Reviewing novels requires me to critically take apart what I’m reading and try to explain why it tickles my taste buds or leaves me feeling like I have just bit off a chunk of sawdust. Co-writing my recent novel, Out of the Frying Pan, required me to put on my big girl pants and the “I’m professional” fedora. Because I was the one being critically assessed and since I had a partner in crime, I needed to play well with others. Additionally, I often toss on the artist beret or chef toque and put together ideas for book clubs or recipes to tie novels and food together.
Because you are readers, chances are you have opportunities for book club get togethers, or maybe you just love the idea of food and reading. There are more and more novels that are including recipes after all.
Here’s an easy way to pull a theme food or type out of a novel, maybe even one that hardly mentions food, if you want to add another element to the joy of reading. Put on your thinking cap and ask yourself a few questions.
- What senses are most evoked in the reading of this novel? Is it very visual with delicious descriptions? Or an action-packed thrill ride?
- Where is the novel set? What time frame? What climate or season do the characters experience?
- Are the characters curious or tightly wound? Are foods or beverages part of the characterization process? For example, coffee addicts who write from a coffee shop or a chef who works out problems while baking.
- Do you feel any connection or nostalgia when reading it?
Next. With the information you’ve just uncovered make note of things that pop into your head. Go with obvious food mentioned within the novel. Food that would have been popular during that time frame. Google the place or historical time period with the word food or recipes. Ex. “World War II Europe Recipes”. Search for traditional foods that fit the location or season? If the novel is set in the summer and you think of those creamy orange push-up pops every time you think of summer note that. Or go with pure feeling. Does the beach appear almost as if it’s a character? What foods do you think of when you think about beaches?
Got an idea or two? Then the rest is fun research. Here’s where you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just take the basic wheel shape and embellish a little or a lot. Just like every book can fit into a genre or two, and every genre has a formula, so too with recipes. A plotline is unique only because of the voice of the writer. I mean romance novels sell like hotcakes and the plotlines follow a formula. Boy meets girl (or girl meets boy), sparks of some sort fly, conflict, swoon, conflict, swoon, conflict, conflict, true love, swoon, conflict faced together, happiness ever after. Recipes are similar. Cake, cookies, muffins...all are varying techniques with similar ingredients. Main dishes are the same. Pasta, meat, sauce = dinner. Lettuce, dressing, toss-ins. Salad. You get the drift.
When you discover the style of dish you want, take your flavor/region/season ideas and tweak and twist until you come up with something that fits the image of what you are going for.
Example. If you want to have a finger food and you have a book set in Germany. Think German Chocolate. German Chocolate is unique because of the ingredients, chocolate, coconut, pecans. You could tweak a chocolate chip cookie recipe with additions/changes and sometimes subtractions and end up with delicious results. Or think about other finger foods. German Chocolate Puppy Chow? German Chocolate Rice Krispy treats? If you only make one or two changes to a basic recipe you should not risk a huge fail, especially if you don’t mess with the foundational things like liquid vs dry ratios.
Because my novel is set in Florida. I will go with a beachy feel. A beach says coconut and citrus to me. Let’s tweak. Favorite fried chicken recipe. Pulse coconut into flour, replace half the called for flour with the powdered coconut and follow the usual directions. Melt (liquify) orange marmalade, lemon curd or lime jelly add ½ that amount of vinegar or lemon or lime juice to cut the sweetness a bit and use as a dipping sauce or glaze. Or make your favorite sugar cookie recipe adding lemon juice for ¼ of the called for liquid, or a teaspoon or two instead of vanilla. Pulse a couple graham crackers, coconut and lemon zest into crumbs, roll the sugar cookie dough into balls and roll them through the crumbs, press flat and bake. Sandy coconut citrus cookies.
And because this is so much fun to do, and my book is set in a retirement community and one of my characters is a self-labeled crazy cousin version of Julia Child how can I do anything but give you two recipes straight from Zula’s mind. In honor of the Florida sunshine and frothy beach drinks and sand between your toes….
You may use your favorite Rice Krispie Bar recipe if you’d like and just replace one cup of crispy rice cereal with 1 and ½ Cups toasted coconut and ½ Cup of graham cracker crumbs, add the orange marmalade and zest or use this one.
Toasting Coconut: Preheat oven to 300. Scoop the amount of shredded coconut you need onto a cookie sheet. Spread coconut out into a thin layer on sheet. Place in oven for 10 minutes. Stir after 5. Start checking at 8 especially if you know you have a hot oven. You want it to be golden not brown. When it smells and looks done it’s good to go.
- 3 TBSP coconut oil
- 3 TBSP butter
- 1 10 ounce bag of miniature marshmallows
- 3 TBSP orange marmalade
- 1 and ½ teaspoons dried orange zest (spice aisle at grocery store)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ⅛ slightly rounded teaspoon salt
- 5 Cups crispy rice cereal
- ½ Cup graham cracker crumbs
- 1 and ½ Cup toasted coconut
In a 2 quart saucepan melt butter and coconut oil together, add the marshmallows and marmalade and stir until the marshmallows are almost completely melted. Add the vanilla and salt and orange zest and stir very well. Add the coconut and cereal stir until incorporated. Finally add the graham cracker crumbs. Press into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Do you know the trick for keeping this off your hands? Run your hands under cold water. Press until it gets sticky, repeat if needed until you have the pan pressed down. Cool for 15 minutes. Cut with pizza cutter.
Florida Sunrise Morning Muffins
Orange muffins with graham and toasted coconut sanded tops.
- ¼ Cup oil of choice
- ½ Cup applesauce
- 1 ⅔ Cup orange juice
- 1 teaspoon of dried orange zest or zest from one fresh orange
- ⅔ Cup orange marmalade
- 2 Cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 4 Cups flour
- 2 TBSP baking powder
- ½ Cup toasted coconut
- ½ Cup graham cracker crumbsToasting Coconut: Preheat oven to 300. Scoop the amount of shredded coconut you need onto a cookie sheet. Spread coconut out into a thin layer on sheet. Place in oven for 10 minutes. Stir after 5. Start checking at 8 especially if you know you have a hot oven. You want it to be golden not brown. When it smells and looks done it’s good to go. Honestly. Toasted coconut is pretty delicious. Just do the whole bag and sprinkle the extra over oatmeal or ice cream. It keeps in a jar in the pantry for several weeks.Bump the temperature to 350. Place cupcake liners in your cupcake pans. You will get 20-24.In a small bowl mix the toasted coconut with the graham cracker crumbs.In a larger bowl mix flour, sugar and baking powder until completely combined. Make a well in the center. In smaller bowl mix all the wet ingredients together. When combined pour the liquid into the dry and mix well. A few lumps are okay.Scoop the mixture into the cupcake liners, filling approximately ⅔ full. Sprinkle the coconut/graham cracker mixture over the top of the batter. Bake 23-25 minutes at 350.
I hope this tempted your tastebuds for both the recipe game and the book. Bon Appetit and thanks for having me drop by.
Out of the Frying Pan, is the culmination of several of the failed/passed tests. Kelly, though she lives with her husband, two Beagles and two hedgehogs in Iowa, can be found at Novel Rocket, Novel Reviews, Scrambled Dregs, Modern Day Mishaps, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter with flashes of brilliance (usually quotes), randomocities, and learned life lessons.