Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Kitchen Fiction

Kitchen fiction
Cooking along with Miss Julia and friends

The book sat on my desk for several weeks before I took it home to read it.

I had read a number of "Miss Julia” books before and knew I would enjoy this one, but I had no idea what it was about, even though the title should have given me a clue!

"Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble” has a food theme. Call it edible fiction, fiction in the kitchen or foodie fiction, it’s popular with lots of readers.

The Miss Julia stories, written by Ann B. Ross of Hendersonville, have always been fun books to me. They are short and easy to read and contain North Carolina references that I enjoy. This one has a new twist with the recipes.

Miss Julia — who starts the series as a widow but ends up remarrying — likes to get in everybody’s business. And in this story, she’s helping her special friend Hazel Marie learn how to cook. There’s much more to the plot, of course, but friends give Miss Julia their favorite recipes and a few of them drop by Hazel Marie’s and teach her how to prepare the dish while the young mother’s baby twin daughters nap.

The recipes are mixed in throughout the book, including LuAnne’s apricot delight cake that she served at a book club meeting and Binkie’s spaghetti, "the only think I cooked in law school,” she says.

Miss Julia, who leaves all the cooking to her good friend and housekeeper, Lillian, includes notes at the bottom of her recipes to help Hazel Marie when and if she tries to cook on her own. For instance, with Poppy’s turkey tetrazzini, she writes: "Hazel Marie, Poppy says she likes either a congealed or a fruit salad with this, maybe some English peas and yeast rolls, which I wouldn’t try to make if I were you. You can get them in the frozen section.”

At the end of the book, Lillian shares a number of her favorite recipes from toasted pecans and gazpacho to cottage cheese salad, company grits and chocolate cake.

I really liked "Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble.” It was fun to catch up with Miss Julia, her family and friends, and the recipes and food descriptions made the book even more enjoyable.

If you’re a fan of Miss Julia, plan to read this new book. If you’re new to the series, start at the beginning and read all about how Hazel Marie and her young son walked into Miss Julia’s life right after her husband’s death.

Foodie Fiction

Genevieve Baillie, head of circulation at the Wilson County Public Library, said local readers enjoy mysteries by Joanne Fluke that include recipes. Diane Mott Davidson’s mysteries with a food theme are also popular, she said, as are Laura Childs’ Tea Shop Mysteries series.

Other food-related favorites are "The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe” by Mary Simses and the Chocoholic Mystery series by JoAnna Carl.

The library has many of these titles, Genevieve said, including "Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble,” which is available in print and digital format.

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

LuAnne’s Apricot Delight Cake 

1 box yellow cake mix
4 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup apricot nectar (found on the canned-juice shelves)
3 teaspoons lemon flavoring
8-ounce can crushed pineapple (juice and all)

2 cups confectioner’s sugar
Juice of 2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together all the cake ingredients and pour into a greased and floured tube pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes.

Mix together glaze ingredients and pour over the cake (when it’s done) while it’s still in the pan. Save some for the top of the cake after taking it out of the pan.

Lillian’s Company Grits 

2 cups cooked grits
5-ounce can evaporated milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add all the ingredients to the cooked grits. Pour into a buttered baking dish. Bake until high and brown, about 30 minutes. Serve at once.

Serves 6.

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