Food can be central to a novel – to interactions, to evocations of scenery. Some writers, however, focus their attention on other details. Amongst them, Jeffrey Eugenides, author of Middlesex (one of my favorite books), and of my book club’s January pick: The Marriage Plot. I volunteered to hostess and cook for our meeting this month, and I was having trouble coming up with a thematic dish. If we’d been doing dress-up, Eugenides’ discussion of 1980s Betsey Johnson would have been a perfect stepping-off spot. For food, though, I wound up resorting to location, and taking inspiration from two major settings: New England and Calcutta. I found a recipe for indian pudding with apples in Rain, Hail, and Baked Beans – a 1958 “New England Seasonal Cook Book.” To this classic, I added spices inspired by a Bengali apple chutney recipe; I made an Indian indian pudding.
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I’m starting this new year out with an old recipe. Well, to be clear, this recipe is old to me, since I made it for my pie party in October, but new to the world, since it’s an original concoction. Again, though, that’s not quite accurate – it’s actually a brand new combination of two very traditional recipes: raised pork pie and scrapple. I tossed a few apples into the mix…and came up with scrapple-apple pie.