Monday, May 1, 2017

Around Our Kitchen Table: Food and Mysteries #giveaway



LUCY: I was reading the first book in Daryl's new series, A DEADLY ECLAIR, (yes, I got lucky and snagged an early copy!), and I started thinking it would be interesting to talk about how and why we use food in our mysteries. Writing the Key West food critic series has really tweaked my interest in food and cooking because I have to think the way that my character, food critic Hayley Snow, thinks. She uses food as a way to connect with people, and to calm herself down, and to seduce the folks she’s trying to get information from that may solve the mysteries.

I like what Hayley wrote for the magazine she works for, Key Zest, at the end of DEATH IN FOUR COURSES: “I’d summed up by saying how important it was to remember that while food did mean life and death in its most elemental form, most often we in the food writing industry were talking about food as the pleasure of connections. When we wrote about simmering a stew or a sauce for hours or days, we were really talking about how much we owed to the folks who came before us and the importance of cherishing their memory. And how much we yearned to give to the people in our present who’d be gathered around our table. We were writing about food as family history, and love, and hope, and sometimes a little splash of guilt.


MLK ladies, I'd love to hear about the role food plays in your books!

SHEILA: I was a big fan of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books from the beginning of my mystery-collecting career. The idea of a sleuth who sat eating wonderful food while solving mysteries in his own mind was very appealing. I even have a copy of The Nero Wolfe Cookbook, and I've used several favorite recipes many times.

In a way the Orchard Mysteries are the polar opposite. My protagonist Meg Corey moves to an unfamiliar town and finds a body in her back yard--not the best way to meet your new neighbors! But a major theme of the series is community, and that means bringing people together over food. Meg even helps friends launch a restaurant in her town! And since she grows apples, I've used quite a few of the apple recipes I've collected over the years in the books. 

Clearly food matters. It's something we share, especially when we are celebrating important events or holidays. Eating together with friends and family is one of the joys of life.


LESLIE: It really is all about community, isn’t it? My main characters are retailers who love to cook. Food is their business, and their passion. In the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, Erin is committed to raising awareness about local food. Food anchors gatherings with her extended family, and the festivals that are a village mainstay. In the Spice Shop Mysteries, we explore one of the great public markets—Pike Place in Seattle—with Pepper, and learn a lot about herbs and spices. Both women love putting good food in customers’ hands, to enhance their knowledge and pleasure. As sleuths, their occupations give them an entree to the investigation. Erin finds a clue in an old recipe. Pepper uses a delivery as an opportunity to confront a reluctant witness. The amateur sleuth has access to conversations and secrets that law enforcement doesn’t have—and nothing opens those doors like huckleberry jam or a fragrant box of spice tea. 


I’ve said this before, but I believe the role of the amateur sleuth is to restore the social order after the disruption that murder or other crime creates. What does that better than food?

LINDA:  My series features the Culinary Capers Dinner Club, so food is at the core of both the series and their monthly dinners. The group uses real cookbooks anyone can find in bookstores, so I must be sure not to have anyone poisoned! 

Besides bringing them together in a ritual of friendship, it has allowed my protagonist, J.J. Tanner, who is an event planner, to quickly find a place in her new town. She readily admits she's not a seasoned cook however, she has a great passion for cookbooks, with color photos. And she tries hard to improve her skills both in the kitchen, and when scouring the clues for a murderer. And the Culinary Capers gang is more than willing to help on both fronts.


CLEO: Marc and I live in the borough of Queens, New York, one of the most ethnically diverse plots of land on the planet. We may not speak the same languages as our neighbors, or wear the same kinds of clothing, but we absolutely enjoy each other’s foods—from Salvadoran pupusas served out of a family-run truck to the colorful chiffon cakes of a Filipino bakery and the savory kebabs of a Bosnian diner. 

In our Coffeehouse Mystery Holiday Grind, our amateur sleuth Clare expressed our philosophy this way: “A diversity of cultures meant a diversity of foods. Eat with tolerance, I say!” 

Like Clare, we believe food can serve as the most basic first step toward cultural understanding. It's one reason we enjoy putting a diversity of foods in our mysteries: from the bright purple Filipino ube cake (and our favorite carnita recipe) in A Brew to a Kill to the Bosnian burger (pljeskavica) and “poor man’s caviar” in Once Upon a Grind

We loved writing about coffee hunter Matt’s Ugandan chicken stew in Billionaire Blend as much as culinary student Joy’s mini tarte Tatin’s in Dead to the Last Drop—not to mention her mother's cannoli cream cupcakes in Dead Cold Brew“Food is our common ground, a universal experience,” said James Beard. Marc and I agree. We also love to eat, of course, and now we have an excuse. Research! May you, too, eat with curiosity, wonder, and joy!

KRISTA: That's a lovely quote, Lucy. For those who aren't writers, I'll explain that when you start out, all kinds of people spout writing rules at you. I remember someone telling me never to set a scene at a table when people were eating. Now I love to tell new writers to learn the rules and break them appropriately!

The gang in the Domestic Diva Mysteries often discuss murder over food. In my personal life, a lot of the most interesting discussions with friends and family (though happily not about murder) take place around the table, so why wouldn't that happen in mysteries? Do the sleuths always have to be on the run? Of course not. 

Plus, food always shows up at the celebrations of life. Whether it's a birthday or graduation, holiday or job promotion, we celebrate with food. It only stands to reason that our characters would do the same.

And like Lucy, I love it when my sleuths can use food as a bribe. What better way to interrogate, er, meet the new neighbors?

DARYL:  Krista, I remember hearing those same rules. 'No discussions over food and tables!' So I was avid about creating scenes which included food to be about the preparation of food. Moving about the kitchen. Slicing, dicing. Handling hot objects. Not sitting. But people in foodie mysteries seem to gravitate to the table or to the counter or the food stand.  I will say that when I was writing the Cheese Shop Mysteries, I had to learn so much about cheese, that I was often keeping my characters at the cheese counter to taste, share, and discuss. I had to learn to move them about the shop and out of the shop into town and "real life." It was a challenge. Now that I'm writing the French Bistro Mysteries, I have to remind myself to move the characters out of the bistro kitchen. It's a challenge—I love a kitchen!—but I love a challenge.

PEG: My two most recent series--Cranberry Cove and Farmer's Daughter mysteries--represent food at its most elemental--growing it! And obviously growing it and cooking it go hand-in-hand so my characters also spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  Sharing a meal brings people together and it gives my characters an opportunity to gather a diverse group around their tables.

Readers: We'd love to hear--why do you read culinary mysteries? Leave us a comment with your email and you'll be entered in a drawing for Peg's absolutely, brand-new mystery, DEAD AND BERRIED!


Join us at the table!
Leave your comment below...



87 comments:

  1. Omgoodness,I love this blog! Explaining each series is great. I love food and reading. The Spice Shop Mystery series as Im learning about different flavors and my favorite place, Pike Place Market in Seattle. Thank you writers!

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    1. Oh, gosh, PeeWee, thanks for making my day! Bon appetit!

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  2. I love the recipes and talk of food in culinary mysteries; thanks for the chance
    jslbrown2009 at aol dot com

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  3. I read culinary mysteries simply because I find them to be quite creative, incorporating recipes, bakeries, restaurants, etc. into a crime scene or plot twist. EMS591@aol.com

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  4. Thank you for the many recipes and great books!!! Love this blog!

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  5. I love mysteries and trying the recipes, Thanks for a chance to win.

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  6. I love the recipes and learning new things, along with the great whodunits! Thanks for the chance.
    karen(dot)kenyon(at)rogers(dot)com

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  7. thanks to each one of you for reading our books! xo

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  8. Reading these mysteries allows me to go back in time to where my grandma was always cooking and there was a sense of comfort and belonging and the books leave me longing to cook some memories.

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  9. I love the recipes! Thanks for the chance!

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  10. I read for the sheer joy of reading. It opens the way to new experiences. New ideas. New people. New places. New things to try. My family is used to me trying out new recipes, new crafts, new whatever I come across. My oldest is quite cosmopolitan. My youngest is trying to decide if she wants to stay. Or run. Della at deepotter (at) peoplepc (dot) com

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    1. Della, that's why I read, too. For the sheer joy, but also for the new experiences. Hugs. ~ Daryl

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    2. This is why I read, too! I find that by reading most anything I am learning something new. Often I read something that spurs enough curiosity that I dive for Google to do some further research!

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  11. I love to read, and I love to eat. So culinary books are perfect for me. LOL I was forced to learn how to cook at a young age as my mother thought the only way to make any type of meat was to be able to use it as shoe leather. When she remarried I took over the BBQ grill as new dad had the same philosophy. Little by little I picked up the skills needed, from knife techniques to baking.

    I love collecting the culinary mysteries so that I can play with the recipes the author has included. First to make them kosher, and secondly to see if I can change the levels of flavor in a new way.

    I'd be thrilled to add Dead and Berried to my collection of recipe mysteries. NoraAdrienne (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. My kids learned how to cook out of self-defense as well. It was "Mom. I'm hungry. When are we going to eat?" 'Just a minute, hon. Let me finish this paragraph.' "Mom. When are we going to eat?" 'I said 'in just a minute. Let me finish this paragraph!' 3 hours later. "Here, Mom." 'Oh, you sweet heart. Thank you! But I'm almost done. You could have waited a minute or two.' "Mom. It's been 3 hours". LOL Della

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  12. Food and reading about food, recipes and the experiences are captivating and fascinating. I enjoy experimenting with the recipes and having new ones to try. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  13. Culinary mysteries add to the depth of the novel and give me great enjoyment. I can picture the enticing foods and then can hardly wait to create them for my family. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. That's fun, isn't it? Picturing food. No calories! ~ Daryl

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  14. I enjoy reading your books and trying some of the recipes. Thank you for the giveaway! crossxjo @hotmail. com

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  15. Reading and cooking are two of my favorite things to do. With culinary cozier I feel I get a cookbook and a mystery in one. I occasionally read others like Sheila and Victoria but not often.

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  16. I haven't read too many culinary mysteries, but I enjoy them like any other. If there's any recipes with chocolate featured that's even better. Thankyou for the opportunity! I'm looking forward to reading Dead and Berried.
    minishoes(at)msn.com

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  17. Food is something everyone can relate to. I enjoy reading about others food passions. thank you for the chance to win a copy of Dead and Berried

    johnnabooks(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  18. Culinary Cozies seem to be a fan favorite. Everyone can relate to food and cozies offer so many subcategories in cooking or baking to choose from. They are definitely the ones I reach for the most.

    Orosky17@yahoom.com

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    1. Kimberly, I agree. No calories. The ultimate "splurge." LOL ~ Daryl

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  19. I find it interesting how many different directions authors take food based mysteries in. And food is something that's easy to relate to.
    sgiden at verizon(.)net

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    1. Isn't that fun? My blog sisters continue to amaze me with the creative ways they use food and cooking and the food-related businesses their characters run.

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  20. Wish I could cook like they do in the books.

    Pugpower63@gmail.com

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  21. They make me think about different ways to serve a meal.
    kckendler at gmail dot com

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  22. I like to get new ideas of how to prepare food. And I enjoy good mysteries.
    suefarrell.farrell@gmail.com

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  23. The food parts of these mystery series are like a huge bonus to me. I get the likeable characters to bond with over time, and the challenge of figuring out the mystery, but the recipes inspire me to be a better and more adventurous cook. It is a great way to inspire me out of a cooking slump....what to make tonight syndrome!! I've expanded my spices thanks to Leslie's series too.

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    1. Glad to hear it, Pat. I've had so much fun with the spicery, learning more about the herbs and spices in history and culture as well as in the kitchen!

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  24. The stories are such fun and, with the included recipes, that's a plus. We can maybe find a new favorite for our own families.
    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

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  25. one of the best series ever! hope it continues! love this!
    pjstatob64114@aol.com

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  26. My post disappeared, but here is a recap:
    What's not to like about food/drink combined with a nice mystery?! I either try a recipe or two in every book, or it gives me inspiration to remake something again, often with tweaks. So, keep up the good work to all you great writers and cooks and thanks so much for the entertainment and knowledge you pass along in your books & here on MLK!
    lola777_22 at hotmail dot com

    P.S.~Roberta/Lucy, I've really appreciated your more recent recipes since one of my brothers had to also go low-sodium~ with working out and lowering salt intake he's lost nearly 45 lbs.!

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  27. I love culinary mysteries because I love food! I love to cook, to eat and to feed people! It's wonderful. All the best things happen in the kitchen...and some of the worst in the books I read. hahaha! It's all wonderful!
    awilcox1182@gmail.com

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  28. I love Culinary Mysteries because it combines food in some way with murder and mayhem all into an interesting and enjoyable read.
    tiggercat24alisha@yahoo.com

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  29. Great post! I like the food aspect because I sometimes like to try these new recipes. And food is a great plot device to bring people out of their shell. Thanks!
    JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com

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  30. I love this discussion! I love cozy mysteries and almost exclusively read culinary ones! In fact, I'm a fan of all of your series! I teach Family & Consumer Science to 9-12 grade. I love to cook and have been interested in collecting recipes since I was a little girl. There is something so satisfying about making a meal or dessert that everyone enjoys. I know some people find cooking a chore but it relaxes me. I love to try new things but it's also comforting to make well loved recipes passed on from family members. Cooking is one way I share myself and show love.

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    1. Colleen - How wonderful to hear your enthusiasm for culinary mysteries, especially given your occupation. And we thank you so much for your service as a teacher! xoxo - Cleo

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  31. It's about the kitchen, enough said! JK. I like culinary mysteries, not only for the recipes, but because it's an amateur sleuth most people can relate to in some way. Sure scrapbooking and antiques have their following, but the cook can be so easily identified with. It makes it one step easier to lose yourself in the story, because you can get the kitchen references.

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  32. I think my love of food and collecting old recipes and cookbooks brings me to looking for books that share that love. Some of my fondest memories are in the kitchen with my Grandmothers and Mother cooking and sharing. Now with these series I can combine my love of recipes and food with my love of mystery win win.
    lhxp73(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  33. I love reading about all the different types of food in the books. The recipes are definitely an added bonus. Thank you for this chance! areewekidding(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  34. I love a good mystery and receipies are the bonus . Thank you !!!! NancyhLlenbeck@gmail.com

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  35. i love this i love recipes and love to read these books

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  36. On a bad day, a tiring day, and every Sunday, I find comfort in a good book and good food. People often ask what I do on the weekends. Sundays are for cooking a big family meal and a ridiculously fattening dessert. Eating dinner early and then curling up with a full belly and a good book. :)

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    1. Sounds perfect, Danielle! Thanks for being part of the Kitchen crew!

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  37. I truly love reading books where food is a component of the story as food had been such a big part of my life. My grandmother was one if the first women to have attended a baking school in the 1890's and my mother made just about everything homemade that was possible to make at home. My Mom taught us, her three daughters, to know the techniques of cooking and baking and then allowing us to practice these skills at a young age. It really paid off and each of us has cooked for many years. We all prefer organics and live to try everything. I also wrote food columns for many years for many newspapers and have published recipes and still keep my eyes opened for anything new and different. So thank you mystery culinary writers as you allow me to read great cozies and keep me thinking about feeding my mind as well as keeping me interested in seeking another recipe to serve my family. Would love to be considered for your giveaway.

    Thank you.
    Cynthia B
    ceblain (AT) tmlponline (DOT) net

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    1. Cynthia - Your connection to food, going back generations is wonderful...and admirable! Thank you so much for your longtime contributions to food writing--and your support of the culinary mystery genre. Cheers! xoxo ~ Cleo

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  38. I love the rich plots and tasty recipes! emmasmom69 AT gmail DOT com

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  39. Somehow I feel so much more
    "Bonded" with my novels when I can cook with them or make their favorite bits :). Silly but fun. I just yesterday made Cleo Coyle's Little Choclate Clouds and I think 3 visitors have already gone off to find her series
    Rbehling 1916 at yahoo dot com

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    1. Ruth - Caffeinated cheers for sharing your culinary mystery joy with your friends. And...may I add, the fact that you feel more bonded with the stories because you can interact with them through recipes or learning about a new food or drink or spice is far from silly--it's profound. As authors, we aim to connect with our readers and make our worlds come alive for you. If the food aspect helps to do that, all the better! (And, I agree, it's fun....and IMO, nothing beats fun.) xoxo - Cleo

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  40. The stories in mysteries centering around food are always more interesting. The food diversions also add an element of reality. Plus the recipe's are so much fun to make. embam1969 AT Comcast DOT net

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  41. I like culinary mysteries because life is centered around the kitchen and food. I also like the recipes included in the books. Great post today, very interesting.
    diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

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  42. Reading culinary mysteries combines a love of reading with the enjoyment of discovering new recipes. Thanks for a fascinating edition of MLK! bskts4unme(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  43. Mysteries are great in almost any setting but I think they're just more fun based around a kitchen. I would love to win this. Thanks for the chance. Woodstock216@gmail.com

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  44. I love reading cozy mysteries especially food or drink related mysteries! For some reason the characters in this type of mystery seem better developed and more likable! I love reading the recipes that are included in
    These books and occasionally I use one of the recipes.

    I really enjoy this blog and learning about the latest foody mysteries!

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  45. I have always loved mysteries and when I discovered culinary mysteries..it was heaven! The books are always an enjoyable read and the recipes are amazing! I especially like the Coffeehouse mysteries since I am an avid coffee drinker and the books are filled with wonderful information about coffee and the "beans behind the cup"! Mamiebrightwell@gmail.com

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    1. Caffeinated cheers for the shout-out, Laura, Marc and I thank you. xoxo - Cleo

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  46. Culinary mysteries are interesting because it often introduces new ideas into our own kitchen, and who doesn't love congregating over a good meal!
    Greeneyesredhair@gmail.com

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  47. Why I read culinary mysteries....many reasons. I'm partial to mysteries....but love to read and will read many genres. But the culinary aspect in these books is rather special. I love how Cleo talked about bringing the cultures together and Krista talked about how the best discussions happen around the dining table. The preparation of food and consumption makes us one. When we share a meal we are connected. There is a scene in the movie 1996 Phenomenon with John Travolta that says it best. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYzHuNlSomI
    I hope this comes through. If not, you can search YouTube for apple scene in Phenomenon.
    Also, the recipes are so much fun to try and share with my family.

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  48. Honestly, I mostly read them for the mystery. I generally don't find many recipes I want to try, mostly because of dietary restrictions. mbradeen@yahoo.com

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  49. I love all kinds of cozy mysteries! Getting recipes at the end of the book is a nice perk! lindaherold999@gmail.com

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  50. My grandma always had food cooking and a big meal whenever we stopped over. She always wanted us to sit at the table and eat. Before bed when I was a kid she made something to eat you couldn't sleep on a empty stomach. So I love reading all the series mentioned above because I think of my grandma. I enjoy reading about the preparing of food and even the growing of it. My grandma had a big garden too. Thanks for the chance. Donamaekutska7@gmail.com your books bring happy memories about food. Thank you all for writing awesome books.

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  51. Great discussion! I enjoy culinary mysteries because I enjoy the characters, description of their careers (they often are bakery owners or involved in food service in some fashion) and I like the recipes at the end. I'm always on the look out for some thing new to make. dbahn(at)iw(dot)net

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  52. I love cozy mysteries and the small town feel with repeat characters. I feel at home when I read them and would love to live inside the book if I could. Thank you all for many hours and years of letting me become a part of your stories.

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  53. Always a good read on this blog! I really enjoy culinary mysteries... I learn different techniques, discover righteous flavors and get to meet new cultures!
    Cheers-
    Kelly Braun
    Gaelicark(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  54. I love culinary mysteries for a couple of reasons, I love mysteries, I love cooking/baking and trying out new recipes
    These books hit all the marks :)
    debbiec1313@yahoo.com

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  55. I mostly read mysteries and if I can combine that with food it is a plus. I have a pretty big cookbook collection. I keep saying I don't need any new cookbooks, but sometimes they sneak into my house anyway. And cooking magazines I find on sale at yard sales or Half Price books.

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  56. I love to read. I love to cook. I love to eat. I love trying new recipes. Reading culinary mysteries satisfies all of these loves. What wonderful reads! So glad I discovered them.
    donnaing1(at)gmail(dot)com

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  57. Food and cooking has always been a major part of my life. Myn parents got The Art of French Cooking shortly after it was published and cooked many delicious things from it.
    Mysteries with food are a no-brainer for me! And recipes for inspiration? Bonus!
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

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  58. Food is a BIG part of everyone's lives. It's the center of social gatherings so much of the time. I enjoy these types of mysteries because there's often learning involved. For instance, Cleo's Coffeehouse Mysteries are packed with lots of coffee info, which I enjoy as I like my coffee drinks... and eats. In fact, she'd allowed me to sound a bit smart while informing people that light roasts do, in fact, offer the drinker more caffeine than the dark roasts. Reading those books actually sent me to the library to check out a couple of non-fiction books about coffee. beckri1(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  59. I like to read them as they are very interesting and also I love to see what can happen in the kitchen. Also they usually include recipes which some of them my husband and i have made and turned out so good. He always asks which book did this come out of? So funny but culinary mysteries are sometimes better than the other mysteries. ptclayton2@aol.com

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  60. I love culinary mysteries because I can relate to the love of food. To share food is to share friendship and love. Preparing food is nurturing.

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  61. I love culinary mysteries because of their great stories, the interesting occupations the main characters, and the new recipes to try. It's also a great way to learn about new foods.
    scarletbegonia5858(at)gmail(dot)com

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  62. Food is one way of enjoying each others cultures. Food binds us together & is an expression of love. I enjoy food so therefore I enjoy reading about it & trying out new recipes.

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  63. There is something comforting in food cozy mysteries. Death not quite as bad, easier to handle.
    judytucker1947@gmail.com

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  64. Our family has a history of good cooks---male and female. Every occasion calls for special foods and family/friends participation. Every simple invitation turns into a scene fro My Big Fat Greek Wedding when a dinner for 6 becomes an event with two lambs roasting on spits in the front yard! I enjoy cooking, watching cooking shows, reading mysteries with an emphasis on food and recipes. I'm Ellie at greenwave65@charter.net

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  65. I just think they are so fun! They are a way to de-stress and get to know new places and new recipes.
    clarksrfun at gmail dot com

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  66. I find culinary mysterys always have humor in them, and I love trying out the recipes in them. Foodies and mysteries brought together, life is good!

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  67. I. Enjoy new recipes from the books.

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  68. I love the recipes. Janngrogan@yahoo.com

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  69. Food conbects us to each other. The well written food scene can make the reader hungry and evoke memories of past meals. I love recipes which I always mean to try but seldom do. Love food mysteries.

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