As I've often said, I'm a frequent eater—but I'm a frequent cook, too! In fact, I spend more time in the kitchen than I do in the dining room. I remember, when I was only four, begging my mother to let me help her make dinner. She was a gifted cook who never let a recipe get in the way of being creative; not surprisingly, working in the kitchen (and enjoying it!) is part of my family heritage.
I think it's fair to say that, thanks to my mother, I became profi cient at cooking over the years. Good thing, too—in high school, the cooking part of Home Economics was all that got me a passing grade. I'm a terrible seamstress, so my ability to cook saved me from a certain F. (Who knew there were so many incorrect ways to sew in a zipper?) In the days before the many cookbooks now available—cookbooks for every conceivable type of cuisine and diet and specialty—recipes were often preserved on index cards. My mom had several small green boxes stuffed with them. And after her death I found a notebook in which my grandmother had written down recipes and cooking hints she felt her daughter (my mom) should have when she left home. I savored every word and learned cooking hints I still use. For instance, I discovered how to gauge when bean soup has simmered long enough to reach its maximum fl avor. According to my grandma, Helen Zimmerman, you can tell by the aroma. As a thrifty and inventive cook, she also had lots of suggestions for substitutes and alternative ingredients, and different spices to try in particular recipes.
Like my mother, I've collected recipes all my life—and yes, I have the same small green recipe boxes crammed with carefully handwritten notes that date back to my grade-school days.
Years ago, I chose some of those recipes and created my own envelope-size recipe booklets as a thank-you gift to my loyal readers at Christmas. In return, readers sent me their own favorite recipes. This was my fi rst venture into cookbook publishing—but not my last!
You may have noticed that meals play an important role in all my stories. This is certainly true of earlier series like "Midnight Sons" and "Heart of Texas," as well as the Blossom Street books. But cooking and preparing meals, and sharing them with family and friends, is perhaps most signifi cant in my Cedar Cove series.
If you've read any of these stories, you'll recognize Charlotte Jefferson Rhodes. She's known and loved by just about everyone in town. Not only that, her reputation as a superlative cook is well-deserved.
In this book, Charlotte's going to take you on a tour of the kitchens and dining rooms of Cedar Cove. She'll share her best recipes, including those she was given by members of her family and her many friends. She's also going to fi ll you in on what's been happening with the people in town—her daughter, Olivia Griffin, her granddaughter, Justine Gunderson, Zach and Rosie Cox and Grace Harding, to name a few.
Like Charlotte, I believe that food is central to the important relationships in our lives. Serving a meal is probably the ultimate expression of hospitality and friendship, and a good dinner sustains us in more than just the obvious ways. For me, for Charlotte—and, in fact, for most of us—the preparation of food is associated with enjoyment, comfort, love
While sharing food is a social activity, sharing recipes can bind us with others, too—with friends and perhaps especially with our families. It's about forming and nurturing traditions, which help us create a sense of continuity from one generation to the next.
Quite a few of the recipes I use today came from my mother and grandmother—recipes I've passed on to my own children. Just as some of Charlotte's recipes come from her mother and were passed down to her daughter, Olivia, and now her granddaughter, Justine….
Justine, who's opened a tea room in town, has asked Charlotte for recipes and menu ideas, hoping to make her restaurant as wonderful as a visit to the fragrant kitchen she remembers from her grandmother's home. Happy to comply, Charlotte has collected her favorite recipes in this book. You might recognize some of them from scenes in the Cedar Cove stories.
Ultimately, the genesis of this cookbook is my readers' requests for these very recipes, the ones I've mentioned in the novels. My goal is always to give you a satisfying reading experience—with something extra. I like to describe myself as a "value-added" author, and this cookbook is one way of offering you that extra value. So are Charlotte's introductions, in which she reveals her insights about the people of Cedar Cove, and her personal comments on various recipes.
Please join Charlotte and everyone in town for lots of delightful adventures in cooking and dozens of memorable meals. I hope these recipes will be as treasured in your family as they are in Charlotte's (and in mine).
It's a privilege to share my own "kitchen heritage" with you—a heritage of good food and good times.
Happy reading… and happy eating!