Seven Days of 60s Food: Beef Pot Roast

I remember hearing a joke when I was a kid: Gracie Allen’s pot roast recipe calls for a large pot roast and a small one; she puts them both in the oven and when the small one burns, the large one is done. There’s a lot we could say about this joke in terms of mid-century food ways and sexism. But after I completely overcooked a pot roast in the name of research, I think Gracie Allen should have trod on George Burns’s foot every time he repeated it.

Again, I’ll give you the recipe and then tell you what happened and how I plan to avoid it in the future.
pot roast on platter along with green beans and potatoes

Continue reading “Seven Days of 60s Food: Beef Pot Roast”

Seven Days of 60s Food: Orange Moss

“So what kind of Jello salad are you making?”

As soon as I announced this project, this was the question everyone asked. The dish people most closely associate with the 1960s seems to be Jello, preferably with lots of strange stuff in it.

The only problem was, well, I wasn’t finding many Jello recipes in the cookbooks. This leads me to a few hypotheses: one, I may have had too small a sample size and needed to do more research; two, Jello salad might have been a regional or folk thing where people developed and circulated their own recipes apart from the cookbook industry; and/or three, our historical memory about this might be off. I definitely didn’t put any Jello in Star Dust.

Regardless, the Internet filled in some blanks. If you’re interested in molding Jello, I would recommend that you read Elisabeth Lane’s post about a peach Jello mold, which was inspired by this recipe at The Kitchn, or dive into the deep end by reading the archives of The Jello Mold Mistress of Brooklyn. You’ll also need to peruse your local thrift store for some molds.

I ended up making two Jello recipes: a very weird one that did not work and a more modern one that did. You get the weird failure today.
a star-shaped jello mold filled with unset orange jello

Continue reading “Seven Days of 60s Food: Orange Moss”

Seven Days of 60s Food: Beef Carbonnades

Probably the most famous cookbook published in the 1960s is Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle. First published in 1961, it’s been intimidating home cooks for more than half a century. I’m confident that Anne-Marie would have owned a copy. And as soon as I took this project on, I knew I had to make something out of it.

I called my grandmother and asked about her memories Mastering the Art of French Cooking. What recipes had she actually used? She immediately began talking about Carbonnades a la Flamande, or beef carbonnades. So that’s what I picked.
picture of beef plated with onions and kitchen in background

Continue reading “Seven Days of 60s Food: Beef Carbonnades”

Seven Days of 60s Food: Hot Cream Cheese Canapes

a pile of cookbooks: The Joy of Cooking, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and Helen Corbitt Cooks

Sometimes, I get crazy ideas. This post–and the ones that will follow–are one such.

When Gen and I were writing Star Dust, I fell pretty hard for the world of the novel: the cocktails, the parties, the music, and the clothes. Writing the book taught me that my love for mid-century American culture is deep and long-held, so much so that it even extends to the food.

Sixties food has a truly terrible reputation for relying on processed ingredients and fat, carbohydrates, and other deliciousness that we avoid in 2015. However, while researching the book, I obtained some sixties cookbooks to add to what I already owned. In reading them, I came to feel that our view of 60s food is somewhat unfair. I can’t tell you precisely what the average family was eating for dinner on a representative night in 1962, but the story painted by cookbooks is more complicated than the stereotype.

There’s a drift toward processed foods, yes, but also meal plans that include multiple courses and several vegetables. Additionally, the way cookbook writers of the period approach recipes presupposes that readers possess varied and sophisticated cooking knowledge.

Continue reading “Seven Days of 60s Food: Hot Cream Cheese Canapes”

Odds and Ends

On Wednesday, I chatted with up-and-coming author Cobie Daniels for her romance writing podcast. The episode is out now and you can listen to it here. I sort of hate how my voice sounds on tape so I haven’t been able to get myself to listen to it; can someone tell me if I said anything mortifying? You should definitely listen to episode 4, which is a fascinating conversation with Zoe York. And I’ll be tuning in from here on out to hear about Cobie’s editing/publishing journey.

Also, Star Dust received its first review earlier this week (and I love those astronaut wives and boozy bridge parties, let me tell you). I cannot wait for this book to be out!

Toward a Definition of Historical Fiction

If you follow me on social media, or read this blog, or have been within half a mile of me recently, I probably mentioned to you that I have a book coming out in October that I wrote with Genevieve Turner: Star Dust. It’s primarily set in 1962 during a fictional version of the space race. But is it a historical romance?

In the category definitions for the annual RITA Awards, the Romance Writers of America (RWA) limits the designation of historical romance to those set before 1950. Wikipedia offers the following paragraph in a discussion of definitions in historical fiction:

Definitions vary as to what constitutes an historical novel. On the one hand The Historical Novel Society defines the genre as works “written at least fifty years after the events described”,[2] whilst on the other hand critic Sarah Johnson delineates such novels as “set before the middle of the last [20th] century […] in which the author is writing from research rather than personal experience.”[3] Then again Lynda Adamson, in her preface to the bibliographic reference work World Historical Fiction, states that while a “generally accepted definition” for the historical novel is a novel “about a time period at least 25 years before it was written”, she also suggests that some people read novels written in the past, like those of Jane Austen (1775–1817), as if they were historical novels.[4]

While writers’ organizations and scholars disagree, then, the rule seems to be that historical fiction is removed significantly from the present (perhaps 25 to 50 years at minimum) and from the writer’s personal experience. So “historical” requires temporal and experiential distance. But how much distance is necessary? And what does that distance get you?

I’ve been wondering about this while watching and rewatching Mad Men (1960 – 1970), The Americans (early to mid-1980s), Narcos (late 1970s through, presumably, the early 1990s), and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (1920s with some earlier flashbacks). RWA and The Historical Novel Society would call only Miss Fisher’s historical; the rest would be contemporary.

Except the approach in all of these shows doesn’t feel contemporary to me. The temporal remove is so important that these stories could not be told without material alteration if they were set in another place or time. So I would argue that a historical novel is one in which the settings calls attention to itself through emphasis on the differences between our contemporary world and the world of the narrative’s fashion, social mores, technology, legal or economic structure, etc. In a historical novel, the temporal remove itself is one of the subjects.

Now I’ll grant that some distance is necessary for this to be true. Have you ever had the experience of looking at a picture and realizing how “of the moment” you look in it, even when (at the time the photo was taken) you couldn’t see how the cut of those pants or the pattern on that shirt or the style of those glasses reflected trends? Give it a few years and poof, you can see style in a way that was invisible.

I’m suggesting that a writer could successfully meet my standard in a novel set in the 1990s or even the early 2000s and even when s/he is writing out of lived experience. To wit, I’m excited about this collection and Rainbow Rowell’s popular YA romance Eleanor & Park was broadly considered historical despite (or perhaps because of) its 1980s setting.

In the last analysis, historical writing seems to be defined by its thick setting and orientation toward that setting more than by its use of dates and research.

Now I’m not arguing that RWA should adopt this definition. It would clearly be unworkable for something like the RITA. But when I label Star Dust historical, that’s what I mean.

What do you think? How would you define historical fiction?

Star Dust: Opening Chapter

So you’ve seen the cover for Star Dust. It’s gorgeous and it’s about astronauts and so far so good–but what does a space-race romance really look like? Well, I’ve got the prologue and part of the opening chapter for you.

Be advised that there are a couple of adult words, a Soviet satellite, and a dangerous level of chemistry between a pair of unlikely neighbors.

Continue reading “Star Dust: Opening Chapter”

Cover Reveal: Star Dust

As promised, here is the cover for Star Dust.

cover for Star Dust. The text reads: Star Dust, Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner. It shows a couple embracing in front of the Milky Way star field.

The cover designer was none other than my amazing critique partner and co-writer Genevieve Turner (did I mention that she’s amazing?). But maybe it’s even better with a blurb:

Houston, 1962
Anne-Marie Smith wanted normal: a loving husband, two beautiful kids, and a well-kept house. But when she catches her husband cheating, she decides that normal isn’t worth it. Now in a new city with a new job, she’s trying to find her new normal—but she knows it doesn’t include the sexy playboy astronaut next door.

Commander Kit Campbell has a taste for fast: fast cars, fast planes, and even faster women. But no ride he’s ever taken will be as fast as the one he’s taking into orbit. He’s willing to put up with the prying adoration of an entire country if it will get him into space.

But Anne-Marie and Kit’s inconvenient attraction threatens both normal and fast. As the space race heats up, his ambitions and their connection collide and combustion threatens their plans… and their hearts.

The book is available for preorder at Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo (more links coming soon!). You can also add it to your Goodreads shelves, join the mailing list for the Fly Me to the Moon series, or check out the book’s Pinterest board.

I’ll put up an excerpt later today (ETA: you can now read the prologue/first chapter), but in the meantime, I can’t tell you how excited I am for the book’s release in October!

Coming Soon

image/text promo for Star Dust. it reads: dukes have curricles. bad boys have motorcycles. these guys have big rockets.

Star Dust is the project Genevieve Turner and I have been working on for a while. It’s with the copy editor and we’re very excited about it. We don’t have a definite release date, but we’re shooting for early October.

If you want to be the first to know when Star Dust is live, you can sign up for the Fly Me to the Moon mailing list. And if you want a sneak peek, check out the book’s Pinterest board.