birds was the right move for me. I didn’t need to get any angrier than I currently was, and being whisked away to another time and place–preferably one with meaning–was an opportunity that I am glad I didn’t pass up.

Thanks to several really good reads, I was able to get through the part of traveling that made me wonder why I ever left my house. So, finally, I can say that I didn’t mind that 7-hour delay or the fact that I sat cramped next to someone that smelled like onion rings. Ready…here are:


before my eyes

Before My Eyes by Caroline Bock. You may have read her earlier book, Lie, which I reviewed in my post, 11 Best Books of 2011. Well, Bock is back with this riveting read about a group of teenagers who are all hurtling towards a pivotal moment when their lives will intersect in a horrifying way.

There’s Claire, whose mother had a stroke in the beginning of the summer and who now spends her time caring for her little sister. Claire feels forgotten by her father, overwhelmed by her sudden “motherhood” and invisible to the world around her. She longs to find a kindred spirit who notices her and loves her.

Then there’s Max, a state senator’s son who is coping with feelings of never being good enough, not quite fitting in, and a soccer injury that leaves him reaching for pain pills. He works at the beach snack bar and notices Claire, who is unlike any other girl he knows.

Enter Barkley, a young man who is a few years older than Claire and Max. Barkley works at the snack bar and sells drugs on the side, and he’s a loner with no friends, an aversion to soap and water, and a feeling that the world is dismissing him. Barkley has also noticed Claire and decides he wants her for himself. He has big plans for the future and the voice inside his head tells him he will be respected and honored for standing up for the “truth.”

Now the three of them, and countless others, are on a collision course with destiny. The question is, will anyone come out of it unscathed?

I blazed through this book in just a few hours. It was a quick read, and I felt compelled to reach the ending. Give it a read and I’ll bet you will be hooked too.

Rating: 5 Stars

I Am The Messenger

I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak. I decided to give this book a try because I read The Book Thief, which I was able to almost read from beginning to end on a 5-hour trip to California. I figured another book by Zusak might get me through the endless waiting at the airport and make it enjoyable, and I wasn’t wrong.

Ed Kennedy is a down-on-his-luck cabbie. He’s 19 years old and thinks the world has already passed him by. His younger brother is off at University while he drives total strangers from place to place, and yet he goes nowhere. His mother never has anything kind or good to say to him, and his dad is dead.

But Ed has a great set of friends who he hangs out with, plays cards with, and who generally make the days passable. One of them is Audrey, a girl that Ed loves fiercely and who loves him back, just “not that way.” He is devoted to his very stinky 17-year-old shepherd/rottie mix dog, affectionately known as “The Doorman.”

Life is okay, but still it’s not okay. And that’s when fate intervenes. While with his friends at the bank one day, Ed witnesses a bank robbery and steps in to catch the thief. Afterwards, he starts receiving messages in the mail that tell him he must help others.

Through these messages, Ed begins to find a way to be more involved and find meaning in his life. Some of them are simple and easy; some of them place him in great danger. Along the way, Ed discovers that the ability to be someone and go somewhere is not out of his hands.

I couldn’t stop reading this book, and the pages just flew by. I really grew to love Ed Kennedy as he started to evolve and change. Without giving anything away, I will say that the ending left something to be desired, but I still thought it was a great read.

Rating: 5 Stars

kiss of the concubine

The Kiss of the Concubine by Judith Arnopp. I am always eager to read books about Anne Boleyn, the lady the world loved to hate 400+ years ago and continues to wonder about all these centuries later.

The Anne Boleyn story is told from her point of view, and you are drawn right in as you imagine what she is thinking, feeling, and planning as she went from being a young lady called back from the Parisian court of King Francis to serve as a lady in waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, through her years as Henry’s “mistress,” to her marriage, coronation, subsequent pregnancies and tragic end.

Anne is not cast as a villain here, but someone who got ensnared by her own ambitions and brought down by enemies who hated her for many reasons. What was most interesting to me was that Henry’s and Anne’s relationship is presented as a real love story…until everything goes very wrong.

Along the way, you can see the beautiful gowns, feel the wind on your face as Anne and the King gallop through the countryside, and feel Anne’s mounting desperation as she tries—and fails—to produce a prince for Henry.

Anyone who loves learning about life at court, the English aristocracy, and a woman who changed the world will enjoy this book.

Rating: 5 Stars

the girl you left behind

The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes. I picked up this book because I read Me Before You, also by Moyes, and thought it was a wonderful, compelling book. I thought The Girl You Left Behind might also have a story that I couldn’t put down, and I wasn’t wrong.

Sophie LeFevre is a tavern keeper in a small French village during World War I. She and her sister are both married to men who are serving at the front lines as French soldiers. The hated Germans have occupied their village, and Sophie’s family tries very hard to provide for their children and survive.

The commandant of the regiment comes into the tavern one day and sees a portrait of Sophie that was done by her artist husband, Edouard. The commandant becomes enchanted with the portrait, and eventually, with Sophie too. This leads to many troubles for Sophie, as the townspeople believe she is in league with the enemy. As things get worse and worse for Sophie, she learns that her husband may be in a prisoner of war camp. Now she must do something she never thought she would do….

Fast-forward about 100 years. Liv Halston is still mourning the death of her young husband four years earlier. She has just started dating Paul, an attorney who helps recover artwork stolen by the Nazis. He notices a portrait on Liv’s wall, which was a honeymoon gift from her husband, and he immediately realizes what it is. Now Liv will be pushed to her breaking point as she struggles to discover the origins of the painting, and what it means to her.

This is another book that’s great for reading anywhere, anytime. Give it a try, you won’t be sorry.

Rating: 5 Stars

Now available on amazon.com

Now available on amazon.com

Tales From A Hungry Life: A Memoir With Recipes by Maria Schulz. You didn’t really think you’d get through this entire post without seeing my book, did you? Yes, I’ve read this book about a million times now, but every time I do, it still cracks me up.

Six boys, one girl, two crazy parents, two dogs, a raft of eccentric relatives and did I mention…food? Yes, to eat together was to live, and that comes through every page of my book. From a lightning strike to the Son of Sam, spaghetti sauce (or is it gravy? Depends on which Italian you ask) to lunch at the Long Island room, this book is all about living, loving, and laughing.

My hope is that this book leaves you smiling, and laughing…and yes, eating. Please give it a try. The Kindle edition is available on Amazon.com and the print version will be out in the next few weeks.

Rating: 5 Stars (hey…11 Amazon reviewers can’t be wrong)


Get your key lime pie here!

Get your key lime pie here!

Kermit’s Key Lime Pie Chocolate Bars


Yes, key lime pie on a stick, dipped in chocolate. You can order these little bites of heaven straight from Kermit’s Key Lime Pie Shop in Key West. What could be better when you’re dreaming of being somewhere warm and tropical when snow is in the forecast…again?

So Hungry Lifers…what do you like to do when your flight is delayed and you’re bored? Does Angry Birds make you angry too? What’s your favorite book to read anywhere? Do you like key lime pie? Please leave a comment below and let us all know. Thanks!



  1. The best book I have read is yours even though I have read two books after it, one a look at an earlier life when Billy Crystal was a Long Beach Resident, which is his one man show in writing. The other is “The End Of The Affair” a not so funny book about love, hate and faith. I liked them but loved yours and for those who don’t know why, family, eats, laughs tears and all mine so why wouldn’t I love “Tales From A Hungry Life”? But I know people who read the book who aren’t related that love it just as much so I guess the author must be pretty good. By the way when I traveled by plane we dressed up for it. We dressed up for plays, movies and even ball games. So in return the airlines dressed up for us so to speak with great Steak meals on Aero Linas Argentina and Champagne on Varick.. And if they had to cancel or lay-over they would pay for your overnight stay at a five star hotel. I enjoyed those days for obvious reasons.

    Comment by Bglou — February 26, 2014 @ 10:14 am | Reply

  2. I remember dressing up for the airplane too. I went on 3 trips as a kid and my mother would make sure it was a nice outfit. It was respectful,like dressing up for church! No sweat pants, no jeans. Maria JetBlue gives you lots of snacks and drinks! I don’t like their customer service but if you are giving me extra chips I’ll over look it!

    Comment by Suzanne — February 26, 2014 @ 11:09 am | Reply

  3. Love those key lime pie bars! Worth the trip just for them!

    Comment by turafish — February 26, 2014 @ 11:09 am | Reply

  4. Your book recommendations are always spot on, Maria. Thanks for the reading suggestions. Before My Eyes and The Girl You Left Behind are now on my list. And as for your book … all 5 stars are well deserved!

    Comment by Lisa — February 26, 2014 @ 6:55 pm | Reply

  5. And my reading list gets longer! 😉 These sound great…especially that last one–something about a “Hungry Life?” 🙂 Love reading the recipes, too. Being a bit of a disaster in the kitchen, I’d need someone else to make them! Thanks for another great post, Maria.

    Comment by wordimprovisor177 — February 27, 2014 @ 10:32 am | Reply

  6. Maria, reading when my plane is delayed is difficult because of all the distractions in the airport. I keep getting distracted by people walking by. That brings me to the question about Angry Birds. I use to enjoy them but Candy Crush is the bomb. I play a game and take a break to look up at what’s going on around me. My favorite book… lets see… right now I am reading the Mortal Instruments series. Now I know that these books are for a younger crowd, but when you enjoy the genre of ghosts, vampires, witches, werewolves and angels, they have it all. And yes, key lime pie is the best!

    Comment by Tony Lagalante — February 28, 2014 @ 6:59 pm | Reply

  7. The trick to air travel is to do it with those you love. I like passing hours on a cramped plane by sitting next to my teenage daughter who flops her 11 pound head onto my shoulder for the duration. Or, by sitting next to my other teenage daughter who snaps bubble gum for the entire flight and asks how much longer it will last…every five minutes. Or, by sitting with my beloved wife who insists on keeping her coat and carryon luggage on her lap while munching everybody’s peanuts. Of course, I’m just kidding, and wouldn’t trade away a minute of any family vacay.

    Comment by Significant Other — March 4, 2014 @ 4:17 pm | Reply

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