Tuesday, October 13, 2009

GUEST AUTHOR: Courtney Milan

I've seen authors share recipes with their fans. Usually, these are old family recipes, or new inventions. In any case, the recipes usually have one thing in common: They describe items that are actually good.

This, however, has not been my consistent experience in the kitchen. I've weathered more than my share of cooking disasters, so when my heroine's brother enters the kitchen for the first time (or, in historical terms, approaches the hob-grate) in “This Wicked Gift,” I naturally thought of the charred side of Christmas. And lo, that is about how well her brother performs:

Lavinia woke to a cloud of thick, choking smoke. Her first panicked thought was that the books downstairs had somehow caught fire, that their livelihood, half owned by creditors, was going up in flames. But then her conscious mind caught up to her racing fears and she correctly identified the smell.

It was the more mundane—and rather more unpleasant—scent of burning porridge.

Frowning, Lavinia pulled a wrapper over her nightdress and padded out into the front room.

James, his hands blackened with soot, was juggling a pot. The vessel let off billows of gray smoke, its sides streaked black.

“Ah,” he said essaying a weak smile. “Lavinia! I made breakfast for you.”

She didn’t dare respond, not even with so little as a raised eyebrow.

He peered into the pot, frowning. “There’s still some white bits in here. Isn’t it odd that porridge turns yellow when it burns? I’d have thought it would go directly to black.” He prodded the mass with a spoon, then shrugged and looked up. “Want some?”

Over fifteen years, Lavinia had become quite fluent in the foreign tongue known as Younger Brother. It was a tricky language, mostly because it employed words and phrases that sounded, deceptively, as if they were proper English.

For instance, the average woman off the street would have thought that James had just offered her burnt porridge. Lavinia knew better. What James actually said was, “Sorry I stole your money. I made you breakfast by way of apology. Forgive me?”

So in honor of terrible cooks, both real and fictional, I present:

Worst. Cookies. Ever.

Stir together 3 C flour, 1 t baking soda, ½ t baking powder. Forget you already added baking soda, so add another tablespoon.

Cream together 1 C butter, 1 C sugar, 1 egg (include generous portion of shell). Unlabeled soy sauce looks just like vanilla, so add a teaspoon.

Blend dry ingredients with butter mixture. Drop in cookie-sized blobs on baking sheet. Bake at 375 F.

Start reading novella by Mary Balogh--or Nicola Cornick--or, ahem, Courtney Milan. Forget cookies for three hours, until the smoke detector goes off. Open windows and turn on fan to dissipate smoke, even though it is extremely cold outside. Sheepishly remove charred bits from oven and wish that we still kept pigs.

JK Coi: LOL, thanks thanks for the great exceprt, Courtney! And I'm sure those cookies are going to be...fun to make, if not great tasting :)

Courtney Milan's novella This Wicked Gift is part of a Christmas anthology called The Heart of Christmas, with authors Mary Balogh and Nicola Cornick and is in stores now.


Shelley Munro said...

LOL - those cookies sound really delicious--not. :)
Congrats on your release. I like to read some Christmas books so I've put this one on my list.

Maggie Robinson w/a Margaret Rowe said...

Love the excerpt! James and I have much in common lately---my domestic side is in deep hibernation as I write every spare minute. Thank God my husband watches the Food Network and thinks he can cook.

Keri Ford said...

Tehee. i was young and making peanut butter cookies once. didn't have enough flour, but there was this bowl of white stuff in the refrigerator that *looked* like flour.

The white stuff was not flour, it was baking soda. cookies tasted like pure salt--but they were pretty!

Tammy D. said...

I loved how him making her breakfast was his way of apologizing without having to say the words - such a man thing to do! Also enjoyed the language called "Little Brother". Ha!

RKCharron said...

Hi JK :)
Thank you for having Courtney Milan here today & thanks to Courtney for sharing that excellent excerpt.
All the best,

Janga said...

What a great scene! As wonderful as the love story is in "This Wicked Gift," the family connections are just as important to my delight in the story. In fact, my favorite passage is the one about the "language of families," the subtext of "I love yous" that are simply there underneath the habitual gestures and ordinary words. Powerful writing!

Courtney Milan said...

Hi Shelley! I am always about bringing people delicious cookies. :) Or delicious cookie recipes. Also, I forgot to say (sorry Kris) but I will give away a copy of my anthology to one commenter.

Courtney Milan said...

Maggie, I think the scenes involving James and food were stolen directly from writing with food on the stove/oven only to discover HOURS later that it has all turned into coal. People ask me sometimes if my little brother is like James--but he's not, James is like me! :)

Courtney Milan said...

Keri, just think of it this way: You were making decorative cookies, to be used in such a way that ants and other creepy-crawlies wouldn't want them. You didn't *mean* for them to be eaten, did you?

Courtney Milan said...


It is a "man" thing to do. I also think it's a "woman" thing to do, too, though--we just might do it in different ways. It's fairly human to hide what we really mean behind gestures. :)

Courtney Milan said...

R.K., thanks for coming by! And Janga, thank you so much for the comments. I always feel like a romance is not just about a man and a woman finding each other, but about people finding their place in society. It's as much about community and belonging as it is about romance, and I try to reflect that.