Writing fiction is a great way to live out your fantasies. For instance, I’ve always wanted to own a small restaurant, welcome guests to a Bed and Breakfast, or even run a cooking school. I may be a writer, but I’m also a cook of the amateur variety.
I scratched my itch to own a small restaurant by working in one and then writing about one in the Blue Plate Café Mysteries. The Blue Plate Café is modeled closely on a café in a small East Texas town near where my friends had their B and B ranch. It’s a down-home cooking kind of place, where you get great fried catfish on Saturday night, chicken fried steak and meatloaf almost any day. At the real restaurant, I once ordered a tuna sandwich and realized the tuna came straight from Sam’s. Kate would never do that.
Sometimes magazines feature couples who have either retired or dropped out of the business world to run a B and B. Usually, it’s in a big, old and charming house in a picturesque location, and the people are divinely happy with their lives and the people they meet. I’ve stayed in quite a few B and Bs, including some in Scotland, and I’ve found there’s a wide range—from comfortable and welcoming to stiff and formal, but generally the people who run them are friendly and hospitable—and interesting. The idea intrigues me—I love to cook and entertain, so why not a B and B?
Mostly because I know it’s a lot of work. Friends used to own a ranch B and B, with four cabins on the property—which meant linen to change, houses to clean, breakfast supplies to put in each cabin—usually coffee and a loaf of prune bread (secret recipe). In many B and Bs at a minimum breakfast is provided. I’ve had cold cereal out of a box, blood pudding, plain old eggs and bacon, and lavish breakfast casseroles. My favorite was a spinach soufflé in a wonderful old house in Wind River, Oregon. We ate on a large porch, with lovely place settings at a big table.
The B and B I created for Donna fulfilled my dream of what a B and B should look like—a big, two-story brick house with a wrap-around porch. Inside, hardwood floors gleam, chandeliers sparkle, and the furnishings are casual and cozy—comfortable chairs and couches. An American casual look, but not quite Early American. Of course, there’s a state-of-the-art kitchen that Donna makes no use of—though she likes the Keurig coffee maker. Donna’s solution to serving dinner is to send guests to the Blue Plate, though she does suggest that Kate could provide gourmet meals at the Tremont House.
Yet another of my fantasies appears in Murder at the Tremont House, the second Blue Plate Mystery—a cooking school. I don’t know enough about business or proper cooking techniques to own one, and I recognize that but I do enjoy cooking schools. So I let Donna convince Kate to run a cooking school at The Tremont House. Twelve ladies come weekly to have box lunches from the café, participate in cooking a gourmet meal, and take home dinner for two. Here’s one of their recipes:
4 boneless chicken breast halves
1 Tbsp. milk
4 Tbsp. butter
Juice of one lemon
½ cup chicken broth
Mix milk and egg in a shallow bowl; mix flour and cornmeal in a second bowl.
Pound chicken until it’s as flat as you can get it—¼ inch is the goal. Dip breasts in egg mixture and then in flour/cornmeal mixture.
Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Sauté chicken breasts quickly until browned on both sides, adding more butter if necessary. Remove to platter when browned and cooked through.
Reduce heat. Add lemon juice to skillet. Add broth. Stir to loosen browned bits from bottom of skillet. Return meat to skillet and cook five minutes until warmed through.
Serve with thin lemon slices and chopped parsley for garnish.
Of course, murder and mayhem lurk behind the café, the B and B, and the cooking school.
Murder at Tremont House is the second Blue Plate Mystery from award-winning novelist Judy Alter, following the successful Murder at the Blue Plate Café. Judy is also the author of four books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, and Danger Comes Home. With the Blue Plate Murder series, she moves from inner city Fort Worth to small-town East Texas to create a new set of characters in a setting modeled after a restaurant that was for years one of her family’s favorites.
Follow Judy at http://www.judyalter.com or her two blogs at http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com or http://potluckwithjudy.blogspot.com. Or look for on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Judy-Alter-Author/366948676705857?fref=ts or on Twitter where she is @judyalter.