Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tater Tots, Pickles & Jam--Oh my! Guest Author Kelly Irvin (Giveaway)

** Weds. November 6th, 1:25 PM: CONGRATULATIONS to Kay M, our giveaway winner. And thank you ALL for stopping by the blog to make Kelly feel welcome. **

A favorite author of Amish fiction, my guest today has been writing professionally for more than 30 years. She and her photographer husband have two young adult children and share their happy South Texas home with two cats and a tank full of fish. 

Wave your wooden spoons in a warm Authors' Galley welcome for Kelly Irvin 

A writer’s life imitates art in the kitchen
By Kelly Irvin

When it comes to cooking and my writing journey, it seems that life has imitated art in recent years. I write Amish fiction which, as you can imagine, involves heroines who spend a great deal of time in the kitchen, either cooking, baking, or canning. I admit, I’m not the cook in the family. My husband is a fabulous cook and he enjoys it so I “let” him. Once a vegetarian, I’m not a big fan of meat, while Tim’s favorite food group is steak and bacon, preferably as often as possible. Strangely enough, writing Amish fiction has helped us bridge the gap. It’s added a sweet new dimension to our married life.

As I began to do research for my Amish romance novels, I acquired cookbooks so I could incorporate authentic foods in my stories. The more I mused over the recipes, the more the dishes—especially the desserts—called my name. For my first launch party, I made shoofly pie and whoopie pies to serve to my guests. I used a pat-a-pan pie crust recipe from The Amish Cook’s Baking Book by Lovina Eicher with Kevin Williams. Probably the first edible pie crust I’ve ever made from scratch (and the most fun).

This summer I came across a tater tot casserole recipe in Sherry Gore’s Simply Delicious Amish Cooking. She describes it as a staple in Mennonite homes everywhere. It has most of the important food groups: ground beef, peas (we use green beans), shredded cheese, onion, celery, and tater tots. A food group all their own. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m having a long standing love affair with tater tots. I’m willing to send extra time on the treadmill in order to have them on my plate now and then. Tim took the recipe and ran with it. I love it. My kids love. Tim loves it. Now my mother-in-law is serving it to my father-in-law.

But things really took off when in one of my books, I had to describe the steps necessary to can jams and jellies. The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving landed on my cookbook shelf. Tim, like me, grew up in a house where the women folk canned in the summer. We have a good friend who has mustang grapes growing on her property. So we made grape jam. And strawberry. And raspberry. And blueberry. Give me a toasted whole wheat bagel, crunchy peanut butter, and homemade jam, and I’m in heaven.

Then Tim finagled his grandmother’s bread and butter pickle recipe from his mother. We graduated to pickle canning. He does the heavy lifting, while I help out with the simple things like washing jars or acting as a gopher. It doesn’t matter what I do (as long as I follow instructions to the T and stay out of the way when he’s on a roll). It’s that we’re in the kitchen together, working as a team. The aroma is mouthwatering and it reminds me of being a child in my mother’s kitchen. She canned tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, corn—all fresh from our garden. She and my Grandma Irene and my Great Grandmother Bertha would get together and buy a bushel each of Colorado peaches every summer and make peach jam, peach pies, peach cobblers . . . . It makes my mouth water to think of it and my heart sigh to remember being in the kitchen with them—four generations of women canning together.

It was not unlike the Amish canning frolics. Particularly when I remember how hot it was. We didn’t have air conditioning and summer in Kansas is a lot like summer in south Texas—endlessly hot and humid. The kitchen would fill with that steam floating in the air from the boiling water. We were all sweating, but we didn’t really think anything of it.

It’s not hard for me to reproduce that ambiance in the kitchen scenes in Love Still Stands. Bethel Graber has a disability and she is so afraid she won’t be able to be everything a wife and mother should be. She works out this system in the kitchen to get from the table to the stove to the counter and back without falling. She bakes pies and makes stew and learns to feel useful again. Tim and I don’t solve all our problems in the kitchen, but we are reminded we’ve been a great team for twenty-five years. We both bring our strengths to the table—or the stove—and they complement each other perfectly. 

" . . . a beautiful young woman with a passion for teaching . . .  But after being disabled in a terrible accident, overseeing a classroom is out of the question…and romance seems a long-lost dream. Bethel begins physical therapy, determined to make a fresh start. But that won’t be easy in the town of New Hope, where the locals seem anything but eager to welcome their new Amish neighbors. Amid growing intimidation from the community, Bethel must find the strength to face her many challenges and the faith to believe that God still has a plan—and a love—for her life.

Thank you, Kelly, for this delightful (and delicious) peek into your kitchen. 

And now, Wynn-Wynn Media has generously offered a giveaway to celebrate Kelly's new book:
 A copy of Love Still Stands and a very cute set of owl potholders!

For your chance at the giveaway, please leave a comment about Kelly's post below. Be sure to include your e-mail address. I'll draw a winner (via Random.Org) on Weds. Nov. 6th and contact the lucky person by e-mail. US entries only, please. 

Meanwhile, happy reading and bon appetit! 


bonton said...

Hi, Kelly, & Candace!

This post brings back so many memories for me - my grandmother, & mother, would each, buy a bushel each - of every veggie, & fruit, imaginable, it seemed, & my grandmother & I would peel, stem, break, etc. the foods, & my mother would do the canning. It never seemed to end - when I was a young girl, now - it is a pleasant memory. Memories, also, of helping my mother bake biscuits, pies, to go with the huge lunches she prepared for the men who helped my father in the crops on the farm, on which I was raised.

Thanks for the interesting post, Kelly! I haven't read any of your books, Kelly, but love anything Amish - thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of one of your books!


Between the Pages with Katrina said...

Essentially when I got married the only thing I could make was scrambled eggs. I would call my grandmother and she would walk me through everything I would fix that night for dinner. Even today when I cook, I think of her. She introduced me to canning via the phone also. Growing up we canned but I just did what was asked and never paid any attention to what I was being asked to do. I think it's wonderful that your husband helps in the kitchen. Mine does on occasions, like Thanksgiving or Christmas. I wish my daughter would take an interest in cooking, not long til she will be on her own and this would be valuable to her. I love to take recipes and play with them until I am satisfied with the results. There are times when I wish I was a little more creative though.
Kelly, your book looks really good. I like the fact that your main character has a disability but strives on.
Happy Halloween ladies.

Unknown said...

Kelly, enjoy reading about your passion for writing and baking/ canning! I am a new reader to the Amish fiction books and would love a chance to win a copy of your book Love Still Stands. ~ Blessings to you ~

Bonnie Traher said...

Always wonderful to find new recipes. Want to learn how to can.

Emma said...

wonderful post. Love Still Stands sounds wonderful.
Please me in contest .Thank you for the opportunity to win. augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com.

KayM said...

I so enjoyed Kelly's post about cooking and canning. Growing up, I spent time in the hot kitchen with my mom, my grandmother, and a couple of aunts putting foods up for the coming year. Good memories!

Cindi A said...

I just started canning a few years ago. Kelly's post brought back memories of when my mother used to can. We didn't have AC back then and the house would get so hot. Fortunately for me hubby and I have AC so it's not quite as bad when I can.

Cheri Swalwell said...

Thank you for the great post, Kelly. I'm a HUGE fan of your books and love all things Amish. I wish I canned like they do - I would have loved to be part of Amish work frolics. I much prefer doing huge jobs like that in a group of loved ones than by myself.

Thank you for this opportunity to win.

In Him,

Cheri :)

Jan H said...

I want and need the pat a pan pie crust recipe. I learned to make jam from a woman in her 90's that I was helping. She thought she could no longer make jam. I picked the fruit and brought it in. She peeled and sliced the fruit. Put a stool next to the stove and cooked it. Put it in the jars. Then the next morning I cleaned all the dishes and checked the jars. It made her so happy to do this again. She was diabetic and couldn't eat much of it. She gave most of the jars to her church for a bazaar sale. And she gave some as gifts to her friends. I miss her a lot. I am just getting into canning. I really enjoyed the interview. It brought to mind some great memories. Thank you

karenk said...


A wonderful posting...thanks for sharing. And thanks for the chance to read your novel :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

Love Still Stands sounds like a wonderful read. My mom did all that canning and pickle making too. I did until recent years, my husband can't raise a garden anymore, so we have to buy produce, I sure do miss it. Would love to win, thank you for the opportunity.

Wilani Wahl said...

Thank you for this interesting post. There is nothing like homemade jam. This book sounds so interesting. Hopefully I will win a copy.

wwchildren at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Loved this post. I would love a chance to win this giveaway. The pics made me want to get in the kitchen and how awesome that you and your husband do it together!

Karen said...

This book is so true to everyone's life. We are all trying to figure out and adapt to life with the special ways that we are made and the way we look at things. We all want to be a success at the things that we strive for. It would be very heart warming and uplifting to read about someone who figures it out and enjoys the process. Thank you for the chance to maybe get a copy of this great book.

Anonymous said...

I would love to learn how to can. Rachel

Sonja said...

Like you, I too have been collecting both Amish and Mennonite cookbooks, as well as many different cultural groups, Polish, German, Slovak, etc. One day, after I retire, I plan to cook up a storm. As for now, I will just have to drool as I look at the wonderful foods there are in the world! Would love to win this book! Sonja.nishimoto (at) gmail (d0t) com

Unknown said...

I didn't know how to cook much of anything. Tried to make gravy for my Dad once when Mom was out of town. It was lumpy & terrible, but my Dad ate it and never complained. My husband taught me how to make the gravy when we got married. I finally did learn to cook.
Thanks for a chance at winning a copy of your book.

Jackie Tessnair said...

I love this post.Thanks for sharing.I love cooking and baking.I haven't done much canning,but I hope to have the chance in the future.There is nothing more delicious than can food.This book sounds great.I would love to win and read it.Thanks for the chance.

Joan Hoffman said...

I enjoyed the post very much---love to cook! Also love to read Amish books and would be very happy to win the book---it sounds like a great book!

JoEllen McNeil said...

So nice to see a different side to our favorite authors. You can't go wrong with any of Sherry Gore's recipes.

Patty said...

I love to bake... cookies mostly. I've never actually tried a pie crust from scratch, so kudos to you Kelly for your success on that front.


Kelly said...

Fantastic interview! I just love your kitchen. I enjoy cooking and baking, but I am inbetween places right now. I am hoping to have my own kitchen this coming Spring so I can get my own goodies baking.

CandaceCalvert said...

Congratulations to KAY M. She's the winner in our prize giveaway!

Anonymous said...

I love the thought of cnnning and baking. This time of year especially has my kitchen filled with wonderful smells. I seem to bake more this time of year. My mother in law taught me how to can and I can whenever I have something to preserve. Enjoy your delicacies in the kitchen!