Originally published on “Blaise the Baker” October 9th, 2014
It is with warm pleasure that I welcome Donna Cronk as my first ever “Guest Blogger”! I am so thrilled that she is here and I am so grateful that I get to call her a friend. She is talented, funny, and a great writer on so many levels. It is a joy to say… “Please welcome, Donna Cronk to my Blaise The Baker blog…”
Take it away Donna…
My thanks to Blaise for allowing me this little visit on his blog. Blaise writes a food column, Chew This! for The Courier-Times in New Castle. It appears the first and third Sundays each month, and I have the pleasure of editing and placing it in the NEIGHBORS section that I edit.
I thoroughly enjoy his work, recipes and food recommendations (DO try the strawberry shortcake at Ivanhoe’s in Upland, says Blaise. I did and think I may have visited heaven while eating it).
Getting to know Blaise has been one of the unexpected joys of 2014. Another has been indie-publishing my first novel, “Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast.” The book’s genre is women’s Christian fiction / inspirational. Tags / themes throughout cover a lot of bases: Coming home, Hoosier hometown, starting over, empty nest, decorating and running a bed and breakfast, and yes, recipes!
While there is a storyline, for sure, it seemed only natural that to tell the story of a bed and breakfast, recipes would be a natural fit.
So while the book isn’t a cookbook, per se, there are seven tried-and-true recipes, each that has meaning to me, that are planted in the story and then the recipes are in the back. Some are surprised to find the recipes and have gotten excited to see them. Others have even purchased the book just for the recipes.
The signature snack staple at the fictional inn is the sugar cookie. Innkeeper Samantha Jarrett and her sister-in-law get together monthly to make sugar cookies, cut out and decorated with seasonal or special-occasion themes. So it was only fitting that I include a really good sugar-cookie recipe, and even more fitting that I used my friend Patti Broshar-Foust’s Aunt Martha’s Sugar Cookie recipe.
Where I come from, Union County, Indiana, (Liberty), wimpy is the signature dish of the entire community! I’ve found that it is indeed a limited regional dish, that is similar (but not the same) as a sloppy joe or if you know of Greenville, Ohio’s Made Rites, those are in the same family as wimpy. The book’s recipe is called United County Wimpy. It’s fun. It’s local. It’s unique and homemade.
My mother’s signature dish was Mom’s Spice Cake and her Brown-Sugar Icing. The eggless, milkless and butterless cake is known to many food historians as a “Depression” cake (as in the Great Depression of 1929-early 1930s). However, if this is a Depression cake, it’s from a much earlier depression, I imagine. My mother would be 100 right now and the recipe was her mother’s. I would guess that the recipe is 150 years old, if it’s a day.
It’s the cake my mother took to every special occasion in her life – and mine – that required pitch-in food. It is a little dry, but I kept the ingredients as she had them and I don’t recall her cake being dry. It was perfect.
My favorite of the recipes, however, is Good-As-Gold Granola. It came from my friend Gay Kirkton who got it from her mother, who got it from a friend. I gave it this name because once I was telling Gay how delicious it is and she said, “It’s gold.” And it is.
The granola has become “my” recipe the way that all good recipes take on the personality of those who tweak them. I added and subtracted a few things to suit my specific taste (I’m not an apricot fan, for example, and I think I use more nuts than the original recipe calls for). My friends now call it Donna’s recipe because it is a popular request when a group of us take a girlfriend trip to a friend’s lake house.
My friend Cheryl K. Bennett contributed her signature Mexican Dip, and there is my sunflower-and-pasta salad.
So that’s about it for the recipes. Nothing terribly fancy or difficult; just simple, tasty fare.
While I’ve been an employed journalist for more than three decades, I never fancied myself as becoming an author, certainly not a novelist. But sometimes we surprise ourselves. Five years ago, this story came to me, and the characters just started showing up in the scenes running through my mind. It started with a comment of my husband’s that he wouldn’t mind living in Liberty – my hometown – when we retire. For some reason, the idea wouldn’t leave it, and before long, I had created a totally fictional scenario about a woman returning to her hometown and opening an inn. Of course, I had to add some drama.
The overall theme is that no matter what we go through, what trials we face, if we trust God, He will walk beside us through these troubles.
I have found this true in my own life, and I pray that you do too.
Meanwhile, consider having a look at my book. It’s available in print and for Kindle on Amazon. I love giving programs not just about the book but about the joys of a midlife bucket list.
And if you’d like an autographed and inscribed copy, I’d be happy to send you one myself. Cost is $16 (book and postage). Message me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details or to order.
Bye for now!