Guest Chick—Debra H. Goldstein

We Chicks are thrilled to have the fab Debra Goldstein visit us today to talk about her Sarah Blair series and her newest book!

The Culinary Evolution of a Character and an Author

When my first two books were orphaned by their respective publishers, I knew I wanted to try my hand at writing a cozy mystery series. As I analyzed the genre, I realized there was no problem writing a small town, amateur sleuth, or even adding a cat to the story, but I had a dilemma. Most cozies highlight cooking or crafts – two things I hate. I thought my cozy career was over before it began until I realized there had to be readers who were like me. Consequently, Sarah Blair, a woman who finds being in the kitchen more frightening than murder was born.

Sarah, who was married at eighteen, divorced at twenty-eight and only walked away from the marriage with her Siamese cat was easy and fun to write. The problem came when I was told I needed to include recipes. As a non-cook, this again was almost a no-starter until I decided to only use recipes Sarah might actually make with simple or pre-made ingredients. Because I, in my real life, often bring Spinach Pie made from Stouffers Spinach Souffle when I’m asked to bring a vegetable to a potluck, that dish found its way into One Taste Too Many as Sarah’s Spinach Pie. Looking for something comical, I found the perfect recipe advertised in 1950’s and 1960’s magazines – Jell-O in a Can.

As I was under contract for more books in the series, I had to come up with more recipes that Sarah and I could both make. Not being particularly comfortable in the kitchen, I focused on drink and hors d’oeuvres for Two Bites Too Many. The result of my efforts was inclusion of the Classic Wine Spritzer, the Howellian Catnip, and Sarah’s Sweet Potato Puffs the Convenient Way.

Until the pandemic closed the world, I envisioned being able to coast my way through the series by adapting recipes from some of my favorite cookbooks (Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cookbook, and its sequel, The Appendix to the I Hate to Cookbook, and Come for Cocktails, Stay for Supper) or that I found online. Not so. Since March 2020, I have cooked more, with the help a few days a week of Home Chef meals, than I cooked in the previous thirty-six years of my marriage.

I’ve learned to make a meatloaf that sticks together, chicken that isn’t pink when you cut into it, and a steak that doesn’t taste like shoe leather. I’ve also learned that if the digital reading on the stove reads F3, it’s on fire, while F8 means the brain has blown.

My experimentation in the kitchen and begging from friends for recipes gave me a different perspective for the recipes included in Three Treats Too Many. This time, I included recipes Sarah would make, but also slightly more complex things her twin, Chef Emily, would prepare, as well as vegan recipes the book’s victim was a success with.

In recently released Four Cuts Too Many, I went with comfort food, something I’ve enjoyed during these long months – Emily’s Egg Salad, Sal and Laurie’s Tiramisu, and Stained-Glass Jell-O. Despite this long stint becoming familiar with my kitchen, I’ve concluded that neither Sarah nor I will ever think of it without an element of fear over what disaster might next befall us or possibly poison those we love. I regret this, but Kensington, my publisher, doesn’t.

Kensington has decided Sarah and my forays into the kitchen are so funny that they’ve created a cookbook of the recipes from the first four books. It’s called Simple Recipes from the Sometimes Sleuth. You can download a copy of it for free from my website, https://www.DebraHGoldstein.com . Who would ever have thought Sarah and my culinary skills would evolve to the point of having our own cookbook?

Readers … tell us some of your culinary disasters!

Judge Debra H. Goldstein writes Kensington’s Sarah Blair mystery series (Four Cuts Too Many, Three Treats Too Many, Two Bites Too Many, One Taste Too Many). She also authored Should Have Played Poker and IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories and novels have been named as Agatha, Anthony, Derringer, and Silver Falchion finalists. Debra serves on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and is president of SEMWA. She previously served on Sisters in Crime’s national board and was president of SinC’s Guppy Chapter.

Four Cuts Too Many – Sarah Blair, who finds kitchens more frightening than murder, gets an education in slicing and dicing when someone in the culinary school where her friend teaches serves up a main corpse. Sarah soon discovers that there’s no time to mince words when it comes to finding the real killer.

29 thoughts on “Guest Chick—Debra H. Goldstein

  1. As someone else who is not much of a cook, I can relate to this. I recently had to come up with a recipe for my short story in the Festive Mayhem 2 collection, which was probably more daunting than writing the story. I went with something that didn’t need to be baked or cooked. I didn’t want to spend hours in the kitchen trying to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it if the recipe ended up not working. One recipe was hard enough. I can’t imagine coming up with enough for a cookbook!

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    1. It leaves me with a feeling of dread when I think about the recipes, but now, it has gotten fun to work some of them into the story lines. I’m glad you found something that didn’t need to be baked or cooked. I’ll have to look for it as it sounds like something I can try at home. One thing, whether a short story or a book, the recipes have to work!

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  2. Thanks for your post, Debra. Even though cooking is a hobby of mine, I feel your pain.
    Every cook has disasters. I remember layer cakes that slid in the refrigerator, curdled sauces, or serving dishes inadvertently salted twice at a dinner party. I remember one Thanksgiving where the bird came out raw in the center. Luckily, my friends and fam have mostly been kind, so I don’t get reminded of my failures. Much.
    My heroine Natalie McMasters is no chef, but she married Lupe, who is a fab cook. I don’t include recipes in my books (with the exception of cafe de olla), but I certainly could.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tom,
      I share many of your disasters – luckily they are memories now : trying to serve a raw chicken (not a turkey) to a guest I was trying to impress, a jello mold that I billed as cold soup when I served it, etc. I’m glad your heroine married a fab cook. It makes her life much easier.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I definitely relate to Sarah and you as being uncomfortable in the kitchen. I need a step 1, step 2 recipe in front of me at all times. If we host a family meal or a gathering of friends, hubby cooks. (Thank goodness, he loves to cook)
    I love your series and was drawn to it partly as I was the proud mum of 2 Siamese boys for almost 20 years. We just lost the last one in June of last year. I am so looking forward to the next in the series.
    Carol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry about your loss. 20 years of loving your Siamese boys was a wonderful time period, but never long enough. I hope the one still with you is doing well. Glad you like the series… the next book releases in June 2022 – Five Belles Too Many, but happily for those who don’t know the series, the e-book of the first book, One Taste Too many is on special now for $1.99. I envy you having a hubby who cooks. Mine is even less proficient in the kitchen than I am.

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  4. I want to thank Chicks on the Case for letting me be a Guest Chick today. It always is a pleasure stopping by this excellent blog and reading it on a regular basis — because I think so highly of all of the Chicks on the Case and their varied posts.

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  5. Ah Debra, an author after my own heart. Growing up, I was a HUGE Peg Bracken fan. I read everything of hers because I thought she was so darned hilarious, but I guess her attitude rubbed off on me as well. In my Ladies Smythe & Westin series, the sleuths (a 70-something and 20-something) steal extra food from their assisted living community buffets. They also make friends with the chef, in case they need to bring brownies or whatever for book club. Four Cuts Too Many sounds great (love the series!) and huge congrats on that cookbook.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for being here on the Chicks again, Debra! Huge congrats on your own cookbook–what an accomplishment!

    I actually enjoy cooking, but I did have to start somewhere. My mishaps usually involve devices. I totally blackened my microwave one year when I overpopped the popcorn. (Now I just use that nifty “popcorn” button.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t tried the popcorn button, yet, but last time for the first time I tried to make a fresh vegetable and noted the vegetable button. Rather than simply hitting high and a few minutes, I used it …. and well, the veggie came out good. Who knew? Thanks for welcoming me today.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Debra, I love this series — and I think it’s so fun that you have a cookbook now! (I’m impressed you can make a meatloaf that holds together!)
    I started a fire in the kitchen, but it was just that one time! If it weren’t for the soot on the wall, no one would’ve known.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At least only your family saw the soot. When I started the fire shortly after we moved into the new house, the fire alarm went off. In between putting it out, I ran from door to door flinging them open to get the smoke out so the alarm would stop (not knowing it had to cycle through). When I went back to the front door, two neighbors walking dogs, and some from across the street were in front of the house and one was walking up the walk to see if I needed help getting my husband or me out of the house. That’s one way to meet the neighbors….not one I recommend.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this so much, Debra! And although I have a degree in culinary arts and have worked the hot line in a restaurant kitchen, I’ll admit that the older I get, the more I find myself sometimes looking to Trader Joe’s frozen foods when it comes time for dinner.

    Thanks so much for visiting the Chicks today, and how fabulous about your new cookbook! How fun is that?!

    Like

    1. Not nearly as much fun as your upcoming book about the dinner you made for RBG. Can’t wait to read that! Always enjoy the diversity of the backgrounds of the Chicks….. and there is no crime sticking in a Trader joe meal :).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Ellen. I very much appreciated Kensington’s support of this not perfectly traditional (the protagonist usually can cook) cozy. I’m excited about Four Cuts Too Many and looking forward to next year’s Five Belles Too Many.
      Congrats on your new books!!!

      Like

  9. Oh my gosh, that’s great, Debra! A cookbook sparked by a protagonist afraid of the kitchen. That’s the ultimate twist! Thanks so much for visiting us today. Love your books.

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  10. Debra! We love when you visit us!

    This is all kinds of fabulous.

    Culinary disasters, you ask? How long do you have? Truth be told, they’re something of a specialty for me. I have a host of blog-worthy holiday treat tragedies. I especially enjoyed the times (note the plural) I neglected to add flour when making quick breads.

    Love the series and can’t wait to check out the cookbook!

    Like

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