Sunday, November 04, 2007


Often we snack while reading, but we also can whet our appetites with mention of the foods we find in books we're devouring. Sometimes there are complete recipes. In other cases, we'll find brief a description of a regional food that entices us to search for the recipe. Also, some of these food references may bring memories and recipes to mind.

For instance, I'm reading a mystery book set in eastern Maine. During the course of a discussion in the heroine's kitchen, her friend begins peeling apples and proceeds to make an apple cake which she serves with vanilla ice cream.

As I read, I began to get hungry for Nobby Apple Cake. a recipe I often make in autumn. The author casually mentioned other regional recipes during the course of the book.

Some books, like the mysteries by Diane Mott Davidson, naturally include food, as well as the actual recipes. Since Ms. Davidson's books became popular, you find more of this type.

Foods in Children's Books

Children's books also contain recipes that give the flavor of the area or era. While substitute teaching the other day, I read a chapter from "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" by Elizabeth George Speare.

Kit found living with her cousins in Puritan Connecticut very different from life in Barbados. Learning to cook was just one of her many challenges. When making Corn Pudding for the family's breakfast, she became impatient. Instead of slowly spooning the cornmeal into the boiling water, Kit finally dumped in the whole cup. A gelatinous mess resulted which the family silently ate.

I mentioned to the students that Corn Pudding or Cornmeal Mush was a standby when I was growing up. Sometimes we had it for breakfast, alternating between oatmeal and cream of wheat. Mother also prepared this dish for Sunday supper instead of serving a full meal after the large dinner.

I liked it when Mother had some lumps in the mush. She was frustrated because it wasn't completely smooth. However, she didn't have the mess that Kit did!

Foods Add Authenticity

Referring to foods the characters are eating, adds authenticity to the story background. This doesn't have to be a detailed description, just mention of grabbing an oatmeal cookie filled with raisins, stirring up someone's favorite chocolate cake, making apple pancakes for breakfast. You'll often receive a sense of region and season this way, too.

Because of my culinary interests (I write a weekly cooking column for newspapers), I sometimes jot down the food and recipes mentioned in books, so keep a note pad beside me.

On the blog for my story, "Sarah Jane's Daring Deed," ( ), I plan to add actual recipes my readers can try. Because this is a pioneer story, I can see a recipe for Cornmeal Mush.

APPLE FRITTERS - a recipe from my childhood. This also might be a Sarah Jane recipe (although I didn't grow up in Sarah Jane's era!).

Beat 2 eggs. Mix and sift 2 1/2 cups flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar. Add 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup cream, 1 cup peeled, chopped apples and eggs to the dry ingredients; stir. Drop onto hot greased griddle and cook as you would pancakes.

(c)2007 Mary Emma Allen

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