Archive for December, 2012

Gift Card Give Away: Blog Hoppers, Jump HERE for your chance to win an gift card at my blog.  And now, for Eating Medieval.
I’m very excited to bring you the first episode of Eating Medieval. Today’s collaboration is with Kathy Opie, writer and cook/baker extraordinaire.  Learn more about Kathy at the end of the blog.  She and I have collaborated–and we expect to continue doing so–on exploring the world of medieval cuisine, such as Shawn, Niall, and all the medieval cast of The Blue Bells Chronicles would have experienced.  I like research, and Kathy likes cooking, so I research and send the recipes to her, and she will be preparing them, and telling us about them!
Of course, with modern ovens, controlled temperatures, and timers, the results may not be exactly as they would have been in Niall’s time.  Then, for instance, baking time (so my sources tell me) might be given in recipes as, “Bake for long enough to say fifteen Hail Marys.”  Some people say Hail Marys much faster than others, so it would be interesting to know what kind of consistency cooks then had.
For each of these blogs featuring Kathy and medieval cuisine, I’ll give you the recipe, along with her take on preparing and eating it.  I found this recipe in Fabulous Feasts: Medieval Cookery and Ceremony by Madeleine Pelner Cosman.
Here’s Kathy’s take on…
Medieval Brie Tart
1 8 inch unbaked pastry pie shell or 12 individual unbaked pastry shells I inch in diameter
1 lb brie cheese with rind
6 egg yolks
¼ tsp ginger
1 tsp brown sugar
1/8 tsp saffron (this is very expensive $20 for .03 oz which is about ½ tsp)
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp white sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
The Baking, with Kathy’s Comments
Bake pastry shell blind to harden for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. Cool. Reset oven to 375
I used my favorite pie crust recipe :
1 ¼ c flour
3 Tbs sugar
¾ tsp salt
1 stick of butter cubed into pea sized pieces
1 ½ Tbs of very cold Crisco
2/3 c ice water
Mix ingredients until grainy with hands. I find if I dip my hands in ice water they blend the
dough better. Remember not to overwork the dough or it becomes tough.
Roll the dough into a ball. Flatten the ball with a floured rolling pin on a floured flat surface like a countertop or kitchen table.
P1000428.jpgOnce you have your dough rolled out in a circle about 10 inches in diameter use your spatula to lift half the dough off the counter and on top of itself. Place the the pie pan on the space where just lifted the dough.
Lift the folded dough into the pan.
Unfold the pie crust so the entire circle of dough covers the pan.
Crimp the edges.
Bake as directed.
Remove rind from chilled cheese and cut the rind into small pieces with a moistened knife.
Set aside the brie cheese and let it sit out at room temperature for at least one hour until it
is softened.
P1000429.jpgBeat softened brie cheese, yolks, brown sugar, saffron (these spindly purplish red rare spice threads harvested from the precious Spanish violet crocus stigmas need to be crushed into a powder. I find the base of a spoon or flat of a knife works best. This spice has an aromatic exotic earthy scent.)
Beat softened brie cheese, yolks, ginger, brown sugar, saffron, and salt until smooth. Pour into
pastry shell.
Strew cut rind evenly over the surface of the pie.
Combine cinnamon with white sugar and sprinkle around pastry edge.
Bake until set and golden brown, about 30 minutes at 375 degrees. If you make individual tarts,
bake for 12 minutes or less. Serve warm or cool.
Reactions From Kathy’s Family:
P1000431.jpgEven though I told my husband and sons that saffron was the rarest of spices and the spice of kings they said it tasted like cedar decking and refused to try anymore. I had to agree it is an acquired taste.
I served the brie with homemade raspberry jam, golden apples, carrots, and assorted crackers.
And, Dear Readers, I hope that some of you will want to try this at home…yes, you may try this at home!  If you do, please come back and let us know how it went, and what you thought of it.  If you’d like to try some recipes out and have the results and your thoughts on it posted here, please write me at and I’d love to host more people.
Also on the subject of writers and cooking, I’ll throw out advanced….very, very advanced notice here about the newest project of the Maple Grove Night Writers, my writing group.  The ten of us will be putting together a cookbook compiled of recipes our characters would typically eat or prepare.  Shawn will certainly include some of his favorite barbecue recipes–although it’s important to remember that Shawn doesn’t believe in measuring.  He simply has a knack for throwing in the right amount.  Amy, having been raised in a well-off family on the east coast will have some very different recipes that she’s used to.  Niall and Allene will contribute a few medieval meals, and Hugh, who’s been living out in the forest…well, his contribution will most likely involve one of the recipes in the book least likely to be tried by readers!
Apart from my characters, there will be Lyn Miller LaCoursier’s Lindy Lewis, who travels the country one step ahead of the insurance investigator with her million dollars in a shoebox; John A. Stanton’s Buck Davies, the down on his luck diver who pursues his dream of buying a used submarine to start a tourist business but instead finds himself pursued by the navies of the world; Judith Granahan’s Ginger who will have to pull herself from her gin bottle to read the recipes she makes; Ross Tarry’s action heroes; Janet Kramer’s Maggie, who is busy searching for the Sion Grail in France; and many other characters among our twenty or so published books.
We are excited about this new adventure.  It will take several months at least, but look for the new book to be announced here and on my facebook page.  (If you haven’t, sign up to get updates.)
And now….
A Little About Kathy
Ever since I can remember, I was either grasping a pencil to scribble down an idea or a spoon to stir up something to eat.
A little something to chew on
Kathy Opie, Writer and Cook
Now that I am a “grown-up” I find the best of times are spent feeding and entertaining family and friends, gathered around the kitchen table, barbeque or picnic blanket sharing ideas, laughing at a story or even crying over some difficult news. Along the lines of “Food For Thought” I dreamed up “A Little Something to Chew on.” I hope to combine my love of writing, cooking, and discussing life with others in a blog-site where all three ideas can ebb and flow together in a beautiful and interesting art form. When you visit my site it’s like visiting your family kitchen where you’ll get delicious cooking ideas, some of my published pieces(and in the works) to mull over and read and ideas from video interviews, pictures, links and quotes that you can ponder leaving more enlightened and reflective than before.
Kathy is currently working on a book for caregivers.  Watch for further information at her site, A Little Something to Chew On, and at her Facebook Page.

Before jumping into the time travel talk, a word from our sponsors…which would be me!  If you’d like to take part in a blog hop, it’s going on at my other blog.  You’ll find the same article there, but also the entry form for my gift card giveaway and links to the more than a hundred other blogs taking part.  Good luck!

Also watch for coming posts featuring writer Kathy Opie cooking up some medieval recipes I found for her!  I’m excited about posting those!

And now…on to researching for writing time travel novels!


We’ve  asked authors Lisa Mason and Laura Vosika to talk with us about  their time travel books.

Lisa  Mason is the author of Summer of Love, A Time Travel, on Nook and Kindle,  and The Gilded Age, A Time Travel, on Nook and on Kindle. Summer of Love was a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle  Recommended Book. Locus Magazine said, “Remarkable. . .the intellect on display  within these psychedelically packaged pages is clear-sighted, witty, and  wise.”The  Gilded Age was a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book.  The New York Times Book Review called The Gilded Age, “A winning mixture of intelligence  and passion.”Visit Lisa on the web at Lisa Mason’s Official Websiteor Lisa Mason’s  Blog.

Laura  Vosika is the author of Blue Bells of Scotland, on Kindle, Nook, itunes, and at Smashwords, lauded as a book in the vein of Diana  Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and earning many five-star reviews. Nan Hawthorne,  author of historical fiction, called Blue Bells of Scotland one of her  favorite books of the year. The praise was echoed by Robert Mattos of Book and  Movie Reviews, adding that it is a must-have for the book shelves of any serious  reader. The Minstrel Boy, Book Two in The Blue Bells Chronicles is  also out. Visit Laura on the web at or

What  research did you do for the era your time traveler returns  to?

Laura: Every possible sort. I researched medieval times, Scotland, names, food,  castles, weapon(r)y; weather, temperature, and sunrise and sunset on  given days of the year in Scotland; whether the clothing in 1314 had buttons  (no), time travel theories in science and fiction. I brushed up on my classical  music and learned about the vampire of Melrose Abbey. I routinely post a  ‘Researching Today’ status on my facebook author page ( telling about the  interesting things I come across. I flew to Scotland for a two week research  trip to visit all the locations in Blue Bells of  Scotland.

I  read a number of fiction books set in the era, particularly The Path of the  Hero King, the thoroughly-researched novelization of the events leading up  to Bannockburn by the great Scottish writer, Nigel Tranter. My collection of  books on Scotland and medieval time–castles, towns, history, music, and food to  name but a few specialties–spans several shelves. A few that stand out are Robert the Bruce: King of Scots by Ronald McNair Scott, Bannockburn  1314: Robert Bruce’s Great Victory by Pete Armstrong; James the Good: The  Black Douglas by David R. Ross; and Robert Bruce and The Community of the  Realm of Scotland by W.S. Barrow.

I  also used a number of internet resources, including digging up English records  from the time online. I kept detailed charts compiling differences of opinions  among scholars.

Lisa: How did people fasten their clothes before buttons, let alone zippers?  You’ll have to read Laura’s book to find out, among many other  things!

For Summer of Love, I set out to capture the sights, sounds, attitudes, and  culture from the inside out. I started out with The Haight-Ashbury, A  History by Charles Perry, a book he worked on for eight years. From there, I  read the daily San Francisco Chronicle from June 21, 1967 to September 4,  1967 on microfiche at the Santa Rosa Public Library (the only place in the Bay  area where I could find such an archive). I acquired the gorgeous facsimile  edition of The Oracle published by Regent Press and found a complete  archive of The Berkeley Barb at the Berkeley Public Library. At Walden  Pond Books, Bibliomania, and the now-vanished Holmes Book Company (all in  Oakland) and Shakespeare & Company and Moe’s (both in Berkeley), I found  rare books such as Lenore Kandel’s infamous Beat poem, Love Needs Care by  Dr. David E. Smith who founded the Free Clinic, and Notes From  Underground. I borrowed people’s home movies, studied Making Sense of the  Sixties, which featured the famous Harry Reasoner clip, and watched Star  Trek episodes (no, I’m not a Trekkie, but that research was fun). I acquired Life and Time magazines for June through September, 1967 from  online bookstores, as well as a privately published corporate history of  Marinship for details on Ruby Maverick’s mother’s experience as a war worker  (found that gem at a military books specialist in St. Louis). I spoke with, met,  or corresponded with Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Katharine Kerr, Allen Ginsberg,  and Allan Cohen, and even spoke by phone with the late Lenore Kandel. She told  me that the bus fare in 1967 was fifteen cents (not a quarter, as I’d thought)  and that there was no Sausalito ferry operating in 1967. We shared a laugh over  the fact that her brother wrote scripts for Star Trek (she proofed the  manuscript for me and loved the Star Trek riffs). And, of course, like Laura, I  visited locations. Alas, I didn’t get a two-week research trip to Scotland. I  live in the San Francisco Bay area and visited the ‘hood, which remains  remarkably unchanged, and walked through the Portals of the Past in Golden Gate  Park.

As  for The Gilded Age, I found an entire library of books about the world  during the 1890s, the United States, and San Francisco in particular. Several  journalists in the 1930s and 1940s published detailed and lively accounts of the  City before the 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire all but demolished San Francisco.  These accounts included such classics as The Barbary Coast, The Madams of San  Francisco, and The Tongs of Chinatown. Accounts abound of the amazing Donaldina  Cameron, who rescued slave girls from the tongs and who plays a pivotal role in  my book. Fin de siècle San Francisco was already a tourist attraction in the  1890s, and I found an actual guidebook published in 1899.

But  what about those telling details?

Novels  of the period (by authors such as Frank Norris and Jack London) reveal much  about personal attitudes. At the late, great The Holmes Book Company in Oakland  I discovered recipe books by the famous chefs of 1890s San Francisco with  delicious details about food and drink. I think my favorite resources are the  facsimile editions of the Montgomery Ward and Sears & Roebuck catalogs.  There I discovered a wealth of detail about clothing, popular books, harnesses  and carriages, guns, sewing implements, patent medicines, wigs, smoking  accoutrements, makeup, children’s toys, and more. Pure heaven for the historical  researcher!

Laura: It  really is those minute details that bring a story to life, that give it the  strong touch of reality and create the suspension of disbelief. I have been  looking forward to preparing some of the food in my Medieval Feasts book.  I probably won’t go so far as to build a five-man-sized brazier–I have a bad  feeling there are city ordinances against them–but maybe I’ll time the cooking  by saying Hail Marys, as is suggested in one resource, and see how that goes!  I’m currently sampling a few of the Twin Cities’ offerings in mead. All in the  name of research of course!

Lisa: Research,  always! The  biggest, juiciest treasure trove for The  Gilded Age came in a bound volume of a newspaper, The Argonaut, for the  entire years of 1896 and 1897. There I discovered such eye-openers as lady  bicyclists and the scandals surrounding their attire (bloomers!) and how much  the Spreckels sugar baron spent a year on cut flowers ($50,000). It’s hard to  find that kind of delightful everyday detail in history  books.

Thanks to Lisa Mason and Laura Vosika for a lively and  thought-provoking discussion. If you, the reader, wish to join the discussion or  have any questions or comments for our authors, feel free to contact them. And  please buy their books!

Summer  of Love, A Time Travel,  on Nook and Kindle,  and The Gilded Age, A Time Travel, on Nook and on Kindle,by Lisa Mason.

Blue  Bells of Scotland,  on Kindle, Nook, itunes, and at Smashwords, and The Minstrel Boy, Book Two  in The Blue Bells Chronicles by Laura  Vosika.