We're giving Cloris a much needed day off today and welcoming mystery author and foodie Lucy Burdette (aka Roberta Isleib.) Lucy is a clinical psychologist and the author of ten mysteries. Death in Four Courses will be available September 4th. Publishers Weekly has said, "Anyone who's ever overpaid for a pretentious restaurant meal will relish this witty cozy." You can learn more about Lucy and the Key West food critic series on her website or facebook or on Twitter. She also blogs at Jungle Red Writers and Mystery Lovers Kitchen. -- AP
My Mysterious Foodie Life
by Lucy Burdette
by Lucy Burdette
When people ask me if I'm a great chef (which happens more and more since I've started writing about food), I tell them I'm a good solid cook but that I really excel as eating. And this came in my DNA, as a short vignette will illustrate.
Several years ago, my extended family was gathering for a weekend. When we visit my husband's family, we must remember to take golf clubs, tennis rackets, ping pong paddles, whiffle balls and bats, and so on. So quite naturally, my husband was concerned about what to pack for my family's get-together.
"What kind of sporting equipment will we need?" he asked my cousin.
"With our crowd, all you need is a knife and fork," my cousin told him.
With that level of foodie enthusiasm in my blood, joining the ranks of culinary mystery writers felt like a natural to me. I'm a long time fan of Diane Mott Davidson's culinary mystery series. Her main character, a caterer named Goldy, makes cooking sound so satisfying and pleasant. She never seems to grow tired of mixing up enormous batches of cookies or casseroles or scones or chili. Cooking is her job, but it's also her passion and her way of containing anxiety or fear or sadness.
I too wanted to create a character with a powerful emotional connection to food and family. Hayley Snow's job is to review Key West restaurants for a new style magazine, Key Zest. But when she's not eating out, she's cooking for her friends and talking food with her mom.
In book two of the Key West series, Death in Four Courses, Hayley is sent to report on a conference of important food writers. As a new reviewer, she's terrified that she'll be compared to her writing idols and found lacking. And she's made the mistake of inviting her mother down from New Jersey for the weekend. As she puts it, having her mom tethered to her side while tackling her first major journalistic assignment feels like watching a falling soufflé through the oven door.
By the end of story, she's come to some conclusions about her job; I'll let her tell you about them:
"While food did mean life and death in its most elemental form, most often we in the food writing industry were talking about food as the pleasure of connections. When we wrote about simmering a stew or a sauce for hours or days, we were really talking about how much we owed to the folks who came before us and the importance of cherishing their memory. And how much we yearned to give to the people in our present who'd be gathered around our table. We were writing about food as family history, and love, and hope, and sometimes a little splash of guilt."
And now, with no guilt at all, I give you Hayley Snow's strawberry-rhubarb cake:
Strawberry-Rhubarb Cake with Streusel Topping
1-1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup milk or buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups rhubarb, chopped
1 cup strawberries, chopped
For the topping:
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp. flour
4 tbsp. rolled oats
Cream the butter and sugar, and add the egg. Sift together flour and baking soda and add this to the creamed mixture with the milk and vanilla. Fold in the rhubarb and strawberries. Pour into greased 9-by-11-inch pan. Blend topping ingredients with a pastry blender until pea-sized and sprinkle on top of the cake. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes
Oh, how I wish my rhubarb crop had survived last summer's hurricane! This recipe sounds so wonderful, I may have to break down and buy some rhubarb at the supermarket. What about you, readers? -- AP