Our Special Guest this month is mystery writer and food lover, Gale Deitch!
Gale, thank you for joining our literary dinner party. Gale is the author of the Trudie Fine Mystery Series!
Gale, I found out that you like to watch T.V. cooking shows (I do too) what are your favorites?
I have many favorites. I enjoy shows where I’m in the kitchen with the cook, learning not just how to make a new dish, but certain techniques. Over the years, I’ve learned so much from people like Rachael Ray and her 30-Minute Meals, which were a savior to me to prepare after a long day of work. Or Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, who prepares a dish so effortlessly and then says, “How easy was that?” And it was.
I also like to watch some of the competition shows, like Chopped or MasterChef or the Next Food Network Star. It amazes me to watch competitors produce a beautiful, composed dish in a very short time.
Oh, those are some of my favorites, too! We need to watch television together! Barefoot Contessa is my guilty pleasure. She does make it all “so easy.”
So, what inspired the very first Trudie Fine story?
I first came up with the character Trudie Fine when I wanted to create someone that the average woman could identify with. Trudie is short and overweight, always dieting. She’s not the flawless beauty who is often portrayed as the protagonist. Once I began writing Trudie’s character, I wondered what to do with her. So I wrote about what I knew – cooking and food – and made her the owner of her own catering company. Realizing that wasn’t enough to make an interesting book, I threw a dead body into the pool at Trudie’s first big gig, a backyard Mexican Fiesta.
A dead body will get a book going for sure!
Do you ever make any of the recipes that are mentioned in your books?
Most of the recipes in my books are provided by my friend James Turner, the executive chef at Blue 44, a restaurant in Washington, DC. James and I have developed a system now where, when I finish my book, I give him a list of the dishes in the story. He then sends me recipes for several of them and I try them out at home. After all, if I’m going to expect others to make the dish, it needs to be a user-friendly recipe. Often I will email back and forth with James with questions or to tweak the recipe in some way. For example, I might ask whether to simmer the dish covered or uncovered. Or I may ask if I can cut the amount of salt or use cubed butternut squash from the produce section which is much easier than cutting a whole one open and roasting it in halves.
James’ recipes are so good that I do make them at home. His Butternut Squash Soup is the best I’ve ever had and his Sweet Potato Biscuits are beyond delicious! Both of these recipes are included in my third book, Fine Arts.
In fact, his Gumbo recipe in my book Fine Dining is a special in his restaurant, and customers generally call ahead to see if he’s made it that day.
That sounds awesome. How fun that must be to work with a chef!
Other than trying out the recipes for your books, do you cook for fun?
I definitely cook for fun! I don’t enjoy baking as much because with cooking I can experiment by adding spices and other ingredients to a dish. You have to be more precise with the recipe when baking. Please don’t tell my husband I used the word “experiment” because every time I put a new dish on the table, which is pretty often, he asks, “Have you been experimenting again?” I always reply that no, I am a cook, and I may be trying something a little different, but I know what I’m doing.
I’m sure you do! So, what are you writing now?
I’m about to begin two projects. I’ll be working on the fourth book in my Trudie Fine Mystery series as well as a follow-up book to my novella, Pineapples and Pearls, hoping to get both of them out this fall.
What is your go-to meal when you share your table with friends?
I love to make Italian food, which is warm and welcoming for guests. Steaming bowls of Pasta e Fagioli and Chicken Parmesan served over spaghetti (both recipes of which are in my novella, Pineapples and Pearls) are favorites.
In the center of the table is a lit candle in a Chianti bottle, overflowing with years of multicolored candle drippings—a souvenir from my husband’s and my second date.
And of course, glasses of Chianti all around.
I love that! Do you have a special recipe that you can share with us?
Here is my Bananas Foster recipe from my book, Fine Dining, the second in my Trudie Fine Mystery Series. With a small tweak, I used the same recipe in my recent novella, Pineapples and Pearls. Because of the story location, I gave it a Hawaiian twist.
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 bananas sliced into coins
1 shot Myers (or other) dark rum
1 shot Southern Comfort
In a large sauté pan melt butter over medium heat.
Stir in brown sugar, orange juice and cinnamon.
Add bananas (and nuts, if you’d like) and cook for 2 minutes.
Add Myers rum and Southern Comfort.
Flame the mixture using a stick lighter to cook out some of the alcohol.
Careful when flaming!!
Cook 1-2 minutes more.
Serve over vanilla ice cream
When adding bananas, you can also add any nuts of your choice (almonds, pecans, walnuts, Brazil).
For Bananas Foster Hawaiian Style, add a cup of diced pineapple to the bananas and garnish with toasted coconut or chopped macadamia nuts.
That sounds (and looks) delicious. I think Ina would love it!
Gale, thank you so much for sitting down at the table with us. Folks, learn more about Gale online at the following sites–and get your hands on those delicious books!
Get Pineapples and Peals at Amazon as well.
Thanks again, Gale! Tell Trudie we said hi!