Mysteries and baking seem like an ideal partnership to me. In fact in a perfect world you could nibble the baking results and savor the books while nestled against your pillows. What a great life!
In a related partnership, one of the delightful results of toodling around promoting my mysteries has been the warm and welcoming reaction of readers. Some of the tastes of this travel will stay in my memory forever. But every now and then, I just have to have the recipe. In particular I am thinking about Nova Scotia Oatcakes. I grew up in this gorgeous rocky province on the east coast of Canada. There is a strong Scottish heritage there and it shows in the traditional foods. Of course, it was tough going in Nova Scotia in the bad —I mean good— old days. Fresh foods would have been in short supply and the traditional recipes reflect this. Staples would have been butter or shortening, eggs, vanilla, flour, brown sugar and oatmeal. These simple ingredients were put together in many marvelously adaptive ways.
So, on with my story: On a book tour though eastern Nova Scotia, my mystery writing friend Barbara Fradkin and I were welcomed with open arms by the historic Village of Sherbrooke. Have a look: http://museum.gov.ns.ca/sv/index.php
The local librarians had knocked themselves out making this a special event. The Sherbrooke ‘ladies’ had set out quite a spread and the community center was jammed with readers. For years I dreamed of the fabulous oatcakes we had there. This past year, I was lucky enough to get that recipe from my friend, the librarian Lesley Brothers, who in turn made sure to get permission from the Historic Village of Sherbrooke for me to use it as it was part of their fundraising cookbook. Old-fashioned and so delicious, these oatcakes evoke childhood and church fairs and trips to visit Grandma. They are a hit with men, women and children and a sign that everything old is new again—and should be! They are also inexpensive and really easy. I should add that they’re particularly good nibbled in bed with a mystery. What’s not to love?
2 1/2 c oatmeal (not instant)
1 c brown sugar
1 c flour
1 tsp each - vanilla, salt, baking soda
1 c shortening ( I used butter!)
1 egg, beaten
Combine dry ingredients and cut in shortening or butter. Add vanilla and egg. Roll out to desired thickness and cut into shapes. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Dough may be chilled before rolling.
Mary Jane Maffini is a lapsed librarian, a former mystery bookstore owner and a lifelong lover of mysteries. She is a former President of Crime Writers of Canada. In addition to the four Charlotte Adams books, she is the author of the Camilla MacPhee series, the Fiona Silk adventures and nearly two dozen short stories. She has won two Arthur Ellis awards for best mystery short story as well as the Crime Writers of Canada Derrick Murdoch award and was nominated for a Barry Award in 2006.
Mary Jane’s latest Charlotte Adams book is Closet Confidential (Berkley Prime Crime, July 2010). She says she’s grateful for all the tips she gets from Charlotte although she wishes Charlotte would learn to cook. She lives, cooks and plots in Ottawa, Ontario, along with her long-suffering husband and two princessy dachshunds. Visit her at http://www.maryjanemaffini.com/