Guest Chick: Mia P. Manansala & Giveaway

Jennifer here. Super excited to introduce you to Mia P. Manansala, whose debut book, Arsenic and Adobo (May 4, 2021), is getting a lot of well-deserved buzz. Filled with great food, nosy aunties, and a cute Dachshund, what’s not to love?

The role of food in a murder mystery

By Mia P. Manansala

Food and murder.

What a combination, right? Who thought to create an entire subgenre based around those two things? And yet they work so well together. Not just because of the obvious “food is necessary to life” aspect, but because food is love. Food is community. Food brings people together. And murder tends to be the antithesis to those things.

Honestly, when I first started reading culinary cozies, I was just excited to see my love of food and my love of mysteries together in a fun, entertaining package. I didn’t put further thought into why so many cozies had that theme, or how an author chose what food to describe, what recipes to include, what dishes to highlight. I mean, how could something as superfluous as a cookie recipe have any real impact on the story? Yet when I started working on my soon-to-be debut novel, ARSENIC AND ADOBO, I had to be strategic about what dishes were included and why.

I have a multiple-page Google Doc full of food ideas I want to use in future Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery books. As delicious as they all sound (and are the perfect way to procrastinate since in my case, baking = research!), only a few can make the cut. So how do I choose which to use? What importance do I assign to each dish? Here are some of the criteria I use:

It matches the season my book is set in.

Book 2 in the series, titled Homicide and Halo-Halo (tentative release date February 2022), is set in the summertime and centered around the town’s biggest festival. Because of that, I knew I needed cold desserts and barbecue/picnic-style food. Halo-halo is the Philippines’s national dessert, a delicious combination that marries shaved ice with an ice cream sundae. I had a lot of fun coming up with different ways to reimagine the flavor combinations in different forms, ie. popsicles, cupcakes, chia pudding, etc.

I can’t say much about Book 3 since I’m still in the process of writing it, but I plan on setting it around Christmastime. This means focusing on food typical of that season for Filipinos. Because seasonal food can often be tied to holidays, you not only get the yummy descriptions we all look for in a culinary cozy, but you also learn a bit about the culture and people around it.

It tells you something about the character cooking/eating it.

A lot of the Filipino food I grew up with was very meat-heavy because my mom is a picky eater and doesn’t care for fruits or vegetables (I know…). My dad catered to her tastes since he was the cook in the family and wanted to keep her happy, though he did sneak in the few veggies she’d actually eat to keep it somewhat healthy. It seems small, but it’s a way of showing love.

How people eat together can tell you so much about who they are and their relationship with each other. Does one character greedily fill their plate with food before anyone else gets a serving? Does one of them wait till everyone serves themselves before they fill their plates? Do they refill someone’s plate/glass when they see it’s empty?

In ARSENIC AND ADOBO, my protagonist’s best friend is a vegetarian Muslim. Pork features in quite a few Filipino dishes, but Tita Rosie (the protagonist’s aunt) delights in finding ways to reinvent her dishes so that everyone feels welcome in her restaurant. Meanwhile, Lola Flor (the protagonist’s grandmother) insists on doing things the traditional way. While this makes her seem inflexible, it’s also a way of showing how food is one of the few tangible links immigrants have to their motherland, and a plate of food is rarely just a plate of food.

It’s an interesting way to kill someone.

Let’s be real, this is probably one of the top reasons to choose a particular food. I mean, we are mystery writers, after all. Researching ingredients that have the potential to kill or thinking up foods that would mask the taste of the poison inside…I’m pretty sure I’m on some sort of FBI watch list, but it’s all part of the profession, right?

I’m giving away a physical copy of ARSENIC AND ADOBO to one of you lovely readers! Just let me know if you’ve ever made a recipe from a culinary cozy before in the comments section. Thanks!

The first book in a new culinary cozy series full of sharp humor and delectable dishes—one that might just be killer….

When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.

With the cops treating her like she’s the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila’s left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longganisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…

Mia P. Manansala (she/her) is a writer and certified book coach from Chicago who loves books, baking, and bad-ass women. She uses humor (and murder) to explore aspects of the Filipino diaspora, queerness, and her millennial love for pop culture. Her debut novel, ARSENIC AND ADOBO, comes out May 4, 2021 with Berkley/Penguin Random House.

Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @MPMtheWriter 

Or check out her website: 

Pre-order link:





44 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Mia P. Manansala & Giveaway

  1. So excited for your book, Mia! The only recipe I ever remember making from a book is a grilled cheese from one of Leslie Karst’s Sally Solari mysteries. And, since I’m mostly vegan, it was a modified version. But it was delicious. I’m not much of a cook, so usually I just read book recipes while wishing someone else would make them for me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Marla! I should look up that recipe since grilled cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods. And I’m a rather lazy cook, so I totally understand!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I have not (yet!) made a recipe from a book. I’ve read the recipes, I so love reading recipes! I’ve been hearing about your book for a while now, and this review has solidified my determination to get, and read it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Linda! I’m much more likely to throw together a quick sandwich or order takeout, but trying the occasional cozy recipe has been a lot of fun.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Cooking for one can get so tedious! When I lived by myself, I either had to resort to dining out, eating quick, simple things like eggs and rice/bread, or making an actual meal and having to eat the same thing every day for a week. Definitely tough.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Ooh, those definitely sound tasty! I wouldn’t have thought to put chocolate chips in a pumpkin muffin, but I’m not going to say no to chocolate 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for responding, Nancy! Sometimes I think of cozy recipes like all those fancy food magazines: fun to look at and dream about, but almost never make.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You are spot on with all those reasons, Mia. Congrats on the debut!

    I’ve made two recipes from a cozy, a tomato-basil chicken and a caramel brownie, both from the second book of Joyce Tremel’s Brewing Trouble series.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I can’t tell you how much I agree with this post, Mia! (Okay, I guess I kind of just did…)

    Food is such an essential part of what makes us human: sharing stories over a meal, showing our respect, or love (or hate) through cooking, teaching a grandchild to make your homemade pasta. And since mysteries are at their essence stories of human relations, I find any mystery story that doesn’t include food or cooking to be two-dimensional and unrealistic. (The same is true for humor.)

    So long live the culinary mystery genre!!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I tend to just skim the recipes, but I did make pecan pralines from Ellen’s Cajun Country series. I’m also having fun concocting some culinary treats for my forthcoming Night Market Mystery series (releasing in 2022).

    Congrats, Mia! Love hearing all the buzz about your debut!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ve made a few recipes from Joanne Fluke’s books, but that’s been years. And I’ve recently discovered my oven doesn’t work, so I need to figure out if it is worth trying to fix it or if I should just replace it. You know, for the once every two years I try to use it.

    I’ve read this book for review next week, and I enjoyed it. Definitely put it on your list.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Mark! I’ve actually made a few of her cookie recipes, and her E-Z lasagna is my go-to lasagna recipe. Quick and easy, just like it says. I love baking, plus I’m big on roasting veggies and things like that, so I don’t think I could survive without my oven!


  7. I’ve been lucky enough to be gifted recipe cards from one of my favorite series and authors- Cleo Coyle. I’ve certainly used a few, and every single one was out of this world! I’m not really a cook anymore because I’m also down to just me. I’ll bake for a special occasion, and for Christmas, my Mom and I still make our traditional Hungarian Kiffles and Nut Roll. I plan to include similar recipes to our family’s “secret” Kiffle and Nut Roll recipes if ever I’m published. With our true recipes, you either need to be born or married into them. 🙂 They come straight from generations ago right from Budapest. Top secret stuff, ya’ know. LOL.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Cleo Coyle’s Coffee Shop series is my mom’s favorite! I’ve only read the first few and need to catch up. Your recipes sound so intriguing! Have you checked out Julia Buckley’s Hungarian Tea House Mystery series?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Mia!!! I am SO excited about your book. I’m a Chick, plus I already ordered it, so count me out of the giveaway. I can’t wait to take a stab at some of your recipes. And yes, I have made recipes from cozies besides my own. One was a total #epicfail. But the good news was I realized I’m not the only person who left an ingredient out of a recipe in one of my cozys. #epicfailonme

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’ve made several of Joanne Flukes, and one each of Joyce Tremel and Julia Buckley. I may have tried more because I always read the recipes and have saved some on the computer or kept the books. Thanks for the chance. Stay safe and well.


  10. Yay! Mia, so happy that you’re visiting us today–thank you. What a thoughtful and engaging post. Love the image of your dad sneaking in some veggies. Yes, that’s love.

    I am super-excited about your series and cannot wait to read this book. CONGRATULATIONS!!


  11. Mia, I’m super excited about your book and love, love the cover! I don’t try recipes from too many of the cozies I read. But, there was a little Filipino restaurant across from where I worked that I loved. Their lumpia was my go-to on deadline days! So I look forward to checking out your recipes! Thanks for visiting with the Chicks today!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Mia, I’m so thrilled you’re here and that your debut is out in the world in a few short days!

    I absolutely love everything you said about the importance of food not just in culinary mysteries but in our lives. So beautiful and so true! I can’t wait to try one of your recipes in my kitchen. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Mia, just loved this post, and I simply cannot resist any books or movies with an auntie network (I have always wanted one). Not to mention…food. My apologies for being late to the party, but I have brought more lumpia! Oh, and I made a delicious coconut cake from Lucy Burdette’s Key West Food Critic series. Usually my culinary creations taste good, but look…terrible. I was very proud of that cake, though. Yum. Congrats again on your amazing debut, and thanks for visiting us Chicks!


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