This week, in honor of US Thanksgiving, some of the Eight Ladies will be sharing their favorite recipes…and not just food recipes, either (although there will likely be plenty of that…see below!). Be sure to check in each day to see what sort of goodies we’re revealing!
I started thinking about recipes for the kind of books I like while discussing with Jilly some of my favorite romances. My recipe for a good romance includes competent women and men who DO things for them, plus a dash of community.
In the era of women’s rights and #metoo, I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to writing (and reading) romance. Not that I have anything against competent women who can do for themselves, who know their potential, and who go for what they want. In fact, I AM one of those women, trying to make a career out of writing while raising two kids, taking care of two pets, and managing a household with a husband who travels…a lot.
It means I DO a lot…from helping with homework to shuttling kids around to fixing leaky toilets and installing ceiling fans. And most of the time, when something’s gotta give, it’s me and my work. Sometimes, though, I just want another person to do the shuttling/fixing/installing for me, without me having to write a check.
That’s where my heroes come in…both the ones I read and the ones I write.
Without a doubt, I admire heroines that are self-sufficient, capable women. And I like it when their heroes understand, accept, and especially celebrate that. But in my mind, what better way to show your love for a lady than to do something for her? That’s what my heroes do, without stepping all over their ladies in the process.
I always think back to Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Without any prompting, Darcy arranges everything for Mr. Wickham, paying off his debts and ensuring he marries Lydia in order to restore some honor to the Bennet family. His actions were a demonstration of his love for Elizabeth. And he even tried to keep it from her! *swoon*
Another great example is Shane from Jennifer Crusie’s Agnes and the Hitman. Agnes is trying to pull off a wedding reception when her A/C dies. Instead of Shane telling Agnes about it or offering to help, he just BUYS her an air conditioner and has it installed. Problem solved. It’s what she needed, when she needed it, and she didn’t have to ask for help. (Lord, I could use some of that these days.)
Just like with cooking, you often pick up new tricks in the kitchen that making your food richer. Something I’ve come to love in a good romance is community. I never put much stock in it until I started planning my own six-book series and realized how much I become invested in all the secondary characters, their backstories, and the little dramas they bring to the page. They’re people, too, in these fantasy fiction worlds that we create (or get created for us), and I usually care as much for them as I do the main characters. They’re a bit like butter and sugar…they make the world rich and sweet.
So…that’s what it takes for me to read (and write) a good book.
As for favorite recipes, here’s one that my family regularly asks for every Thanksgiving…Homemade Southern Banana Pudding, courtesy of Deep South Dish.
3 large eggs, separated
¾ cup granulated (caster) sugar, divided into ½ and ¼ cups
1/3 cup all purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1 overflowing teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 box of Vanilla Wafers (regular, not mini)
4-6 ripe bananas, sliced (as many as you want, really)
Pinch of cream of tartar
Separate the eggs and set aside the whites to come to room temperature for the meringue.
In a double-boiler, whisk together ½ cup of sugar with the flour, salt, and milk. Whisk in the yolks and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and mixture reaches 170F/77C. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, and set aside to cool slightly.
A note about the custard: this takes TIME. Like, lots of time. At least 30 minutes or more. So be patient. Do not turn the heat up too much, or you’ll burn it. You must stir it constantly, so be prepared to be chained to the stove while you do this. But trust me, it’s WORTH IT!
Layering the Wafers, Bananas, and Custard
In a 1-1/2 quart baking dish (I use a large, glass oven-safe mixing bowl), begin layering.
- Small amount of custard on bottom
- Layer of wafers atop the custard and around side of bowl (rounded tops facing out)
- Layer of sliced bananas
- (Repeat for 2-3 layers)
- End with custard layer on top
Whip the egg whites and ¼ cup of sugar and cream of tartar. They should be stiff, but not hard (lift up the beater…if it makes a peak and doesn’t fall back down, you’re good). Put on top of the custard, pressing and lifting the back of a large spoon against the meringue to create little peaks. Bake in a preheated 350F/175C oven (no fan) for 15-20 minutes or until the peaks of the meringue brown. Watch carefully, because it only takes about 30 seconds for the peaks to go from browned to burnt.
Remove and let sit for about 1 hour, then refrigerate for up to 4 hours before serving.
DO NOT COVER the meringue with a lid or plastic wrap or you’ll get little beads of condensed sugar-water (and the meringue will shrink from the edges of the bowl).