Radine Trees Nehring fell in love with the Arkansas Ozarks as a visitor in 1978, wound up moving there, and has since shared her love of the region in both her fiction and nonfiction. Her eighth Ozarks-related mystery novel, A Portrait to Die For, was released in April. Learn more about Radine and her books at her website.
How Important Are Cooking Skills to an Amateur Detective?
Early on in the Carrie McCrite/Henry King To Die For mystery series, readers learn for the first time that Carrie is not a willing cook. Chapter Three of the first novel, A Valley to Die For, opens:
"The committee ate Carrie's brunch as eagerly as if she'd spent all morning in the kitchen preparing it. 'There,' she thought, 'that proves it doesn't take a zillion-ingredient recipe and stacks of dirty pans. All it takes is friends getting together--then no one cares whether your kitchen helper was Julia Child or the Pillsbury Doughboy.' "
Carrie's kitchen helper would definitely be the Pillsbury Doughboy. She lived with her parents until she was thirty and her mom insisted on doing all the cooking. After marriage to Amos McCrite, a wealthy criminal lawyer, Carrie still spent little time in the kitchen because he employed a full-time cook. Now, on occasions when she does cook, (especially after Amos's death), she usually depends on take-out, or ready-prepared meals from the grocery. We learn in A Treasure to Die For that, before moving to Arkansas after Amos's murder, she disposed of the many (unopened) cookbooks helpful friends gave her over the years. ("All that woman needs is a good cookbook," they frequently said.)
When the need to make meatloaf comes up as part of the plot in A Treasure to Die For, a result is "No Thaw Meatloaf." This bizarre and so-o-o easy meatloaf shows up on the Nehring dinner table every few months and, according to reader response, probably on many other tables as well.
At one time Carrie apologizes to her adult son, Rob, about the lack of "home-made, mom-cooked meals" while he was growing up. He assures her that, as a bachelor college professor, he's grateful to have learned her meal prep methods early in life.
Bowing to reader requests, I always include two or three recipes at the end of each novel.
Of course I enjoy writing about Carrie's adventures into crime solving with her new husband, Henry King (a retired Kansas City Police Major), and about the very real tourist-friendly Arkansas locations where each story is set. Though it's sometimes challenging, I also enjoy coming up with the Carrie-style recipes used in each story. "Baggie Omelets" is one of the most popular with readers. It's from A River to Die For.
(And yes, special recipes even fit into my recent Carrie and Henry novel about art crime--A Portrait to Die For, set largely in Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.)
Here is Carrie's recipe for Baggie Omelets:
one-quart zip shut freezer bag
Whatever you like in an omelet: chunks of onion, green pepper, bacon, sausage, olives, etc.
Shredded cheese of choice
Salt and pepper
One large kettle of boiling water (rolling boil)
If using raw vegetables, soften in the microwave. (If on a picnic, cook lightly in a pan) Cook any meat you plan to add. Chop everything you will be adding to your omelet into small pieces.
Break two eggs into a baggie. Seal, removing as much air as possible. Squeeze and squish until eggs are well mixed.
Open baggie. Add vegetables and/or meat. Add seasonings.
Seal bag again, removing air, and squish to mix.
Drop bag(s) in kettle of boiling water and boil for exactly thirteen minutes. Remove from water and roll or spoon omelet out on a plate. Add shredded cheese immediately.
Carrie and I think this is the best way in the world to cook eggs. Delicious--and no cleanup of messy egg residue.
A Portrait to Die For
Carrie discovers two versions of a supposedly original portrait in a loan exhibition at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. When a reporter who interviewed Carrie at the museum disappears, Carrie must choose between her promise to stop crime-solving or work to find the woman--a college friend of her son's.