Wednesday, January 11, 2012
In the Kitchen with a Killer -- Er, Killer Recipes, Nero Wolfe to Joanne Fluke to Stephen King
We've got a "winter storm warning" from the weather service for tomorrow, here in northern Vermont, so I'm planning to spend part of the windy, snowy day in the kitchen -- provided the power lines don't snap. When there's a chance of "freezing rain," you can't be sure the electricity will stay on. That, of course, is why my long-term plans for the kitchen include adding a gas stove.
I realize that there are more pressing reasons for a gas stove: I doubt that Rex Stout's magnificent protagonist Nero Wolfe and Wolfe's live-in cook Fritz would ever consider cooking on an electric burner. Gas ones are far more controllable. And yes, I do think about Nero Wolfe when I'm planning a company menu. Owning a softcover copy of The Nero Wolfe Cookbook helps, of course. I doubt that I could ever let it go ... there's that recipe for tomato tarts, for instance (as mentioned in the Rex Stout book Fer-de-Lance: "Wolfe had a relapse. It was a bad one, and it lasted three days. When I got back to Thirty-fifth Street, he was sitting in the kitchen, arguing with Fritz about whether chives should be used in tomato tarts.") And where else can you find papaya custard? Not to mention the elegant dishes that Wolfe enjoys at nearby Rusterman's Restaurant, when he can be persuaded to leave the house.
Today there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of "cozy" mysteries that feature recipes right in with the murders. In fact, I confess that one of the first things I do when I pick up a book by, say, Diane Mott Davidson is peek at the list of recipes to see what I'll be salivating over. How many of these books get onto the must-buy list for the recipes as much as for the plot twists? A shattering thought! (But if you're in that sort of mood, check out the index online to the recipes in Joanne Fluke's mysteries -- this author knows her baked goods as well as her amateur sleuthery.)
Dave just listed for sale today a wonderful classic of the "killer recipes" genre: a book issued by the Mystery Writers of America back in 1989, PLOTS & PANS: RECIPES AND ANTIDOTES FROM THE MYSTERY WRITERS OF AMERICA. The cover goes on to promise "delicious recipes from the most imaginative writers in America -- spiced with their wit, leavened with their malice, and served with their own distinctive style." Illustrations by the wickedly funny Gahan Wilson and an introduction by Isaac Asimov (!) add to the book, which includes recipes and comments from such murder mavens as Lilian Jackson Braun, Philippa Carr (aka Victoria Holt), Mignon Eberhart, Elizabeth Peters (Barbara Michaels), and Mary Higgins Clark, as well as Max Allen Collins, Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, and John D. MacDonald.
Just goes to show ... poison may still be framed as a "woman's weapon," but good food is important to nearly every hard-working mystery author. And reader, I presume!
Posted by Beth Kanell at 2:17 PM