Published Book: The Book Lover's Cookbook

Ballantine Books, 2003

The Book Lover’s Cookbook paperback edition (2005)  features an interview with co-authors Shaunda Kennedy Wenger and Janet Kay Jensen

How did you come up with the idea for The Book Lover’s Cookbook?

SKW:  It’s possible that this project simmered on the back-burner for most of my life.  As a toddler, I remember Dr. Suess’s Green Eggs and Ham stirred up considerable thought— I mean, really—How appetizing can green eggs and ham be?  Even after hundreds of bedtime readings, I attributed the surrender of that tired, fuzzy creature to temporary insanity. Later, I was intrigued by Edmund’s insatiable appetite for Turkish Delight in the C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, lickable wallpaper in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Anne’s botched cake in Anne of Green Gables.   But it wasn’t until many years later, in the fall of 1999, that the idea for a literary cookbook took shape while reading a specific book.  That book was Sue Miller’s While I Was Gone.
            I absolutely loved Sue Miller’s book for bringing me back to the area where I grew up – the Northeast.  The story’s sense of place was so strong, I felt it mirrored my memories of off-campus living in a three-story Victorian at college.  Like the main character, I shared the house with several housemates.  Fortunately, unlike the characters in Sue Miller’s book, we didn’t end up killing each other.  But we did make meals together from time to time.  My specialty was vegetarian chili – and as it turned out, this was the same dish that the murder suspect makes with Jo in While I Was Gone.  Boy, did my skin tingle when the knives were chopping the onions!  It seemed like Sue Miller had set her characters in my old house, in my old kitchen, with my old recipe.  Naturally, I got up and looked for it, remembering one of my housemates had written it down one evening while I prepared it several years before. Because I’m such a foodie, who would never dream of throwing away a recipe, I found it tucked in one of my cookbooks.  Almost immediately, I began to wonder if authors routinely fed their characters well, and certain books that I’d recently read, came to mind.  Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.  Isabelle Allende’s Daughter of Fortune.   Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees.     

 How did the cookbook become a co-authored project?

SKW:  From the moment the idea for the cookbook took shape, I believed this project begged for a co-author – the very nature of reading and cooking leads to sharing with others – good books and great recipes are almost always passed along to receptive hands.
Feeling like I was going to burst with this idea brewing inside me, I shared it with my local group of writing colleagues in an E-mail to see if they thought the project was plausible.  Out of the handful of responses, Janet’s included suggestions of several pertinent authors and novels that contained classic scenes pivoting around food.  Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist and David Copperfield. Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.  
Her enthusiasm was contagious and our E-mails quickly bounced back and forth listing possibilities of recipes and novels.  I knew I’d found a kindred spirit and asked Janet if she’d like to step on board. 

Out of all the excerpts from books that you found during your research, did you get a sense of a unifying theme?

SKW:  Food creates such vivid imagery for the reader that our mind can add details that aren’t even described by the author.  We can smell the onions in Sue Miller’s While I Was Gone.  We see the flaky frosting of Effie Belle’s coconut cake in Cold Sassy Tree (by Olive Anne Burns).  We can hear the clink of the spoon against the soup bowl in George Eliot’s Middlemarch, and feel the butter coating our fingers from a hot ear of sweet corn in Sandra Dallas’s The Alibi.  With our senses turned on, it’s easy to step into the scene.  And once we’ve stepped into the scene, we’ve opened ourselves up to making an emotional connection with the characters. 
Overall, I believe many of the passages we selected for the cookbook are hinged on emotional undercurrents.  They stir up tension or show insight into a character’s desires.  Although many aren’t centered on the emotional firestorm of the climax, they fan the emotional embers of character interaction and plot development.  Ultimately, these scenes, set against familiarity, keep the pages turning.

You’ve also included over a hundred quotes about reading and books.  What led you to do that? 

SKW:  While researching literature for the cookbook, I found great quotes about books in the novels I was rereading.  We decided to explore that avenue further.  Books have such a universal appeal, people are inspired to talk about about how they fit into our lives.  Sprinkling these quotes throughout the cookbook fed into the overall excitement for books that we wanted to share with other readers. 

Out of all you included, do you have a favorite quote?

SKW:  I can relate to almost all of them, but my favorite quote is something Isabelle Allende said at one of her readings in a California library: 
“The library is inhabited by spirits that come out of the pages at night.” 
I just love the thought of stories having lives of their own, lives that might carry on after the book is finished, the cover closed.  

JKJ:     Maud Casey: “I was born with a reading list I will never finish.” When I travel, I spend more time choosing the books I want to take than the clothes I need to pack!

What is your favorite passage in The Book Lover’s Cookbook?

SKW:  I honestly enjoy reading every excerpt, and each time I visit the cookbook my favorites change. Today, during this hot, summer day in July, I’m drawn to Barbara Kingsolver’s excerpt about green beans, green tomatoes, green tomato pies from The Bean Trees.  It’s been my favorite before – probably because like her character, Mattie, I have a couple gardens, and right now mine are bursting with blueberries, raspberries, and gooseberries, and green beans, carrots, and herbs.  Soon, I’ll also be harvesting broccoli, tomatoes, tomatillos, okra, watermelon, and corn.  I can fully appreciate Mattie’s satisfaction in beating out nature’s frost and utilizing every nugget offered up by her garden.  At the end of this passage, I’m always wishing I knew my way to the stairs leading up to her apartment, so I could stop by for a visit, and – smell, see – what treats Mattie might be baking. 

JKJ:     One of mine takes place in Roxanna’s kitchen in Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River, an allegorical story about a family’s journey to reconnect with each other and ultimately heal from the tragedies that have pursued them.
Widowed school custodian Jeremiah Land embarks on a trek across wintry Minnesota and North Dakota in an inherited Airstream trailer in 1962. With him are two of his children: Reuben, the narrator, an 11-year-old boy with severe asthma, and his sister, nine year-old Swede, a precocious poet who perches on an old saddle and dreams of cowboys while pounding out epic yarns about the old west on her typewriter. Swede’s poetry parallels their search for older brother Davy, a fugitive who has gunned down two high-school bullies intent on harming his family.
In the excerpt we chose for our book, Jeremiah, Reuben and Swede are stranded in a blizzard and taken in by Roxanna, a strong, capable woman with an intriguing history of her own. In Roxanna’s kitchen, Reuben sketches a compelling picture for us: a strong and growing attraction between a man and a woman, a motherless boy’s longing for family and a stable home, and the safety and comfort of being inside while a blizzard rages outside, as they gather around Roxanna’s tempting meal of roasted chicken.
At dinner, when Swede looks out the window, Reuben knows she is “growing the storm in her mind,” so they will not have to leave “the warmth and contentment of this house.” This is a book about miracles, and Swede’s wish is granted: the storm does indeed grow, and the Lands do stay “some happy length” in Roxanna’s home.  Enger uses the comfort of good food to create the image of an emerging family, with possibilities and hope for the future.

What did you learn about great writing as you compiled The Book Lover’s Cookbook?

SKW: I am always surprised and delighted by the fact that each book I read takes me on a new journey, completely unique and separate from the journeys that have gone before.  Every book is a new experience. And when it’s well-written, I find those characters and the place it’s set in, could be right next door.  Or if it’s set in a different country or a distant place I’ve never been, then I’m left feeling like I might already know a little bit about it, and perhaps, nudged to travel there at some point in the future.

 JKJ:    William Faulkner said, “Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the mast. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.” As a writer, I want to absorb the best of what I read, and hope it will influence what spills out on the paper. James Michener commented that he wasn’t a good writer but he was a good rewriter; I’m becoming more aggressive with “the find out/throw it out” process in my own work. As The Book Lover’s Cookbook came together, I gained more appreciation for the numerous revisions and edits that are part of a book’s natural development.
Charles Dickens also had some great advice for writers: “Make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait,” and I’m convinced that the best authors can accomplish all three. By reading a variety of literature, I’ve become more analytical about the craft and more appreciative when it’s flawlessly executed. Now, when I look at a bookcase, I see more than great literature—I see shelves filled with potential mentors.
In a more specific vein, as I continued to research and analyze great literature for The Book Lover’s Cookbook, I was intrigued by the way writers utilize food in particular to entice the senses, define characters and their societies, depict time and place, and move the story forward.

What are the most enjoyable recipes you developed in the course of writing the book?

SKW:  My response will give away one fact about me . . . I have a horrible sweet tooth.  There were two recipes that not only satisfied it, but left lasting impressions:  Turkish Delight and Mr. Wonka’s Strawberry-Flavored Chocolate-Coated Fudge. 
Turkish Delight piqued my interest many years ago when I read C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Being a chocolate lover, I wrongly assumed that this insatiable treat—that I’d never heard of before—was something chocolatey.  It’s actually a popular European, citrus-flavored gelatin dessert—harder than jello, softer than hard candy. The most exciting part for me was discovering that eating it produced the same effect that C.S. Lewis described for Edmund:  “Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious . . . the more he ate the more he wanted to eat . . .”  It’s a pleasure everyone should experience.
            Fudge is one of those things that I treat myself to sampling from different places I happen to vacation.  But strawberry fudge drizzled with chocolate isn’t one of those flavors I run across often—maybe it should be . . .  This delicious recipe is Roald Dahl’s own, reprinted from his collection of recipes titled, Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes.  (Don’t let the title fool you!)  Looking through his cookbook, which was written by his granddaughter, is such fun!  As the photos show and recipes prove, Roald Dahl was not only a genius with words, but with ingredients.
            Of course, I do indulge in regular meals.  Queen Nacha’s Tamale’s (Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate) and Tianjin Dumplings (Adeline Yen Mah’s Falling Leaves) are family favorites.  My children love the recipes so much, they help make them.  Some day they’ll be old enough to read the books that inspired them. 

JKJ:     I wasn’t a fan of chilled soups until I met Forney, Billie Letts’s librarian/cook in Where the Heart Is. Forney’s Orange-Almond Bisque resulted after a number of experimental batches. The cantaloupe balances the citrus nicely and the yogurt gives it a creamy texture.
My family enjoys Bev’s Crab Cakes from Patricia Cornwell’s Unnatural Exposure. In the excerpt, Bev dishes up coleslaw, rattles off her recipe for crab cakes and clinches the transaction with succinct advice about men. The crab cakes are delicious and the advice is sound, too.
Mrs. Dalby’s Buttermilk Scones (James Herriot’s All Things Bright and Beautiful) can be made with so many different additions and fillings, it was hard to decide which we liked best.
I spent several days experimenting with custards until I was satisfied with Aunt Petunia’s Baked Custard Pudding, based on the levitating dessert described in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Fortunately, house elf Dobby wasn’t around to work the Hover Charm on it.

Did you develop all of the recipes or did some of the authors create recipes for the book?

SKW:  We developed most of them, but some were contributed directly from the author whose passage we featured.  For example, we have Elizabeth Berg’s Thanksgiving Spinach Casserole, Jim Fergus’s Nostalgic Coq Au Vin, Jodi Picoult’s Amish Chicken and Dumplings and 1-2-3-4 Cake, Camron Steve Wright’s Chocolate Pudding and Chocolate Soufflé, Judith Guest’s Chocolate Pecan Pie, Barbara Kingsolver’s Green Tomato Pie, Carolyn Campbell’s Celebration Potatoes, and M.L. Rose’s Moon Pie Delight.
            We also have a few recipes that involved working together with the contributing author on developing the recipe through correspondence, like Maeve Binchy’s Almond-Bacon Wraps, Kay Chorao’s Chocolate Swirl Fudge Cake, Connie May Fowler’s Tomato Pie, and Patricia Gaffney’s Curried Shrimp with Snow Peas and Apples.  The enthusiasm and assistance from these authors was fantastic.

JKJ: Patricia Cornwell’s recipe for crab cakes in Unnatural Exposure is derived directly from Bev’s words in the text; I think Bev’s a good cook! There also seems to be a trend for some authors (i.e., Fannie Flagg and Diane Mott Davidson) to include actual recipes in their books, an invitation for readers to be even more engaged with the characters and the story. (These selected published recipes were included in The Book Lover’s Cookbook without modifications.)

SKW:  That’s a great observation.  It was especially exciting to follow along with what a character had done in her own kitchen and see that the recipe written into the novel worked, like Abby’s “Good Life” Veal Piccata from John Grisham’s The Firm, and A Little Woman’s Butternut Bevy from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and Joan Bauer’s Lucky Day Grilled Cheese.

If you could dine with an author, who would it be, and what would you have to eat?

SKW:  That would have to be Elizabeth Berg.  While reading Open House, as soon as Samantha raised her glass higher at King’s table for more wine and thought, This is my favorite restaurant, I said, “Take me there!”  Elizabeth Berg also has had me reading (and eating) through food scenes in her other books, so I’d love to pull up a chair at her table. (And she does give us all a taste of what we might find there with her own recipe for Thanksgiving Spinach Casserole, which she contributed to The Book Lover’s Cookbook.)
I’d bring the wine—maybe a bottle of Robert Mondavi ‘Coastal’ Sauvignon Blanc and a Louis Jadot Pinot Noir Bourgogne.  And dessert, which would depend on the season.  Honeydew Melon Italian Ice if it’s sunny, or an apple-raisin-crumb pie if it’s chilly.  And guests?!  Maybe Barbara Kingsolver would be available, or Patricia Gaffney.  We might end up flipping through some women’s magazines looking for a recipe of some tasty salad to whip up, all the while talking about food, books, and life.
JKJ:     I’d like to break bread with Victor Hugo (Les Misérables), who said, “If a writer wrote merely for his time, I would have to break my pen and throw it away.” I can imagine him instructing Madame Magloire to bring in the silver candlesticks. She would serve a simple meal: a marvelous fresh vegetable soup from her garden with hearty rye bread. I would love to paddle a raft on the Mississippi to join Mark Twain, Huck and Jim (Huckleberry Finn) for some tender pork roast, cabbage and cornbread, but I’d pass on the after-dinner corncob pipe. Then it would be on to Minnesota to meet Garrison Keillor (We Are Still Married) to ask him to make me a perfect Lutheran apple pie. It would be a treat to spend a week in Diane Mott Davidson’s kitchen in Evergreen, Colorado, tasting, taking notes and watching her create the tempting recipes she includes in her culinary mysteries—in this case, The Last Suppers. Goldie, a feisty heroine with a wry sense of humor, is a caterer who on an average day stumbles onto at least one crime scene but never, ever burns her cookies, which she selects according to the scruples of her clients. For example, her Canterbury Jumbles she serves at a church social, “had such a wonderful Anglican name the women would feel duty-bound to eat them.”

How did you name the recipes?

JKJ:     We tried to link the recipe directly to the plot, setting, a character, or a line of dialogue in the passage.

SKW:  Naming recipes was the best part of writing the cookbook.  Coming up with a suitable recipe title really cinched the connection between recipe and novel.

Let’s explore this topic a little more.  What are some examples of recipe titles that are tied into the plot or events in a novel?

JKJ: Although Bridget Jones (Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding) gets drunk while making her “Third-World–style ethnic family party” shepherd’s pie, we chose to name ours Sober Shepherd Pie.

SKW:  That was intentional, of course. For the safety of our readers, we’d hate to promote reckless behavior, outside of fiction.  Cooking is serious business.  And with alcohol, even more so. [smile] 
And similar situations occurred with recipe titles like Specialty Omelette (Little Women) and Eli and Jo’s Innocent Vegetarian Chili (While I Was Gone).  In Little Women, Jo brings a burned breakfast to her mother, who’s ill.  And in While I Was Gone, Eli is a suspect in the murder of one of his housemates.  We didn’t want to suggest that our recipes would lead to disaster—although in the kitchen, anything is possible. [smile again]

JKJ:     Maya Angelou’s essay, “New Directions” from Wouldn’t Take Nothing for my Journey Now is about a woman named Annie who supports herself and her children by making and selling chicken pies over a brazier outside a factory, where workers begin buying them for lunch. She eventually opens her own successful store. Angelou says, “She had indeed stepped from the road which seemed to have been chosen for her and cut herself a brand-new path.”  New Road Chicken Pies reflect a turning point in one person’s life. In this essay Angelou encourages readers to assess their own paths and, “carrying only the necessary baggage,” change roads if necessary.

What are some examples of recipe titles that tie into a novel’s setting?

SKW:  Tianjin Dumplings are named for a favorite meal that writer Adeline Yen Mah ate in China, before her childhood took a dreadful turn (Falling Leaves). 

JKJ:     Because James Michener’s Centennial is set in Colorado, we included the region’s geography in naming Rocky Mountain Sourdough Starter and Rocky Mountain Sourdough Biscuits.

What are some examples of recipe titles that were named for specific characters?

JKJ:  Many recipes are associated with characters who either prepare, dream about or consume the dishes.
We couldn’t imagine another name for Mrs. Liebowitz’s Lentil-Vegetable Soup when we read the scene where a compassionate neighbor brings hot soup to Frankie’s hungry, impoverished family in Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. Frankie thinks it’s so delicious, he wonders if he can swap mothers with Freddie Liebowitz. He’s even willing to throw his little brothers in for free.
Brandy’s Tomato-Beef Soup is named after one of veterinarian James Herriot’s favorite patients, a dog named Brandy who periodically raids the dustbin and gets a tomato soup can stuck on his nose. “Brandy the Dustbin Dog” is found in James Herriot’s Favorite Dog Stories.
Grandmother Matanni makes soup from ingredients produced on their own farm in Gywn Hyman Rubio’s Icy Sparks. Hot and fragrant, Matanni’s Butternut Squash and Apple Cider Soup fills homesick Icy’s dreams.
Bill Cosby confesses that he allowed his kids to eat cake for breakfast in Fatherhood; it was natural to call ours Daddy’s Rich Chocolate Cake.

SKW:  There certainly are many titles attributed to characters.  I suppose the reason for this is that these novels introduced us to memorable characters, who readily come to mind with mention of their names.  Naturally, we leaned toward naming the recipes after the person who made them:  Miss Maudie’s Lane Cake from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Emma’s Curried Shrimp with Snow Peas and Apples from The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney, Ruby’s Potato Salad from Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, Effie Belle’s Coconut Cake from Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns, and Queen Nacha’s Tamales from Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate
Queen Nacha’s Tamales is a spin on the traditional name of Queen Ann Tamales.  Nacha held such a large presence in her kitchen, it seemed this particular type of tamale and title was an appropriate match for the novel. 

You mentioned earlier that an “emotional undercurrent” was a unifying theme among the excepts in The Book Lover’s Cookbook.  What recipe titles hint at a character’s feelings or behavior stemming from strong emotion?

SKW:  Willin’ Fish Fillet’s is appropriately named for a marriage proposal that is given over dinner by using a quotation from David Copperfield: “Barkis is willin.’”  Thankfully, the future groom knew his bride-to-be well, because she immediately—and  correctly—interpreted what was said.  I loved how Jamie Langston Turner wrote this scene from Some Wildflower in My Heart.
            Nostalgic Coq Au Vin is named for May Dodd’s yearnings for the kitchen and fare she used to make in it before being “traded” with about 1000 other women for 1000 horses – a deal arranged between the United States government and Cheyenne Indians as part of their “Brides for Indians” program, in Jim Fergus’s historical novel, One Thousand White Women

JKJ:     Algernon (The Importance of Being Earnest) insists that when he is in trouble, “eating is the only thing that consoles me.” This line inspired Consolation Bran Muffins.
Marinade for Other Fish to Fry comes from a sly remark made by the enigmatic Brismand in Coastliners by Joanne Harris. After supervising the preparation of fish in a lemon-rosemary marinade, Brismand declines Madeline’s invitation to dinner, declaring that he has “other fish to fry.”
Andy Rooney’s musings in Word for Word about three small home-grown zucchini that cost $371.49 to raise suggested the name for Priceless Zucchini Bread.
Eddie contemplates meeting his lover while outwardly commenting on the title of a new book of verse, Why Must it Always be Tomato Soup? in “Bliss,” a short story by Katherine Mansfield. “It’s so deeply true, don’t you feel?” he says. “Tomato soup is so dreadfully eternal.” Our recipe for Eternal Cream of Tomato Soup is based on the classic creamed soup.
What feedback have you received from authors featured in the book?

SKW:  Most of our feedback occurred while we were writing the cookbook, in correspondence we had with authors who contributed anecdotes or recipes.  One of these contributors was Richard Peck.  After the cookbook was published, I had the opportunity to meet him at a childrens writers’ conference in March 2004.  (Not only is he a talented novelist, he is absolutely the most fantastic, charismatic, and inspiring speaker I’ve heard.)  I had the cookbook with me, because I wanted to introduce myself and thank him personally for the anecdote he’d contributed to go along with the excerpt and cherry tart recipe we’d selected from his book A Year Down Yonder.  Needless to say, I was shaking in my shoes when I approached.  But he was kind and friendly, and much to my relief, completely complimentary of the cookbook.  Holding the cookbook out in front of him, he slowly rubbed his hand down the front cover in dramatic fashion.  Smiling, he said, “Feels great, doesn’t it?”
He went on to tell me that he’d given a copy of the cookbook to his mother, who along with her book club friends, were studiously reading and preparing recipes from it at their monthly meetings.  Then, I nearly melted on the spot when Richard Peck not only signed his newest book for me, A River Between Us, but also signed his name next to his passage from A Year Down Yonder in my copy of The Book Lover’s Cookbook.  What an honor! 

JKJ:     Sandra Dallas (The Persian Pickle Club) was a gracious correspondent. She wrote that her grandmother would have been thrilled that her recipe for bread pudding was included in the book. Aunt Ada’s dessert is typical of Depression-era ingredients.

What are some of your favorite books?

SKW:  My all-time favorite is Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz.  The author’s writing took me completely into the minds of her characters, Ruth and Amanda—I loved that about it; and the plot was so well-paced and full of little twists, I couldn’t put it down. 
Of course, many others have found a permanent place on my shelf.  I read The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin, twice in two-weeks-time.  Yes, twice.  I just didn’t want to let go of the story when I finished.  It had me laughing and crying and generally feeling terrific all the way through.  James Frey’s memoir, A Million Little Pieces blew me away, and everyone in my book club loved it.  (Speaking of my book club, another favorite of ours was The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney.)  Rick Bragg’s memoir, All Over but the Shoutin’, steeped into my soul.  And Tawni O’Dell’s Back Roads and A. Manette Ansay’s Vinegar Hill were so good, I read them in a couple sittings.   

JKJ:     A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The characters of Ethan, Phineas, Scout and Atticus are so real to me, I think I’d recognize them on the street.

What are you reading?

SKW:  I’m a glutton for books, both new and borrowed.  I can’t walk past a shelf of books without stopping to browse, read, feel the pages flip through my hands.  If I spend more than five minutes, you can bet I’m hooked, and at least one of those books will be purchased.  Looking at my shelf, I can see this happens a lot.  It’s stacked – well, over-stocked is more like it – with novels that I can’t wait to get to.  Shall I give you a list?  I shall, but a short one.  Deafening by Frances Itani. The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier.  The Little Friend by Donna Tartt.  The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman.  These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner.
So what are all these books waiting patiently for me to finish reading now?  It’s good one:  Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik.  It’s a captivating story of five women who meet as a book club, and as you can imagine, talk about life and books, and serve food themed around that month’s selection.  It’s absolutely fantastic.

JKJ:     As we each contributed different excerpts to the book, there are works represented in The Book Lover’s Cookbook that I haven’t read yet, so it’s my reading guide for the next couple of years.
I try to read from the scriptures daily and the Psalms in particular. I recently read Mary Webb’s Precious Bane, published in 1924. She is a writer who engages all the reader’s senses with musical language and rich and colorful descriptions of her native Shropshire. On the nightstand are A Midwife’s Tale, the Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812, a Pulitzer Prize Winner by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, and The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 1995.

What fostered your love of reading and literature?

SKW:  My mother.  She loved to read bedtime stories.  She read them from a large, bound book filled with classic tales and poems.  It had more words than pictures, but it still held our attention.  My brother and I’d crawl into her lap, tuck ourselves under the blankets, and listen to the story play out in the sound of her voice.  As we came to know each story by heart, we followed along with the words that floated across my mother’s fingertips.  Before long, the words jumped out at us, familiar, like old friends, and the routine changed, with us reading the stories aloud to our mother.  By the time I stood chest-high to the kitchen counter, I was also reading cookbooks, standing at my mother’s side from time to time, helping her make our meals. 

JKJ:     In my home reading was very important, as my mother was a librarian and my father was a teacher; both were well-read. Memorizing great poetry was part of their generation’s educational curriculum, so our exposure to poetry was early and continuous, too. When I could associate letters with sounds, and a series of sounds took on meaning, it was exciting to be an independent reader.

Shaunda Kennedy Wenger and Janet Kay Jensen
Photo courtesy Logan Herald Journal

The Book Lover's Cookbook is recommended here: 

"These books are great options for the book lover who also enjoys food."
.  The Book Lover’s Cook Book. The perfect book for book lovers who also love to cook, these recipes are inspired by famous works of literature such as tamales from Like Water for Chocolate and blueberry pie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Reviewed by: Online College Courses
December 6, 2011

Water Rat pulls together an impromptu picnic for a stranger in Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame

Two delightful Burma Shave jingles appear in Book Lover's Cookbook
One mentions rice and another, in a surprise twist, suggests a unique recipe for stew.

 When Algernon and Jack argue about marriage, muffins confuse the issue.  Try your hand at Consolation Bran Muffins.
by Oscar Wilde

Robert Fulghum on Jelly Bellies: "A little Wow!  in the Cheerios.  A little whoopee in the minimum daily requirement."
"Uh-Oh"by Robert Fulghum

Inspired by
"The Creative Impulse" from
The Complete Short Stories of
W. Somerset Maugham and scones from
"Favorite Dogs Stories"
by James Herriot

"My Antonia"
by Willa Cather


at home on the shelves: Barnes and Noble,
Los Angeles, CA

Photos by Janet Jensen

The Book Lover's Cookbook
Chapter One (excerpt)


Breakfast at six-thirty. Skim milk, crusts, middlings, bits of doughnuts, wheatcakes with drops of maple syrup sticking to them, potato skins, leftover custard pudding with raisins, and bits of Shredded Wheat.

Breakfast would be finished at seven.

From seven to eight, Wilbur planned to have a talk with Templeton, the rat who lived under his trough. 

About the jelly beans. On the Cheerios. I know this is probably not recommended by nutritionists. But I had never tried it before. And you never know. Somebody has to do the field-testing. The jelly beans were better than raisins, actually. If you want to check it out, I suggest the Jelly Belly brand, which comes in forty official flavors. My choice was a combination of apricot, banana, watermelon, and root beer. If you want a little zing in the mix, throw in a few jalapeno-flavored ones. A little Wow! In the Cheerios. A little whoopee in 0the minimum daily requirement. 

When Black Mumbo saw the melted butter, wasn't she pleased! "Now," said she, "we'll all have pancakes for supper!"

So she got flour and eggs and milk and sugar and butter, and she made a huge plate of most lovely pancakes. And she fried them in the melted butter which the Tigers had made, and they were just as yellow and brown as little Tigers.

And then they all sat down to supper. And Black Mumbo ate twenty-seven pancakes, and Black Jumbo ate fifty-five, but Little Black Sambo ate a hundred and sixty-nine, because he was so hungry. 
—Helen Bannerman, The Story of Little Black Sambo


Who wants a pancake, 
Sweet and piping hot? 
Good little Grace looks up and says, 
"I'll take the one on top." 
Who else wants a pancake, 
Fresh off the griddle? 
Terrible Teresa smiles and says, 
"I'll take the one in the middle." 
—Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

Stack of Pancakes

2 eggs, separated 
2 tablespoons sugar 
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted 
2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
1 tablespoon applesauce 
4 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2 cups milk 
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 
Maple syrup

Beat the egg whites and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the egg yolks, flour, oil, applesauce, baking powder, salt, milk, and vanilla and mix until the batter is nearly smooth. Some small lumps will remain. Spoon the batter onto a greased hot griddle heated to about 375¡ (medium-high heat), making pancakes a manageable size. Flip each pancake when the batter is bubbled over the entire top and the edges are slightly dry (should take about 2 to 3 minutes). Cook the bottom until golden brown, about 1 minute.

Serve topped with butter or margarine, sliced bananas, and maple syrup.


Variation: Stir 1 cup of fresh blueberries into batter for blueberry pancakes.

Alternative Crepes

11/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
1 tablespoon sugar 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2 large eggs 
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted 
Bananas, strawberries, and mango, sliced Blueberries, raspberries

Combine all the ingredients, except fruit, together in a large bowl and beat the batter until it is nearly smooth. Heat a greased, 8-inch crepe skillet to 400 degrees or begin warming a large, greased frying pan over high heat with a tablespoon of butter or margarine. Spread the batter out in the pan to a 1/8-inch thickness, so that the finished crepe will be thin. Flip the crepe when the batter on top is completely bubbled and the edges are slightly dry, about 2 minutes. Cook the bottom until golden brown, about 1 minute. Place the crepe on a warmed plate. Repeat with the remaining batter. Wrap your choice of fresh fruit inside the crepes (sliced bananas, strawberries, mangos, blueberries, raspberries). Serve with maple syrup.


Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier. 
—Kathleen Norris 

As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye, ever open to every symptom of culinary abundance, ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly autumn. On all sides he beheld vast stores of apples, some hanging in oppressive opulence on the trees, some gathered into baskets and barrels for the market, others heaped up in rich piles for the cider press. Farther on he beheld great fields of Indian corn, with its golden ears peeping from hasty pudding; and the yellow pumpkins lying beneath them, turning up their fair round bellies to the sun, and giving ample prospects of the most luxurious of pies; and anon he passed the fragrant buckwheat fields, breathing the odor of the beehive, and as he beheld them, soft anticipations stole over his mind of dainty slapjacks, well buttered and garnished with honey or treacle, by the delicate little dimpled hand of Katrina Van Tassel. 
—Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Behold! Ichabod's Slapjacks

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted 
21/2 teaspoons baking powder 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 cup milk 
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted 
2 tablespoons honey 
2 large eggs, slightly beaten 
Butter or margarine 
Maple syrup

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well, scraping sides. Mixture will be somewhat thick. Spoon batter onto a greased griddle heated to about 375¡ (medium-high heat), making pancake a manageable size. Flip the pancake when batter is bubbled over the entire top and the edges are slightly dry (should take about 2 to 3 minutes). Cook bottom until golden brown, about 1 minute.

Serve topped with butter or margarine and maple syrup.


Next time you're browsing the shelves in a library, realize you're standing in the midst of a family discussion.—Kathleen Duey

She moved out of bed carefully, so as not to disturb Jesse. He stirred and opened his eyes. "Was it something I said?" he asked groggily.

"You're suffocating me," she whispered lovingly. On the way to the bathroom she had an idea. She'd make Jesse some waffles. Waffles and muffins and bacon and . . . That was probably enough. Oh, and orange juice and coffee. Coffee with cinnamon in it.

Maybe she shouldn't make waffles, though. Her slapstick tendencies had a habit of rearing their ugly heads during waffle preparation. Still, she wanted to do something nice for him. She'd been staring at him for half an hour, and now she'd sort of woken him up . . . All in all, she felt she owed him waffles. That big waffle gesture was the only one that would do. She smiled at her reflection, filled with enthusiasm of bold reserve.

Twenty minutes later, on the way to the hospital, Jesse said, "But why waffles? I don't even really like waffles."

"Look," said Suzanne stoically. "It's already starting to blister." She held up her left hand, with its domestic scar across the knuckles where the waffle iron had landed. 
—Carrie Fisher, Postcards from the Edge


2 eggs plus 1 egg white, beaten 
1/4 cup sugar 
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted 
1/4 cup applesauce, unsweetened 
11/2 cups all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 cup plus 
2 tablespoons milk 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
Maple syrup 
Mangos, strawberries, or blueberries

Mix all the ingredients except syrup and fruit in a large bowl. Spray a waffle iron with cooking spray. Spoon the batter onto the heated waffle iron. Cook the waffle until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Serve with maple syrup and sliced mangos, strawberries, or blueberries.


I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little further down our particular path than we have gone ourselves. 
—E. M. Forster

Back in the kitchen, I gulp down another cup of coffee. Then I mix eggs and milk in a blue-and-yellow bowl that tiny shop in Paris, our weeklong vacation there, I stood at the window one morning after I'd gotten up and he came up behind me and put his arms around my middle, his lips to the back of my neck, add a touch of vanilla, a sprinkle of sugar. I put the frying pan on the stove put his lips to the back of my neck and we went back to bed, lay out two slices of bread on the cutting board. These hands at the ends of my wrists remove the crusts. I'm not sure why. Oh, I know why. Because they're hard.

I sit down at the table. Stand up. Sit down. Concentrate on my breathing, that's supposed to help.
Actually, it does not. 
—Elizabeth Berg, Open House

Samantha's French Toast

4 eggs, beaten 
1/2 cup milk 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
A sprinkle of sugar 
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 
6 slices of dense bread Maple syrup

Mix the eggs, milk, vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon in a shallow, wide-bottomed bowl that is large enough to accommodate a slice of bread. Grease a griddle with melted butter or margarine, or use cooking spray. Heat the griddle to 350¡ (medium-high heat). Dip a slice of bread into the egg batter, coating both sides. Remove the bread and place it on the hot griddle. Brown the bread on both sides, cooking each side about 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve with maple syrup.


Variation: Top with maple syrup and berries of your choice: strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries.

"I shall take some up to mother, though she said we were not to think of her, for she'd take care of herself," said Meg, who presided and felt quite matronly behind the teapot.

So a tray was fitted out before anyone began, and was taken up with the cook's compliments. The boiled tea was very bitter, the omelet scorched, and the biscuits speckled with saleratus; but Mrs. March received her repast with thanks and laughed heartily over it after Jo was gone. 
—Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Pray don't burn my house to roast your eggs. 
—Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1757

When Tyler got home, he put a bag of groceries on the counter. The phone rang and he spoke into it with a low voice. "Tomorrow," she heard him say. "Yes. I promise." Edith felt so silly. She wanted to disappear. But she was much too big to disappear. She decided to make the best of it. She cooked an omelet. Edith was good with eggs and butter and her omelets were always tender and brown. "This is a symphony," said Tyler, taking a bite, "a poem and a symphony."

"This is my specialty," said Edith, proud and happy. "One of my specialties." And she ate her omelet with a big spoon. —Abigail Thomas, "Edith's Wardrobe (Negligee)" from Herb's Pajamas

Specialty Omelet

2 tablespoons olive oil 
1/2 red or green bell pepper, diced* 
1/2 onion, chopped 
15 large black olives, sliced 
6 eggs, beaten 
1/4 cup milk 
1 teaspoon garlic salt and pepper to taste 
1/4 teaspoon thyme 
1/4 teaspoon parsley 
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a large nonstick skillet, saute the pepper, onion, and olives in olive oil until tender over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the skillet and set aside in a bowl. Mix the eggs, milk, and spices in another bowl. Pour this mixture into the heated skillet. When the egg begins to solidify around the outer edges, lift its edges and tilt pan to allow uncooked egg mixture to slide from top of the omelet to underneath. Continue cooking. Sprinkle vegetables and cheese over the top of the cooking egg mixture. When the top of omelet appears moist and not wet, lift one side of the omelet with a wide spatula and fold it over onto the opposite edge. Cook one more minute, covered. Remove from heat.

Serve with toast and bacon or sausage.


* Filling for an omelet is entirely a matter of personal taste. Possible fillings include cooked sausage, saut?ed mushrooms, chopped tomatoes, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, green onions, fresh chives, broccoli, and cauliflower.

I really have to believe that the people I'm writing about are real, have their own wills, and I can't simply manipulate them. 
—Peter S. Beagle

"Real men don't eat quiche," said Flex Crush, ordering a breakfast of steak, prime rib, six eggs, and a loaf of toast.

We were sitting in the professional drivers' section of an all-night truckers' pit stop somewhere west of Tulsa on I-44, discussing the plight of men in today's society. Flex, a 225-pound nuclear-waste driver, who claims to be one of the last Real Men in existence, was pensive:

"American men are all mixed up today," he began, idly cleaning the 12 gauge shotgun that was sitting across his knees. Off in the distance, the sun was just beginning to rise over the tractor trailers in the parking lot.

"There was a time when this was a nation of Ernest Hemingways. Real Men. The kind of guys who could defoliate an entire forest to make a breakfast fire-and then go on to wipe out an endangered species hunting for lunch. But not anymore. We've become a nation of wimps. Pansies. Quiche eaters, Alan Alda types-who cook and clean and relate to their wives, Phil Donahue clones-who are warm and sensitive and vulnerable. It's not enough anymore that we earn a living and protect women and children from plagues, famine, and encyclopedia salesmen. But now we're also supposed to be supportive. And understanding. And sincere." 
—Bruce Feirstein, Real Men Don't Eat Quiche

A Real Man's Quiche

1 package refrigerated crescent rolls 
3 cups cooked, shredded potatoes 
3 large eggs, beaten 
1 tablespoon chopped green onions 
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese 
1/2 cup cooked meat: sausage, crumbled bacon, or diced ham

Coat a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray. Press triangles of crescent roll dough into pie pan, sealing seams, to form a pie crust. Crimp edges. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl, stirring gently. Pour the mixture into the crust. Cover loosely with foil and bake at 400¡ for about 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes to brown crust. Quiche is done when center is firm.



Throughout this beautifully written book winds the thread of acceptance: acceptance of differing cultures, beliefs and lifestyles. Jensen brings her characters to life and makes them feel like our neighbors. We can feel their uncertainties, fears and joys. We travel through their days like a friend...Jensen has given the readership of America an exceptionally well written, charming story of adventure, love and acceptance. I look forward to her future endeavors.
      —Elaine Fuhr, Allbooks Reviews

I loved the book. It was entertaining, informative, and so delightful. The characters became ‘real’
people. I bought the storyline and cheered for Andy every step of the way! Thanks for providing so
many with a delightful reading experience. I marveled at how much information was conveyed in each sentence. The sentence structure was a beautiful thing...I heard a sequel is in the works, which I’m eagerly anticipating. Thanks for providing so many with a delightful reading experience.
      —Susan Stephens, Educator, Logan, Utah

I believe Jensen has written a great eye-opener book...(she) relates a background that puts the reader right in the center of everything in this splendid read.
      —Linda Lattimer for the Romance Studio

Janet Jensen has taken a complicated social issue and woven it into a love story that is as poignant as it is fulfilling. Her in depth character development and colorful setting give us something to hold onto as she takes us through the story of one woman and one man fighting to see beyond what they are in order to become who they are meant to be.
      —Amber L. Smith, Writer and President, Cache Valley Chapter, League of Utah Writers

Jensen’s beautifully composed sentences read poetically and are measured with intricate details and care. Although the relationship between the two lead characters is the driving force of the story, the real core of the novel lies in the underlying theme that continues to play masterfully between the lines—the true meaning of family, love, redemption and forgiveness. It is not a story about a group of Mormons; on the contrary, it is about a group of ordinary people who happen to be of the Mormon faith. Jensen plays with her theme wittily, teasing the reader with traditional tales and urban myths about Mormons and polygamy...A (work of) literary fiction at its best, perhaps the best contemporary
LDS fiction in years.
      —Christopher Loke, Technical Writer/Editor

I purchased seven copies of this novel; one for me and the others for friends and public libraries as gifts. One of these friends called to express her excitement and enjoyment saying, “I was hooked by page one and could not put the book down. I laughed tears and cried tears.” She summed up my own feelings exactly and her day was made when I explained that hopefully, there is to be a sequel.
      —D.T. Enloe, Wisconsin

Janet Kay Jensen's Don't You Marry The Mormon Boys

Norm Goldman
Author: Janet Kay Jensen
ISBN: 978-1-59955-075-6

Nominated in 2007 as a finalist in USA Book News in the Religious Fiction category, Janet Kay Jensen's Don’t You Marry The Mormon Boys narrates the story of two medical students who meet and fall in love while both are attending the University of Utah.

However, there is one big problem, Andy McBride is of the Mormon faith while Louisa Martin was born and brought up in a strict polygamous community.

After graduation and a painful break-up caused by their seemingly irreconcilable differences, the couple pursue different paths.

Andy, after several years of medical training, winds up with his dog, Eliza R. Snow, in the rural town of Hawthorn Valley, Kentucky where he is received with open arms, as the town is in dire need of a family doctor. Louisa, on the other hand, follows her idealistic dreams and returns to her hometown of Gabriel’s Landing, Utah.

Although the two continue to experience strong feelings towards each other, it would appear that there is little hope that they will ever again reunite and marry.

In order to accomplish this feat, Louisa would have to abandon her dream of bringing modern medical practices to Gabriel’s Landing and leave her polygamous community.

Further complicating matters is that Andy’s father Cole is an Assistant Attorney General in Utah who has been assigned to prosecute several polygamy cases, and he is not too thrilled with Andy’s choice of a girlfriend and possible future wife.

As Louisa settles into her new position of family doctor in Gabriel’s Landing, her idealism is soon shattered when she discovers the community’s dark side where women and children have been abused by their husbands and fathers and that there is an unusual number of stillbirths and birth defects. As she states, “Gabriel’s Landing was not the peaceful, harmonious community she had always imagined, though members of her family continued to be, as far as she could tell, kind and loving to each other.”

Thrown into the saga is the Council of Brothers decision obliging Louise to marry John Olsen who already has five wives and thirty children. Furthermore, Olsen is only a few years younger than Louisa’s father Joshua. Upon being notified of the Council’s decision, Joshua is unyielding in his refusal to permit the marriage and openly challenges their decision by informing the brothers that she cannot marry a man whom she does not love.

Louisa also finds herself in a great deal of hot water when she is summoned before the same Council and questioned if she counselled her patients about contraception, birth defects and depression. Her reply was that to answer the question would be to defy doctor-patient confidentiality, something she was not prepared to do. When she tries to explain the problem of marrying close relatives, she is rebuked and informed that the community does not need outsiders to meddle into their affairs for it is only the will of God that they must obey and no one else. Louisa, who causes quite a media stir, is forced to leave the community she loved and moves to Salt Lake City.

Andy discovers that practicing medicine in a small town is not exactly something he had envisaged particularly when he is called upon to treat an unwed pregnant teenager, who was badly beaten by her drunken father, Bo Rawlins. As Andy is soon to learn, his kindness towards the teenager and her brother will eventually result in some very harrowing experiences between himself and Bo, someone who doesn’t appreciate outsiders intruding in his family affairs.

Janet Kay Jensen is a writer of enormous talent, skill, and quite knowledgeable as she sheds light on Mormonism and polygamous communities which she skilfully interweaves into her story.

She also has a gift of descriptive prose, stirring up a sense of presence and emotion.

Particularly striking is the small slice of life of a country doctor that rings so true, and when reading about Andy, it brought back my own childhood memories when my father would tell me how he began his medical practice in 1925 in a small village in Quebec.

Moreover, all of the supporting characters carry out important plot functions and it is here where Jensen is at her best, capturing wisps of their thoughts and emotions.

Louisa’s father Joshua effectively playing the “fight role” when he stands up to the Council of Brothers with his fiery reactions to their dictatorial behavior. The mean Bo Rawlins seeking revenge, and Miss. Carolina with her herbal remedies and down-to-earth advice that startles Andy and even perhaps makes him a believer in alternative medicine.

This is one compelling novel you won’t want to miss.

Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys

a novel

by Janet Kay Jensen

Chapter One

Gather round, girls, and listen to my noise,
Don’t you marry the Mormon boys.
If you do your fortune it will be,
Johnnycake and babies is all you’ll see.

        Dr. Andy McBride hummed the old Mormon folk song as he consulted the crumpled map. If his Eagle Scout training and instinctive sense of direction hadn’t failed him, this large log home with the friendly wraparound porch and wooden rocking chairs would be his for the next two years.
        He had one basic impression of Kentucky as he drove across the state: it was green. In contrast to his native Utah, a mountain desert region dependent on irrigation and careful water management, Kentucky’s lush meadows and gentle rounded hills might have been the Garden of Eden.
        He glanced at the map again, stepped out of his new red Jeep Cherokee, and stretched his travel-weary body. Holding the door open and slipping his backpack over one shoulder, he said, “Come on, Eliza, let’s check out our new place.” The dog leaped out, tail wagging, and began to sniff the unfamiliar turf.
Andy climbed the three steps to the porch and fished a key from his pocket. With one click the door opened. He was greeted by a collection of smells: fresh paint, varnish, lemon oil, beef soup or stew, and—another sniff—lilacs.
        “Anybody home?” he called, feeling foolish as his voice bounced off empty walls.
        A stone fireplace filled with logs and kindling dominated the living room, while empty bookcases lined the opposite wall. The broad-paneled pine floor was freshly oiled and scattered with braided rugs.
        He dropped his backpack by the door and followed his nose to the kitchen, searching for what smelled like his mother’s homemade soup. He lifted the lid of the slow cooker and smiled.
        Vegetable beef. A pan of fresh cornbread sat on the counter, still warm. The cupboards bulged with bottled preserves, and the refrigerator was well stocked. A vase of pungent lilacs sat on the kitchen table.
        He walked down the hall, exploring. Five bedrooms. A sizeable family must have lived here. He pictured them eating dinner at the long oak table, the children doing their homework afterward, and popping corn over the embers of the fire when their homework was done. Patchwork quilts piled high on wrought iron bedsteads reminded him of his grandmother’s handiwork. He inspected the bathroom, clean and functional, supplied with towels and homemade pear-scented soap.
        Each window in the home offered its own view: the meadow and hills from the front, the gravel road and the woods beyond it from the side, and the barn, pump, and outhouse in the back. A ring of mountains called the Knots surrounded the valley, but they were hills in comparison to the Rockies where Andy had camped, hiked, and skied since boyhood.
        Eliza padded over. He stroked her head. “Wonder how old this house is.”
        “About a hundred, near’s we can figure,” a deep voice boomed.
        Eliza gave a sharp bark. Andy bent and grabbed her collar. “Eliza! Sit.” He looked up at the imposing figure of a man who smiled as he stooped to enter the doorway.
        The stranger appeared to be nearly seven feet tall and held a pie in his hands.
        “Blackberry,” he said in a deep booming voice as he set it on the table. “Saw your Jeep in the driveway. We been watching for you. You’d be the new doc.”
        “I am. Andy McBride. And thank you for the pie. It smells wonderful.” He extended his hand and almost winced at the strength of the man’s grip.
        “Too Tall Jones,” the visitor gave a bashful grin. Andy wondered if he sang bass in the choir.
        “Good to meet you, Mr. Jones.”
        The giant of a man grinned. “Heck, nobody calls me Mr. Jones. You can use my real name. Obadiah. Obadiah Too Tall Jones.”
        “Obadiah for short?”
        “Short? Good one,” the man chuckled. “Obadiah’s from the Bible, of course.”
        “So is Andrew. But I was also named after my grandfather.” Andy smiled back at the dark-haired visitor, clad in flannel shirt, threadbare denim overalls, and heavy work boots. He liked Obadiah already.
        “I hear you’re from Utah.”
         Andy nodded.
        “Me and the missus, we listen to your Mormon Tabernacle Choir every Sunday morning. Fine music.”
        “Really? My mother sings with the choir.”
        “No kidding?”
        “She loves it.” A sudden image flashed in his mind: his mother standing with the other sopranos in a long blue dress, the stage lights catching the strands of silver in her hair, her eyes intent as she blended her voice with three hundred fifty others. It was a dream she’d had all her life, to sing with the choir.
        “They call ’em America’s Choir, don’t they?” Obadiah said. “I have some of their albums. Well, now, that makes you kind of famous in my book.”
        Andy smiled. Eliza nudged his leg. “Oh, this is my dog, Eliza R. Snow. Eliza, show your manners and shake hands.”
        Obadiah squatted, his knees making sharp popping sounds, and took the dog’s paw, gently, Andy noticed.           “She looks like a border collie.”
        Andy nodded.
       “Well, she’s a beauty. Now, that’s right unusual for a dog to have a last name and a middle initial, too.”
        “I know. When I chose her from the litter, she just looked like an Eliza. Then, when her first winter came, and I’d throw her ball, she’d dive into the snow for it, no matter how deep. She’d shake her head back and forth, and use her nose to clear the snow away. There was a famous poet in Utah named Eliza R. Snow, and before I knew it, that’s what I was calling my puppy. I hope her namesake doesn’t mind,” he said with an upward glance toward where he assumed heaven and Sister Snow might be.
        “She’s a lovely mutt.” Eliza was on her back now, inviting a belly rub. “A real fierce one, I can see,” Obadiah said. “What’s the red coat for? She’s not a seeing eye dog, is she?”
        “No. She’s a—a service dog. In training. She’s . . . sort of a hobby.”
        “One of them helper dogs? I saw a program on TV about what they can do for people. Pretty amazing.”
        “Yeah.” Andy jammed his hands in his back pockets and rocked back and forth on his heels. That innocuous question always caught him off guard, even though he had rehearsed a little speech just for occasions like this. “She’s trained to anticipate my seizures,” he’d imagine himself saying in a casual voice, “to give me warning so I can find a safe place and some privacy when one’s coming on. But I’ve been seizure-free for three years, and I’ve been off medication for eighteen months now, so I really don’t need her anymore.” He had yet to deliver that speech.
        The red vest still allowed Eliza to accompany him nearly everywhere. She liked being on duty, Andy was convinced, and he was too attached to her to think of ever giving her up.
        “She must be right smart then.” Obadiah stroked the velvet-soft hair in front of Eliza’s ears, “But then most collies are, so I’ve seen.”
        “Eliza, shall we show Mr. Jones a few things you can do?” Following a series of commands, Eliza demonstrated her ability to open cupboards and doors, turn lights on and off, walk backwards, give a gentle bark in her “inside voice,” and to search for the cell phone in his pocket and place it in his hand. She sat at his feet and did not budge when he offered distractions such as dog biscuits, a tennis ball, a squeaky toy, and her favorite tug-of-war rope.
        “All right, Eliza, you’re off duty now,” Andy said as he untied her vest. “Good girl.”
        “Well, I’ll be durned,” Obadiah said.
         Andy nodded toward the dog biscuit on the floor and Eliza pounced on it, disposing of the treat in a few seconds. Then she trotted over to Andy’s backpack, nosed in an outer compartment, and retrieved a worn yellow tennis ball. She returned to Obadiah, ball in mouth, an entreating look in her eyes. Obadiah laughed, opened the door, and tossed the ball outside. Her nails scrabbling on the wood floor, the dog was a flash of black and white as she dashed after her toy.
        “She’ll chase that ball for hours,” Andy said.
        “Just give me a holler and I’ll send the kids over to play with her. They can work off some of their energy. Does she ever herd anything?”
        “Oh, yeah,” Andy smiled, thinking of the last McBride family reunion, when Eliza had been in her element among the younger cousins. “She’ll round up kids and march them wherever she thinks they should go.”
        “My brood could use a bit of herding now and then. Well, glad you’re here, Andy. Hope the place suits you.”
        “It’s great. But it’s much more than I need.”
        Obadiah cleared his throat and studied a nail in the floor. Then he looked up. “Well, we figured as you was a Mormon.” 

        Question Number One.

        Andy nodded.

        Eliza dashed in with the ball and skidded to a stop in front of Obadiah, who tossed it outside again.
        “And we thought you might be bringing a wife with you.” He coughed and gave a sideways glance at Andy.
       “Maybe two or three.”

        Question Number Two.

        “Ah!” Andy smacked himself on the side of the head. “I knew I’d forgotten something! LaVera! LaRue! LaDawn! LaVon! How could I have left them behind?”
        Obadiah blinked, open-mouthed.
        Andy grinned. “Nope, I’m single, Obadiah, and there’s been no polygamy in my family for over a hundred years.”
        “But don’t some Mormons still—”
        Andy shook his head. “No. Not for more than a century. There are some polygamist groups in the West and in other states, but they don’t have any connection with the LDS Church.” Andy felt a familiar pang. Louisa would be home in Gabriel’s Landing by now, probably promised to a man twice her age, a man with half a dozen other wives and a house bursting with children.
        “They’re not real Mormons, you say?”
        Obadiah appeared to digest that information for a moment. “Was you ever one of them missionaries in a white shirt and a tie, riding around on a bike?”

        Question Number Three.

        “I spent two years in Finland.”

        “Finland! Mighty cold there, isn’t it?”
        Andy nodded, remembering frostbitten knees after a long day on his bicycle, and the warmth of the people who had invited them into their homes.
        “Well, now, Finland must’ve been pretty exciting. Far as I’ve ever been from home is Lexington.”
        “It’s beautiful here,” said Andy, happy to change the subject from polygamy and his own often-misunderstood religion. “Tell me about the Jones clan.”
        He learned that Obadiah Too Tall Jones was his nearest neighbor, and that the man’s great-grandfather had built a dozen homes in Hawthorn Valley, including this one, and with his wife he had enjoyed the sunsets from the front porch for almost sixty-two years. Obadiah and his missus had six children, a couple of whom promised to be taller than their father, and “if they’re smart they’ll practice a lot of basketball.”
       Obadiah was a carpenter. He told Andy he’d spent a little time at the house to “freshen it up,” but other neighbors had helped, too, by donating rugs, quilts, furniture, and food. Wanted to make him feel welcome; it had been two years since a regular doc had lived right here in Hawthorn Valley. “Even had the phone company come over and wire this place for the Inner Net. You got a computer?”
        Andy nodded.
        Obadiah’s kids had been begging for a computer, he said; they’d learned to use them at school. For himself, he couldn’t imagine why he’d ever need one.
        For Andy it was a link to friends, family, news, and a reliable source for medical updates. He’d rather be without a television than a computer, though he was such a fan of the Utah Jazz that when he was away during his residencies his father would record their TV games for him.
        Obadiah had come to offer a proper welcome, he said, and to bring a pie from the missus, and did Andy need anything lugged in from that handsome red Jeep?
        Andy knew that accepting Obadiah’s offer was the neighborly thing to do. As they unloaded boxes of clothes, dishes, and books, he explained he’d always planned to keep his perfectly sound six-year-old Honda Accord when he moved to Kentucky, but his grandfather had insisted on buying him the Cherokee “with all the extras,” including a sophisticated sound system. He would sleep well at night, he said, knowing his namesake was driving a reliable vehicle, where he could “hunker down” if he was caught in bad weather. It drove, the Navy veteran said, “straight and sure.”
        Obadiah assured Andy that he would appreciate four-wheel-drive when bad weather and worse roads made driving an adventure. And he’d best keep the lantern and flashlights handy for storms, too, when the power was “more’n likely to go out.” He told Andy the name of the enormous trees in the front yard with large locust-like leaves and deeply furrowed trunk. “Kentucky Coffee Trees. The early settlers used to roast the pods and seeds when they didn’t have real coffee. Bitter stuff. Poisonous if you eat them raw. You’ll want to make sure your dog don’t chew on them. Most dogs won’t because they taste nasty. You play this?” he gestured toward Andy’s guitar case.
        “Do you sing?”
        Obadiah gave him a speculating look. “Tenor?”
        Andy stretched to his full height of 5´7˝. “Yeah.”
       “Well, now, glad I got to you first. We need a singer and picker in our band. Had to retire our last one. I think his cheese has slid off his cracker. Old-Timer’s Disease. Started to get real forgetful.” Obadiah shrugged. “He’s a Tuttle. Runs in the family.”
        “So are you interested?”
        “Well . . .”
        “Good. We practice tomorrow night at the high school gym.”
        “What do you play? Bluegrass?”
        “Mostly. And old songs from the hills. They say the first hill people brought them here from Scotland and Ireland more’n two hundred years ago. Some of ’em are supposed to be more authentic than the versions the other folks sing today. I play bass. And I sing bass. You gotta meet Mel Daniels. He plays one mean banjo. And Harm Collins plays a fine fiddle. Bo Rawlins, he can play most anything you put in his hand—fiddle, hammered dulcimer, spoons, tin whistle.”
        “I like bluegrass. I like most kinds of music. I guess I could give it a try, and see if I can keep up with you guys.”
        “Fair enough. Mind if I try this out?” Obadiah ran a broad finger along the curve of the guitar case.
        “Go ahead.”
        Obadiah took the instrument out of the case and quickly tuned the strings. His large hands flew over the guitar, nimble and skilled, and a familiar melody floated through the room.
        Andy did a double take. “That’s Bach.”
        “Yep.” Obadiah continued to play. “Heard it on the radio. I play by ear.”

        Andy sat on a box and listened to the strains of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” Louisa would have loved this, all of it—Kentucky, this home, and the exquisite music Obadiah was coaxing from his guitar.
The last note hung in the air for a long moment. Obadiah gently set the guitar back in the case and flipped the latches closed with a soft click. “So you’ll join the band?”
        Andy blinked. “All right. But I don’t play like that. I mean Bach.”
        “Neither do the others,” Obadiah grinned. “You won’t tell them, now?”
        Andy shook his head. “No, but you’ll play for me again sometime, won’t you?”
        “Sure. Now, tomorrow,” Obadiah promised, “I’ll show you around town.” He left with another bruising handshake, ducking as he passed under the doorway.

        Andy surveyed his new home. Boxes littered the floor. They could wait. Evening was approaching and he was too tired to unpack tonight. Despite this comfortable home, its beautiful surroundings, and the friendly welcome from his neighbor who played classical guitar by ear, a sudden wave of homesickness and uncertainty washed over him. Forgetting about the tempting soup and cornbread waiting in the kitchen, he plopped into a large armchair, sinking deep into the cushion. Elbows planted on his knees, chin in hands, he formed a slumped triangle as he thought of home and family and the life he’d left behind.

        His mind wandered to an April day at the University of Utah campus, where the broad leaves of venerable old Horse-chestnut trees formed cool green umbrellas of shade. Trying to concentrate on organic chemistry and ignore the signs of spring around him, he heard rustling in the grass. He looked up and there she stood, two dripping ice cream cones in her hands.
        Every encounter with Louisa Martin felt like seeing her for the first time. She was a vibrant, lovely woman with masses of waist-length auburn hair falling over her shoulders, her eyes hazel or green depending on her mood, the weather, or the color she wore, a few light freckles dusting her nose and cheeks.
        “Mint chocolate chip,” she said with a wry smile. “My treat.”
        He’d scored one point higher than Louisa on the last neurology exam. Their running bet assured several ice cream cones a week, but Andy usually had to buy them. Louisa wasn’t easy to beat. Not that he needed to compete with her. He just wanted to study with her, share a laugh, or take her for a hike in the canyon. Eliza would come too, and when he took off her vest, she would take a swim in the creek, scramble to the bank, and spray them with a vigorous shake of her coat.
        He wanted a life with Louisa Martin.
        But graduation from med school put an end to hikes in the canyon, impromptu ski lessons, free concerts on campus, and conversations late into the night. Since graduation they’d had no contact at all. Residencies in other states had sent them in opposite directions for four years, and casual communications would have been too painful for both of them. After residency he had packed his truck and headed for Appalachia. He assumed Louisa had returned home to Gabriel’s Landing, as promised.
        Of course, now that their training was completed, nothing compelled them to stay apart. Nothing except the rigid traditions of Gabriel’s Landing, a community founded on the practice of polygamy, a way of life Andy could not live and Louisa could not escape. It was as simple, as complicated, and as heartbreaking as that.
        A moist prompt from Eliza’s nose roused Andy from his memories. He gave her a vague pat, sighed, and gazed around at the boxes piled on the floor. The evening shadows were deepening and the hills loomed in the distance, dark, mystifying, filled with a compelling presence he could sense but could not name.
        He had never felt so lonely in his life.
        He glared at Eliza. "Whose idea was this, anyway?"


reprinted by permission of Cedar Fort Publishing

Other Publications

Short Stories

"The Inheritance" appears in Parables For Today anthology. Cedar Fort 2012.

"The Troll by the Footbridge: A Study in Four Parts" appears in The Gruff Variations 
(Writing for Charity, 2012)

"The Troll by the Footbridge: A Study in Four Parts". Another fairy tale, very classic in mood. It's too short for me to describe without spoiling it, but it was incredibly moving. My congratulations and awe to Janet Kay Jensen.

Review by Martin L. Shoemaker (Hopkins MI, USA)


"Baking Day," is published at The Writer magazine's website, 

Contributing Author:

"Writing Secrets, a Comprehensive Guide to Writing Fiction & Nonfiction in the LDS Market," (2005). LDStorymakers, Inc.

Narrative learning unit based on the children's book, Stellaluna, in The Magic of Stories. Strong, Carol J. and Hogan, Kelly N. Eu Claire, WI - Thinking Publications, 1996.


Voice Male: Careers by Day, A Capella by Night," Meridian, July 6, 2004

Blow a pitch pipe--and like Superman changing in a phone booth--an accountant, a commercial real estate agent, a software product manager, a graphic designer, accounts manager and an attorney--become super singers.

The Book Lover's Cookbook July 1, 2004
The love of books paired with a passion for cooking has inspired a unique book, The Book Lover's Cookbook, featuring great recipes paired with excerpts from celebrated works of literature.
By Janet Kay Jensen

"Recipes: A Taste of Your Family Legacy," Everton's Family History Magazine, November 2003 - co-authored with Shaunda Wenger.

"Spicing Your Family History," Everton's Family History Magazine, November 2003 - co-authored with Shaunda Wenger.

"Sounds Familiar: Giving a Voice to Family Narratives," Everton's Family History Magazine, May/June 2004.

"Food for Characters," ByLine Magazine, October 


co-authored with Shaunda Wenger


"A Passing Acquaintance," Healing Ministry Journal, Spring 2003.
"Passing Acquaintance," Heart to Heart (Intermountain Donor Services Newsletter), Winter 2004.
"Autumn Clearing," Healing Ministry Journal Fall 2003.

"A Passing Acquaintance," Heart to Heart Intermountain Donor Services newsletter, February 2004.

Articles featured at

    • "The Billabong Incident, or a Word from Mrs. Malaprop"
    • "What Shall We Name the Baby?"
    • "The Art of the Personal Essay"
    • "250 Words (or less)"
    • "Don't Explain Away Your Success"
    • "One Hundred Easy Lessons"
    • "Twenty-Five Seconds Too Soon"
    • "The Writers Group: Right for You?"
    • "Much Ado About Something" 

Awards and Honors:
Second place, The Writer Magazine/Gotham Writers national memoir/essay contest, 2011, for "Baking Day"

Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys: Gold Medal, Cultural Fiction, ReadersFavorites International Book Review and Award Contest, 2012

Grace Will Lead Us Home
a novel 
By Janet Kay Jensen

What do an illiterate craftsman and an obsessively organized bibliophile have in common? For Will Madison and Elizabeth Jane Morrow, it's a dog named Grace, a survivor of Hurricane Katrina.
Each character has hidden demons. Elizabeth Jane, a college graduate /professional organizer, can't get over the trauma she experienced in a hostage situation when she was trapped in a library. For Will, it's the terror that someone will discover his illiteracy. And Grace is petrified of water.
 A three-way friendship develops among this unlikely trio. When the three must work together for their very survival, facing their own individual terrors, each has to take steps that shake them to their very cores, forcing them to discover surprising inner strength and courage. With a touch of humor, Grace Will Lead Us Home tells this unlikely trio's story of romance, intrigue, suspense, and triumph. 

A work in progress by Janet Kay Jensen

O'Connor's Honor
a work in progress 
by Janet Kay Jensen

When Boston physician Angela Hoover literally falls from a fire escape into the arms of Irish Professor of Literature Ian O'Connor during a New England blizzard, two lives are abruptly changed, and neither suspects the danger lurking in the stately old bed and breakfast where they're staying. A novel filled with romantic suspense, touches of humor and engaging characters, O'Connor's Honor leaves the reader believing that real people can follow their dreams.

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