From a cyanide-laced cocktail to a soothing cup of teeth and a biscuit (the British kind, of course) after a long day at the office, food, drink, and crime fiction are intertwined. Miss Marple, one of the genre’s most recognizable heroines, is estimated to have consumed a whopping 143 cups of tea over the course of 12 Agatha Christie novels and 20 short stories. This is just one of the delicious factoids you can learn in The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, edited by Kate White, and featuring a selection of dishes—and drinks—from some of the biggest names in the mystery world. And if that doesn’t quell your appetite, be sure to check out Cooking with Crimespree, edited by Jon and Ruth Jordan, the editors of the popular Crimespree magazine. Here are six tasty treats to whet your appetite. They’ll taste even better if you read the contributing author’s book while you’re eating.
Ellie Hatcher‘s Rum-Soaked Nutella French Toast
Alafair Burke (MWA Cookbook)
Burke’s NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher is a brilliant cop but, as Burke puts it, the “closest she comes to cooking is ordering takeout or dipping her spoon in an ever-handy jar of Nutella.” This decadent breakfast, which also indulges Ellie’s penchant for drinking, might be a bit too labor intensive for the character but it’s perfect for readers who want to hunker down with the Hatcher series on a lazy Sunday.
Richard Castle (MWA Cookbook)
Richard Castle, the fictional mystery writer played by Nathan Fillion on the hit ABC show Castle, admits that “pancakes equal love” when it comes to wooing his beloved Detective Kate Beckett. Known more for his outrageous theories in the squad room than his culinary prowess, Castle nonetheless offers up a breakfast recipe he promises will seal the deal. “The only times I’ve ever wanted to make pancakes,” he says “have been when I wanted to cheer up someone I love.” And things seemed to have worked out quite well for Castle and Beckett.
Panicked Writer on a Deadline Taco Soup
J.T. Ellison (Crimespree Cookbook)
Even non-writers can related to this: “Pulling your hair out? Wishing someone else could stop and make dinner?” Ellison, author of the Tennessee-set Samantha Owens series, outlines a quick and easy 30-minute meal that’s perfect for a writer on a deadline (or anyone else who’s too tired after a crazy day at work to think about cooking something more elaborate). “It’s a go-to meal,” says Ellison, “when I’ve been writing all day and forget to make dinner. And yes, that happens a lot.”
Kinsey Milhone‘s Famous Peanut Butter & Pickle Sandwich
Sue Grafton (MWA Cookbook)
Grafton and her landmark series featuring female PI Kinsey Milhone began in 1982 with A is for Alibi (the latest installment is W is for Wasted—do you see the pattern?). Milhone, besides being a whip-smart detective, is a rabid fan of peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. “I should point out,” says Grafton, “that Kinsey eats more of these than I do since she’s (almost) entirely fictional and doesn’t gain weight.” The recipe makes one thing clear: no substitutions. Real peanut butter and real Vlasic Bread & Butter Chip pickles must be used, otherwise you’re not eating an authentic Milhone sandwich.
Lou Berney (Crimespree Cookbook)
Sometimes it’s best to get right to the point, as Berney (The Long and Faraway Gone) does with this salmon recipe. First lesson: use high-quality ingredients (olive oil, sea salt, etc.) because “Anything else, you might as well rub that beautiful piece of fish on your ass and stick it in the microwave.” Don’t do that. There are some things that should be instinctual, according to Berney: “Grill the salmon flesh-side down for about eight minutes or so. It depends–how thick is the piece of fish, how hot is the grill? Use your brain. I can’t come to your house and hold your hand.” If this recipe tickles your fancy, be sure to check out CJ Box’s Elk Chili Con Carne later on in Cooking with Crimespree. It starts with these simple instructions: “Well, first you need to shoot an elk.”
Scott Turow (MWA Cookbook)
There’s nothing like a lawyer telling you exactly what you’d need to kill someone and then providing you with a recipe that just so happens to use those ingredients. It’s even better when that lawyer happens to be Scott Turow, author of Presumed Innocent. He might be the only author-chef to use the word “allegedly” in his recipe description: “In Innocent, my sequel to Presumed Innocent, the murder victim is allegedly killed by a lethal combination of a drug called phenelzine, an MAO inhibitor, which has a toxic reaction when consumed with sausage, aged cheese, yogurt, and red wine. Bon appétit!” (Note: while his frittata recipe does call for salami, aged Parmesan, and plain yogurt, you’re on your own with the phenelzine.)