• Veronica Cline Barton

Cozy Mystery Writer with an Almost Royal Foodie Appetite—Even the Bad Guys, Amateur Sleuths, a

Breakfasts, lunch, and dinners play a big role in my stories—-and of course cocktails, one must always have cocktails available. The inhabitants of Cherrywood Hall are very lucky to have the culinary creations of Chef Karl served to them daily. Personally, I think mayhem and murders are always solved best on a full tummy, don’t you think? Imagine the embarrassment one would face just as you were about to name or catch the devious bad guy or gal, and your tummy growls with hunger, causing everyone to look at you with gaping wide eyes…Aunt Pippa would not approve.

Characters need their strength in a cozy murder mystery just to survive at times. Suppose your car gets run off the road by a devious maniac and you need split second performance skills to bring your car to a safe stop? How does a peckish fair maiden grab and hold on for dear life when pushed down a hillside, rolling violently, heading toward an air-bound exit over a cliff? Would a starving male Atlas be able to catch said falling damsel careening down said hillside, saving her from a certain hideous death?

Let’s not forget that one needs strength for romance too—a certain Cherrywood Hall estate manager I know likes a girl with an appetite, gives her stamina he says…Unfortunately the only characters that don’t get to regularly participate in the gastric treasures offered at Cherrywood Hall are the actresses trying to maintain their wisplike thespian figures. The film and costume obligations for Castlewood Manor relegate them to an ‘air and air’ diet. “Ah couldn’t do it…” to borrow a phrase from character Gemma, as she bites into a puffy pastry. I quite agree.

I’ve always enjoyed cooking. My move to California and my travels have allowed me to experience a myriad of gastric creations and flavors—giving my palate an international perspective. I adore having champagne and escargot as soon as we arrive in Paris (nothing is better than dipping a piece of a fresh, crunchy baguette into the garlicky butter sauce—Yummeaux!). Fish and chips with a pint are favorites once we hit the pubs of London ( with savory shepherd’s pie running a close second)—Henry, the barkeep at the Howling Pig Pub in Maidenford would agree 🙂 Is there any better way to top off a meal than a sticky toffee pudding? On the more formal side, I love afternoon teas at the Ritz, Savoy, and Dorchester hotels in London. It’s so fun to dress up a bit and sit in gorgeous surroundings, experimenting with a new flavor of tea, daintily eating savory finger sandwiches and pies, and deciding the order of consumption of the luscious desserts, always saving what you think will be best for last. Just writing this makes my mouth water, sigh…

Thank goodness for the explosion of foodie shows available now on television and the internet. I am a big fan of the television foodie shows on PBS, Food Network, and the Cooking Channel. You can gastronomically travel to all ends of the earth to learn about the foods and cooking techniques used in kitchens everywhere (or huts, boats, wilderness, castles—amazing where you can cook a meal). Learning about the foods and their origins gives me a whole new appreciation for not only what I eat, but what I decide my characters will eat in the stories (provided Chef Karl approves the menus of course).

Roaming the internet I get access to some of my beloved British chefs—who provide me with the quintessential British perspective of English gastronomy. Who doesn’t love Nigella Lawson’s sultry voice and luscious creations, ending with her nightly raid of the fridge? Or the beautiful, dearly departed Two Fat Ladies (Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright) who take us onto gastric journeys via their trusty motorbike? Jamie Oliver gives us the organic, proper way to cook and eat (who doesn’t love a Naked Chef?) I have grown to love the Great British Bake Off—who knew learning the intricacies of Victoria sponge, scones, and gateaux could be so spellbinding?  What endears me to these particular chefs is their ability to relate to all nationalities and classes (almost royal or not)—teaching us the recipes of the British palate, without requiring a Cordon Bleu degree to prepare them.

And lastly, I have my beloved cookbooks. Nigella, Clarissa and Jennifer make me so happy when I read their recipes. I’ve branched out too, buying the cookbooks of royal chefs (you never know when the queen will come to dinner at Cherrywood Hall) and the new royal wedding baker of Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding cake, Claire Ptak (who knows, maybe she will bake the cake for an almost royal Cherrywood Hall wedding to come?) What or who inspires your almost royal appetite? Can you send me the recipe?

Crowns and Kisses,

Veronica

P.S. I love the 1934 menu Aunt Pippa put together for her Prince of Kingwood dinner—I’m glad Gemma decided to re-use the menu (updated of course by Chef Karl 🙂  Oyster on the Half Shell; Lobster Bisque; Wilted Salad; Raviolis Beurre Blanc; Crab-Stuffed Halibut; Rack of Lamb with Root Vegetables; and ending with Almond Cake, Strawberries, Poached Pears—Aunt Pippa would approve 🙂

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