The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook: Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For
Edited by Kate White
Review by Gayle Surrette
Quirk Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781594747571
Date: 24 March 2015 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
First, let me explain that I love cookbooks. I buy them for the recipes, but I also enjoy just reading them, the artwork, photos, and design. I swear that while reading a recipe is not as good as actually tasting the dish, it comes pretty close when you're dieting. I am currently trying to lose weight so reading recipes fills a gap for me.
The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook is lovely. It's got a nice solid textured cover and even has a gold ribbon to mark a recipe you want to try, or to hold your place in case the book closes in the middle of putting a dish together. Contents are broken down into the usual sections: Breakfast, Appetizers, Soups and Salads, Entrees, Side Dishes, and Desserts, and Cocktails, Metric Conversions, and Index (by both the author who submitted the recipe, and the recipe itself).
Being put together for the MWA it has a very noir-ish feel to it. The section headings have an old fashioned typewriter with a clever play on the section title as campy mystery tie-in on a black background with white lettering for list of recipes found in the section. The recipes themselves are on a creamy background with dark lettering. Each recipe has a short section explaining how or why the author chose the recipe or a short bit about the character they write about or even a short scene with their main character and food.
But the real value of a cookbook is, is it usable? Can a reader follow the directions? Are they clearly written? Are there any gotchas? Does the resulting dish look anything like the photo (if there was one) and does it taste good? Well, to test that I made two of the recipes and my husband made one.
The first recipe that I decided to make was Frankie Y. Bailey's Whole Wheat Wild Blueberry Lemon Pecan Muffins. I happened to have all the ingredients available so decided to give these a try since I love lemony blueberry muffins. As I said, I'm dieting, so I did a couple of substitutions (egg substitute instead of egg and soy milk instead of skim milk) and I also left off the icing (couldn't take the calories). Now I expected that would significantly change the muffins. However, they came out light, moist, and delicious. I imagine they'd be terrific with the icing but they still had a lemony flavor along with the blueberries. The directions were very easy to follow.
Next I tried J.T. Ellison's Avgolemono. It's a chicken lemon soup. I've looked at other recipes for this but they were fairly complicated and required ingredients that I didn't have handy. This one was relatively simple and the results were fantastic. I think I've found a new winter soup to make up frequently in cold or dreary wet weather. Directions were again very clear and offered helpful hints to make the final result come out perfect.
My husband decided that Felix Francis' Beef Stroganoff would be a change from his usual stroganoff recipe. This recipe was set up a bit differently but it came out terrific. Hubby calls it a perfect date dish -- easy to make and serves two. So, we made it a special date night meal. Again, a dish that will be a family favorite.
I'd say this is a cookbook well worth having. The dishes are simple but look great and taste good even if you substitute ingredients. (Remember you must substitute a comparable ingredient.) It also give readers some insight into the favorite author's or character's interest in or relationship to food. As an added benefit, the Introduction says that the "proceeds from the sale of this book go to MWA" so it helps the organization that helps writers of your favorite genre.