I opened a book the other day written by an author I had wanted to be introduced to…Susan Wiggs. Her novel The Apple Orchard was as light and airy as sponge cake and chock full of warm sunshine, which I greedily soaked up.
Included within the pages I discovered various tasty recipes rolled by the writer’s hand directly into the story. As the novel I am currently writing is loosely entitled Lavender & Lace, I immediately latched on to the Lavender Scones. The scones initiated visions of a covered porch with a table draped in linen and lace. The plates set on the table were old, but sturdy, patterned with my love of blue and white china. The cutlery was well-used, mismatched sterling silver with ornate swirls that fingers could easily slip around and hold. As the weather was warm and the breeze lazy as I read, I pictured a glass jug of iced tea on the table beside the scones, its surface beaded with drops of moisture running down the sides.
As I drifted through each page of Susan’s novel, another character offered up some savoury focaccia bread. This particular treat was most welcomed as the next book on my reading list was promising to take me to family gatherings, on cozy porches, of a small town in the south of Italy.
Characters found within the many book pages we absorb can tell us much about our own desires, they are little reminders of dreams that perhaps we have ignored for far too long, or even worse, forgotten entirely. Books remind us of who we could be, if only we would take the time to listen.
In The Apple Orchard, the main character Tess Delaney, realizes her dream when she opens her own shop towards the end of the novel. Tess had for years ignored what she needed, what she really wanted out of life, in order to protect herself from failure and loss.
When she finally flings open the doors to her store, Things Remembered, “there were some fine antiques, but they were mixed in with vintage items, soaps and candles, crafts from local artisans, anything that caught her fancy.” That is what I want to do, I thought as I devoured each written word, that’s exactly what I have always dreamed of doing!
It stirred my imagination to see another one of my dreams on paper, much less in a novel that I have enjoyed. I love these unexpected reminders, they are my personal wake up calls that nudge me to pay more attention, to plan more, and to always remember where it is that I want to go.
No wonder I love to read!
Recipes compliments of Susan Wiggs and The Apple Orchard:
2 cups flour
½ cup rolled oats
1-tablespoon baking powder
½-teaspoon baking soda
½-teaspoon tea salt
1 ½ tablespoons lavender flowers, fresh or dried
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup honey
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter and add lavender. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour in the egg, honey, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir just until combined. With floured hands, pat the dough into a round about 1 inch thick and cut into eight wedges. Bake scones for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve with butter and honey.
Grape and Rosemary Focaccia
Makes 8 servings
5 to 6 cups flour
1-tablespoon instant yeast
2 cups warm water
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups green, red and/or black grapes
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (1 teaspoon dried)
Stir together 3 cups of flour, and all of the sugar, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl, then add the water and mix together with a large wooden spoon. Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured board and knead while gradually incorporating more flour into the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a dry cloth. Let rest in a warm place until the dough has doubled, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 425 Fahrenheit.
Pour all but 2 tablespoons of the olive oil onto a 12-by-16 ½ inch baking sheet. Lift the dough from the bowl and gently stretch and press it to fit the pan. Drizzle the dough with the remaining olive oil and dimple the top of the bread with your fingertips. Press the grapes onto the dough evenly all over the bread, leaving about 1 inch between grapes.
Sprinkle the bread generously with the chopped rosemary and coarse salt.
Bake the focaccia until it is a nice crisp brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cut with a pizza cutter into squares. Serve warm with cheese and butter.