June 17, 2020
Dear Book Lovers!
Happy Guest Writer Wednesday! I hope you are hungry today because Guest Writer Ellie Alexander is talking to Mr. Hemingway about the importance of truly listening, passing down recipes from generation to generation, and memories made in the kitchen with those you love. Ellie is the queen of writing cozy mysteries. She wrote The Rose City Mysteries (Kensington Books) about a budding floral artist and the Pacific Northwest Mysteries (Kesington Books) about an aspiring journalist under the name Kate Dyer-Seeley. She also wrote The Sloan Krause Mysteries (St. Martin’s Press) set in the Bavarian-themed paradise of Leavenworth, Washington, and The Bakeshop Mystery Series (St. Martin’s Press), which not only includes murder but fabulous recipes too 🤗🤗. Both of those series were penned under Ellie Alexander. When Ellie isn’t writing, you can find her in her kitchen whipping up something delicious to eat or on a nearby hiking trail, burning off all the wonderful sweets she bakes. I hope you enjoy her letter to Mr. H. I know I did!
P.S. Be sure to check out Ellie’s website for all her books, recipes and more.
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
Of the many things one could glean from your writing, I think the most important gift you taught me is summed up in this oh-so-wise quote: “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”
There is no greater gift than listening. It’s in the silence and the leaning in that we learn, connect, and begin to gain understanding.
Listening for me began in the kitchen. The kitchen was a place of happy laughter and banter, whirring mixers, and storytelling. The kitchen was a space for gathering and lingering. While the living room and dining room might have had more seating and comfortable resting spots, the kitchen always took center stage. That was thanks in large part to my mom’s belief in buttercream and her ability to listen. While she slathered homemade chocolate cakes with copious amounts of fluffy buttercream, she would ask leading questions, and hold the space for me to be heard. She imparted her wisdom during baking sessions where she taught me to knead pie crust, cutout sugar cookies, and fold egg whites for the perfect soufflé.
Her baking style mirrored her personality—easy going and infused with fun. Her cakes were often lopsided. They might not be Pinterest or Instagram-worthy today, but they tasted divine and they were handcrafted with love. The cookbooks of my youth were Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book and Hershey’s 1934 Cookbook, both passed on from her mother. Now they reside on my kitchen counter, splotched with stains from the generation of bakers who came before me. The gift of these cookbooks is so much more than recipes for chocolate cream pie, jam thumbprints, wagon wheels, or coconut lemon bars. Although, those classic gems still find their way into my baking routine. But, the well-worn pages of my mother’s cookbooks serve as a reminder that food is a love language. The important conversations and the everyday conversations take place in the kitchen.
There’s a slowness about spending an afternoon pressing dainty spritz. I didn’t fully understand the magnitude of that magic until after my mother and grandmother died. I’m living their legacy every day. We think of legacies as something grandiose, but I’ve discovered that the most lasting memories come in the form of sweet little packages—my grandmother’s Parker House Rolls, my mom’s almond raspberry shortbread. The women who formed me live on with each cracked egg and stick of butter.
My cookbook collection has expanded over the years, but I treasure my Betty Crocker and Hershey’s cookbooks the most, especially as my teenage son has started his own journey into baking. We blast Pentatonix as he tackles lemon tarts with Swiss meringue. Now it’s my turn to listen. I ask him leading questions, I lean into the silence, giving him space to speak when he’s ready. I understand the significance of baking together. This time we have in the kitchen is fleeting. Soon he’ll be off to college and stocking his own cupboards with vanilla bean paste and cornmeal. But, that’s okay because we’re continuing the tradition, I’m passing on family stories, and learning his one snickerdoodle at a time. As for the cookbooks, they’ll be waiting for him when he’s ready.
Wishing you many leisurely days spent listening.
Click on the updated versions of Ellie’s favorite cookbooks to purchase.
Click on Ellie’s book below to purchase the first book in her Bakeshop Mystery Series!