Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pairings, not couplings!

RHYS BOWEN: In the Huffington Post last year there was an interesting blog on pairing wine and music. So I thought we'd take this one stage further and let's pair books, wine and food. (Or should it be trio not pair three things?) Does it help to have particular food or drink when you read? Does it enhance the reading experience?

There are obvious examples. When I am reading one of Louise Penny's books and it's winter in Quebec, I need a rug over my knees. I need a hot chocolate to sip.
If I'm reading Morse I need Scotch and opera in the background.
If I'm reading Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series, or someone wants to read my Royal Spyness books, may I suggest scones, clotted cream, jam and proper English tea (not made from those awful bags of floor sweepings!)

fellow Jungle Red Deborah Crombie's books need a pint of good ale to go with them. And a pasty,scotch egg, bangers and mash? Now I'm getting hungry.

I love reading about food. I love good descriptions of meals. I love books with recipes in the back. In my upcoming Royal Spyness book, called The Twelve Clues of Christmas, we linger over several Christmas feasts and I even provide some recipes.

So do you love to read about food? Do you like recipes in books? What would some of your food/wine/books pairings be?

ROSEMARY HARRIS: I may be in the minority but I don't like to eat or drink when I'm reading. Maybe a glass of lemonade if I'm outside in the hammock, but even then I usually get so absorbed in the book that flies and no-see-ums drown in the glass before I have a chance to take a second sip.

And since you mentioned it and I am in England - what is the deal with clotted cream? I can't bring myself to ingest anything that sounds like Arterial Plaque in a Tub. What does it taste like?

LUCY BURDETTE: Don't hold back on the clotted cream Ro--especially if it's served with scones! Tastes like whipped cream, only better.

The only true pairing I can think of is must read the New York Times while I'm eating breakfast cereal.

HALLIE EPHRON: Mmm, clotted cream. Tastes like really sweet butter to me. Or creme fraiche. Sublime with a mound of fresh raspberry jam on a hot flaky scone.

I do like food with my fiction. I like food any time. You can tell which books on my shelf I've read by the grease and coffee spots on the pages.

I'll read Lucy's "An Appetite for Murder" with a big wedge of Key lime pie and a grouper sandwich.
A hot dog with "Shoeless Joe."
Honey on toast with "The Secret Life of Bees."
A dry martini with "The Group."
A nice dark glass of red wine with "Dracula."
Pomegranate and walnuts with "Like Water for Chocolate."
Barbecued spare ribs with "Fried Green Tomatoes in the Whistle Stop Cafe."

RHYS: Hallie, I'd love to see the state of your book if you're reading it with barbecued spare ribs. I always end up so messy if I've tackled them. I wouldn't have a clean hand to hold the book!

JAN BROGAN _ I'm with Ro on not liking to eat or drink much when I'm reading - but I do have to have one of my husband's Latte's when I'm reading the Sunday Boston Globe.

 I'm more influenced by television. Completely and thoroughly impressionable I like  to have a sherry with Downton Abbey (and I don't really LIKE sherry, except to cook), and a glass of red wine with the Good Mother (Juliana Margulies is always having one)   and old episodes of Poldark (where they even seem to have wine in the morning).  I often crave a martini with Madmen, but its too damn late on a Sunday night to consider it.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Okay, I have to confess--I went out and bought a bottle of sherry during the last season of Downton Abbey.  It wasn't very good sherry, unfortunately, and it's just not quite right if you're not dressing for dinner.

Ro, if you're going to try clotted cream, you must find somewhere that has really good clotted cream.  (I'd suggest going to Devon but that might be a bit far...) And the scones should be warm, and the strawberry jam should be homemade...

I love books with food, books about food, books with recipes, and although I'm not really big on eating while reading, I do like to try things I read about in books.  Or things I write about--I learned to like really good Scotch when I wrote Now May You Weep, although I don't drink it often.  It makes me want to be curled up in front of the fire in a B&B in the Scottish Highlands, with a tartan rug over my knees.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I remember reading A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES and constantly wanting to take part in the character's food and drink. I understand Deborah Harkness is a wine blogger as well as a fiction author, and you can really tell in that book. There's a description of the meal (and wine pairings) that the heroine first makes for the vampire hero, who can't eat anything that's been cooked or, if I recall correctly, heated. First time I ever considered the "raw foods" movement might have something going on.

And I totally agree with Jan and Deb - a nice glass of sherry for Downton Abbey! You could do a drinking game - Mary and Matthew look longing at each other: one sip. Thomas and O'Brien light one up while plotting outside the kitchen: two sips. Lady Edith gets inadvertently cut down by a family member: chug!


  1. I'm all for Julia's Downton Abbey drinking game. Do we have to wait for Season 3? Although that we be an awful lot of sherry... Maybe we could switch to wine or champagne, depending on the scene.

  2. We better wait for season 3 Debs, because John and I are recent converts and only partway through season 2.

    Here's a question related to your comment that you don't like to read and eat. If you are eating alone, can you do it without reading? I feel naked without SOMETHING to read!

  3. I'm with Ro and Deb. I'm not much on eating while reading, though I will drink some. But often I get so caught up that my tea or coffee goes cold.

    I like Julia's drinking game for Downton Abbey, but Deb's right--maybe something other than sherry for that much drinking.

    Lucy, my one exception to the not eating while reading behavior is when I'm eating alone in public.

    And Ro, clotted cream is wonderful on a fresh, warm scone with strawberry jam. It doesn't taste anything like it sounds. If you stop and think, butter is another type of clotted cream, as are cream cheese and other delights.

  4. I almost always read something while I'm eating, even if it catching up on FB:-) I know it's supposed to be better for you to NOT read or watch TV, but it's a hard habit to break...

  5. Rhys... so funny! The first thing I thought, before I even got to your bit about Louise Penny's books, was that I automatically make my pépère's café au lait in my Gamache bowl before sitting back with Louise! I have to do it. I used to make it in pépère's bowl, really a huge bowl with steep sides. Now I keep it in the hutch and use the one Danny sent me from Brome Lake Books. So shhhh! I adore Gamache. If I can possibly arrange to have it with pain au chocolat, I'm a blissful reader.

    When Linda's book, EVERY LAST SECRET, comes out, I'm making my mum's frybread. She always served it with maple syrup and said it was Oka style, but I have no idea if that is true.

    A Brunonia Barry book calls for a fried clam roll, but they don't know what fried clams are here in Tucson, never mind a real hot dog roll to put it in, so I settle for lobster, which isn't the same, of course. Batter fried, though, it's a nice substitute. I follow that with a chocolate Coke or a lime rickey, Devereaux Beach style. Fortunately we do limes very well, here in Tucson.

    Okay, now I am really hungry and should not be thinking about all this good food. I'm getting much better (almost down 100 lbs now) at just thinking about it and not really eating it. Since, mostly I must listen to books, or screen-read them, I do eat at my desk while reading. Always have coffee or tea with me, too! Really good stuff.

    Can anyone from the UK tell me, please, why custard is served with dinner? And what do you do with it? They served it every evening in the Great Hall of Christ Church. Every night I tried to see what other people did with it, but I never saw anyone eating it, although it always disappeared.

  6. Now that I'm starving, I will admit I eat while I'm reading the various blogs. I, too, am watching what I'm eating, and food is less important to me. I love reading about food, though, so keep it up. Louise penny's meals are really drool worthy. We had an "authentic" English restaurant here in Half Moon Bay a long time ago, and I loved the food, lemon curd, clotted cream, and scones. Alas, it is gone now. But I can't eat like that anymore either. Tea is my accompaniment for reading these days.

  7. Reine,
    What is frybread? I must know,


  8. Running in, waving...

    ANd Julia, Brilliant! I'm in.

    There's nothing like a latte and the newsppaer. Oh, bliss bliss bliss.

  9. Jan, I'm not sure if Reine's frybread is the same as frybread where I am, but here it's a kind of flat dough that's fried in lard or shortening. It's made by First Nations Mi'kmaq. I've been served it with honey or maple syrup. I like it best with maple syrup.

  10. Jan, hi. It's like Darlene says... much like the fried dough you see at carnivals, although it can be made a little healthier.

    It used to vary more from tribe-to-tribe/band-to-band, but I think powwows have developed an expectation of the greasy puffy dough.

    I used to help out at the local Indian Center festival booth in Bakersfield, California where we would make it very easily with self-rising flour. Many places offer it for sale as a sort of meal and call it Indian tacos, where the filling is like what you might have in a taco or burrito. We have it for dinner a few times a year in our house.

    The tradition comes from the commodities Native peoples were allotted. The People had to find some way to eat it, as it is not, of course, really traditional.

    Many powwows I've seen offerings of honey or cinnamon sugar. The Mi'kmaq way is my favorite.

    My pépère used to pour the maple syrup on everything. He would put cooked bacon into very thick crepe batter; then turn it so the bacon stayed crisp; fill it with something like clotted cream and chopped onion; fold it like an omelette; then float it in maple syrup. He called it crêpes suzette-- but you know... :| Hey. It was good.

  11. Glad to hear the skinny on frybread. I've always heard of it but never knew exactly what it was.
    My problem with reading and food is that I'll be reading, say, a Donna Leon novel, where her detective goes home for the noon meal and his wife is fixing something divine, and I have to put down the book and go try to cook it.

  12. Reine, frybread would be great with my book, or Jack Stack's wonderful barbecue (KC's the home of great barbecue) which shows up during the book.

    Frybread can be eaten for breakfast or dessert with syrup or maple frosting, but it's usually eaten as a bred with meals or as a meal in itself when filled as Reine mentioned.

    It came about because most Indian tribes used corn to make their bread (much like tortillas and/or cornbread), and when forced onto reservations and given government rations of wheat flour they worked to learn to make something like what they were used to.

    It wasn't originally very common among Cherokee because early on they had learned to use wheat flour as Europeans did in an oven, but after the Trail of Tears when they were moved to Oklahoma, they didn't have houses with ovens at first and learned from the other tribes around them to make frybread.

    Here's what I was doing yesterday instead of having fun about puns with the Reds.

  13. Linda, I am definitely celebrating your book launch with frybread. I may even cook up some pinto beans. My son-in-law loves to eat pinto beans on frybread. He taught me how to do the rice his traditional way... everyone should have such a son-in-law. ...Haha, he says, "I only taught you that, so you'd show me the secret of carving coyote gourds. Now everyone wants me to carve gourds for them!" Now I have to tell him that is the real secret. You pass it on, so when someone asks for some of your beautiful gourds, you tell them to go see Joe. He's doing it now.

    That is a beautiful link about the students and poetry. I just shared it on Facebook. I bet you know my old friend, Kay Wood.

  14. I do much of my reading at lunch or dinner. I no longer prepare complicated recipes, so I often get jealous of characters who are eating gourmet meals! I also rarely eat dessert -a mid evening ice cream snack doesn't count :-) and I therefore get jealous of characters who eat scrumptious-desserts!

    For between-meal reading, I often enjoy a cup of tea.

    One of my favorite cookie recipes is one that was included in a mystery that I read a few years ago. I enjoy telling people who want to know where I got the recipe for the "delicious" cookies that it came from a mystery...then I pause, and assure them that "nobody was poisoned".

  15. I bought sherry for Downton Abbey too - and loved it and Linda I'm still grieving that we didn't get to Jack Stacks for BBQ in Kansas city - we wound up a lovely healthy restaurant but it wasn't BBQ.

  16. Hah! Deb, you are cruel! What do their faces look like when you say, "No one was poisoned"?

    MJ, I'm so sorry. Ben and I would have offered to take you, but it sounded like they were making you eat on the bus. The next time you come to KC, we'll do Jack Stack, I promise.

    Reine, oh, yes, pinto beans with the frybread. Yum! Also, you would love the wonderful Cherokee soup called kanuchi, made from hickory nuts and hominy.

    Which, of course, leads to the great Mexican soup, pozole, made from pork and hominy. But don't get me started on great Mexican food. I wrote a cookbook on that.

  17. Linda, now I have to get your cookbook. I love pozole. I hope you have a recipe for the kanuche in there. Sounds fantastic. We used to have a hominy soup at Iroquois socials in SoCal years ago... all us displaced folks from back east.

  18. Only Mexican food in the cookbook, Reine, but recipes from all over Mexico. Most of what's eaten in the States as Mexican food comes from one small area. As with many of the finest Mexican recipes, pozole is drawn from Indigenous traditions.

  19. Linda, I can tell that I need to look for your cookbook!

    About telling people that "no one was poisoned": some laugh nervously, people whisper "she DOES have a strange sense of humor,doesn't she?" (My sense of humor isn't any stranger than anyone else's here at JRW. Some people DO say that I "read too much",if that means anything!)

    I do think I need to start drinking sherry now that I have been introduced to Downton Abbey by my sister and my niece -you have all convinced me of that!

  20. We could have a Reds virtual sherry party when Downton Abbey returns. First show! What say you all?

  21. Linda, I have a beautiful bottle of sherry that's been lying in wait for the occasion. I just hope it's not too old!