Lucy Burdette on the long tradition of weaving cookbooks into the plots of mystery novels.
August 29, 2022, By Lucy Burdette
When one of my writing pals sent me a link to a vintage Key West Woman’s Club cookbook published in the 1940’s, the plot for my 12th Key West mystery, A DISH TO DIE FOR, finally took off. First, a little background. Food critic Hayley Snow and her dog find a body on the beach about ten miles north of Key West. It’s a shock of course, and she’s still reeling from the emotional fallout of her discovery when she remembers she’s agreed to help sort donated cookbooks for the Friends of the Key West Library.
When I reached this point in the novel, I’d been talking with my writing friends about struggling with the plot. I loved the opening scenes, but how did this man’s body end up on the beach, and why? And how could I weave in the food angle that is expected with a foodie protagonist? Could something about the donated cookbooks contribute to a murder solution?
Soon after our meeting, my friend Angelo sent this email, along with a photograph of the Key West Cookbook: I don’t know if this would be of any use to you, but I thought you’d find it interesting. I belong to the Historic Florida Page and this came up today. I wonder if they have a copy of the cookbook at your library? It was done by the Key West Woman’s Club. What’s cool is that the book was written out in longhand.