Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cozies and Cooks

There's a long history of the relationship between food and mystery, particularly cozy mysteries. Maybe it's because we combine one of the greatest pleasures of life--food--with one of the greatest fears--murder. Maybe it softens the horror and humanizes the protagonist. Maybe it's, as a friend suggested, that we bring food to funerals as the best way we know to comfort.
Nero Wolfe was one of the earliest sleuth cooks (his lamb meatloaf still sounds wonderful) and his cookbook is still available. There's a Sherlock Holmes Cookbook--who would have thought?--and a Pataricia Cornwall one. Cornwall seems so hard-boiled to me, it's hard to think of her cooking and I don't want to think about autopsies.
Virginia Rich may well have started the culinary mystery trend with a book called The Cooking School Murders, published in 1982. Today we have a plethora of culinary mysteries, from bakeries and cupcake shops to caterers like Goldie Schultz in Diane Mott's terrific series. Susan Wittig Albert has her long-standing China Bayles series about an herbalist and then there's Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse mysteries, Daryl Avery's cheese shop series, Lucy Burdette's series about a food critic in Key West, and Julie Hyzy's series about a White House chef. Yep, food is out there in the mystery world.
So many mystery authors cook that Nancy Lynn Jarvis came up with the idea of a cookbook featuring recipes from fellow members of Sisters in Crime. The result is Cozy Food, in which 128 authors share one or more of their favorite recipes.
Yes, I have two recipes in there, one for what my family knows and loves as Doris' Casserole, which for purposes of the book I renamed Keisha's Casserole to refer to the Kelly O'Connell Mysteries, and Gram's Chocolate Cake--better known in my house as Mary Helen's Mother's Bundt Cake, but I wanted it to come from the Blue Plate CafĂ© and the series of that name.
Kaye George, author of the Neanderthal mystery, Death in the Time of Ice, came up with a recipe for Dried Mammoth Meat/Neanderthal Mammoth Jerky--she gets my vote for originality, though I don't know I'll be trying it soon.
I will try a lot of recipes in this book--Edith Maxwell's Tuscan bean salad with eggs (essentially salad Nicoise for vegetarians)--but Edith ought to know. She writes a series about locavore farming; Radine Trees Nehring, from the Ozarks, contributed Carrie's Chicken Pie, which intrigues me; Elaine Viets, who writes about various jobs such as dogwalker, contributed pate du Chateau Blanc which turns out to be a pate made of White Castle hamburgers and the trimmings, put in a blender with water to thin (think I'd use wine)--gourmet? No. Intriguing? Yes.
There are recipes for pets--Catnip Burger and Kitty Cat Tuna Crackers. Something for everyone.
Browse through this book--it's fun, and you're sure to find recipes you want to try.
Kudos to Nancy for editing and to her husband who apparently did all the formatting. And they went from idea to publication in record time.

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