FICTION IN THE (WHITE HOUSE) KITCHEN

Food and fiction go together like ham and eggs. And especially food-based mysteries — as the following authors so aptly show: Phyllis Richman, Susan Alpert, Miranda Bliss, Nancy Fairbanks, Ellen Hart, J. B. Stanley, and Diane Mott Davidson. Elliott Roosevelt, the son of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, wrote a mystery with the title of The White House Pantry Murder. “The Menu in Modern Fiction,” by Edna Kenton, published in The Bookman in November 1910, indicates that food in fiction is not a new idea. Far from it.

However, we can take solace in the fact that food in fiction continues to fascinate, with many new treats constantly cropping up.

Try something new and different this winter, for the locale, at least! I don’t know what it is about the White House and crime, but author Julie Hyzy takes a leaf from Margaret Truman’s mysteries and sets her burgeoning White House chef series in the nation’s executive mansion. So far there are two titles: State of the Onion (paperback, January 2008) and Hail to the Chef (December 2008, paperback).

A synopsis of State of the Onion from the author’s blog:

Never let them see you sweat — that’s White House Assistant Chef Olivia Paras’s motto, which is pretty hard to honor in the most important kitchen in the world. She’s hell-bent on earning her dream job, Executive Chef. There’s just one thing: her nemesis is vying for it, too. Well, that and the fact that an elusive assassin wants to see her fry…

The highly-trained Secret Service agents couldn’t do it. Snipers swarming the White House grounds were no help. Only Ollie Paras was able to stop the intruder-hitting him with a frying pan. She’d like to wash her hands of the whole thing, but after she witnesses a murder, there’s no going back…

Ollie’s Secret Service boyfriend warns her that the killer is a world-class assassin. And Ollie’s the only person alive who can recognize him. Still, guilt propels her to investigate, even if it means putting herself — and her relationship-in hot water…

And here’s a blurb about Hail to the Chef, also from the author’s bog:

White House executive Chef Ollie Paras has a lot on her plate, what with holiday meals to map out, the First Lady’s matchmaking plans to deflect, safety classes to take, and terrorist plots ot avoid. Oh, and a senator’s assistant has been begging Ollie to rig the countrywide gingerbread-man-decorating contest in favor of the senator’s kids …

Then a cautious, kindly electrician is electrocuted, and the First Lady’s nephew doesn’t show up for an important event when not twenty-four hours before he was happily cleaning shrimp with Ollie. Ollie suspects there’s something going on that’s fishier than shrimp cocktail. Now, she’ll have to watch her back — and find a killer unlikely to be pardoned …

Imagine yourself curled up on your couch, a nice warm quilt draped over your sweat-suited body, a steaming cup of hot chocolate at the ready, and one of these books resting on your stomach. Nothing finer, methinks.

© 2008 C. Bertelsen

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