A Recipe of Memory and Imagination

Three events conspired to instigate this post. First, I read VT Dorchester’s blog about “Cookies from 1890,” actually about two kinds of cookies. It made my mouth water, but I didn’t have the ingredients nor could I easily procure them.

Second, a magazine put out by a museum uncharacteristically included a recipe, for ginger cookies. That made my mouth water, too, but I still didn’t have the ingredients.

Third, while dusting my bookcase I came across a forgotten magazine article about baking from historical recipes – particularly “Mince Piyes My Mother’s Way.” Mince pies have been one of my favorite things since childhood, but I sure didn’t have those ingredients.

All three things happened in one day! With stomach growling, I began plotting my revenge.

Twelfth Night seemed a perfect time to write this and Epiphany a perfect day to post it. So, here is a recipe of memory and imagination, how my mother used to make…

Mincemeat Pie

First, enlist your family’s help.

Take an entire beef rump. Roast it.
Take a beef tongue. Boil and skin it as usual. Prevent your youngest from taking slivers of her favorite meat.
Procure a good quantity of suet.

Cut all three things into handleable pieces. Grind them in a hand-cranked food grinder. If your grinder isn’t the kind with a clamp, get your daughters to help, one to hold down the base with might and main while another of you grinds. Trade off.

Get the very large earthenware crock your family bought for a failed experiment in home-brewing beer; be glad you have it and make sure it’s clean. Get a wooden spoon so large you’ll only use it for this annual task. Mix the ground meat and suet in the crock.

Mix into this:
A full pound of raisins.
A pound of sultanas (golden raisins).
A pound of currants.
Keep mixing. When everyone tires out, have your children scrub from fingernails to elbows and mix by hand.
Add: a container of candied fruit, and another of candied orange and lemon peel.
An entire jar of very good raspberry preserves.
Another one of strawberry jam. Keep mixing.
Add a good mix of spices.
Moisten it all with sherry or cognac.

Procure a good quantity of patience, for this should best age for several months.

Alternatively, procure a reliable time machine. If you go with the latter route, take the crock back to, say, August or September. Place the crock somewhere dark, cool, and quiet, like a basement,  where it won’t be disturbed and where it won’t damage the time-stream.

If you’ve used patience, then it is reasonable to occasionally taste small samples – just to make sure it’s aging well, of course. If you’ve used the time machine, best not to risk the time continuum.

When the mincemeat has aged for several months, sterilize several large Mason jars and fill with mincemeat, to give to friends. Keep a good portion for your family.

When you’re ready to make the most delicious pie your family has ever tasted, cut up some tart apples and add to a good amount of mincemeat.

Make two good pie crusts; line the deepest pie dish you can find with one, fill with mincemeat. Top with second crust and cut decorative designs in the top.

Bake until golden.

Feast and revel.

Happy Twelfth Night and Epiphany!  

Winter Solstice, 2020 — Celebrate the Light

Happy Winter Solstice! For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, today marks the turning of the year from the shortest day, and a return to the light.

I plan on celebrating with some good stories, coming sometime today to All Worlds Wayfarer. I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve read in their publication so far, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us today. You can read the current issue for free on their website or buy a copy for your e-reader, which I’ve done. I’m particularly looking forward to reading VT Dorchester’s story.

I’m also going to celebrate by reading “The Shortest Day” by Susan Cooper, a poem to celebrate the solstice from the Christmas Revels.

Celebrate the Light!

Mid-Winter Gift Ideas

Someone’s wise tweet – I think it may have been Nicole Valentine’s – commended a plan to buy all Christmas gifts from bookstores and museum shops. I love this idea for supporting great places hard-hit by the pandemic.

I have hopefully dogeared a museum shop catalog with a desire of my own. As for gifts to give – books are always top of my list, and I’ve been collecting a small hoard all year. Which is a good thing, because shopping is not as easy or as safe as last year. It’s very fortunate indeed that two of my local bookstores offer curbside delivery. You, too, can give a gift to your community and order books from your local bookstore if you have one, and stay safely at home while you do it. They may also be able to send them for you.*

Here are some books I am going to give this year (shhh, no telling).

For a science fiction and comic book fan: Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles: The Authorized Adaptation, which I was lucky enough to find at my local indie bookshop (they don’t have it in stock now, but it can be ordered from Barnes and Noble).

For a history/nonfiction buff, who, after reading on my blog about the Winchester Mystery House, was inspired to dig deeper: Captive of the Labyrinth: Sarah L. Winchester, Heiress to the Rifle Fortune by Mary Jo Ignoffo.

For a young adult horror fan, The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. Series #1) by Jonathan Stroud, because this book gave me great chills and I don’t even really love horror.

For a middle-grader with a big heart, a middle-grade book with great heart:  A Time Traveler’s Theory of Relativity by Nicole Valentine. This is another book I read and loved, though I am well out of the focus audience.

And for a dear aunt, a warm-hearted Christmas romance, Season of Hope by Laura Nelson Selinsky.

cover art for Season of Hope novella

For more ideas of books to give, you can see my blog on this from last year.

Another suggestion for gift ideas: are there local artists and artisans who might have websites you could order gifts from?

How about a gift for yourself: a short collection of fine tales to take you back to the old West? My writing friend VT Dorchester has a great tale online in the December issue of Frontier Tales. I’ve read a number of these, and they are fine stories. So far, I’m particularly fond of VT’s, “Horseshoe Nail Stew”, a clever and deepened retelling of the Stone Soup folktale. I’m looking forward to taking a small break and reading more stories, then choosing and voting for my favorite. Well done, VT!

Whatever holidays you observe, may you find the light, and celebrate and share it.

*Yes, you could probably get most if not all of these books at Amazon, but Amazon has done extremely well during the pandemic. Why not support bookstores, museums, and artisans who have been hit hard?

More Publication News from a Writing Friend

Author photo of Suzanne Mattaboni
Suzanne Grieco Mattaboni, fiction writer, ‘80s podcaster, essayist

My Running Wild Press colleague, Suzanne Mattaboni, has shared some good news which I’m very happy to pass on. Her novel, Once in a Lifetime, was accepted by TouchPoint Press. She describes it as “fun, irreverent coming-of-age women’s fiction set in a 1980’s tourist town, against a backdrop of new wave music and art.” It’s planned to come out in spring 2022.  Congratulations, Suzanne!

In the nearer future, Suzanne has short story, “The World is Lava,” coming out in a horror anthology called Little Demon Digest, which will be available on Amazon starting Dec. 8th.

Suzanne will also have a story in an anthology coming out in the spring of 2021 called Pizza Parties and Poltergeist—it’s a collection of horror stories set in the 1980s. Her story is called “Don’t You Forget About Me.”

Also, one of her short stories (“A Stain in the Ceiling”) appeared in August in Dark Dossier magazine, issue #50.

That’s a lot of exciting news, Suzanne!

Readers can also find a fine short story by Suzanne in the Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vol. 2, available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

cover of Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vol. 2
“Our” Anthology

Here are ways to keep up with Suzanne’s news and connect with her:

Email: suzanne@mattaboni.com

Website: suzannemattaboni.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/suzanne.mattaboni

Twitter:  @suzmattaboni

Instagram: suzannemattaboni80s

Congrats again, Suzanne!

In Memory of Rachel Caine

Last week the sad news came that Rachel Caine had died after her long, hard battle against cancer. Rachel Caine was a wonderful writer, and a wonderful woman, and she is sorely missed.

I first got to know Rachel Caine through her Morganville Vampire novels – fast-paced page-turners about what it’s like to go to college in a Texas town run by vampires. I worked at a bookstore then, and we had the great good fortune to have her come to a signing at our store.

Morganville Wristband and Whimsical mint tin
Book-Signing Gifts

In fact, I took one of the early calls setting it up. A woman on the phone asked to speak to my manager; well-trained, I asked who was calling. It was Rachel herself. “Rachel Caine! Rachel Caine! Rachel Caine!” I exclaimed, jumping up and down. Yes — I literally jumped in the air, and literally yelled in my excitement, right into the phone. Three times. Rachel just laughed her warm laugh.

Bookmark
Ghostly Bookmark

She was just as warm and friendly in person – so down to earth, so fun to be around. We had the pleasure of hosting her twice. The second time was for Prince of Shadows, the story of Romeo and Juliet but also the story of Benvolio, Romeo’s friend and cousin, a master thief who becomes close with Rosaline, Romeo’s unrequited love. I loved Rachel’s Morganville stories, but this book is just a marvel. Told through Benvolio’s eyes, it immersed me in a Renaissance Verona that’s lush and gritty. The stories unfold from unexpected corners, and with surprising twists and turns and depths. It’s a gorgeous book.

Cover Art of Prince of Shadows
My Treasured Copy

Rachel’s writing, which I loved from the start, just kept getting better and better. I was hooked and grabbed by The Great Library series. She wove an entire world for this series, full of rich characters fueled their love of books, invention, and knowledge. The main character, Jess, is a book-smuggler in a society where it’s a mortal crime to own your own book. Because this world is run by a tyrannical Library which has absolute power over all books and all knowledge, and they enforce their law with terrifying automata – pitiless lions, sphinxes, and gods. The story moves from England to Egypt to the wild, rebellious America. I am not half doing these books justice. If you enjoy fantasy, especially with a steam-punkish edge, go, take a look yourself.

Rachel was a prolific writer, who wrote so much more than I have had a chance to read. There’s her Weather Warden series, adult urban fantasy about Wardens, “gifted with a supernatural ability to control the weather … sometimes. On a good day…But the Wardens—Earth, Weather, and Fire—work as much against each other as with, and their captive Djinn are on the constant verge of rebellion. Add to that a sleeping, but intelligent, Mother Earth, and this could get very messy.”* Outcast Season is a companion urban fantasy series about an outcast Djinn. These sound like books I have to explore.

And there are more. Stillhouse Lake  is the first in a series of adult thrillers. My husband and I started the audio book – it was gripping and intense. Too intense for us, honestly; it may be the audio format was just too vivid, or that we’re just not thriller people. The writing was excellent. If you like enthralling, chilling thrillers, go and check this series out.

There are even more fantasy, paranormal, and sci-fi novels and series to explore on her website. For anyone who loves great writing in these genres – go, have a look.

I got to know Rachel more through her Twitter. Even as she fought an aggressive cancer, she was warm, kind, passionate, and honest – an ally and advocate for writers and people in need in general. I learned still more about her through a tribute written by people who knew and loved her.

Rachel’s legacy lives on in the books she’s written and the lives she’s touched. It was my honor and pleasure to meet her, and to grow to know her in her writing. Readers and lovers of good writing, you can help keep her legacy alive. Find her books, and dive deep into new worlds.

You can find her books in bookstores, at Barnes and Noble, and at Amazon. Many of her ebooks are on sale now for a very good price. And you can watch her Morganville Vampire series on Amazon Prime.

*Quote from Rachel’s website

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