Wednesday, January 28, 2015

"An Appetite for Violets"

Martine Bailey’s first historical novel, An Appetite for Violets, is a gastronomic mystery tale set in 18th century Europe. Written as a book of recipes, it takes a young cook on a murderous trip from England to Italy. Bailey lives in Chester, England and as an amateur cook, won the Merchant Gourmet Recipe Challenge and was a former UK Dessert Champion.

Bailey applied the Page 69 Test to An Appetite for Violets and reported the following:
The opening location of An Appetite for Violets is Mawton Hall, a run-down Country House in the rural north of England. Emotions are running high. The servants have long been neglected and Biddy Leigh, a feisty young under-cook has reluctantly got herself involved with a secretive adventuress, Lady Carinna, newly married to the elderly and absent master. To the servants’ astonishment, Lady Carinna has announced that she is about to undertake a journey to Italy and that Biddy Leigh is to accompany her.

By page 69 Biddy has been browbeaten into agreeing to go with her and she makes her peace with her mentor, the kindly cook Mrs Garland. It is time for the old cook to offer some truths and advice to Biddy:
‘Now listen to me, Biddy. If you only listen once, do it now. I’ve been puzzling, and it seems to me you have two ways ahead of you.’ Her eyes shone as bright as a young girl’s as they met mine. ‘You can suffer all this as a trial and waste a whole year complaining.’ I lifted my head sharpish at that, but she would not be interrupted. ‘Or you can learn to be more than a plain cook like me. Learn how to make those fancy French bomboons and dishes à la mode. What a chance, girl,’ she said, shaking my captive hand. ‘I have seen advertisements for cooks with the French Style and do you know what they offer? Twenty guineas a year. You shall be a cook to nobility.’

‘But I am marrying Jem when I get back.’ I spoke it like an article of faith that only I believed in. She sighed, her solid bosom heaving.

‘Then cook at this alehouse Jem boasts of. I’ve heard there are taverns that sell spanking fine food in London. Oh, if I had my youth again I should dearly love to try what they offer. And as for Paris! This could be the making of you, with the talents God has given you. You shall taste food I never even dreamed of.’

‘I think not.’ I was quite fixed on being miserable. ‘I am only the pan-tosser, taken along so Her Ladyship needn’t eat foreign stuff.’
The old cook goes on to offer Biddy two gifts, in the manner of a fairy godmother. The first is the marvelous Household book of recipes, called The Cook’s Jewel. Biddy’s task is to keep a journal in its freshly added pages, especially any new receipts (recipes) she tries out:
‘Write it all down for your old friend, Biddy. Tell me what you see, who you meet, and mostly – what you eat. Write careful descriptions and copy the receipts if you can.’
Mrs Garland’s second gift is a beautiful silver knife, once the possession of the master’s first and truly genteel wife. The two women joke about how it will be useful for ‘chopping garlics’ and ‘skinning frogs’ on the Continent – but of course the reader is already guessing that Biddy may have other needs of a good sharp knife at some future time, on a dangerous journey that will culminate in murder…
Visit Martine Bailey's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: An Appetite for Violets.

--Marshal Zeringue