Saturday, September 27, 2008

Food for Thought

My family’s favorite part of the crochet mysteries are the recipes. They are my official tasters and love their job. They love it so much that both my husband and son are urging me to put in more than one recipe per book.

In all fairness, I used to cook a lot, and I guess they miss it. Okay, I don’t guess, I know they miss it because I’m always hearing about what I used to make. But back to the recipes in the books.

Hooked on Murder (which I found out just went into a second printing) features Helen’s Pound Cake. Helen was my mother and the pound cake was her all occasion favorite to make. My mother always made a big deal out of birthdays, and she liked to make cakes for people who normally wouldn’t have had a birthday cake.

I followed in her footsteps and the pound cake became a regular in my baking repertoire. Even so, I wanted to bake it again when I was adding the recipe to the book. I was including a recipe for butter cream icing and planned to ice the cake when it was cool. But my husband and son were so excited about an actual home made cake in the house, pieces of it started disappearing before it stopped steaming. By the time it was cool enough to ice, there was a little over a slice left. I had to make the full amount of icing to check how it turned out, but there is only so much butter cream icing you can put on one piece of cake. So, I trashed the rest. I’m still hearing about that. I didn’t think there was much you could do with a bowl of icing, but they are still tossing ideas out about what they could have done with it.

I included a recipe for cheesecake cupcakes in the Dead Men Don’t Crochet. I don’t have quite the same emotional connection with that recipe. It was one I came up with a long time ago, long before cupcakes were such an in item. I made several batches of them when I was checking the recipe. The recipe made eighteen of them and with the buttery graham cracker crust and the cream cheese top, they were rich and delicious. They lasted a little longer than the pound cake.

The third book now called By Hook or By Crook has a recipe for California Noodle Pudding. You can eat it hot or cold, as a side dish or a main course for breakfast. It has fruit and nuts and a little bit of sugar and vanilla, so it could almost be a dessert. It was my standard pot luck entry and so good I’d find myself saying mmmm when I ate it. This is another reason I don’t cook that much anymore. I like my own creations too much.

When I was in Chicago, I spent time going through my mother’s recipe file. I found all kinds of good stuff like a chocolate cake made with mash potatoes, and another made with yeast. Then there was one she called the Truant Officers Carrot Cake. I’m guessing that since my mother worked in the office of an elementary school, that’s who she got the recipe from. But I decided to go with one of my mother’s party creations. Nobody liked to give a party more than my mother. She always said she’d be planning her next party in the midst of her current one.

Since we basically had no money, my mother always made everything and generally something inexpensive. My parents had lots of brunch parties with waffle. For evening events, she came up with a sweet and a savory variation of appetizer puffs. I’m going to use the recipes for both in the fourth book. After she baked the small puffs, she’d fill some with crab salad and the others with homemade custard and a dollop of whipped cream. Just reading over the recipe reminded me of her standing in the kitchen, stirring the puff batter in a saucepan (you have to heat some of the ingredients). She would say they were so easy to make and then worry they weren’t going to turn out. My mother always worried that whatever she cooked wasn’t going to turn out.

Of course, everything always did.


Sheila Connolly said...

I can't believe you trashed a bowl of home-made frosting! I would have been eating it one spoonful at a time...

Do you find that your readers have responded to the recipes? I know Berkley loves to include them, regardless of the theme or hook of the book. Do they serve as some sort of litmus test for the characters? We know them by their food preferences?

No fair--you've made me hungry now.

Terri Thayer said...

Jessica, my agent, oops, OUR agent, asked me to think hard about including recipes in my quilting mysteries. But I couldn't put anything in that I hadn't made up, and none of my favorites fall into that category. Most of my cooking now includes brown rice, beans and broccoli. I think our readers would be much happier with pound cake.

Betty Hechtman said...

Sheila: Oh no, more guilt about the frosting :-). I think the recipes are a nice touch, although someone made a comment about the pound cake recipe and said to have your cardiolgist's number handy.

What can I say? My mother was half Swedish and we had only butter in our house.

I weave the recipe into the story line, so it isn't just stuck there. I do think what kind of food Molly cooks says something about her character.

Terri, You could be right about the pound cake versus brown rice, beans and broccoli. It's kind of a fantasy versus reality thing.

Camille Minichino said...

I thought crab was not consistent with not having much, until I remembered the days when any kind of fish was the least expensive thing you could eat/buy. Especially if you lived near the water.

You're not that old, but maybe it was true for you too?

Betty Hechtman said...

Camille: I think my mother stretched a small can of crab meat. Chicago is near water, but the wrong kind.