Saturday, August 23, 2014

Intentional Omissions

Some people ask me why I don’t put recipes in my books. They point out that I often mention food, and cooking, especially in my current work in progress, and they also say that many successful mystery series have featured recipes.

All true.

Here is my response.

A.      I rarely cook. I can make some food my children liked when they were small, a Friday night chicken dinner, great brisket, and little else.  My husband does most of the cooking, which is why we don’t starve or eat cereal for dinner (which I do when he isn’t home.)

B.      I don’t like to cook. Pots require watching, stirring, tasting, all of which slips my mind, which inevitably wanders elsewhere.

C.      None of my recipes are my own, meaning that I would be publishing something that wasn’t rightfully mine. My husband makes up recipes all the time, but never writes them down. Whenever I try to do that, it requires take-out food.

As much as I don’t like to cook, I do like to bake, and I am pretty good at it. I can look at a recipe and tell whether it is worth the effort, or whether I should leave the cookbook page undirtied by splatters and crumbs.  Most of the time I am right and there are few pages in any of my cookbooks that advise me to not try that at home.

I mostly make cakes and challah, some pies, some cheesecakes, and sometimes a gallette or a clafoutie. I also used to decorate cakes for birthdays and other occasions.
I’ve done cakes of people’s faces, gym bags, tie-dyed tee shirts, a miniature golf course, a computer, and a basket of flowers for my mother that the restaurant did not realize was a birthday cake. I also did a wedding cake once, keeping it simple with fresh flower decorations. Luckily, I had time to wipe away the condensation in the humid venue before the bride saw it.

When I have a book signing, I do it at home, completely covering my dining room table with home baked goods, fruit, and cheeses. I serve wine and I honestly think I care more about people eating than buying  books.

What I like about baking is the simplicity (okay, not always) of making a recipe, measuring ingredients, mixing them as directed, and putting them into the required baking pan and then into the oven. I can set the time and do whatever I want until it goes off.

However, as with cooking, and maybe even more so, I cannot share my recipes with readers. They were not handed down to me through the generations, they come from cookbooks, magazines, and from the internet. They all belong to someone else. Sure I might tweak a recipe slightly to enhance the flavor, but I don’t do it much. I get rave reviews when I bake for other people, and I do share recipes, but I don’t take credit for them.

So I don’t put recipes in books. What I do put in is a slice of me, a pinch of my family, a dollop of my husband, a scintilla of reality, all completely my own. And that is what I’m willing to publish.


  1. Joani, remind me to come to your next book signing/spread! Yummy! :) Those look as yummy as your books.

  2. I'm with Sofie. I want to come to your next signing. If the pictures were taken of your creations, I'd say you qualify as a pasty chef.

  3. I'm a baker, not a cook, too. I've always help that if it can't be prepared and cooked in about a half hour, it's not on the menu. (And, I don't use many convenience food.) Exceptions: something that just has to be stuck in the oven, like a roast or turkey.

  4. I cannot stand to cook. For a kindred spirit your food creations look fabulous when I attempt to bake my kitchen looks like the flour aisle in the food store exploded. I think I can find every organic store in the area along with every natural bake shop. Sigh. Jealous of you

  5. Joani, I so want to eat that cake! I'm neither a baker nor a cook. When my husband's away, I starve ... but I have included my own recipes in at least one of my novels. Beware!