HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >

Discussion

Recipes found in fiction books...have you tried them?

I just finished reading Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe and at the end of the book, there are a bunch of recipes for dishes mentioned in the book. They sound good, esp the one for buttermilk biscuits, and I am tempted to try a few except... these are recipes written by the author, a woman who writes fiction and doesn't seem to have any culinary credentials from what I can tell.
So not sure how much thought has done into creating and testing these recipes.. perhaps they are there more for effect since the book mentions the food so much?

Has anyone tried the recipes they have found in fiction books? How good/bad there they?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. The one that comes to mind is from the Nero Wolfe (a fictional food-loving detective) book series-- a recipe called "Devil's Rain" for a salad dressing. Here 'tis:

    Devil's Rain

    3 cloves garlic, peeled
    10 english walnuts shelled and toasted
    1 teaspoon dry mustard
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1 tablespoon minced chives
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup tarragon wine vinegar
    1/4 cup dry red wine

    This all gets blended in a food processor, more or less (you can leave out some chives for bits of color). I sure liked this over assorted greens and thin thin celery half-moons.

    2 Replies
    1. re: blue room

      Yum, Blue Room, Thanks, this is right up my alley. Is the series a good read - never hear of them.

      1. re: sexyLAMBCHOPx

        I see you haven't had a response to this. I read all 10,000 Nero Wolfe books when I was a lot younger and really enjoyed them. I honestly don't know how available they are anymore, but if you enjoy easy reading detective stories, you should like these.

    2. Having worked in the publishing industry, I would venture to say that if a book, even a work of fiction, contains recipes, they were tested. A major publishing house does not want a bunch of irrate readers calling and complaining. Also, a reputable publisher would not take the chance in publishing a recipe that could potentially harm someone.

      Also, just because Fannie Flagg is not known as a chef does not mean she does not cook. You would take a recipe from a friend and try it, wouldn't you? Do you ever try recipes from web sites not linked to professioanal chefs but posted by home cooks, like this site we are on right now?

      Also...I found this on Amazon.com after wondering what Fannie Flagg was up to these days. Looks like the recipes in the book you mention are actual recipes from a real cafe that was the inspiration for the one in the book:

      http://www.amazon.com/Fannie-Flaggs-O...

      5 Replies
      1. re: ttoommyy

        Thanks for the info and the link! That is interesting to know there was a real cafe.. I wonder if the people who ran the real cafe were inspirations for Idgie and Ruth? WIll definitely try the biscuit and fried chicken recipes soon.

        The book was excellent but the constant mention of the food made me so hungry that I've already started cooking dinner, an hour early! :)

        1. re: SeoulQueen

          IKWYM! i used to read the Kay Scarpetta books by Patricia Cornwell. they always made me hungry... I almost bought the cookbook they came out with in later years, but was skeptical like you.

          1. re: jujuthomas

            Lots of friends made Scarpetta's lasagna and say it's fantastic.

          2. re: ttoommyy

            I've had that cookbook for years. It's the real deal; I've made several of the recipes from the Whistle Stop and they all work.

          3. I made the pork chops with gravy from that book. For years, my (then) boyfriend, insisted I make them once a week. I lent the book out to a woman who's husband wanted her to make the pork chops after my boyfriend brought leftovers into work, and I never got the book back. I mentioned it once to my current (and long-standing) boyfriend, and he found the recipes from the book on the internet and printed them up for me. But that recipe is pretty basic.

            I have Cornwell's Winter Table floating around here somewhere. I should give that one another look. The amount of detail she uses in her books to describe her character's time in the kitchen is very telling. I would think the recipes in the cookbook would at least have to be serviceable.

            And, once, in grade school, I took our bottle of Log Cabin outside to try and make maple candy, just like Laura Ingalls. But it didn't work.

            ETA: I corrected the title of the Cornwell book. It is Scarpetta's Winter Table, not The Thanksgiving Table.

            4 Replies
            1. re: onceadaylily

              <And, once, in grade school, I took our bottle of Log Cabin outside to try and make maple candy, just like Laura Ingalls. But it didn't work. >

              I did the same thing. Because of her books I wished for a large bonfire to throw potatoes in and to butcher a hog so that I could roast the tail over a fire.

              Also, there is the American Girl Doll Kirsten (the pioneer doll) whose "lunch" was a hunk of bread, a wedge of cheese, and some sausage. Twenty(?) years later that is still one of my favorite lunches to have.

              1. re: viperlush

                Do you suppose that sales of syrup go up whenever a teacher assigns this book?

                And I forgot about the part with the pig tail! I used to read that over and over. It sounded delicious. I used to pretend my Saturday morning bacon was a pig's tail.

                1. re: onceadaylily

                  Except that by no stretch of the imagination can Log Cabin be considered real syrup! I wonder if it would work with real syrup? If we get lots of snow again this year, I'm going to try it!

                  Thanks for the memories -- LOVE those books!

                  1. re: Transplanted Texan

                    You have to boil the (real) syrup down before putting it on snow but it does work.

              1. re: ttoommyy

                You're kidding, a Twilight cookbook? LOL! Wouldn't that be just 1 recipe:

                Take 1 human (can substitute bear as vegetarian option), drink blood, discard carcass.

              2. I would never hesitate to use a recipe in a book of fiction. Well, I would use a little common sense and not go running off to try out a recipe for turning lead into gold, but for food, yeah. Why not?

                The most unusual recipe source in my collection is from a Royal Typewriter ad. Now, you KNOW it has to be from a loooooooong time ago. How long since you've seen an ad for ANY typewriter, let alone a Royal! It's a recipe for Chocolate Cake that was typed out on a sheet of paper stukk suttubg in the typewriter. I tore out the ad and tried the recipe, simply because it struck me as being too basic to be good. I was wrong! Here it is:

                ,,,,,,,,,,,,,Chocolate Cake from Royal Typewriter ad.............

                Preheat oven to 325F
                Baking time: 1 hour

                1 cup milk.........................................1 3/4 cup sugar
                4 squares bitter chocolate............1 cup flour
                4 eggs, separated..........................1 teaspoon baking powder
                ............................1 teaspoon vanilla

                Melt chocolate in heavy saucepan with milk and cool. Cream the sugar and egg yolks and add chocolate mix alternately with the sifted dry ingredients. Fold in stiff egg white and vanilla. Bake in 2 greased 8 inch round pans in 325F oven for 1 hour.

                1. I've tried recipes from Diane Mott Davidson's Goldy the caterer books. I know that I've made a bread recipe, a couple of pasta recipes and several others. I don't remember any of them being bad. On the other hand, none of them have stayed in my regular rotation so they can't have been too outstanding.

                  I recall an interview with the author that she said she had a recipe developer take her recipe ideas and develop and test them for her before she includes them in her books.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Squint

                    My Mom makes Diane Mott Davidson's Goldy baking recipes with great ease and acclaim from those who get the finished product. They are alway greatly successful for her. Damned fun stuff to read too!

                    1. re: Quine

                      I've made the vast majority of Diane Mott Davidson's Baked goods and found them to be well-expressed, easy to understand and delicioius. I've also made a great many of her soups, appetizers and salads for a 'mystery' theme party, and they were all received.

                    2. re: Squint

                      i've made quite a few of these recipes and they've always come out very well

                    3. I've only done so once, when I was around 10...it was the sloppy joes recipe from the book ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN TAKES THE CAKE. And it was pretty damn tasty, if my 10 year-old self says so.

                      I miss book fairs and book orders... :o)

                      1. Stuart Woods books have a gimlet recipe that is now my gimlet recipe. It's delish!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: jeanmarieok

                          i was thinking of that too! it's my gimlet recipe also. glad someone else said so!

                        2. I've successfully baked a couple cookie recipes from Joanne fluke's Hannah Swensen (baker) series.

                          Also add me to the list of those who have cooked recipes from the Diane Mott Davidson's Goldy (caterer) books.

                          1. I've made a couple of pasta dishes from the Venetian Comisario Brunetti mystery series written by Donna Leon that were pretty tasty, and a crazy boiled potatoes and onions dish from the Andea Camlleri Sicilian series with Ispettore Salvo Montalbano as main character. Trying to interrupt that one was fun but not entirely successful...

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Gio

                              EDIT : "Trying to 'interpret' - not 'interrupt'...

                            2. I've always wanted to make the food from Like Water For Chocolate. The only problem is that they don't have the steps explicity written out. The method for each dish unfolds with the story. However, any experienced cook could probably figure it out.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: HungryRubia

                                YES - loved this book. Will attempt (ok give me a year or so!) to report back! What a beautiful book.

                              2. There was a Soprano's Cookbook a few years ago. I gave it to the chef in my company's cafeteria - a huge fan - and a lot of the stuff was good.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Dave_in_PA

                                  There are actually two "Soprano's" cookbooks out now, & the recipes I've tried from both have been wonderful. Plus the books are a fun read.

                                2. I have just finished 2 Patricia Cornwell books, one a Scarpetta and one a Wil Geranamo or something like that. I picked up about another 10 books (all at the used book superstore) right now reading Stuart Woods, and waiting also are more Diane Mott Davidson.

                                  I now Dianne's all have recipes, but didn't know about the Scarpetta series or the one of Stuart Woods, his I have at least 15-20 more to read. Right now reading the last in the series of his Will Lee books. Will be keeping my eye out for the one with the gimlet recipe and Scarpetta's lasagne..

                                  I buy/trade most of my paper backs at an Annie's Book Swap, and just found the used book superstore where I'm paying all of $2.99 for hard covers.

                                  1. It's not strictly fiction (or is it? We could debate!) but Marinetti's The Futurist's Cookbook - gutted I missed this at the British Library - was working abroad... http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/featur...

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: themags

                                      That is quite an amazing book. There was a good bit of interest in it in the '70s - I first read about it in Elizabeth David, I think it was. (The Blumenthal sensory experience iPod with dish and the Achatz pillow serving platform that emits smoke make me think of it, although in much more appealing form.)