I’m delighted to welcome author Natalie Normann onto my Meet the Characters blog today. Natalie is interviewing Jack Green, the MC from her novel Summer Island.
He never meant to stay.
He certainly never meant to fall in love…
Summer Island off the coast of Norway was the place London chef Jack Greene should have been from. He’s an outsider in the community that should have been his family, and now he’s setting foot on the strange land he has inherited for the first time.
Ninni Toft, his nearest neighbour, has come to the island to mend her broken heart. With her wild spirit and irrepressible enthusiasm, she shows city-boy Jack the simple pleasures of island life – and what it means to belong. To a place. To a people. To one person in particular…
Home is where the heart is, but is Jack’s heart with the career he left behind in London, or on the wind-swept shores of Summer Island, with Ninni?
Interview with Jack Green, renowned Chef and island dweller
I find Jack in the kitchen, apparently that’s his favourite place. It’s a roomy, shiny kitchen, with all the equipment a modern chef needs to do his magic; hanging from hooks over a large work counter. I have no idea what he uses most of them for and it seems rude to ask.
He’s pulling food out of a large fridge and setting the plates down on the counter, when I plant myself on one of the highchairs on the other side.
‘Right, Jack. Why Norway? What on earth made you come to this wind swept piece of rock in the middle of the North Atlantic?’
He seems annoyed by the question. Jack is patient, but he also have an impressive collection of seriously sharp chefs knives. Maybe I should rephrase that. ‘I mean, it’s a nice rock, but still. You’re from London, for goodness sake.’
‘If you had seen me on my first day here, you would never have thought I’d stay longer than a week. This place, it grows on you.’ He waves his knife at the window where the rain is hammering on the glass. ‘Even now.’
‘As I understand it, you didn’t know anything about this island before you arrived?’
‘No, I had no idea what to expect. Before I came here, I was a bit lost, to be honest. It was such a strange place, so different from what I was used to. I have lived in London all my life, and I couldn’t really picture myself living any other place. The contrast was … felt, enormous.’
Jack is making me a sandwich, an open sandwich, because that’s how we make them in Norway. He points at the different plates of food on the table in front of him. There’s different types of ham, fruits and berries, jam, eggs and sausages, fish, and bacon – it looks like a Norwegian dream breakfast. Me, I usually manage fine on a glass of ice coffee.
‘See this? All sorts of stuff to put on your bread. It even has a word: pålegg. It’s brilliant.’ Jack grins. ‘Sweet or savoury?’
‘Oh, for me? Hm. Savoury, I think. Why don’t your surprise me? But no mustard, mayonnaise and raw onions, please.’
Jack takes the challenge. He cuts a piece of rustic looking brown bread and starts to butter it. Then looks up. ‘You prefer not toasted, right?’
I nod. ‘I have a toaster, but I never use it. Did you bake the bread?’
‘Of course. The bread is fresh from this morning. Do you like liver pate?’
‘Sure. You seem awfully fascinated by Norwegian food. Why is that? No pickles, please. I hate those too.’
Jack thought about it. ‘Well, I’m classicly trained, in French cooking, and my favourites are the rustic, homely meals, the one you eat for comfort or when it’s cold and you fancy something to warm your cockles.’
‘Your what now?’ My imagination has no nice translation of that word, but I’m pretty sure I don’t have any cockles.
‘The cockles of your heart? No?’ Jack sighes when I shake my head. ‘It means something nice and good, actually. Like your hygge, maybe.’
‘Okay.’ I snatch a piece of bacon before he can stop me. ‘So that’s what Norwegian food does for you? It doesn’t really do that for me. I’m more of a pasta girl, myself.’
‘That too. I mean, traditional food here isn’t that different from what we have back home. Norwegians have lived of the sea and the land for centuries, just like we used to do in the UK. And we survived fine without access to all sorts of exotic produce that now has to be flown in from the other side of the world. Also food here is suprisingly expensive, especially imported food.’
‘So you’re fascinated by the food here. Is that enough to keep life here interesting for you?’
‘We’ll have to see, won’t we? For now, this is what I want,’ he says with a huge smile.
He cuts a thick slice of pate and puts it on the bread, then garnish with bacon and something foamy that I don’t know what is, and ends it with adding what looks like jam made of some kind of berries.
‘Here. Try this. Now, as you know, normally, you’d eat the sandwich with your hands. But this is more of an artisan sandwich, so you might want this.’
He hands me a set of cutlery. I frown, still staring at the plate in front of me. It doesn’t look like any kind of sandwich from my breakfast table, I can tell you that. ‘This is really more a Danish kind of sandwich, you know,’ I say.
Jack grins. ‘I wouldn’t know the difference, I’m afraid. And a piece of cold bread with a slice of cheese on it, isn’t much of a meal, is it?’
He’s right about that.
I look at the plate again. ‘What is all this … stuff you’ve put on here?’
Jack is already making another sandwich, presumably for himself. ‘It’s a local pate, made from an old recipe here on the island. The bacon is of course not from the island. There are no pig farmers here so we get that from the mainland. The foam is made from locally harvested mushrooms, also on the mainland, but the jam is crowberries that grow wild here. They are really good with meat, I think,’ Jack says, pointing at each component with his knife.
I love crowberries, I just haven’t had it on a sandwich before. I cut a piece, making sure to get a bit of everything, and put it in my mouth. It’s so good, it’s practically religious, and I’m not even a huge fan of liver pate.
‘Are you experimenting with local produce, so that you can bring new recipes to London? I mean, your former position as a young, promising chef, meant that people had expectations. They still do, I should think.’
‘Wouldn’t you like to know? ‘ Jack says, winking at me.
I would actually, but I have to write it
What readers are saying about Summer Island
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely uplifting story
I loved this book from the start, saw it by chance in Twitter so glad I did! I’ve never been to Norway, it’s on my to do list, but I felt as if I have been there after reading this book as it’s so well described, likewise with the characters. I really want a dog like Fikke! I will be downloading the next book and any further books by Natalie, if you like books by Sarah Bennett, Daisy James and Sue Moorcroft to name just a few then this is the book for you!
Natalie Normann grew up in a shipping town on the west-coast of Norway and always wanted to be a writer. Actually, she wanted to smoke cigars and drink whiskey like Hemingway but settled for chocolate and the occasional glass of Baileys. Her writing journey started with short stories in women’s magazines until her first book was published in 1995.
Summer Island is her first romance written in English
Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your book, Natalie.
Sassy, heartwarming romances set in glorious locations: Amazon Author Page