My favorite kind of research is first-person, up close and real (with the obvious exceptions of being murdered and riding in the back of a police cruiser). I’d rather walk the streets of a city or village than do online or book research; I’d rather eat the food of a particular region or culture than leaf through a cookbook; I’d rather go kayaking in the ocean than watch someone else do it.
In-person research brings a feel to a book that can’t be faked. What does it smell like inside an Irish pub? How does the humidity in South Carolina feel against your skin? What color is the St. Lawrence River on a cloudy day? You can imagine these things, sure, but if you’ve experienced them firsthand you can add layers of realism to your stories that pump up the richness of your words.
When I go on a trip one of my favorite things to do is sample the regional cuisine. If possible, I try to take a cooking class to learn more about local foods and meet area residents. One of my favorite vacation memories is a trip our family took to Ireland. My husband gave me a birthday gift of a cooking class in a Norman-style castle (bonus: he entertained the kids that night). I met a handful of locals and got the opportunity to talk to them for several hours. We talked about everything: food vocabulary in different parts of the world; where to get the freshest langoustines and mussels; and how ridiculously easy it is to make your own vanilla extract. We all cooked, then ate, a meal together. It was unforgettable (in a good way).
There was also a decidedly un-British meal in London that was unforgettable in a bad way, but I digress…
By now you’ve figured out that food is important to me and it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I like to include local dishes in the books I write. My next release, Highland Peril, is no exception. One of the main characters, Seamus, is a great cook and he sources his food locally when possible. He loves to cook fish, potatoes, soups, root vegetables, beef, and chicken. He also makes a mean cranachan, which is a raspberry/oats/whisky/honey/cream creation that has to be tasted to be believed.
One of the most iconic foods of Scotland (and one of my favorites) is shortbread. Seamus uses the recipe below—it’s easy and delicious.
So next time you’re on vacation, whether it’s in Mississippi or Canada or Alaska or right up the road, be sure to sample some of the local foods. Like them or not, they make great memories.
2 c. flour
2 T. cornstarch
1/3 to 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. butter, at room temperature
1 t. cool water
Combine flour, cornstarch, and sugar in a medium bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and use your hands to rub the pieces into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly and resembles tiny peas. Mix in the water.
Pat the dough into an ungreased 9×9” baking dish, smoothing the surface to make it even. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Using a fork, prick the shortbread surface at least 12-15 times. Put the baking dish on a baking sheet before placing in the oven. Bake until golden, about 45 minutes. If the edges are browning too fast, cover them with strips of foil
When the shortbread is almost cool, cut into 16-20 squares and remove from the pan to cool completely.
These will keep at room temperature for 10 days, and they can also be frozen.
Recipe adapted from The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook (1997).
HIGHLAND PERIL/AMY M. READE
Pub Date: September 5, 2017
Genre: Mystery, Women’s Fiction
Trading the urban pace of Edinburgh for a tiny village overlooking a breathtaking blue loch was a great move for budding photographer Sylvie Carmichael and her artist husband, Seamus—until a dangerous crime obscures the view . . .
Sylvie’s bucolic life along the heather-covered moors of the Highlands is a world away from the hectic energy of the city. But then a London buyer is killed after purchasing a long-lost Scottish masterpiece from Seamus’s gallery—and the painting vanishes. As suspicion clouds their new life, and their relationship, Sylvie’s search for answers plunges her into an unsolved mystery dating back to Cromwellian Scotland through World War I and beyond. And as she moves closer to the truth, Sylvie is targeted by a murderer who’s after a treasure within a treasure that could rewrite history . . . and her own future.
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Amy M. Reade is a cook, chauffeur, household CEO, doctor, laundress, maid, psychiatrist, warden, seer, teacher, and pet whisperer. In other words, a wife, mother, and recovering attorney. But she also writes (how could she not write with that last name?) and is the author of The Malice Series (The House on Candlewick Lane, Highland Peril, and Murder in Thistlecross) and three standalone books, Secrets of Hallstead House, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and House of the Hanging Jade. She lives in southern New Jersey, but loves to travel. Her favorite places to visit are Scotland and Hawaii and when she can’t travel she loves to read books set in far-flung locations.
Author Blog Post: www.amreade.wordpress.com
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Amy-M.-Reade/e/B00LX6ASF2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8189243.Amy_M_Reade
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