Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Books & Such main office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
This week each of us at Books & Such will write about our favorite holiday recipes and the cookbooks we rely on to put yummy items on the table. As I thought about the cookbooks that I pull off my shelf each Christmas, it occurred to me that they all have something in common: I have a sense of the people who created the books. I think that concept of personalization holds true for most of the reading we enjoy, which is instructive for us as we consider our own writing.
For example, in Season’s Greetings: Cooking and Entertaining for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s by Marlene Sorosky, the author writes a couple of sentences for each recipe about some characteristic of the item that she especially likes. Her comments tell me something about her and also something about the recipe. I like that personal touch.
For the Chocolate-Wrapped Fudge Cake, which has white and dark chocolate strips formed like a bow on the cake’s top, Marlene writes: “I discovered this technique for making chocolate garnishes when I was writing The Dessert Lover’s Cookbook. This dough is pliable enough to roll, cut, or bend into any shape imaginable. It’s so much fun to play with, I call it adult play dough.” Now, don’t you just have to like someone who still wants to work with play dough?
I’ll also be turning to my Cook’s Illustrated cookbook. These folks approach cooking as the science it is and write fascinating articles in the cookbook on the experiments they made to find the very best way to prepare a recipe. And since I can watch the cooking team on television’s “America’s Test Kitchen,” I really feel a personal connection to them.
The one traditional item that must appear at our family’s Christmas table is a dessert that requires hard sauce. Last year one of my daughters and I spent six hours making a persimmon pudding to accompany the sauce. We decided the time spent baking would be a gift we would give ourselves–a cooking adventure.
I had acquired the recipe from a chef many years ago when I ordered the persimmon pudding for dessert at a restaurant in Napa, but I never had sufficient persimmons or motivation to use the recipe. When I pulled out the instructions for Robin and me to begin our grand baking day, I found the directions vague at best, with “Good luck” written at the bottom of the scribbled recipe. Indeed. So we poured over every persimmon recipe we could find and came up with our own version, a medley of about eight recipes plus our own innovations. The results were stupendous. We were exhilarated–and relieved.
To me, all of these elements add up a holiday meal that is personal on many levels: from the cookbook creators to the preparation of a special recipe.
As writers, it pays for us to observe that adding a personal element to what we write draws the reader into our world–and readers like nothing better.
What personal touches do you bring to your family’s Christmas feasting?
What personal touches can you add to the project you’re writing?