Food & Drink

Cookbook Corner | ‘Mystery’ guide reveals writer, character recipes

“The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook,” by Kate White.
“The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook,” by Kate White. Courtesy image

Ever wish you could share a meal with one of your favorite writers? “The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook” by Kate White brings readers as close to fulfilling that wish as possible, without actually bringing the writers to your table.

The list is long of writers who contributed to the cookbook, which covers all of the usual suspect categories from breakfast through libations and snacks. Among the more than 100 recipes and authors, I found recipes I liked and recipes from authors I admire – some were even the same.

The book opens with a sweet breakfast treat, rum-soaked Nutella French Toast, courtesy of Alafair Burke, followed by a wonderful and simple recipe for “Granny Knott’s Baked Toast” from a favorite of mine, Margaret Maron of the Judge Knott Mystery Series. These books are set in a fictional county in North Carolina and feature a judge who is the daughter of a local bootlegger. Good food, high action and great characters abound in this series, which has more than a dozen acclaimed books and more coming.

Some of the writers shared their own special family dishes, while others shared what their characters like to eat. The book is replete with quotes from famous writers and so many puns about writing and food that I could not stop smiling and laughing as I read through it. The publisher suggests that it may serve as inspiration for a book club dinner or murder mystery party – if your group is reading “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn, why not make Gillian’s Beef Skillet Fiesta to eat while you are enjoying her words.

For those who want to “get into character,” Maron’s recipe is not the only one that offers an insight into the fictional inhabitants of the mystery world. Laurie R. King and Sherlock Holmes fans can happily devour King’s recipe for Mrs. Hudson’s Coffee Sheet Cookies.

As with many celebrity cookbooks, the organization is only slight – by meal – and the variety is all over the place in terms of ease of making, ethnic origins, etc., but that’s part of the fun. You will surely find many surprises in the book – appropriate contributions from writers known for exciting plot twists.

Editor White is a former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, as well as the author of a New York Times best-selling mystery series, Bailey Weggins, and three suspense novels including “Eyes on You.” The proceeds from this book will not enrich White or the contributors, and will go to the renowned Mystery Writers of America, founded in 1945, which is dedicated to promoting a higher regard for crime writing. The organization, which sponsors the annual Edgar Awards, the Academy Awards for mystery writing, undertook this collection hoping readers will love the recipes and background information on characters. I think it succeeds very well.

The last recipe in the book is Lee Child’s instruction on how to make a good pot of coffee, appropriate for late-night sessions for writers of all genres. Child, in his inimitable style, begins by saying, “OK, this ain’t exactly rocket surgery, but it always helps to pay attention.” Good advice for a cookbook or anytime.

At a glance

Title | “The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook”

Editor | Kate White

Publisher | Quirk Publishing

Length | 176 pages

Cost | $24.95