Do Readers Actually Make Recipes Printed in Novels? Dreamy or Disastrous? An Experiment.
Last week, I headed out to Brooklyn, New York to bake with author Megan Caldwell. Our target was a recipe printed in the back of her upcoming pastry-tastic debut novel, Vanity Fare, about the charming Molly Hagan, a divorced single-mom who takes a job writing copy for a bakery and becomes entangled in a love triangle.
There are five recipes in the back of the book. Three possibilities rose to the surface. We considered making the Much Ado About Muffins recipe or possibly the Tart of Darkness, but in the end we settled on Lord of the Tea Rings.
The genesis of this play date was an attempt to answer the question, do readers actually try to make the recipes printed as bonus material in food-themed novels, and if so, what happens?
There are two golden rules in baking. Well, at least two. And we broke both of them.
• Golden Rule of Baking #1: Always read the recipe first, preferably early enough to actually do something about whatever problem you discover in your kitchen or amongst your supplies. (The recipe calls for one six-inch cake pan. Nobody I know has a six-inch cake pan.)
• Golden Rule Baking #2: Never assume that doubling a baking recipe means the recipe will be twice as good or equally good, twice. Cooking is art; baking is science. And in science, if you add twice as many oxygen molecules to an experiment, it’s a toss-up whether you are going to breathe easier or explode. (Of course, we decide to double the recipe, one tea ring for each of us.)
Sub note to Golden Rules of Baking: Baking disasters are always funnier if you saw Woody Allen’s pudding scene from the 1973 movie Sleeper at an impressionable age. Just sayin’
Moving on. So I fancy myself a baker of sorts, though I’ve gotten a little rusty since moving to New York. And I knew from looking at the dough once we got started that we might be headed for trouble.
Megan and I peer into the bowl. The beater attempts to chug its way through the enormous mass of batter. The Kitchen Aid’s engine is making strange noises. I look around for a fire extinguisher and then stare back down into the bowl. “Man, that’s dense,” I say.
She squints. “Mmm.”
Now, let it be known that Megan’s not just a terrific author; she’s also a terrific cook. I just want to make that clear before I follow up by saying that I don’t think she had a clue whether it was dense or not in a relative baking sense. Cooks are not generally known as perfectionists. They like to “wing it,” “improvise,” “go with the flow,” which is awesome for things like spaghetti sauce or burritos.
A typical baker does not operate with that kind of Zen, and I was beginning to wonder if I should have taken some sort of medication before heading over when, in lieu of six-inch metal cake pans, she cheerfully supplied what appeared to be a ten-inch, deep ceramic soufflé dish and a somewhat shallower container that resembled a four-inch ramekin. Yes, it is true that ten minus four equals six. Um…we’re just not gonna go there.
At this point, we’ve deviated so far from the original recipe that I suspect we’re actually making something else. Maybe something that is traditionally used for cleaning villages in the Ukraine. I don’t think it qualifies as a dessert anymore, but I keep my mouth shut.
Per the original recipe, the cake was supposed to bake for twenty minutes. Two hours later, we poke another toothpick into the ramekin and declare that one done, but the soufflé dish? Not so done. Megan accidentally dislodges the top of that one and we discover that the two hours-baked outer shell is concealing a mass of entirely raw batter that begins to ooze out of the opening in a bid for freedom.
We decide to pretend that what’s happening there is not really happening and make ourselves some tea. We were supposed to let the four-inch tea ring sit for a bit, but it comes out of the ramekin nice and easy, and using a buzz saw in Megan’s basement, we slice ourselves a couple of pieces to eat with our tea.
Experiment complete. Question answered. Yes, readers do make in-novel recipes; results vary. I can’t say I wish you’d’ve been there to try the results of our baking, but I can say that Megan’s novel is delicious. Or, as Diane Keaton says in Sleeper, “It’s keen. It’s pure keen. No, no, it’s greater than keen…it’s kugat.”
Vanity Fare by Megan Caldwell is out December 26th, 2012.
GIVEAWAY – 2 Print copies for US commenters – good luck!
About the Author:
Bestselling author Liz Maverick has written thirteen paranormal romance, young adult and women’s fiction novels including Publishers Weekly Top Book of the Year Wired, the USA Today bestselling Crimson City series, and Cosmopolitan Magazine Book Club Pick What a Girl Wants. Liz currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she can look across the water at the Manhattan skyline and dream up new stories.
Connect with Liz Maverick on her website | Facebook | Twitter. She’d love to have you stop by and say hi!