Wednesday, February 26, 2014


I hadn't yet published a novel when Jan Karon first shared her Mitford character's recipes - in magazines, long before her Cookbook and Kitchen Reader came out - but I knew enough then to to be astonished that she found the time to write both novels and recipes.

And - being a less enthusiastic cook then than I am now - I didn't see the point.

What changed my view was Laura Esquibel's Like Water For Chocolate, in which every chapter begins with a recipe, and each recipe becomes a character in the story. Esquibel made me see that there are many ways to tell a story, that there are strange and marvelous paths being forged all the time, and one of the paths into story is food. She awakened for me a wanderlust for new narrative techniques, and also, I think, an appetite for creative cooking.

And that made me just a little less apprehensive when The Feast of Saint Bertie's publisher suggested I let them print India's recipe for the cinnamon rolls whose aroma wound it's way between the words of my book.

So here's a delicious idea: I'll print here India's recipe, and ask you to share a favorite recipe you found in a novel.

So here it is:

Note from India: It's up to me to keep the author honest. When Kathleen tried this recipe, I shamed her into using free-range eggs-just look up how they treat the chickens that lay the eggs you eat in the morning and ask yourself if any of God's creatures deserve such cruelty. But Kathleen wrote "organic" all over the place just so I'd shut up. Still, it's true, you can even find organic shortening if you look for it, and it's better for you. I make cinnamon rolls with organic white flour to keep my customers happy, but it wouldn't hurt you to make them whole wheat. Kathleen did, and even she admits they were delicious.
Grease enough muffin pans to hold twelve cinnamon rolls.
1/2 cup hormone-free milk
1/2 pkg. yeast
3T organic shortening
1T organic butter
1/3 c organic sugar
1/2 t salt
1 free-range egg yolk, beaten
1 1/2 c sifted whole wheat flour, or, alternately, white flour
melted organic butter
1/4 c organic brown sugar, packed
2 t cinnamon
1/3 c organic raisins
1/3 c organic walnuts
1/2 c organic corn syrup
1/2 c organic brown sugar, firmly packed
1/8 c butter

Heat the milk to boiling, and allow to cool till it's just warm. Sprinkle yeast over top. Cream shortening plus 1 tablespoon of the butter; stir in 1/3 cup sugar and 1/z teaspoon salt. Beat together till light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk, the yeast/milk mixture and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead on a lightly floured board. Roll the dough into a square about 1/4 inch thick. Brush the square with butter. Mix together the 1/4 cup of brown sugar and the cinnamon. Sprinkle the square of dough with this mixture, plus the raisins and walnuts. Roll the square of dough up like you're rolling a rug. Cut the roll into 12 slices.
Make the syrup by heating in a small pan 1/2 cup of corn syrup, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and 1/8 cup of butter, till all are melted together. Pour a little of this mixture into each cup of your muffin pans. Place the slices in the muffin pans. Cover and let sit for an hour, or if you used white flour, till the dough rises to twice its size. Bake in a hot oven at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven, flip over the pans, and loosen the rolls. Then while the rolls are still upside down, lay the pan back over the tops of them, so the syrup will ooze into the rolls.

Now you go. I can't wait to taste what you have to cook.


Sharon K. Souza said...

Katy, what a fun post! I too loved the recipes in Jan Karon's wonderful Mitford series. I was given the cookbook as a gift several years ago.

As for recipes from something I've read ... Last year our book club read The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. For our meeting I made Abuelita's coffee. The recipe wasn't spelled out in the book, but I was able to construct it:

Put whole milk (must be whole milk) in a saucepan and slowly heat. Make orange curls with a zester; set aside. Break a cinnamon stick in half. Add the orange curls and cinnamon to the milk. Grate some good dark chocolate. Add it to the milk. Then add a tiny bit of anise. Let this all simmer together for a few minutes. In the meantime, make real whipping cream.

Fill a coffee mug half way with fresh coffee, then fill the cup the rest of the way with the milk mixture. Top with whipping cream.


Megan Sayer said...

You know, aside from Roald Dahl's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (which probably doesn't exactly count) I can't think of a single book that's made me think about/drool over/want to cook food. Maybe I read the wrong books.
Sharon that coffee sounds DIVINE! I'm gonna have to try that one. Yum!

And Katy, I'd forgotten all about the cinnamon rolls in St Bertie (possibly because I'd never had a cinnamon roll when I read it, and it didn't conjure up all the pleasant memories it would for a lot of readers). However, to this day I can't open a tin of tuna without images from that book of Bertie in her little shack flashing into my mind. Possibly not what you as the author ever intended, but hey, you made a powerful association :)

Kathleen Popa said...

Macon, don't forget the recipe in Georges Marvelous Medicine.

I'm glad to have a powerful association.

Sharon, next time we are together we will have to have some of that coffee.

cherry Odelberg said...

What a great reminder! "there are many ways to tell a story, that there are strange and marvelous paths being forged all the time."

Sometimes, I need to know that to shake the writer's block.

Oh. Was this about food?

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Food and the way we eat speaks volumes about culture and status and relationships. What is the most common anthropological find? Cups and bowls. We get really excited if the amphora has dregs or the mummy gut has a last meal in it.
Here is a recipe from Mrs. Bridges' Upstairs, Downstairs Cookery Book. Simon and Schuster 1974
(Servanthood vs slavery vs the grace to let others serve is a major theme in my story.) The main character is ill and this might be a gentle food for a convalescent.
Apricots Colbert
12 whole apricots
3 oz rice
half pint water
3 tbs sugar
1 egg yolk
half tsp vanilla essence
1 whole egg
half cup bread crumbs
Blanch the rice by boiling for a minute or two, then rinse in cold water. Make a thin sugar syrup with the water and 2 tbs sugar and add the rice. Cook until the water is absorbed or the rice is tender. Allow to cool, then stir in the egg yolk. Halve the apricots, remove the stones and poach them in water with the vanilla essence, add a tbs of sugar and cook until they are tender (canned apricots acceptable).
When cool, sandwich together with spoonfuls of the rice - a dessert spoon per apricot is about right. Put them in the refrigerator to chill for 30 min. Beat the whole egg and dip each apricot then roll in bread crumbs. Fry them in deep, hot fat until light brown and crisp. Serve at once on a white napkin. Serves 4-6