Sunday, June 6, 2010

Welcome Isabel Sharpe!

Greetings Mystery Kitchen ladies and readers! I’m very pleased to be here. This is such a fun site, and since reading, writing and food are my three greatest non-human loves, I feel right at home.

I was invited to contribute because I have a book out this month from Avon/HarperCollins. No, it’s not a mystery, but it has mysterious elements in a story from the main character’s childhood, told by her mother, of a beautiful woman named Gillian who appears briefly in a small village in 1920s Shetland, causes a ruckus and disappears soon after. Did she really exist? Maybe, maybe not, but her influence is very real for a group of modern-day women in a knitting group in Comfort, North Carolina, called Purls Before Wine, who learn to knit lace the way it was done on the Shetland Islands back when Gillian supposedly lived.

Maybe you’ve heard of the traditional Shetland wedding shawl, so lacy and delicate it could be drawn through a wedding ring? The talent of these turn-of-the-century (you know, the real century, not this silly baby new one) women was astounding, especially given the difficult lives they led, two hundred miles from Norway and two hundred miles from the Scottish mainland, on treeless islands at the mercy of storms and the sea.

Now I love knitting, so I tried to knit a fairly simple lace scarf. I got about an inch into it before I realized I was not a patient enough person. And I don’t have a husband or son at sea every day risking his life fishing from a tiny sailboat, nor sheep and chickens and a vegetable garden to tend to, a peat fire to keep going, meat and fish to dry and store, baking and laundry and oh my goodness. Nor do I spin my own yarn from wool plucked by hand. Such tough lives and they created such astounding beauty out of their own traditions and imaginations.

Most of the book takes place in modern-day North Carolina, but the Shetland research really fascinated me. So when it came to sharing a recipe with you all, I thought why not a traditional Shetland recipe? Like krappin: fish heads stuffed with a mixture of fish liver and oatmeal!

Your mouth is watering, isn’t it. I know! Mine too! Fish liverilicious!

I hope you won’t be too disappointed, but in the end I decided on a scone recipe I tried recently which is easy and really good. It’s from Epicurious, so I need to honor their copyright policy and give a link rather than recopy the recipe, but I hope you will understand. The scones are really worth trying. Cranberry Tangerine Scones
Enjoy and thanks so much for having me!
I encourage you to return the visit at:
Thanks so much for joining us, Isabel.
This is such a treat for me because not only
am I a huge fan of your work, but I'm a
knitter, too.
I just got my copy of Knit in Comfort and
was captivated by the very first page.


  1. I live in North Carolina and am embarrassed to say I don't know much about the Shetlands! Thanks for sharing some of your research with us. Congratulations on your release and thanks for the recipe! I absolutely love both scones and cranberries. :)

  2. Congratulations on your release. I enjoy knitting, but a simple stitch is all I can do. Sounds like a very intriguing book. Looking forward to the scones recipe.

    Thoughts in Progress

  3. I really enjoyed this post! Loved the stories about the Shetlands and that gorgeous lace. I love reading about knitting even though I don't knit. I will say that while the fish recipe sounds yummy (?!?), I think I might select the scones - ah, lovely scones. I had already planned to read KNIT IN COMFORT, but this just whets my appetite even more. Thanks so much for visiting and giving us some great things to think about!

  4. Can't wait to read your book! It is now on my TBR list. I also knit, but only scarves right now, but it's a hobby I am really loving and I love reading books with knitting as a part of the story. So many stories to tell from people who have knitted for years. Good Luck and Congratulations!!

  5. Cranberry tangerine scones? I'm in. Welcome, Isabel. I loved the image of drawing the shawl through a wedding ring. Truly gives us a sense of how delicate the lace really is. Your book sounds wonderful and it has a great cover. I'll definitely look for it. Thanks for joining us this morning!


  6. Hello ladies! I'm getting a late start today, but thanks for all the great comments. Kay, I'm so surprised you chose scones over "krappin" . . . and such a lovely name for a dish, too. The scones are really good. I've made them a couple of times. Enjoy!


  7. So nice of you to join us today. I can't imagine the work those ladies had in the 20's. No washing machines, for starters! Like Julie, I was very impressed by the image of drawing the shawl through a wedding ring. Amazing!

    ~ Krista

  8. No washing machines, Krista, and no indoor plumbing, shudder. The islands are also treeless so no wood. I realized I wasn't clear where these islands are: 200 miles off the coast of Scotland. The most famous one is Fair Isle (think sweaters) but they're also famous for Shetland ponies. Really interesting research. I'd love to have gone, but plane fare was exhorbitant.


  9. Just wanted to add that I also enjoyed your post! Thank you, Isabel. :)

  10. Thanks for visiting the kitchen, Isabel!

    Do not laugh but I am knitting a Fair Isle
    sweater for my dog (yes, Otto). I've been
    obsessed with Fair Isle knitting for the past
    few months, so I was delighted when I realized
    your book talks about the Shetland Islands, which
    I am determined to visit.
    So why am I knitting for the dog when I live in AZ? Well, I figured when we go to Flagstaff to ski in the winter he can wear it in the snow -- assuming of course he doesn't eat it;-)

  11. Fair Isle for your dog, Jenn! Wow. That has to be in your next book. A pet-clothing shop?

    I hope you'll post pictures of Otto in his finery.

    Thanks for stopping by, Cleo!