I have always been a reader and a cook.
We ate out a lot – my Dad had an appreciation for GOOD food that was unusual in the 70’s. His enthusiasm for food from all over the world sparked a passion in me. To this day, I spend most of my free time in the kitchen.
Once we were home, the kitchen clean and the dishes put away, Mom would put me to bed with a book. She read to me as an infant, and started me on a lifetime of travel and adventure, both on and off the pages.
After years of misspent youth in corporate management, I took a chance, with my husband Howard’s enthusiastic encouragement, at a life reboot in my early 30s. After years in the office, I spent my first post-career morning wandering the shelves of a brick-and-mortar book store, where instinct had me pick up a bold red-and-black paperback with a gold clock on the front.
As with so many of Diana’s fans before and since, Outlander became the catalyst for the changes – some planned, many unforeseen — that have altered the course of our lives since that day in 2003 when I threw my cell phone, and a life of comfortable predictability, off the Burrard Street Bridge in Vancouver, Canada.
My Englishman and I followed our hearts on a whim and settled on Pender Island – a small, tree-covered rock in the Salish Sea between the mainland and Vancouver Island — for a quieter, more simple, semi-rural life at a gentler speed.
Just as we were settling in, my father died unexpectedly. As the months passed, the grey muddle of grief evolved into unquestionable clarity, and so, with the winds of instinct filling my sails once again, I said goodbye to Howard for 6 months, moved back to Vancouver, and back in with my mom, to fulfill a dream of attending culinary school.
Outlander Kitchen was born a couple of years later, in early 2010, on a walk in the woods with our dog at the time, a rescue Shiba Inu named Koda. A scene from Voyager at Madame Jeanne’s popped spontaneously into my head, where, in the aftermath of the printshop fire and Claire’s miraculous reappearance, Claire, Jamie, Old Ian, and Young Ian gather their wits and share a plate of rolls filled with minced pigeon and truffles.
I ran home with the dog trailing behind, composing the recipe in my head as I rushed to my desk with pen and paper. I emailed a request for permission to use an excerpt from Voyager to DG’s Canadian publicist within the hour.
Outlander Kitchen grew out of that first email, and Diana’s generous response the next day. I will always be grateful to her for the inspiration, and the unfailing support she gave me during the long road to publication.
Outlander Kitchen: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook was published in 2016 by Delacorte Press of Penguin Random House. As of November 2021, it is in its fourteenth printing, with 125,000 books in print. As well as English, Outlander Kitchen is also available in French, German and Polish.
Outlander Kitchen - To the New World and Back Again: The Second Official Outlander Companion Cookbook was published in 2020 by Delacorte Press. It is currently in its fourth printing, with 43,000 books in print.
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Writing a fictional cookbook begins with reading. Constantly, nonstop, for weeks. In the case of my next project, Castle Rock Kitchen, Stephen King’s library kept me busy reading for six months solid and then, intermittently, for another two years while the project came together.
I had read many of his stories over the years, but this time I read them in the order in which they were published. Every mention of food on my e-reader got highlighted along the way. It was a slow and worrying start. Carrie contains a brief mention of hamburgers and a root beer after the prom, and that’s it. ’Salem’s Lot was much more hopeful—hah!—there are ice-cream sodas, spaghetti sauce, pork chops, and more. Then there is Jack Torrance’s terrifying bar full of cocktails in The Shining, juxtaposed against the comfort of Wendy’s Thanksgiving turkey and Dick Hallorann’s baked beans.
Eventually, by Elevation, published in 2018, the food had transformed from mostly down-home Maine favorites to include gourmet vegetarian Mexican food. Along the way, I found canapés in Pet Sematary, cheese fondue in Needful Things, Lobster Pickin’s in 11/22/63, and that was just the beginning.
The titles of the dishes may appear in the pages of Stephen King’s books, but my recipes come from Maine tradition. They’re also influenced by the family traditions I learned standing on the stool beside my mother and grandmothers in their kitchens, as well as my own experience as a professionally trained cook.
The first draft included dishes from almost all of Stephen King’s books, including The Stand, The Dark Tower series, The Talisman, The Green Mile, Doctor Sleep, and The Outsider.
After I got Mr. King’s go-ahead and found a publisher in Ten Speed Press, we narrowed the focus of the cookbook to include only his stories set in Maine, which, by my count in the Bibliography, is more than forty. That meant I had to leave some of his classics behind, at least for now.
At the same time, it focused the contents on the food of Maine. The state has a long and proud food history; the first Europeans arrived four hundred years ago to fish, and Maine’s first cannery opened in the mid-nineteenth century when sardines were a luxury food and lobsters were for prisoners and the poor. In addition to the ocean’s bounty, Maine’s agricultural production is also significant: blueberries, potatoes, cranberries, apples, maple syrup, poultry, and more.
Born and raised on the opposite coast, in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and having lived on a small island between Vancouver and Victoria for eighteen years, I must confess that I’ve been to Maine only once. That was back in 2008, a year after the death of my father. I joined a silent retreat where I gave myself the space to look forward after months of remembrance and grief. The six days I spent at Rolling Meadows, southwest of Bangor, changed my life.
Fourteen years on, I am the author of two Outlander Kitchen cookbooks, and have completed this, my third fiction-inspired collection of recipes. I’ve wanted to return to Maine ever since. I had booked my plane tickets and rental car for a planned research trip starting in Bangor in June 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit us full force in March. It wasn’t meant to be.
Even without the physical trip, the process of creating, researching, and writing Castle Rock Kitchen has been a fulfilling journey, one I am extremely fortunate to have had to keep my mind busy during the months of lockdown.
After eighteen years on Pender, Howard and I made another big change, relocating across the country to Rothesay, New Brunswick at the end of 2021. We’re still close to the sea here, and our new neighbours have welcomed us with open arms. I can’t help but think our choice of a new home was influenced, at least a little, by its proximity to Maine. I look forward to road trips down the coast, and to perhaps, if I’m lucky, meeting Mr. King one day.
Castle Rock Kitchen goes on sale October 4, 2022.
Rothesay, New Brunswick