Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Body in the Boudoir: #20 for Katherine Hall Page

LUCY BURDETTE: I'm psyched because I'll be hanging out with one of my favorite traditional mystery writers, Katherine Hall Page, both at Malice Domestic later this weekend and then at the Leominster library (MA) on May 10, along with Rosemary Herbert. Katherine will be celebrating the release of her 20th Faith Fairchild novel on May 1. Twenty! so thrilled for you Katherine. Tell us how in the world you keep things exciting but believable for your character--and for you, the writer?

KATHERINE HALL PAGE: As for the believable part, I'll tell you what my legendary editor, the late Ruth Cavin, replied when I asked her how people could believe that this woman kept stumbling across bodies (this was at book three). "It's fiction, Katherine. You can do whatever you want." This sounds simple, but it's a very liberating notion. I'm creating an imaginary world and telling a story that occurs within it. If I believe it, readers will. The exciting part is not too difficult as there's always another peril awaiting my Pauline. I alternate the books set in Aleford, a fictitious town west of Boston with what I call the "Someplace Else Books"—coast of Maine, France, Vermont, Norway, Manhattan, Hilton Head, Martha's Vineyard, Charleston to name some. It keeps things fresh for me and adds another challenge.

LUCY: That's such good advice! Ruth Cavin was full of wisdom, from what I've heard. (Our Julia had her as an editor as well.) When you first cooked up (ahem) the idea of a caterer married to a minister, did you ever imagine you'd have a successful series that lasted this long? Anything you would have changed about Faith if you'd known you'd be traveling together for 20 books plus?

Katherine: As for so many series writers, I thought I was just writing one book and until Ruth Cavin asked when she could expect the next one in the series was clueless. I started out writing in real time, but after the fourth or fifth book slowed things down (again, it's fiction!). I've tried to think whether I would have changed anything in those early books "Had I But Known", but really have never been able to point to anything specific.

LUCY: Since I'm following (very far behind) in your footsteps as a culinary mystery writer, I have to ask: What kind of a cook are you? Do you develop the recipes in the books?

KATHERINE: The recipes are the most difficult parts of the book to write as they need to be original, can't just copy Julia. I also have never wanted them to be caterer's recipes specifically, but accessible to all with ingredients anyone can afford and find plus no complicated techniques.  Above all, they have to be tasty. I cook like the recipes not like Faith Fairchild when she's catering something—you'll seldom find one of these recipes included unless it's simple. I've always thought of food as a way of communicating—love, caring, all those good things. Despite an empty nest, I'm still cooking dinner every night. And yes, on occasion, I do use my own cookbook Have Faith in Your Kitchen, which came out last year.

LUCY: Before you go, will you give us a little thumbnail sketch of the new book, THE BODY IN THE BOUDOIR? And maybe a recipe too?

KATHERINE: It's 1990, and Faith Sibley is a single young woman leading a glamorous life in New York City. She has good friends, a cozy apartment, and her own flourishing catering business, Have Faith. Then, at a catering event, she meets the handsome, charming Reverend Thomas Fairchild. A daughter and granddaughter of clergymen, Faith has sworn to avoid a parish's fishbowl existence. But it's love at first sight, and before she knows it her life is changing drastically.

In spite of being overwhelmed by her decision to leave her home in the Big Apple and the multitude of tasks involved in getting married, Faith has no doubts about being married to her beloved Tom. But someone out there is dead set on making sure that she doesn't reach the altar. Before it's too late, she needs to figure out who is trying to sabotage the wedding—by eliminating the bride!

The following recipe is what she makes when she goes to Aleford to check out the parsonage where she'll be living—almost a deal breaker. Fiance Tom's fridge offers very little, but she puts together this ultimate comfort food and the two lovers eat in front of a cozy fire. She decides things are going to be all right after all.

Veggie Mac ‘n Cheese

6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
2 red bell peppers
3 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon paprika (preferably smoked)
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces penne, ziti or elbow macaroni
5 cups cauliflower florets

Shred the cheese and set aside. Reserve 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top.
Dice the peppers, mince the peeled garlic cloves, and place in a saucepan with the 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil and lower to simmer until the vegetables are very soft, about 15 minutes.
Boil water for the pasta.
Steam the cauliflower and when it is soft, transfer it to a bowl and mash roughly—you want some texture.
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package and in the meantime place the contents of the saucepan, the butter and milk in a food processor or blender. Pulse until smooth. Add the mixture to the cauliflower along with the shredded cheese, paprika, and salt. Drain the pasta and fold it into the sauce. Stir well so all the pasta is coated. Pour it into a casserole and top with the reserved cheese. Bake in a preheated 350 ° oven until nicely browned and bubbling. The red peppers give the sauce a bright color and the smoked paprika, widely used in Mediterranean cooking, adds a subtle flavor as well as more color.
Serves six.
You may also serve this sauce over pasta without baking.

Thanks for visiting Katherine! Katherine will stop in today to answer comments and questions. You can also follow her on Facebook.


  1. Hi Katherine,

    Congrats on your latest! I LOVE the title and the Veggie Mac recipe. Wondering why it calls for unsalted butter, though, when you add salt?

  2. See you tomorrow, Katherine! And thanks for the mac and cheese recipe. I am always looking for the perfect one as I adore the dish.

  3. Hey Katherine, I'm afraid we picked a day for your visit when everyone's going to the Edgars and Malice!

    But I thought of another question: Have you ever had the urge to write something different than the Faith series? What might it be?

  4. Hi Katherine! Nice to see you here as I won't be at Malice. (Boo hoo...) Maybe next year. Congrats on the book! Twenty! Props to you.

    And love the mac cheese recipe.

  5. First to Jan—it's salt to taste. I always use unsalted butter in recipes for both the flavor and health!

    Am putting things together to get ready for Malice, leaving tomorrow morning and dashed to the PO to mail some of the new book. Of course no wallet. Fortunately it's a small town so Cy (the postmaster) said he'd wait while I went to get it before going to lunch. Could have been in Aleford!

    And Roberta, that's a question mark for me too. Chick porn seems to be doing well these days (Shades of Gray)...

    Next year, Deb—it's Malice's 25th Anniversary!

  6. Katherine, thanks for sharing Ruth Cavin's words of wisdom. And the mac and cheese recipe.

  7. Miss her terribly and she was such a presence at Malice!

  8. Yes to what Lucy said...and it's Edgars Symposium Day. Luckily I live close by so came home for lunch and was able to check in.

    Twenty books...holy cow. Do you ever feel like ---uh...did I write that before?


    On the train back to Boston after moderating at the edgars wonderful and so inspirational. Hallie is probably on the train right beside me.but going TO new york! Got to see rosemary , who-- because we are SO serious-- told me about some new face goo.
    And met and moderated all the best first nominees-- what a thrill!

    And now to see the amazing katherine... who absolutely has a track record like no one else, right? And great question Lucy-- NEW is so difficult after just a few books!

    How do you handle that, Katherine? Or do you even think about that? Sent from my iPad

  10. You are all so lucky to be together at Malice! I really green with envy. So great to see Katherine here, as I'm a huge fan. And now I am also anxious to try your Veggie Mac recipe. Happy, too, it uses the smoked paprika first introduced to me here by Hallie. Everyone, have a wonderful time!

  11. Katherine, your books sound wonderful! I love real food in fiction. If it sounds good, I try to cook it. If clergy are involved I am a sucker for it. I discovered clam hash in one of Robert B. Parker's books. Fantastic! Okay, now on to yours.

    I was just looking at the descriptions of your characters... amazing. They are like a big chunk out of my husband's family history, including the Fairchild names. How fun.

  12. It looks like there is finally going to be a Robert Parker Cookbook, so stay tuned. He and Kate Mattes started it years ago. I remember testing recipes and then the project languished.
    I think if I thought about how I came up with the new, I wouldn't. (Is that too snarky?)
    Beautiful night here. Hope the DC weather is too.
    And Hank-looking forward to beating the total we raised at the Malice Auction last year!

  13. Katherine, are you kidding - a Robert B. Parker cookbook? I never would have said this while he was still with us, but sometimes I read his books for the food!