There’s no question that food can bring people together. Rich in flavors, textures and aromas, many recipes are also steeped with emotion. In the delicious book The Recipe Club (Polhemus Press, October 2009), authors Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel give you food for thought, an engaging heart-felt tale, and many recipes to celebrate the power of women’s friendships, the ups and downs of relationships, and the soul-satisfying joy of bonding through food.
Q&A with authors of The Recipe Club
SheKnows: What was the inspiration for your book The Recipe Club?
Israel and Garfinkel: Our book was first inspired by our friendship. Soon after we met, and confessed that we are both passionate fiction writers, we agreed it would be fascinating
to explore a really complex, provocative, challenging friendship in a way you seldom see it depicted. We wanted to show a friendship that is supportive most of the time, but not all of the time,
and to acknowledge that even “positive” emotional states, like love and affection, are often tempered by raw jealousy, insecurity, and mixed emotions.
Friendship has many sides
SheKnows: What do you want readers to get from reading The Recipe Club?
Israel and Garfinkel: We felt there was very little out there about the light and dark sides of friendship. We also wanted to explore how the act of writing letters and emails can
create intimacy — but can also, inadvertently, fan the flames of misunderstanding. And last, we wanted to find a way to write about a truth we’ve uncovered: that connecting food to specific
events in our lives can tap into emotional content that’s often hidden or repressed. Oh, and there’s one more thing: we were inspired to write the book together because it seemed like
it would be a huge amount of fun to work together. (And it was!)
SheKnows: Who are the main characters Lilly and Valerie based on?
Israel and Garfinkel: The characters are purely fictional. In the early days of writing we each developed a single character, but by the end we’d written the book as a team.
So each character is an amalgam of our individual and our joint imaginations.
Meaningful recipes are intertwined throughout everyday life
SheKnows: There are many scrumptious recipes in your book. Who created them?
Israel and Garfinkel: This is a multi-part answer because the recipes are an integral part of the novel’s story, so in a sense they were developed as the book was written.
SheKnows: Can you explain the significance of The Recipe Club recipes?
Israel and Garfinkel: Because each recipe is a natural outgrowth of the letters the two characters write to one another, the first thing we had to do was to come up with original
themes and names for each recipe. So, for example, when Lilly’s father is being difficult, she sends Val a letter about her personal angst, along with a recipe entitled “Jerk
Pork,” which is a thinly veiled reference to her father.
Next, we decided the recipes had to be time- and age-appropriate to the characters, by which we mean the recipes had to include foods that were popular at the time each letter was written. So you
won’t find “modern” ingredients, like kiwi or arugula, in an early-1960’s dish. In addition, we wanted every recipe to reflect a specific emotional moment, so we had strong
flavor profile wishes and ingredient lists for each one.
Bringing recipes to life
SheKnows: Did you work with a chef or food professional to write the recipes?
Israel and Garfinkel: We were extremely lucky to be able to work with food writer Melissa Clark who completely understood the relationship between food and storytelling. Once the
novel was complete, she then developed the recipes and brought our ideas to life. She did an amazing job, and each one is absolutely delicious!
Want to find out just how delicious? Feast your eyes — and then your sweet tooth — on these two sweet treats featured in The Recipe Club. Both desserts wax nostalgic as they are taken
from the mid-1960s period of the book.