Recipe for Success

Happy Thursday, Scribe peeps, it’s Susannah.

When is a fiction book not just a fiction book?  How about when it contains recipes, or knitting patterns, or the directions for some other craft project mentioned somewhere within the story?

There are lots of  fiction books out there that do this.  It’s very prevalent in cozy mysteries, many of which feature a sleuth who has some special skill or occupation that assists her in solving the crime.  There are mysteries based on/in catering, knitting, embroidery, gardening, a coffee house, a cookie store, an apple orchard, and even a cheese shop.

And it isn’t just mysteries.  Debbie Macomber, who is an avid knitter, sometimes includes patterns at the end of her romances.

Bonus material like this can be a lot of fun, and might help an author sell more books.  But these things must be done . . . delicately . . . as the Wicked Witch might say.   I’m reading a mystery right now where there are numerous references to a particular dish.  It’s clearly a clue, but that recipe is inexplicably not included with other recipes at the end of the book.  (I admit it.  I peeked.)   There’s another series where it seems the author really wants to write a cookbook — the references are that obvious and the stories are that flimsy.

Lots of authors do manage to make the process seamless.  Personally, I’m waiting for some bonus material to appear in a police procedural (“How to Tap a Phone Line”), or paranormal (“Summoning Entities for Fun and Profit”) or steamy romance (Instructions for  . . . use your imagination!).

What about you?  Do you love or hate the extras?  Do you ever actually make the food or craft?  Here’s a little takeaway for you — the recipe for Tomato Cocktail, via my mother-in-law’s recipe box:

King Family Tomato Cocktail – makes about 1 quart

1 heaping quart of ripe, juicy tomatoes, roughly chopped (support your local farmstand, please!)

2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped

1 small onion (or half a large onion), roughly chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 whole cloves

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Place everything into a pot and simmer 40 minutes. Let cool, then run it through a food mill to extract the skins, seeds and cloves. If you don’t have a food mill (mine is straight out of the 1950s, inherited from my mom-in-law), you can strain the whole mixture into a bowl through a colander, pushing the juice through with the back of a spoon, or just fish out the cloves and run everything through a blender or food processor (you’ll get more texture this way). Chill, stir, and enjoy. You might enjoy it more if you add some vodka, Worcestershire, and hot sauce! I like to make a double or triple batch in the summer and freeze in zippie bags for the winter. This also makes a delicious hot tomato soup to go with your grilled cheese.

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14 thoughts on “Recipe for Success”

  1. If it was a good book, I like the bonus material. It’s a way to keep the thing going a bit. I have to admit, that I have never used a recipe from a story. I also, like the kind of extras that Stephenie Meyer has on her website, bit that were cut form the story or backstory pieces that didn’t make the book. The extras annoy me when the story ends 20 pages sooner than I thought because of the stuff at the end of the book.

    1. Agreed. I totally enjoy the extra stuff, especially if it’s on the author’s website or blog where it feels more like a discovery or a surprise than if you find the material at the end of the book. The prospect of occasional bonuses would keep me coming back for more.

  2. Nice post Susannah. I love to cook. It’s my second passion, writing being my first. I have read “A Thousand Days in Venice” and “A Thousand Days in Tuscany” both of which have recipies at the end. When you say you read a book where the story was flimsy but for the recipies, it makes me wonder how it got published. Then again, that’s a subject for a subsequent blog. I also like when authors, like Stephanie Meyers, puts extras on their website. If you really like a series or an author it’s an additional treat. When I really enjoy a book I will check out the author’s website looking for little tidbits like that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, and your recipe.

    1. Gerri, the two series I mentioned have both been going on for a very, very long time and were really good in the beginning. I keep reading them anyway, and apparently so do other readers, because they’re still around! So something’s working for them. I, too, love when authors put extras on their websites and blogs — it tides us over while we are waiting for the next book. I’m not familiar with the Thousand Days books — I will have to check them out!

  3. I admit, I’ve never bought a book for the extra content. And I’ve never done anything with it like bake or knit. What I do like is the afterword – when the author takes the time to discuss the story or the idea that influenced them. As for websites, I check then out occasionally, again, not so much the deleted scenes, but the author talking about their work or answering reader questions.

    1. I’ve never bought a book based on the extras either. For me it’s just a nice bonus. I also like it when the author talks about the writing of the story — Stephen King sometimes does that, for example, and I love getting a glimpse into a master storyteller’s thought/work processes.

  4. Delicious, the post, the links and the recipes, yours and the extras in the books. I loved seeing the wicked witch, but I wanted to see her melt. I settled for the beautiful fairy, the red slippers and the look on Dorothy’s face. What fun! Thanks.

    P.S. I did not know Debbie Macomber just lost a son. Thank you for the alert so we could pray for the family and send condolences.

    1. Thanks, Gail! I saw on Debbie Macomber’s site that she lost a son. Very sad. I don’t read a lot of Debbie Macomber, but I picked up one of her Blossom Street books once, and now I read that series. I’m loyal that way 🙂

  5. Great post as usual, Susannah. I haven’t read a lot of books with extras. Apparently I’m not reading the types of genres that offer them. I do enjoy when the author capitolizes on a gift or talent that makes the character more interesting and relateable. Even if I don’t play an instrument or particular sport, I get to experience that talent through the character. Exposure to new experiences is one of the many reasons I read and though I’m not adverse to learning about things that might not be on my radar, I don’t want it to take over the story at the expense of character development, plot, etc. A little goes a long way.

  6. Only a quart?

    As someone asked to put in bonus material, I do feel the pressure to make it good. But because my skills lie in writing and, um, whistling and, ah, let’s see here…eating…I’m sort of limited in what I can offer. Phone tap? Sorry. Not your girl. I wish.

  7. See, now I like to learn new things. And I will generally force myself to understand the how to’s if an author has put them in the book. Even if I don’t need the information at the moment, there my come a day I will.

    Like maybe how to tap a phone with a piece of yarn?

  8. I love extra material especially if it fits in well. No, not for phone tapping or other such illegal procedures. But, case in point, my all time favorite book, Like Water For Chocolate, had a different recipe at the beginning of each chapter that worked AND fit in with the theme/plot of the chapter. Excellent book. It really can work and does. Great post.

    Debralee Mede

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