LUCY BURDETTE: I hope you all are enjoying book club week in our kitchen--I sure am! Though my hometown book club is on hiatus temporarily, we’ve had a lot of wonderful discussions over the years.
For a while, we decided that the hostess would choose the book and also provide dinner to other members. My turn came when we discussed Carlos Eire’s WAITING FOR SNOW IN HAVANA. I made an elaborate Cuban meal, including pork roast with black beans and baked bananas. Funny how I remember the details of the food better than the details of the book (although it was an excellent memoir.)
But you shouldn’t have to work that hard as a book club host, so I'm making an easy suggestion for refreshments. I’ve chosen DEATH IN FOUR COURSES for discussion (the second Key West mystery) and Hayley's hot fudge pie to go along with it. If you serve this pie, you will be plied with compliments without spending much time slaving in the kitchen. (And it goes with any beverage--coffee, tea, champagne, wine...)
Now, let me tell you a little about the book...
Not too long after I signed the contract to write the Key West food critic mystery series, I learned that the Key West Literary Seminar would be focusing on food writing in January 2011. The event was called THE HUNGRY MUSE, and it featured foodie luminaries such as Frank Bruni, Madhur Jaffrey, Jonathan Gold, Diana Abu-Jaber, and many more.
I pictured my food critic character, Hayley Snow, covering a similar conference for her online magazine, Key Zest. She would be so thrilled to hear and meet her writing idols. But she would have mixed feelings too, as she tried to land interviews with bigwigs, write snappy but thoughtful articles, all while comparing her abilities and her fledgling career to theirs. And maybe Hayley had invited her well-meaning, foodie mother for the weekend, not realizing quite how vulnerable she’d feel working on this important assignment?
With that background in place, I looked for more ways to ratchet up the tension. Suppose the keynote speaker threatened to divulge some of the other writers’ potentially career-threatening secrets over the weekend? And suppose someone would kill to hide one of those secrets? And then what if a dear friend was implicated in this murder?
And then mix in a ton of food, including a multi-course dinner at Louie’s Backyard, dinner at Santiago’s Bodega, and lunch at La Creperie.
All in all (though I’m biased as the author:), I think DEATH IN FOUR COURSES would provide a book club with lots to chew on. (Sorry couldn’t help myself!) Here are a couple of questions you could use to get discussion going:
My friend Linda Juliani gave me this recipe for hot fudge pie and I’ve made it many
times. It’s perfectly fast and easy and yet has all the advantages of a
homemade dessert, hot out of the oven.
1. The role of food in the families of the conference speakers varies widely. How was food seen in your family? Who cooked the meals and what were they like? How has that history affected your relationship with food today?
2. Which of the fictional speakers’ books would you be interested in reading? Which might you want to have at your book group meeting–and why?
The entire list of book club discussion questions can be found here.
1 stick butter
3 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
4 Tbsp flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
Melt one stick of butter and 3 squares of unsweetened chocolate together. (Linda uses the microwave–just be sure to cover the bowl as it will splatter. I use the old-fashioned pan on a stove method.)
Add to the bowl 1 and 1/4 cups sugar and 4 tablespoons flour and a dash of salt. Mix. Then add 3 beaten eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Pour the batter into a greased 9 inch pie plate and bake at 350 degrees fro 20-25 minutes.
Serve warm with ice cream.
And I'll leave you with my favorite review of DEATH IN FOUR COURSES from PUBLISHERS WEEKLY:
“Near the start of Burdette’s yummy sequel to An Appetite for Murder, Key West food critic Hayley Snow brings her mother down from New Jersey for a visit… Outspoken Mom provides tart commentary as Hayley once again turns sleuth. Anyone who’s ever overpaid for a pretentious restaurant meal will relish this witty cozy.”
Lucy Burdette is the author of the Key West food critic mysteries. You can follow her on twitter, facebook, and Pinterest. If you'd like to invite her to appear at your book club via skype, email her at LucyBurdette at gmail dot com.