Baking for Bookworms: Shirley Temples from Charlotte au Chocolat by Charlotte Silver


Charlotte Silver’s memoir has an extremely close relationship to food because it is the memoir of her childhood spent at her mother’s restaurant in Boston. She was, in fact, named after the French dessert Charlotte au Chocolat. Her favorite drink as a child was a Shirley Temple, and while as an adult she lost her taste for this sweet beverage, I decided that I would try my hand at making this childhood favorite a little more grown up, using homemade grenadine syrup and mixing it with seltzer water (or club soda or soda water–whatever pleases you) instead of a lemon-lime soda to make it a little less cloying.


There are several mentions of the drink sprinkled throughout the memoir, but this is one of my favorites for its detail:

“As soon as I sat down at the table, the bartender made me my Shirley Temple. The martini glass teetered on the edge of the tray. When my waiter handed me the glass, the darker pink of the liquid splashed on the lighter pink of the tablecloth. Maraschino cherries rimmed the orange slice floating in the center and the grenadine tinted the ice cubes pink. I swallowed the beverage fast and waited of the waiter to come back to the table so I could ask for another one.”     81-82


I adapted my recipe for homemade grenadine from The Kitchn


  • 1 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup sweetener of your choice (sugar, agave, honey)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla (optional, but it gives it a richer, subtler flavor)

Combine all the ingredients in a small sauce pan on the stove and turn to medium heat. Whisk until the sugar dissolves and let come to a boil. Boil for several minutes until the mixture thickens slightly. Store in a clean jar in the fridge (lasts about a month)

You can add this to just about any drink, but to make a Shirley Temple, add two-three tablespoons your choice of clear soda (I definitely recommend club soda for a more adult drink).

You can garnish with orange, cherries, or mint leaves.


I absolutely love this grenadine, and love the fact that it has no high-fructose corn syrup or dyes.

Baking for Bookworms: Fried Potatoes from Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel


Every once in a while there’s a book that’ll leave a bad taste in your mouth. I was really eager to read The Scarlet Pimpernel, as it’s a book that many people regard as classic historical fiction, which happens to be one of my favorite genres. I already knew the general story line, and wanted to read about the supposed dandy Sir Percy Blakeney, who is really an English spy helping to rescue French aristocrats from the guillotine. I was all set to love this book, but its gratuitous anti-semitism at the end left a horrible impression on me, and I was hard pressed to even finish it.

I mean, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t in love with the book even before I started the final third of the novel. I didn’t think it was all that well written, and I thought the plot left something to be desired. But then I came to the final third, and I was shocked. For those of you who don’t know, Blakeney dresses up as Jew. His “filthy” appearance means that the French investigators don’t go near him, and so the Englishman is not discovered. They abuse him verbally and physically because of his religion, and even the main characters feel this disguise is abhorrent. It’s possible that there was a missed opportunity to make this section clever; if it had been a conscious decision on Blakeney’s part to use the biases of the French against them while knowing that it was wrong to treat any human being that way, then maybe I would have excused it. I do support satire, and I think that it’s a writer’s job to turn a mirror to society. However, Orczy doesn’t do that. She uses the “filthy Jew” as a plot device as if it’s of no consequence, either giving into and sharing the prejudices of her time or simply not challenging them. Neither is acceptable in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand, perhaps better than many people do, what the popular sentiment in Europe was against Jews. I understand the context in which this book was written. That doesn’t make this book less anti-semitic than it is, nor does it excuse the author. No matter the era, there are always people who are willing to speak out against injustice, and one voice speaking out can turn a crowd.

I think everyone is particularly sensitive to at least one kind of intolerance and injustice–this particular one hits home for me as it has affected my family and larger community irrevocably. Many people are able to brush this sort of thing off. As a lover of classic films, I know that it’s easier to forgive a black face number in a musical for being part of its time rather than speaking out against it. It’s also easy to say that we’ve moved forward, or to dismiss it in some way. The truth is that prejudice and ignorance are all around us. And reading about intolerance or watching it on screen makes me a little nauseous.

So why am I cooking from this book at all? Well I considered not doing it, but then I thought that it was more important to speak out about this book than to leave it forgotten on its shelf.  I know many people will forgive it and excuse it, or just avoid reading it, but I won’t do that. I will remember it. Only by remembering and speaking out against things that display intolerance and ignorance are we able to fight them and avoid letting history repeat itself.

Okay I’m getting down from my soapbox now. I know that many people love the romance of these books and the characters of Marguerite and Blakeney. I don’t think that people who enjoy this book are bad or anti-semitic–I certainly see the appeal of this book and others like it. I just think that it’s important to stand up for what you believe in, and for me that’s tolerance. Everyone is free to (respectfully) disagree with me. I’m eager to hear what you think/thought of this book if you’ve read it.


These fried potatoes are one of the only dishes mentioned at all in the novel, and the mention occurs at the very beginning of the book in the tavern where the scene is being set.

“She looked cross for a minute, and thoughtfully rubbed her hands against her shapely hips; her palms were itching, evidently, to come in contact with Martha’s rosy cheeks–but inherent good-humour prevailed, and with a pout and a shrug of the shoulders, she turned her attention to the fried potatoes.”                                                                                   (11)

Fried potatoes

  • 3 small or 2 medium potatoes (I used red, but feel free to use russet)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (you could also use your favorite cooking oil if you don’t use dairy)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • you can put any seasonings you like in this dish–I chose dried parsley and thyme, along with some paprika and a little coriander

Cut your potatoes in thin rounds, then cut into quarters. Try to make your cuts as even as possible.

Heat a skillet to medium-high heat and add the butter. After it melts, add in the garlic for 30 seconds, stirring it around, and making everything fragrant.

Add in the potatoes and cook until tender. Throw in the seasonings and continue cooking until the potatoes reach your desired crispiness. The potatoes should take about 10-15 minutes to cook when it’s all said and done.

Serve for breakfast with your choice of accompaniments, or for dinner as a side dish.

If you’re interested in reading more about this topic, there is a great discussion on Deanna Raybourn’s blog here. As always, comments on this book, the food, or anything else are welcome. I kindly ask that you keep all your comments respectful.

Baking for Bookworms: Hamburgers from Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary


Sorry for not getting this up on Friday. I was going to make this for dinner, but I finished the first draft of my novel, and we went out to celebrate instead (by the way, if you’re ever in Eugene, Oregon and looking for Italian food, Beppe and Gianni’s Trattoria has this roasted garlic appetizer that’s out of this world).

Hamburgers are a quintessentially American food, but what happens when you take the burger out of the states? This question can generally be used about this book in general, if you substitute the word “man” for “food.” The main character, Paul Kemp, is a kind of wanderer, a man who’s been everywhere but belongs nowhere. When he lands in Puerto Rico, it’s no different, and he and his coworkers, who share his undistinguished journalist status, drown their sorrows in rum and cheap burgers.

The first mention of the burgers in the book occurs when Paul’s new coworker shows him the ropes, so to speak:

“We parked in front of Al’s and went back to the patio. ‘I’m getting three hamburgers,’ said Sala. ‘That’s all he serves.’

I nodded. ‘Anything–I need the bulk.’

He called to the cook and told him we wanted hamburgers. ‘And two beers,’ he added. ‘Real quick.’

‘I’ll have rum,’ I said.

‘Two beers and two rums,’ Sala shouted. Then he leaned back in his chair and lit a cigarette.” (18)


This was the first Hunter S. Thompson book I read, and I was struck by how bleak the landscape was in the novel, down to the food. The sense of desolation is compounded by the repetition of the patterns in the characters lives. It is a cycle they see but cannot break–down to their daily watering hole.

But I really couldn’t give you such a bleak burger. Instead, these hamburgers are a reflection of the flavors of Puerto Rico: lime, coriander, and garlic. Feel free to serve these with rice for breakfast or with buns and fries for dinner. They’re flavorful and pack a lot of punch.

Makes 3-4 hamburgers, depending on how large you like them.

For the burgers:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander

For the peppers and onions:

  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves (or more, I’m always generous) garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of chili powder, coriander, and cumin
  • juice of half a lime

For the creamy sauce (adapted from Girl Versus Dough’s Chipotle Lime Crema):

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

(If you’re making fries to go with your dinner, throw them in the oven before you start, as the burgers are done pretty quickly)

Slice up the onion and red pepper. Set a pan on the stove over medium heat with a little olive oil in it. Carmelize the onions so that they’re brown and delicious. Then add garlic, red pepper and spices, stirring until the peppers are tender. Squeeze in lime juice. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the meat and spices and form into patties. Put the same pan you used for the peppers back over medium heat and grill the patties until they’re cooked through (you could also do this on an actual grill, I just don’t have one).

While the burgers are going, make the creamy sauce if desired. Stir all the ingredients into the sour cream and set aside. When everything is ready, assemble the burgers and eat!


Remember if you have a book suggestion for me to read and cook from, give me the title and author in the comments!

If Puerto Rico doesn’t make your skirt fly up, what’s your favorite tropical destination?

Baking for Bookworms: Rice Pudding from Neil Gaiman’s Stardust

It's a bit on the thin side for me, but man does it taste nice.
It’s a bit on the thin side for me, but man does it taste nice.

It may come as a surprise to people that I’ve never had rice pudding. I’m not really sure why except that no one in my family ever made it and my resistance to anything that seemed like tapioca has prevented me from trying it. But I’m 22. I’ve grown as a person. And while you still can’t get me to eat tapioca (not that anyone’s offering), that doesn’t mean I don’t try new things on a regular basis.

Another character who’s resistant at first to trying new things is Tristan Thorn from the book Stardust (as a side note: this book is an excellent adult fairy tale, and the film adaptation is quite good. It’s lighthearted and a good beach or vacation read that you don’t have to mind being caught dead with. Not that you want to be caught dead with any reading material–that is, you don’t want to be caught dead. Or die at all, probably. I’ll stop now.) As he goes on his adventures, food becomes more about sustenance, and though he takes pleasure in many of the things he eats, the food doesn’t play a very substantial role.

However, the rice pudding is interesting, partially because we get an ingredient list for the pudding, and partially because it’s used to illustrate small differences between Victoria (his would-be love) and Tristan. It also shows how small disputes about food become subjects of interest between people and can serve to sever connections as well as bring people together. There are “right” and “wrong” foods for certain occasions, or they have to be prepared a certain way. There are guidelines and taboos that surround food, and Tristan’s family does not follow the established patterns of behavior (or at least that is the line of reasoning taken by the villagers).


This passage comes at the beginning of the book, before Tristan goes on his quest. He works as a shop assistant and is helping Victoria with her shopping:

“Tristan read [the list] to himself, looking for something about which he could begin to talk: a conversational gambit of some kind–any kind.

He heard his voice saying, ‘You’ll be having rice pudding, then, I would imagine, Miss Forester.’ As soon as he said it, he knew it had been the wrong thing to say. Victoria pursed her perfect lips, and blinked her grey eyes, and said, ‘Yes, Tristan. We shall be having rice pudding.’

And then she smiled at him, and said, ‘Mother says that rice pudding in sufficient quantity will help to stave off chills and colds and other autumnal ailments.’

‘My mother,’ Tristan confessed, ‘has always sworn by tapioca pudding.’


Poor Tristan. Health tonics, even the delicious pudding-y sort, are not a very romantic topic of conversation. However, just because it’s not the most romantic dessert, rice pudding is a lovely dish to make for people you care about. And, you can also use up more of that golden syrup you made, so that’s a win.

Rice Pudding

recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman

  • 1/2 cup raisins (golden or regular)
  • 1/3 cup whisky (if you don’t use booze in your cooking, you can soak the raisins in water or a non-citrusy juice of your choice like apple, pear, or grape)
  • 1 cup medium grain rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (feel free to use half and half)
  • 1 tbs salted butter
  • 8 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 1 whole egg, beaten

for caramel pecan sauce:

You could technically get away with not making the sauce, but you would definitely regret it. It is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Therefore, I must insist that you not deny yourself.

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup golden syrup (if you don’t have golden syrup on hand, feel free to use corn syrup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tbs bourbon or whiskey (this is totally optional)

Soak the raisins in the whiskey for one hour. Meanwhile, do some yoga, catch up on your reading or Netflix queue, give your dog a bath, whatever.

In a small non-stick pot (if you’ve got one it’ll be a life saver) or large non-stick sauce pan, combine the rice, water, milk, cream, butter, and salt. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the mixture starts to gently boil.

Cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring twice. If the mixture is absorbing the liquid too quickly, you can stop the process at around 18-20 minutes. Basically you want the rice to be fully cooked, but still have some liquid to work with.

This is about the consistency you want before you add the sweetened condensed milk.

While you’re cooking the rice, make the caramel pecan sauce. Put all the ingredients in a pan over medium-low heat (I used the same whiskey from the raisins in the sauce) and let it bubble gently for about five minutes until it thickens. Take off heat and set aside to cool.

Once the rice is cooked, take it off the heat and add in the sweetened condensed milk, spices, and vanilla. Put back on the burner for 5 minutes to finish cooking.

Now take it off the burner again and add your beaten egg, very slowly so that it doesn’t scramble. The heat of the pudding will cook the egg, and it will thicken everything up. Then, stir in your raisins.

At this point you can check the consistency. If it needs to be creamier, add more sweetened condensed milk. If it needs to be thicker, cook the pudding for an extra 3-4 minutes before taking it off the heat.

Serve it hot in small bowls with some caramel sauce on top.


**Troubleshooting notes:

If your rice hasn’t really thickened up at all by the time you add the sweetened condensed milk, don’t worry. Uncover the pot, turn the heat up a smidgen, and cook until it reaches the right consistency.

If you overcook your caramel sauce and it gets solid as it cools just throw the whole thing in a microwave safe container, microwave it until it’s hot (about 20 seconds) and then add about a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of golden syrup or corn syrup.

If your caramel sauce didn’t cook enough, just throw it in the microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring until it becomes the right consistency.

Is there a dish you’ve tried recently? Let me know what it was–and if you liked it–in the comments.