No, Dear Reader, your eyes do not deceive. This is indeed a Holiday Baking Post! A few weeks ago, I received a treasure by post: a reader’s heirloom recipe for bûche de noël (or yule log cake), a French tradition dating from the late 19th century.
First up, happy Boxing Day to our UK and Commonwealth friends! Read more about this quintessentially British holiday tradition here
This moment from Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries #3, Cold-Blooded Myrtle, inspired her to send me the treasured family recipe. But this isn’t just any reader–this is a Very Special Reader Indeed! This Special Reader is my very own childhood librarian, Carol Elbert from Ames Public Library.
But Carol wasn’t just my librarian—she was also the mom of one of my best friends. Lisa and I met in homeroom on the first day of 7th grade (Myrtle’s age). We bonded instantly over books and science, nature, art and general youthful nerdiness.
Lisa was an extraordinary young woman—brilliant, talented at everything from weaving to photography to theater lighting, multi-lingual, and a world-traveler. We took walks in the woods, shared our favorite ghost stories, participated in History Day and Color Guard, baked cookies, and stitched. Lisa and I even went to England together. She was by my side the blustery March morning I saw the ruined pier in Brighton, a sight that inspired the setting of How to Get Away with Myrtle. Sadly, Lisa passed away from a very rare cancer in 2009, a few months after we all celebrated the release of my first book, A Curse Dark as Gold, at our hometown library.
So it was a tremendous honor to have Carol share her family’s recipe for Bûche de Noël with me.
Was I intimidated? You bet! But the Gauntlet Had Been Thrown, and I was brave enough to accept the challenge. So this weekend, ingredients in hand (mostly—there were at least two emergency store runs. So. Many. Eggs…), I whipped my first meringue:
…rolled my first jellyroll…
Et voila! C’est magnifique! Miss Judson would approve.
…And this is one of the bazillion reasons that being a children’s author is the Greatest Job in the World. Having readers—whether you’ve known them your whole life, or just met through your books—reach out to share something special with you, because something you wrote touched them. This is certainly a Christmas gift I’ll never forget. Thanks, Carol!
Keep reading for a Bonus Project!
In other Holiday Making News, this year Myrtle and I celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the Best Christmas Movie Ever, The Muppet Christmas Carol. I first wrote about this finest of all adaptations of the Charles Dickens classic last year: Victorian Christmas On Film. In that post, I declared:
The very moment I finished that post, I started plotting and scheming, sourcing fabrics and patterns and working out Esoteric Nightcap Geometry (more complex than you’d expect). Et voila, Dear Reader: a marvelous miniature Dickensian dressing gown and nightcap!
So far no spirits have appeared to haunt us (alas), so we must be keeping Christmas well. Tiny Tim said it best: God bless us, every one.
Happiest of holidays, Dear Readers, from Myrtle & Co!