Do Not Ask Debra H. Goldstein to Cook

Debra H. Goldstein

I met Debra H. Goldstein last fall at Bouchercon, where we had a lovely chat about not cooking. Lucky me, she was kind enough to write about not cooking for my blog.

Whether Anne Louise Bannon writes about cookbooks, properly cutting an onion, making wholesome and healthy food for her family, or simply spending time with her husband in the kitchen, her joy and love of cooking comes through in her words. I don’t feel that way. For me, as for my One Taste Too Many protagonist, Sarah Blair, the only thing worse than being in the kitchen or trying to make a dish from scratch is murder.

I’m not sure I know why the kitchen repulses me, especially because I like to eat, but I had an aversion to that room even when I was a child. Like Sarah, I came home from school, did my homework, and plopped on the couch in our den in front of our television at five. It was Perry Mason time. Fifteen minutes later, during the first commercial, I ran to our kitchen and emptied the dishwasher. At five-twenty-nine, when the long mid-way commercial came on, I set the table. During the third break, I greeted my father when he came in from work and as the credits rolled, I turned off the television and joined my family for dinner. While I was engrossed in Perry Mason, my younger sister shadowed my mother making dinner. Today, my sister is a gourmet chef and I am a cook of convenience.

As a cook of convenience, I prefer bringing take-out in or making something quickly from prepared ingredients. When I decided to write cozy mysteries, I realized I had a problem. Most cozy mysteries feature a main character who excels in the kitchen or at some craft. I can’t claim any proficiency, let alone expertise, in either of those areas. Bummed, I almost gave up the idea of writing a cozy, but it dawned on me there had to be a vast number of readers who were like me. Consequently, I created a character, Sarah Blair, who is anything but proficient in the kitchen.

In fact, Sarah was married at eighteen, divorced by twenty-eight. She knew starting over would be messy, but things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by her twin sister’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with RahRah wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and her chef sister wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death—being in the kitchen!

Like Anne Louise, I collect cookbooks (but I didn’t steal my mother’s copy of Joy of Cooking). Besides enjoying their pretty pictures, I find them educational. For example, one I recently bought at The Biltmore House incorporates holiday recipes served at the Biltmore with pages of history about the house and its former occupants. Some of my favorite cookbooks are ones I share with Sarah. They include Peg Bracken’s The I Hate to Cook Cookbook and her Appendix to The I Hate to Cook Cookbook.

Thanks to my cookbooks, One Taste Too Many contains recipes that reflect being a cook of convenience like Jell-O in a Can and Spinach Pie made with Stouffers Spinach Souffle. I may not enjoy being in the kitchen in real life, but I’m certainly having fun sidestepping it in Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series.

Judge Debra H. Goldstein is the author of One Taste Too Many, the first of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series. She also wrote Should Have Played Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories, including Anthony and Agatha nominated “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. Debra is president of Sisters in Crime’s Guppy Chapter, serves on SinC’s national board, and is president of the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Find out more about Debra at www.DebraHGoldstein.com .

You can buy her book A Taste Too Many at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Anne Louise Bannon

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