Thursday, 17 September 2015

Fictional Food Adventure: Interview with Jane Brocket, author of the book that inspired my challenge.

As you know, my entire Fictional Food Adventure was inspired by reading 'Turkish Delights and Treasure Hunts', a brilliant and thoughtful booky gift from one of my most treasured friends. Jane Brocket is the talented author of that book, and of many others, centered around baking, knitting, sewing and all good homely delights. 'Turkish Delight and Treasure Hunts' is actually the American version of the original British 'Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer', which is even fuller of wonderful classic children's books and recipes to explore. Jane has very kindly answered all the questions that I was eager to ask her about books and baking, so that I could share them all with you here. So, to celebrate the end of my Fictional Food Adventure, here are some lovely thoughts from Jane herself:

Jane, you are obviously a connoisseur of classic children's literature. Can you tell me what you feel is at the heart of a great classic?

I think it’s very difficult to define what makes a true classic and I also believe it varies according to each child. Some read for plot, others for character or situation, some for imagined worlds and others for reality. What every classic has, though, is an authentic authorial voice which doesn’t patronise the reader, pace because children don’t like it when books grind to a halt with ‘boring’ descriptions, characters the reader can relate to, details which make the setting easy to imagine, and children doing things on their own (there are so many absent parents in children’s classics). I always liked a good cry, too, so many of my classic classics would be weepies in places (Little Women, Little Lord Fauntleroy, What Katy Did are all of that ilk).

As a child, what books did you read over and over again?

When I was young, I was so keen to discover exciting new books and have different reading experiences that I rarely reread any books. However, I think I must have read a fair few Enid Blyton books twice because each time I was so totally swept away by the stories and they didn’t take long to get through – I seem to remember the details very clearly. So the great joy of writing Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer was having the chance to savour so many of my childhood favourites all over again, and to discover many new ones, too. 

What are your three all-time favourite children's novels from any era?

Having just said I rarely reread books, I definitely read the following more than once: 
Mr Galliano’s Circus by Enid Blyton was the very first paperback I ever read on my own and I can still recall the thrill of being swept along by the story and the details of the caravan and the catering – without any help from an adult. The book is no great masterpiece, but it was a milestone in my reading and got me started. I was also desperate to have a holiday in a tiny yellow and green caravan after this. 
I adored What Katy Did even though I completely missed the Christian redemption message. I loved Katy’s character, was horrified by her accident, and spent a lot of time wondering if I would improve and be a better person if I broke my back and was confined to bed. I also relished all the details of the American setting – so very different to Stockport where I was reading the book. 
I seem to have had a blithe lack of awareness of Christian themes because I also read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe without ever picking up on them. This is another book I romped through and had to go back through to enjoy it all over again. The idea of stepping out of the back of a big wardrobe into a different, snowy world enthralled me and I wished I could do it. Maybe this also contributed to my perennially itchy feet (and my fascination with Antarctica)?

If you could go on a picnic with any children's book character, who would it be? What do you love about that character?

Jo from Little Women. Mostly because we’d be able to lie on the grass, read books and eat apples, instead of having to do lots of energetic stuff, although I’d ask her to demonstrate how to leap a fence and applaud her athleticism. We’d talk about books, families, ambitions, life. She’d give me tips for writing and I’d give her tips for cooking (I’d also persuade her to marry Laurie). I’d love spending time with her because she’s impulsive and impetuous, doesn’t care about clothes, how she looks, or any ladylike nonsense, is affectionate and optimistic, and would always be stimulating company.

What essential provisions or treats would you take on an adventure?

I’d have a big basket or knapsack filled with bottles of home-made lemonade and ginger beer which I’d chill in a brook or hang off the back of a rowing boat, a whole loaf’s worth of sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper (fillings: cheese, ham, chicken), lots of hard-boiled eggs and a twist of salt, a large cherry-filled cherry cake, a paper bag of ripe plums, and a large bar of chocolate. There would also be somewhere to stop en route for sticky gingerbread, freshly made macaroons or a creamy ice cream.

Have you ever had a baking disaster like Anne of Green Gables, leaving a crucial ingredient out of a cake or forgetting something's on the oven?

Plenty. My pastry crumbled and refused to roll out just a couple of days ago, and I had to chuck it away and start all over again. I’ve left baking powder out of cakes made with plain, not self-raising, flour and pulled very sad, flat messes out of the oven. I’ve wrecked fudge, and made toffee which has never come unstuck from the bottom of the pan. I’ve made rock-solid plum jam which tasted disgusting, and have burned many things over the years. Finally, I realised I needed a reliable timer that I could sit on my desk or carry around the house with me so that I wouldn’t miss the oven’s beeping! 

Of all your scrummy recipes, what do you love to bake or eat the most?

Rock buns – both baking and eating. When I was growing up, real rock buns were a bit of a joke: dry, dusty, rock-hard and very unappealing. On the other hand, fictitious rock buns seemed a lot more interesting, especially when eaten at the meetings of Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven. So I always wanted to make them, to see if I could make nice Secret Seven rock buns rather than dried out rock buns. I adapted a recipe, adding glacĂ© cherries, a generous amount of nice dried fruit, and nutmeg, and using soft brown sugar instead of caster and hey presto, I got deliciously squidgy, generous rock buns. I’ve been baking them this way for years and years, and they are still my favourite quick bake, and always delicious with a cup of tea.

No comments:

Post a Comment