Friday Recipe Exchange: Food In Fiction

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JeffreyW does beef stew but let’s pretend it’s venison. 

I’m travelling this week, so this is going to be a quick post. But I had this inspiration when John Cole was looking for Hot Chocolate recipes and all I could think of was the movie, Chocolat. I love food in movies and books. Especially when it is just casually mentioned, to set a mood or give a little description of a character or place.

A while ago I did a series of recipes called, yes, you guessed it, Food in Fiction (you can see all those recipes here). And I wanted to highlight it tonight because I really wanted to hear if you have any favorite foods from movies or books. Have you ever explored recipes for those favorites? Would you like me to rustle up a recipe if you haven’t?

Here are three of the books/recipes I had to search out and try.  At each link is the recipe and an excerpt from the book, describing the food.

From my childhood fav, Trixie Belden, Venison Stew (click here).

My all time favorite book, ever, To Kill a Mockingbird, has many, many fun ideas for recipes that I tackled (crackling bread, anyone?), here is the most challenging, the Lane Cake (recipe here, narrative here).

A little darker book, in a series I discovered a few years ago, Lomax and Biggs, Blood Thirsty, the lead character was having dinner with his girlfriend and they had something I’d never tried before, broccoli rabe, so I had to check it out. I came up with several recipes, including Broccoli Rabe and Hot Italian Sausage Pasta  (recipe here).

That’s just a few of the ones I played with, it was a fun idea I probably should explore more when I have the time.

Tonight’s featured recipe comes from Agnes and the Hitman, in which the heroine is a food columnist and chef. It was a wealth of ideas and I put together several recipes based on the story. But this was by far my favorite and I made them for Valentine’s day one year.

A little background, these cupcakes open the book and in the midst of making them, our heroine is attacked by a young man with a gun who wants to kidnap her dog and she defends herself with hot raspberry sauce and a skillet with deadly consequences. For the full narrative, click here.

Chocolate-Raspberry Cupcakes

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Moist Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup chopped raspberries

Dry ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup dry cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Grease and flour muffin tins. Cream together oil, butter and sugar. Mix in remaining moist ingredients, one at a time, until well mixed. Sift together dry ingredients. Mix dry mixture into creamy mixture and beat for 2 minutes at high-speed. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full and bake for 20-25 minutes, until they bounce back when pressed lightly.

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 6 oz dark chocolate
  • 6 oz heavy cream

Double boiler (I use a metal bowl over a saucepan with about an 1 inch of water)

Place chocolate and cream in top of boiler, bring water in bottom half to a boil, reduce heat to med-high and let chocolate melt, stirring occasionally. When completely melted, remove from heat and stir until cream and chocolate are completely mixed. Let cool and dollop over cooled cupcakes

Raspberry Sauce:

  • 2 cups raspberries
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice


Puree raspberries until smooth, add raspberries and sugar to saucepan and heat to a low boil, stirring constantly. Let bubble  for 1 minute, reduce heat to medium low and stir constantly until thickened, remove from heat and add lemon juice. Let cool and spoon over frosted cupcakes.

Note:  While making the raspberry sauce I was never accosted by any strange men breaking into my house, forcing me to use the sauce as napalm.  Mores the pity.

That’s it for this week. If you missed it. the Dinner Menu and Shopping list for this week was Baked Ricotta Gnocchi in Fire Roasted Tomato and Basil Sauce and Grilled Asparagus.  – TaMara


To Kill A Mockingbird: Crackling Bread

Today is the 5oth anniversary of To Kill A Mockingbird, so I thought I would repost the Food In Fiction recipes from last year.

Originally posted October 21, 2009

Crackling Bread

The book that had the greatest influence over me as a child was To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. I read it for the first time when I was 12 and have read it every year or two since. My Gram Rullo gave me a hardbound copy that is probably my favorite gift ever – except for the two special rings my brothers won at the county fair when they are little and gave to me. Those I keep in a ring case in my jewelry box.

To Kill a Mockingbird is filled with food, good southern food, that as a child I’d never heard of before. It was an exotic world filled with scuppernongs and Lane cakes and of course, Bo Radley. I’ll start with Crackling Bread:

Perhaps Calpurnia sensed that my day had been a grim one: she let me watch her fix supper. “Shut your eyes and open your mouth and I’ll give you a surprise,” she said. It was not often that she made crackling bread, she said she never had time, but with both of us at school the day had been an easy one for her. She knew I loved crackling bread. “I missed you today,” she said.

Crackling Bread

  • 1 1/2 c. cracklings or crisp bacon, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups white cornmeal
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven ot 450° and grease a heavy oven-proof skillet (cast iron works great). Or preheat to 350° and grease 12 count muffin tin, but do not preheat the tin.

Sift together dry ingredients and then mix in cracklings. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add buttermilk and egg. If batter seems to thick, you can add a bit of water.  Pour into a hot, greased skillet. Bake in 450 degree oven (or 375 degrees for muffins) for about 25 minutes or until light brown.

Food In Fiction: To Kill A Mockingbird – Lane Cake

I actually did make this cake and posted a recipe for it in November 2009, here.

Originally posted: October 28, 2009

Photograph by Neil Ravenna

For the Lane Cake, I won’t be posting a recipe, but instead, because of the wonder of the internet can offer the history of how it came to be. In all the years I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, I really didn’t have a clear idea of what a Lane Cake was, except I knew it had liquor in it, as described when Atticus’ sister came to stay and help with Scout and Jem:

Maycomb welcomed her. Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane Cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight….

Before that, Miss Maudie baked a Lane Cake as a thank you to one of the men who helped fight the fire that burned her house to the ground:

“Mr. Avery will be in bed for a week – he’s right stove up. He’s too old to do things like that and I told him so. Soon as I can get my hands clean and when Stephanie Crawford’s not looking, I’ll make him a Lane Cake. That Stephanie’s been after my recipe for thirty years, and if she thinks I’ll give it to her just because I’m staying with her she’s got another think coming.”

I reflected that if Miss Maudie broke down and gave it to her, Miss Stephanie couldn’t follow it anyway. Miss Maudie had once let me see it: among other things, the recipe called for one large cup of sugar.

From the Encyclopedia of Alabama:

The Lane cake, one of Alabama’s more famous culinary specialties, was created by Emma Rylander Lane of Clayton, Barbour County. It is a type of white sponge cake made with egg whites and consists of four layers that are filled with a mixture of the egg yolks, butter, sugar, raisins, and whiskey. The cake is frosted with a boiled, fluffy white confection of water, sugar, and whipped egg whites. The cake is typically served in the South at birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and other special occasions. The recipe was first printed in Lane’s cookbook Some Good Things to Eat, which she self-published in 1898.

According to chef and culinary scholar Neil Ravenna, Lane first brought her cake recipe to public attention at a county fair in Columbus, Georgia, when she entered her cake in a baking competition there and took first prize. She originally named the cake the Prize cake, but an acquaintance convinced her to lend her own name to the dessert.

The Recipe

Lane’s recipe states that the cake should be baked in medium pie tins lined on the bottom with ungreased brown paper, rather than in cake pans. She specified “one wine-glass of good whiskey or brandy” for the filling and that the raisins be “seeded and finely clipped.” She also insisted that the icing be tested with a clean spoon. In Lane’s time, the cake would have been baked in a wood stove. Lane also suggested that the cake is best if made a day or so in advance of serving, presumably to allow the flavors to meld. Lane used the cake recipe as the basis for other cakes in her book, some frosted with orange or lemon cream.

The Lane cake has been subjected to countless modifications and twists over the years. Coconut, dried fruit, and nuts are common additions to the filling described in the original recipe. Home bakers who wish to avoid the whiskey or brandy in the original recipe have substituted grape juice, especially for children’s birthdays. Another common variation is to ice the entire cake with the filling mixture. The Lane cake is often confused with the Lady Baltimore cake, another fruit-filled, liquor-laced dessert with a different pedigree.

In Alabama, and throughout the South, the presentation of an elegant, scratch-made, laborious Lane cake is a sign that a noteworthy life event is about to be celebrated. In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, by Alabama native Harper Lee, character Maudie Atkinson bakes a Lane cake to welcome Aunt Alexandra when she comes to live with the Finch family. Noting the cake’s alcoholic kick, the character Scout remarks, “Miss Maudie baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.” Shinny is a slang term for liquor.

Food In Fiction: To Kill a Mockingbird, Pickled Pig Knuckles and Ambrosia

Originally published on November 3, 2009

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as Scout

The last entry in the To Kill a Mockingbird recipes is one you probably won’t try and one I’m making up as I go along.  I wanted to include Pickled Pig Knuckles for one reason only, because the section of the book where this shows up is so touching, it brings tears to my eyes whenever I read it.  Atticus has lost his case and Tom Robinson is on his way to prison.  The next morning, as the children struggle with what has gone on, Atticus sits down to breakfast, only to be greeted by an incredible plate of food like he has never seen before.  Confused, he lets Calpurnia lead him into the kitchen, which is filled to overflowing with gifts from everyone who appreciated all he did for Tom Robinson:

The kitchen table was loaded with enough food to bury the family: hunks of salt pork, tomatoes, beans, even scuppernongs.  Atticus grinned when he found a jar of pickled pigs’ knuckles.  “Reckon Aunty’ll let me eat these in the diningroom?”

Calpurnia said,”This was all ’round the back steps when I got here this morning Mr. Finch.  They – they aren’t oversteppin’ themselves, are they?”

Atticus’ eyes filled with tears.  He did not speak for a moment.  “Tell them I’m very grateful,” he said.  “Tell them – tell them they must never do this again.  Times are too hard.”

I searched for Pickled Pigs Knuckles recipes, this one for Pickled Pigs Feet seemed like the best one, so  thought I’d link to it, since I’m not likely to recipe test it anytime soon.  I think you could easily substitute knuckles without any ill effects.

Pickled Pigs Feet:

Nowadays the commercial products are just so expensive that it’s more economical to make your own. Besides, homemade pickled pigs feet taste far better than what you can get from the jar. I prefer to make my own as opposed to spending about 1 dollar and 25 cent for each piece of pigs feet.

Pickled Pigs Feet Recipe

6 – fresh pigs feet, split in half lengthwise
2 – red chile peppers, fresh
1 – medium onion, chopped
2 – bay leaves
2 – tablespoons salt
1 – teaspoon peppercorns
1/2 – tablespoon mustard seed
1/2 – tablespoon coriander seed
1/4 – teaspoon cloves
sliced ginger
white vinegar

to read more, go here

The Ambrosia appears earlier in the story, at a disastrous Christmas celebration, where the only redeeming feature is the food.

….Aunt Alexandra didn’t understand girls.

But her cooking made up for everything: three kinds of meat; summer vegetables from her pantry shelves; peach pickles; two kinds of cake and ambrosia constituted a modes Christmas dinner.

Ambrosia is pretty simple, but a fresh ambrosia salad in 1930’s Alabama in December, I wasn’t sure what would be used.  I decided that peaches, grapes, banana, whipping cream, pecans, little bit of sugar and mixing it together could work.  For a more modern touch, substitute ginger ale for the sugar and sprinkle with coconut.  Neither may be authentic, but they are tasty all the same.

For more fun, check out the nasty bits posts.

A Novel Idea

I learned to cook at a very early age.  My godmother gave me a children’s cookbook for my 9th birthday and I think I tried every recipe in it before my 10th.  It was about the same age that I began to notice that some of my favorite books contained intriguing ideas for recipes and some even had recipes written in with the story.

I learned the best ever burger recipe from Trixie Belden.  I learned about spoonbread and butterbeans from Scout and Jem Finch.  Stephanie Plum made me crave meatball subs and cabbage rolls.  And author Jennifer Crusie creates entire novels around cooking and taste treats.  There are so many others, but that’s off the top of my head.