The Divining Wand

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From: Readers/Friends
To: TDW Authors/Friends

Holiday Greetings!

December 16, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Reader's Holiday Greetings


[During this Season of giving and sharing, The Divining Wand’s readers would like to thank their authors/friends for this past year and wish them Holiday Greetings. The next few weeks will feature universal as well as personal nods to writers who share with us throughout the year. Happy Holidays!]

AN ODE OF TO OUR COOKING AUTHORS
AND A RECIPE FOR CHOCOLATE BOURBAN PECAN PIE

By Suzanne Anderson

My love of cooking and books about cooking probably stems from my earliest memory of reading MFK Fisher’s Gastronomical Me, back when I was in my early twenties.

My pleasure in cooking grew when I moved to New York City and lived just a few blocks from the Union Square Farmer’s Market, a place that I looked forward to exploring every Saturday morning. It was there that I discovered lobster bisque delivered each week by a man from Maine. This lobster bisque became the inspiration for one of the best evenings I’ve ever spent with my father, a five hour odyssey in the kitchen with three lobster tails, and four cookbooks, and our attempt to recreate the taste of the lobster bisque I’d discovered in New York.

All of which is to explain why I always perk up when Larramie features a cooking themed novel on The Divining Wand. I know that I will not only find a book that combines my two great loves, cooking and reading, but chances are great that in the author who wrote the book, I will find a kindred spirit, one who knows the joy that can be created in the kitchen to nourish the souls of those we love.

I want to thank Stacey Ballis for writing GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT

I want to thank Jenny Nelson for writing GEORGIA’S KITCHEN

I want to thank Melissa Senate for writing THE LOVE GODDESS’ COOKING SCHOOL

I want to thank Jenny Gardiner for writing SLIM TO NONE

I want to thank Alicia Bessette for writing SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH

And I want to especially thank Keetha DePriest Mosely for writing and publishing CULINARY KUDZE: RECOLLECTIONS & RECIPES FROM GROWING UP SOUTHERN and MORE CULINARY KUDZU: RECOLLECTIONS AND RECIPES FROM GROWING UP SOUTHERN.

Since this is a cyber celebration of the wonderful authors we’ve met on The Divining Wand, allow me to bring the pie.

Not just any pie. My famous Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie, which I’ve made five times in the past month to share with friends and family. Actually this recipe was originally adapted from a recipe I found on Allrecipes.com for Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie submitted by Anital.

Here’s my version:

Ingredients

1 (9 inch) deep dish frozen pie shell
1 cup white sugar
1 cup rice syrup – I use this in place of Karo syrup because the flavor is milder
1/2 cup butter
4 large or extra large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup bourbon
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
1 cup (or more) chopped pecans

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees F).
2. In a small saucepan gently heat butter, rice syrup, and sugar, stirring constantly until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Cool slightly before adding to other ingredients, so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs.
3. In a large bowl beat together the eggs, bourbon, vanilla, and salt. Slowly add the sugar mixture into egg mixture, starting with one spoonful at a time to temper the mixture and avoid cooking the eggs. Whisk until well combined.
4. Toss chocolate chunks and pecans in the bottom of the pie shell. Pour egg/sugar mixture into pie shell to cover pecans and chocolate chunks…don’t worry, as the pie cooks, the pecans will float to the top and magically arrange themselves in a beautiful pattern on the surface of the pie.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until set and golden. May be served warm or chilled.
Cook’s note: I’ve also melted the chocolate into the sugar mixture at the start of the recipe. Both methods work well.

Merry Christmas Divining Wand authors and readers…..and here’s to a New Year of many more great discoveries on THE DIVINING WAND!

And a special holiday thanks to Larramie, TDW’s tireless creator!

Jenny Nelson and Georgia’s Kitchen

September 20, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


According to Jenny Nelson, the best advice she ever received on writing a novel was, “to write the book I wanted to read.” It took years to complete but when the author debuted with Georgia’s Kitchen on August 3, 2010, she had told a story that also appealed to countless readers. The proof: Five star reviews at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders!

Ah reviews, the author’s main character Georgia Gray knows them well. From the novel’s title one would expect the storyline to be character driven and Jenny confirms this by saying:

“When I started writing what would eventually become Georgia’s Kitchen, I had already decided: I wanted to read about a chef. A successful, funny, savvy, thirty-something chef who’s arrived at her position with some difficulty, but who clearly belongs where she is. Someone who’s both tough and vulnerable, who doesn’t disappear into the wallpaper, who rises to the occasion (except when she doesn’t – and there are definitely a few of these moments in Georgia’s Kitchen!) and who wouldn’t even consider giving up without a fight.”

Of course Georgia had to earn her reputation in the best of locations to be believable and the debut novelist went for the brass rings:

‘The setting was never in question: New York City, the big-time for chefs and one of my favorite places in the world. And because I’m a huge Italiaphile who loves all things Italy (food, wine, people, architecture, film, clothing, design), I decided to send Georgia to Italy, mecca for chefs. ”

On the other hand, Jenny did not want her first book to be merely, entertaining, occasionally glamorous, and even humorous. Instead she wanted: “Georgia to deal with real emotions and conflict, to be pushed outside her comfort zone and, ultimately, to triumph. I wanted a heroine I could root for until the very last page.”

The bottom line: Georgia was created to be a woman of substance and her story evolved into this synopsis:

Getting burned—in and out of the kitchen—might be the best thing that ever happened to Georgia Gray.

At 33, talented chef Georgia Gray has everything a woman could want—the top job at one of Manhattan’s best restaurants, a posse of smart and savvy gal pals who never let her down, and a platinum-set, cushion-cut diamond engagement ring courtesy of Glenn, the handsome entertainment lawyer who Georgia’s overbearing mother can’t wait for her to marry. The table is set for the ambitious bride-to-be until a scathing restaurant review destroys her reputation. To add salt to her wounds, Glenn suddenly calls off the wedding.

Brokenhearted, Georgia escapes to the Italian countryside, where she sharpens her skills at a trattoria run by a world-class chef who seems to have it all—a devoted lover, a magnificent villa, and most importantly, a kitchen of her own. Georgia quells her longings with Italy’s delectable offerings: fine wine, luscious cheeses, cerulean blue skies, and irresistible Gianni, an expert in the vineyard and the bedroom. So when Gianni tempts Georgia to stay in Italy with an offer no sane top chef could refuse, why can’t she say yes?

An appetite for something more looms large in Georgia’s heart – the desire to run her own restaurant in the city she loves. But having left New York with her career in flames, she’ll need to stir up more than just courage if she’s to realize her dreams and find her way home.

In addition to readers’ raves, there’s professional Praise AND the Excerpt of Chapter One.

Also view the video for an opportunity to Step Inside Georgia’s Kitchen with Jenny Nelson.

However the actual behind-the-scenes look into Georgia’s life and the restaurants that she finds herself working in are flawlessly described by the author’s writing. This book is a sensory feast that allows the reader to smell, taste, see, hear, and touch everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, to the crowded streets of Manhattan, and finally a peaceful garden villa in the Italian countryside. The breathtaking depth of description flows, reading as a natural (and necessary) complement to Georgia’s tale. How was Jenny able to weave the two together so effortlessly? The Divining Wand asked and the author replied:

“I really focus on what I see in my head and jot down first impressions, usually very long-winded first impressions, and then edit that down to its essence so that I’m saying as little as I can while being as evocative as possible. Does that make sense? I love description, especially as a counter balance to dialogue, so it was very important to me to get it right”

Right? Let’s say the author nailed it! But to write from the perspective of restaurant chef — complete with daily kitchen procedure and business operations –, how did Jenny manage that?

“I interviewed tons of chefs (I’m friendly with several and most are all too happy to talk about themselves!), but never observed a kitchen in a formal way.”

And for what was probably the best part of her research, the author says:

“I ate a lot! I studied menus and recipes and ate in as many restaurants as my waistline and my wallet could afford. It was a blast.”

All of the above, of course, is fun, enlightening, and showcases the world in which Georgia Gray works and lives. An independent young woman with determined ambition, she’s on track personally and professionally….but lacks happiness. The reason? Perhaps it’s because other people’s expectations for what she should be doing don’t fit into her personal timeline. Or perhaps she only thinks she knows her wants and needs….at the moment.

Refreshingly honest, this character accepts what is beyond her control and bounces back to try again. Indeed she’s vulnerable but the lack of whining and/or playing the blame game will have — as Jenny wanted — readers rooting her on until the last page. Besides Georgia has learned through her life experiences that settling for anything other than your dream does not offer happiness.

In time somehow the path to one’s dreams is found and, if still looking for yours, its inspired direction might be discovered somewhere within the pages of Georgia’s Kitchen. Enjoy!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Jenny Nelson’s Georgia’s Kitchen in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Jenny Nelson
On Food, Florence, and Inspiration

September 14, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Ah sweet memories — particularly those deep, heartfelt ones that inspire authors to wrap a novel around them. In today’s guest post, Jenny Nelson describes how her first trip to Italy began a love affair and ultimately a setting for her debut novel, Georgia’s Kitchen.]

On Food, Florence, and Inspiration

The first time I went to Florence I was 20 years old and had just finished two semesters in Mardrid, where I majored in “mucha marcha,” the distinctly Madrileño art of partying until four in the morning, learned “un poquito” of Espanol and traveled as much as my budget and my class schedule would allow. After a month of Eurailing among Let’s Go Europe’s top college destinations, my best friend and I parted ways in Brindisi, Italy (the only reason to go there, at least then, was to catch the ferry to and from Greece), and I trained on to Florence alone. I was meeting up with my dad, whom I hadn’t seen since the previous August; it was now almost a full year later. We met in the lobby of our hotel, an elegant, turn-of-the-century mansion, where I couldn’t help but feel out of place with my giant backpack, sleeping bag bungee-corded on the side, and my proudly-purchased-in-Munich Birkenstocks, which were finally comfortable enough to wear (they’d put me through hell in Paris – no one warned me that before becoming the most comfortable, if not the most attractive, sandals, my feet would be sliced, diced and rubbed raw). If my dad was surprised by my 20-pound-heavier frame, which even my baggiest Gap t-shirt couldn’t conceal, he didn’t say anything. We were both starving, so we took a stroll to a local trattoria, a tourist restaurant, the kind whose menu offered photos of the food and a prix fixe that included insalata mista to start and a scoop of gelato to finish. I ordered a Coca Cola Light and the spaghetti pomodoro. Despite all indications to the contrary – the fluorescent lights, the preponderance of spoken English and German, the cheesy photos – the spaghetti was perfectly cooked, the sauce rich and velvety, brightened by basil and chunks of San Marzano tomatoes. I was in love.

Ten years and many trips to Italy later, I was back in Florence and back in love, this time with my fiancé, and we were there to be married. After a civil ceremony at the Palazzo Vecchio in the sala matrimoniale, a sumptuous room adorned with floor-to-ceiling tapestries, crushed red-velvet upholstery and a chandelier as big as the bathroom in our Manhattan apartment, we held our religious ceremony and reception in a villa overlooking the Duomo. We shared then, and still share today, a love of Italian food, wine, art, architecture and language (though only one of us can speak Italian, and it’s not me).

Ten years after this, my debut novel, Georgia’s Kitchen, is on sale at bookstores and online. Though I never became a chef, or a food stylist, or a recipe tester, or a farmer (unless you count the insanely delicious Mr Stripey tomatoes growing in my vegetable garden), I wrote my first book about a chef. An American chef at a trendy New York restaurant who finds herself suddenly unemployed and unengaged, packs her knives and travels to – you guessed it – Italy.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of Leah Stewart’s Husband and Wife in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Leah Stewart and Husband and Wife. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

The Revealing of Jenny Nelson

September 09, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Early in August, Jenny Nelson debuted with Georgia’s Kitchen), described in this tempting one sentence synopsis:

A dazzling debut novel made with the finest ingredients: romance, cooking, Italy, New York, and one woman’s appetite for more.

And topped off with praise by a familiar author:

“All the right ingredients—an insider’s look at the restaurant industry, a heart–warming heroine, and a romp through Tuscany—make for a delightful and delicious book. Buyer be warned: GEORGIA’S KITCHEN will leave you hungry for more from Jenny Nelson.”
—Julie Buxbaum, author of The Opposite of Love and After You

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Georgia’s Kitchen for Monday, September 20, 2010 but, until then, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Jenny Nelson grew up in Larchmont, NY and graduated with a BA in English Literature from the University of Colorado at Denver. A former web editor and producer, she worked for companies such as iVillage, Vogue.com and Style.com. She lives with her husband, twin daughters and dog in Millbrook, NY and Manhattan. Georgia’s Kitchen is her first novel.

And now it’s time to get to know Jenny’s revealing self:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Happy, hectic, rewarding, hopeful, funny … and sometimes not.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Be your own girl (or boy). I’m constantly saying this to my twin six-year-old daughters, but it’s something we should all try to remember.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: My entire extended family (dogs included, of course) together on a sunny, summer day enjoying a delicious al fresco lunch.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Not making the most of my time with loved ones today and regretting it tomorrow.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, at sunrise.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Laura Ingalls Wilder. She was determined, spunky, adventurous and flawed and she made me want to be a pioneer girl.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Barack Obama; can you imagine having to do his job?

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: “Do you know what I mean,” “absolutely,” and “amazing.”

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
I’d love to be able to play the piano and pick out songs by ear.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Writing a novel and getting published!

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Procrastination

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m a good listener.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not learning to speak Spanish when I studied abroad in Madrid.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: One of the beautiful old elm trees looming over Poet’s Walk in Central Park. I can’t think of a prettier or more interesting spot to spend my days.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: People routinely describe me as “petite,” which is a polite way of saying short.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Lily Bart – tragic, yes, but infinitely fascinating.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Lord Voldemort

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Jesse Owens and of course I’d ask about the 1936 Olympics.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: People who clip their nails on the subway. I will get off the train and walk in a downpour rather than sit through that.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Being a mom.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Film director

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: A sense of humor, compassion, honesty

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Penne with peas, parm and butter. I lived on this when I was pregnant with my twin daughters and it’s still my ideal Sunday-night supper (though I’m not quite as liberal with the butter as I was back then!).

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Let it Loose, Rolling Stones; Either Way, Wilco; Rock and Roll, Velvet Underground; Embraceable You, Billie Holiday; Stardust, Willie Nelson

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri; In The Time Of The Butterflies, Julia Alvarez; The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald; Empire Falls, Richard Russo; The House Of Mirth, Edith Wharton

Delightful and insightful, debut novelist Jenny Nelson is someone to get to know even better by following on Twitter and becoming her fan/friend on Facebook.

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Announcement: The winners of Tanya Egan Gibson’s How to Buy a Love of Reading are Elise and ella. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and Kate your book will be sent out promptly.