A while back, a friend asked me why there is currently such a rash of mysteries with recipes in them. Although she is a reader of mysteries, and interested in cooking, she strongly implied that such books are sort of silly, and I agreed in order to appear savvy and intelligent. I am well aware that “cozy” mysteries are not in the same category as reading Proust in the original French, but sometimes (when I’m tired, or sad, or just plain lazy) I don’t want to work that hard.
Actually, I read every mystery-with-recipes I can get my hands on. I read Diane Mott Davidson, I read Isis Crawford, I read Susan Wittig Albert, and others I can’t remember. My favorite, though, is Joanne Fluke who writes about Minnesotan Hannah Swensen and her cookie shop. I particularly like Hannah because she’s smart, she cooks cook professionally, and she has several men fighting over her despite the fact that she is 20 pounds overweight and has frizzy, red hair. The mysteries are just complex enough that I (usually) can’t figure them out, and they are entirely without the dark complexity of Ruth Rendell or Elizabeth George. Who needs to be reminded of the depravity of human nature when its just as easy to read about May festivals and church suppers?
When I am in the mood for a “cozy,” I want no deep thinking, no challenges, just lots of information about what people are wearing, and eating and what they do all day in their respective small towns. The best part of a mystery with recipes, is that when you are finished reading (if you can wait that long) you have new recipes to try. I have made many of Joanne Fluke’s recipes, mostly for cookies. The Strawberry Flip Cookies from “Peach Cobbler Murder” were so good that a platter of them disappeared during a party in the space of ten minutes. When I made a batch of her German Chocolate Cake Cookies (also from “Peach Cobbler Murder”), they mysteriously spread during cooking so that they were a giant grid of flat, square cookies with only a faint line of demarcation where each separate cookie ought to have started or ended. I e-mailed Ms. Fluke, and was astonished to receive, within the day, a very gracious reply explaining that she wasn’t sure what had happened, but that I might try adding more flour or chilling the dough. I tried the latter, and it worked perfectly. (Although Sam and Rob managed to choke down the entire batch of flat cookies before I got around to “fixing” them).
The past couple of days, I have been reading Fluke’s “Key Lime Pie Murder.” I was lamenting that it was too hot to try any of the recipes, but today the temperature went down to 70-something, and I tried out the recipe for Chippers. They are delicious, and Sam ate several before he figured out that he should be complaining because they contain nuts.
I feel that it is a) possibly a violation of copyright law and b) just plain ungracious to share recipes from Ms. Fluke’s books without her permission. I send you, then, to her website at murdershebaked.com, where there is generally a “freebie” recipe. Then, the next time you feel tired and restless and in need of diversion, get yourself one of her mysteries, and maybe some butter, sugar, flour, coconut, pecans….