I’m a Horrible Cook (Guest Post by Marci Nault)
I am so excited to have Marci Nault visit with Book Club Cheerleader readers today to talk about The Perfect Summer Read—her debut novel, The Lake House. I met Marci last January and she’s absolutely delightful. I don’t love her in spite of the fact that she can’t cook—I love her because of it. (OK—you’ll have to read tomorrow’s blog to understand the context of that statement…)
I’m a horrible cook. The few times I’ve attempted to create masterpieces in the kitchen have ended with burns that scarred my forearms. I’ve become content with what others see as my inadequacy; I’m more than willing to hand over my kitchen to those with superior talent while I sip a glass of wine knowing the cleanup will be mine.
I attest my skills at charring pans and setting off fire alarms to the fact that I’m a fiction writer. Whenever I start to cook a meal I find my mind wandering to stories, creating sensual images of tastes and smells. More often than not I run off to write something down and completely forget that I have food on the stove. I find that salads, chicken and potatoes that can be set on a timer, and peanut butter and jelly are now my safest sources of nourishment.
Imagine my surprise when a fan of my novel, The Lake House, exclaimed, “You must be a wonderful cook and a foodie. The food descriptions in your book inspired me to make wonderful old fashion meals and try new brownie recipes.”
Almost every book club I’ve attended has had a brownie bake-off or created decadent meals inspired by the prominence of food in my book. I have to wonder, if I’m such a horrible cook, where did the descriptions come from?
People always ask where I get my inspiration. My response has been that my characters come to me. They wake me at four in the morning to tell their stories. They stalk me through dreams and often don’t allow me to read a book without interrupting my down time. In this way, being a writer is like being a mother with young children, just with less actual noise.
Yet I had no idea why I created such strong food descriptions and I wracked my brain for their source.
I found my answer in the memories of warmth in my grandparent’s home and the galley of their camper. When I created The Lake House I wanted people to feel the glow of familiar love. My grandfather, Pepère, was a big burly man who barked everything he said. Most people cowered around him, but I was his sweetheart – his little girl. He and my grandmother brought my brother and I camping in the White Mountains each summer where mornings began in the camper with the smell of bacon frying. My grandfather would put the bacon aside and fry the eggs right in the grease then sprinkle them with pepper. Nothing tasted as good as that breakfast.
On Sunday mornings, waking from sleepovers in the house he built, he’d make blueberry pancakes with berries from his garden and maple syrup created right in his backyard from the sap of his trees. My grandmother was the baker and most afternoons the kitchen smelled of warm chocolate or berry pie.
I never realized how much the smells and tastes from their kitchens gave me a sense of safety until I saw my memories staring back at me on the pages I’d written. I’m so blessed to have experienced their love and somehow it’s found its way into my stories even if it hasn’t found a way into my cooking skills.
I am good at one thing in the kitchen – baking brownies. I thought I’d share a few recipes for you to enjoy. I’ve been told that my book goes best if you have a warm gooey batch on hand while you read.
Thank you Marsha for having me join you today and for all that you do to celebrate fiction. You rock!
Easy Brownie Recipe:
Take any box mix (I prefer Godiva) and replace water with Port Wine and be certain to use butter instead of oil. It will take longer to bake these brownies but I promise it’s worth it.
Guinness Brownie Recipe From my Friend Molly (no relation to the character in my book):
Original recipe makes 1 9×13-inch pan
- cooking spray with flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup dark cocoa powder (such as Hershey’s® Special Dark)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (such as Ghirardelli®), chopped
- 3/4 cup white chocolate chips (such as Ghirardelli®)
- 6 tablespoons butter at room temperature, cut into cubes
- 1 cup white sugar
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups Irish stout beer (such as Guinness® Extra Stout), room temperature and foam skimmed off
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (such as Nestle® Toll House®)
- 1 tablespoon sifted confectioners’ sugar, or as needed
Place oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Whisk flour, cocoa powder, and salt together in a bowl.
Melt bittersweet chocolate, white chocolate chips, and butter in the top of a double boiler over simmering water, stirring frequently and scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula to avoid scorching. Remove from heat.
Beat white sugar and eggs together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Slowly add melted chocolate mixture and beat until just combined. Add flour mixture, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, until just combined. Whisk in beer until batter is thin; fold in pecans.
Pour batter into the prepared baking dish; sprinkle semisweet chocolate chips over batter.
Bake for 25-30 min or until toothpick comes out with moist crumbs.
Thanks for your guest post, Marci! Yum—can’t decide which of these I want to try first. (Yes, you read me right. Like Marci, although I can’t cook, I can bake. Must be the Alabama-girl in me…)
Book Giveaway: For your chance to win a copy of The Lake House, please leave a comment below by July 8 and be entered into a random drawing (thanks to the nice folks at Random Picker.com.) Gallery Books (an imprint of Simon and Schuster) will generously send a copy to the winner! Good Luck!