Interview with Alison Walsh, Author of A Literary Tea Party

If you saw my review from earlier this week about my favorite new cookbook, A Literary Tea Party, you can imagine how excited I am about today’s blog post: an interview with the author, Alison Walsh!

A Literary Tea Party

Alison Walsh first began cooking as a way to stretch her post-college paycheck, and it quickly grew into her blog, Alison’s Wonderland Recipes. Every month, Alison features a different classic novel on her blog, with a new recipe each week inspired by the Book of the Month. Currently, Alison is a mother and private tutor by day, and a wild food enthusiast by night. A Literary Tea Party is Alison’s first book.

How did you first get into baking?
I first started cooking when I graduated from college. Money was tight, so I used a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook I got for free to stretch my grocery budget. Even though it started out as purely practical, I wound up loving the cooking process. I found it really relaxing, and I loved that it could double as a creative outlet.

Are you a fan of any baking shows or other cookbooks?
I love the earlier seasons of the Great British Bake Off. Mary Berry is the greatest.

How did you choose which novels to create recipes from?
I love the classics. So for my blog, I think of what classic book I want to read, then I make a list of foods in the book as I read it. If there are enough to make a meal and I’m excited to do it, then I cook them up! For the cookbook, I created updated versions of recipes from my blog (plus some brand new ones) that I thought would work best in a tea time scenario.

Which of the recipes in this cookbook was the most fun to create? The most difficult?
The Cyclone Cookies from Wizard of Oz were fun to experiment with. They’ve got a unique look, and I enjoyed taking the time to perfect the recipe. The Turkish Delight was by far the most difficult. At first I had issues with the candies losing their shape after setting. Then my new version fused to the pan no matter what I used to grease it! I went through several variations, and I’m happy to say I love the version in the final copy. It was SO satisfying to finally figure it out!

What’s your favorite book?
That’s a tough one! I don’t know that I have one specific favorite. If I do, it’s definitely something by Agatha Christie!

What snacks do you like to keep beside you while you’re reading?
A mug of tea for sure. If I’m really on top of things, I’ll make some madeleines to go with it. If not, I have toast or Belvitas—anything I can share with the baby. He gets mad if I don’t share!

Do you have plans for any future books or cookbooks?
Nothing official yet, but I’ve got some ideas!

Now for my favorite question: If you were hosting your own literary tea party, which characters would you invite?
I LOVE this question! Jo March for sure. Then Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot…or maybe Sherlock Holmes? And Gandalf.

Thank you, Alison, for taking the time to answer these questions. If you haven’t already, please go visit Alison at her blog, Alison’s Wonderland Recipes. And look out for A Literary Tea Party in bookstores and online this week. Alison is also hosting a giveaway for her cookbook! Click here for all the details.

But before you go, tell me who you would host for your own fictional tea party? I’d love to have tea and sweets with Anne Shirley, of course, as well as Catherine Morland (I’d really just love to see her and Anne meet). I also think it would be fun to have Jules Verne or H.G. Wells stop by. The conversation sure would be interesting :)

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A Literary Tea Party by Alison Walsh

A Literary Tea Party

Tea and books: the perfect pairing. There’s nothing quite like sitting down to a good book on a lovely afternoon with a steaming cup of tea beside you, as you fall down the rabbit hole into the imaginative worlds of Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit, and Sherlock Holmes…

But Fire up your literary fancies and nibble your way through delicate sweets and savories with A Literary Afternoon Tea, which brings food from classic books to life with a teatime twist. Featuring fifty-five perfectly portioned recipes for an afternoon getaway, including custom homemade tea blends and beverages, you will have everything you need to plan an elaborate tea party.

Accompanied with photographs and book quotes, these recipes, inspired by the great works of literature, will complement any good book for teatime reading and eating.

A Literary Tea Party by Alison Walsh
Published June 5, 2018 by Skyhorse Publishing
Format: Netgalley* e-book; 160 pages
Cookbook
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Thoughts

If you are a bookworm with a particular love for classics and you also enjoy cooking and/or baking, this cookbook is for you! It is very rare that I find a new book and read it in the same day. I have a bad habit of buying great books and then sitting on them for months (or even years!) before actually reading them. But when I came across A Literary Tea Party, I could not get it onto my Kindle fast enough. I read through all 50+ recipes in one afternoon and felt so inspired to host a tea party, or just spend an entire weekend baking.

Honestly, the fact that these recipes are inspired by several of my favorite literary stories and characters was enough to get me to read it. But I also found a lot of enjoyment in making a few of these delicious recipes. I like to bake, but I am in no way a talented baker. It’s just something I enjoy doing. So I picked two easier recipes and one that was slightly more challenging, and I loved every literary-inspired moment!

The first recipe I made was for these Blackberry Lemon Sweet Rolls from A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

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This was the first time I ever used yeast to make bread (except for maybe one time during 8th grade Home Ec), and it felt complicated at first, but overall I think I did well for a novice. This recipe is kind of messy, due to the jam and sticky dough, and overall I thought the rolls were slightly dry and maybe a little dense, but that could be my fault and not the recipe’s. I will definitely be making these again sometime, because they were a good breakfast bun that pairs wonderfully with a warm cup of tea.

The second recipe I tried was also for a muffin (I should have branched out with a savory recipe, but I can’t help that breakfast foods and sweets are my favorite things to bake!), an Arctic Trail Coffee Muffin from White Fang by Jack London.

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I did take a few liberties with these, namely using french vanilla instant cappuccino mix because I didn’t have regular instant coffee mix, using pumpkin pie spice instead of a ginger-nutmeg-cinnamon combo, and adding walnuts (because I love walnuts in my baked goods). This recipe was super quick and easy, and I loved spreading the recommended maple butter on top. My son also ate his weight in these muffins for a mid-morning snack/second breakfast (he is a hobbit baby).

The final recipe I tried (at least so far!) was for Dark Chocolate Earl Gray Lavender Truffles from “The Naval Treaty” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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I’ve never made truffles before, but these were much easier than I had anticipated. This recipe calls for a whole tea bag of Earl Gray mixed with some chopped lavender buds, but I just used a Lavender Earl Gray tea blend my sister recently brought me from Portland. This tea is yummy, but can be super fragrant, so I only used about 1 1/4 tsp. of tea leaves. I probably could have used a tad bit more of the tea, since the lavender flavor was very mild, but I didn’t want to risk putting in too much and having soap-flavored truffles. These truffles were a little messy, but they came out super cute and I would love to make them again for a tea party or coffee date :)

Overall, I think this cookbook is the perfect gift for the special bookworm in your life, or something you should treat yourself to if you are a whimsy literature lover. There are some simple sandwich recipes as well as more complicated cakes and candy recipes, and even if you aren’t a fan of tea, there are tea alternatives (there is a raspberry cordial recipe I am going to make for when Season 2 of Anne With An E premieres on Netflix!). I have bookmarked at least 30 more recipes I really want to try, including some savory ones that would be perfect for the fall.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own!

WTF?!: What the French? by Olivier Magny

WTF

In France, the simple act of eating bread is an exercise in creative problem solving and attempting to spell requires a degree of masochism. But that’s just how the French like it—and in WTF, Oliver Magny reveals the France only the French know. From the latest trends in baby names, to the religiously observed division of church and state, prepare yourself for an insider’s look at French culture that is surprising, insightful, and chock full of bons mots.

 


WTF?!: What the French 
by Olivier Magny

Published August 23, 2016 by Berkley
Format: Netgalley e-book; 288 pages
Nonfiction/Travel/Humor
Also By This Author: Stuff Parisians LikeInto Wine: An Invitation to Pleasure
Author’s Website | GoodreadsAmazon
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts

This book gave me serious homesickness for France! The author is a French native and who is all too familiar with the embarrassing and frustrating cultural barriers that can happen when one visits France. Although I thought WTF?!: What the French was an enlightening and entertaining read, I’d recommend it more to people who have visited or are planning to visit France. You will probably appreciate this book much more if you can compare the author’s opinions with your own personal anecdotes.

The book is divided into 50+ short chapters, each dealing with a specific topic ranging from pop culture to food to politics. Some of these topics are comedic (and will cause you to laugh out loud more than once), while others offer insight into current political events in France.

Here were some of the most noteworthy chapters for me:

Blowing Air – If you aren’t too accustomed with French people, you may think they’re seriously annoyed when they let a small huff of air out of their mouths. Chances are it’s only mild annoyance, but it has become one of my favorite French things to imitate.

La Rando Especially where I lived in the French Alps, family hikes are common weekend or even late afternoon activities. There are plenty of small walking routes to be found, and sometimes you even discover medieval castles on your journey.

“The French like to walk around with no precise goal other than that of enjoying life.”

Ça Va & C’est Pas Possible! The two most used phrases in the French language

“Liberté, égalité, impossibilité”

The English Despite what you may have heard from friends who have visited France, French people are very welcoming and hospitable, and I’ve encountered many natives who will switch to English when they speak with you, or who will be patient and helpful when you’re trying to practice your French.

Eating Rules The 4 hour French meal is not an exaggeration!

I can’t tell you how many times I was laughing out loud while reading WTF?!: What the French. I would constantly stop to reread chapters aloud to my (French) husband, who would proceed to confirm the author’s opinion by doing the exact thing laid out in the chapter. Then we’d both laugh and talk about how much we miss our colorful & expressive France. I only wish this book had been written before I moved to la France in 2012; it would have helped me adapt to and fall in love with the culture much earlier!

Read This Book If…

…you’re a francophile.
…you are open minded to learning about new cultures.
…you’ve ever experience a culture barrier.
…you enjoy books about food and travel.

Final Musings

I will leave you with a couple of hilarious quotes from the book:

“People think of France as the country of cheese. Really, it’s the country of yogurt.”

(There are SEVERAL aisles of yogurts and pudding desserts in French grocery stores)

“Across the globe, countless people view the French as always being on strike, which is unfair. Sometimes; they are on vacation.”