Yesterday, I reviewed A SOFT PLACE TO LAND by Susan Rebecca White. I enjoyed this novel about the bond between two sisters whose lives forever changed because of a horrific accident. I thought the story was compelling and the writing was very good.
I am so happy to welcome the author of A SOFT PLACE TO LAND, Susan Rebecca White, to Booking Mama. She has written a guest post about books, book clubs, and food which is guaranteed to get you thinking about what you'll serve at your next book club meeting.
Since the publication of my first novel, Bound South, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting dozens of book clubs around my hometown of Atlanta. And now that my second novel, A Soft Place to Land, has been published, I’ll be visiting even more. The great thing about book clubs—besides the obvious fact that it’s fantastic that folks get together to talk about reading—is that they often meet around suppertime, which means I almost always get fed.
I’ve learned to arrive hungry. I’ve been served a lot of southern menus in honor of Bound South’s Georgia roots. I’ve enjoyed everything from pimento cheese, deviled eggs, and cheese straws to fried chicken, collards and macaroni and cheese. One club served Paula Deen’s banana pudding, the one that uses Pepperidge Farm Chessmen Cookies instead of vanilla wafers. (I helped myself to two servings.) Another had Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches, which many southerners would take for communion if given the option. Other meals of note were a savory arroz con pollo, made by a man whose family was from Puerto Rico, and an authentic country captain—a sort of low-country chicken stew garnished with crushed peanuts, currants, and shredded coconut.
One club I visited gave me a bottle of Knob Creek bourbon, because the characters of Bound South were always knocking back the stuff. While the gift of bourbon was a (delightful) rarity, one (equally delightful) offering is a near constant: I am almost always served brownies at the end of the meal. This is in homage to the triple-chocolate brownies Louise Parker—the heroine of Bound South—is known for. How lovely and amazing. I think of this as the Field of Dreams phenomenon of writing: If you describe it, someone might cook it for you.
My new book, A Soft Place to Land, tells the story of two sisters, Ruthie and Julia. As a little girl, Ruthie loves to prepare and serve food, and when she grows up she becomes a pastry chef. Her signature dish is named “Elvs” in honor of Elvis Presley’s favorite foods, minus the mayonnaise. An “Elv” is made of homemade peanut butter cookies, filled with roasted banana ice cream, the sides of which are then rolled in crushed bits of caramelized bacon. Absurdly decadent, these ice-cream sandwich cookies are a big hit in Ruthie’s restaurant.
There’s no recipe for Elvs that I know of; they are just the literary manifestation of a craving I once had while writing. This happens to me a lot. I’ll get hungry before I’ve finished my 1000 words for the day, and I’ll start going on about food. When describing Little Elvs I was probably thinking about the fantastic phatty cakes (ginger spice cookies sandwiching a mascarpone filling) served at Cakes & Ale restaurant in Decatur. Or that crazy good dessert I once had at Woodfire Grill that involved caramel, bacon, and roasted bananas. Maybe Elvis was even referenced in the name of that dessert?
I really love cooking, so I bet someday soon I’ll be rolling out little balls of peanut butter cookie dough, and pressing each ball down with the tines of a fork before baking to make the two ends of a Little Elv. Or maybe, if I’m really lucky, I’ll be witness to a sweet incarnation during an upcoming book club visit. Is it preposterous to hope that the host of a book club will make a Little Elv for me? To prove once and for all that Elv Lives?
Susan Rebecca White is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Bound South. Born and raised in Atlanta, she spent many years in San Francisco before returning to her hometown, where she teaches creative writing at Emory University. She lives with her husband, the writer Alan Deutschman.
A huge thanks to Ms. White for her guest post. If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.