In a weird new cookbook, Castle Rock Kitchen: Wicked Good Recipes from the World of Stephen King, Author Theresa Carle-Sanders is inspired by dishes that appear in King’s stories set in fictional Maine towns.
It’s almost hard to believe that the intimate recipes throughout the volume are drawn from the same pages where prom queens are doused in pig’s blood and house cats are raised from the dead.
While King’s settings, such as Castle Rock, can be imagined, the spirit of Maine, where the prolific novelist was born and raised, is not. Throughout his 55 years and counted as one of the nation’s foremost horror, crime and thriller novelists, he has sprinkled his works, Carrie at Pet sematarywith edible references to his childhood in New England.
Carle-Sanders, a veteran cookbook author and lifelong King fan, had previously penned two volumes filled with recipes based on Diana Gabaldon’s historical fiction series. Foreign: Cooking from abroad and Stranger’s Kitchen 2. When she finished the second, she immediately knew which fictional universe she wanted to tackle next. “You need a certain type of author for a fictional cookbook. They need to be very prolific, they need to have a big fandom, and they need to write food into their stories,” Carle-Sanders said. Check , check and check.
While the writings of King and Gabaldon may seem far apart, both novelists frequently allude to food. Carle-Sanders shared, “People always say to me, ‘I don’t see the food in these books,’ and I go, ‘It’s because you’re not looking for it. “”
Even King’s bloodiest stories include thoughtful and often heartwarming descriptions of food and plenty of inspiration for Carle-Sanders. For example, a passage from Cujo (a novel by King about a killer dog) in which a mother and son, trapped in their car by the enraged St. Bernard, dream of big family breakfasts, including French toast. Carle-Sanders pulls off the chilling scene in his recipe for “Dog Days French Toast Casserole,” topped with cranberries, maple syrup and walnut streusel.
Carle-Sanders reinvents food from dreary settings to mouth-watering new dishes with New England flavors. Oatmeal from Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank takeover, a story set in a dark prison yard, appears in Carle-Sanders’ cookbook as a cozy morning porridge made with blueberries, maple syrup and creamy coconut milk. She also picks a meal from the pages of The body (known to many for its 1986 film adaptation, support me) called “Pioneer Drumsticks” – essentially, burger meat on a stick that the protagonists roasted and gobbled down while still raw inside – and recreates the dish as generously seasoned (and fully cooked) skewers ).
For Carle-Sanders, the process begins, unsurprisingly, with a lot of reading. “I started from the beginning [chronologically], reading on a Kindle, and as I skimmed through, I highlighted all mentions of food,” Carle-Sanders explained of how she skimmed through King’s 65 novels. Later, she focused on the stories set in Maine, organized the dishes by dish, and then started shaping the table of contents.
During the recipe research and development stages, Carle-Sanders relied on a range of sources: Maine cookbooks, old newspaper recipe columns, and King’s own meals growing up.
“He gave me 20 minutes on the phone, which was very generous,” Carle-Sanders said. During that call, King shared his story with the typical Maine food and dishes his mother cooked for him and his brother.
One, for example, was poor man’s soup, which King’s mother made with two-day-old lobster. Back then, Carle-Sanders explained, lobster was 19 cents a pound; if a guest came to the house, King’s mother hid the pot inside the oven, as lobster was considered “bad food”. She let the lobster simmer for days and used the meat to make lobster rolls, or sometimes added cream to make soup with the broth. In castle rock kitchenCarle-Sanders’ version is enriched with butter, cream and dry sherry to make what she describes as “a delicious lobster stew”.
While Maine may bring lobster and clams to many people’s minds, the cuisine of King’s home state, as Carle-Sanders discovered, is rich, varied and decidedly comforting. As King wrote in the foreword to the book, “When I think of Maine cuisine, I think of red hot dogs in spongy Nissen rolls, slow-cooked beans (with a big chunk of fat from pork), steamed fresh peas with bacon, whoopie pies, plus macaroni and cheese (often with chunks of lobster, if any were left).
By the time the book was finished, Carle-Sanders’ own pantry looked like that of a born-and-bred Mainer, crammed with staples like Allen’s Coffee Brandythe most popular liquor in the state, and Bakewell Cream, a leavening agent invented in Maine. If you cook your way through Castle Rock Kitchen, these mainstays, described in the “Pantry Notes” section of the cookbook, will likely become staples in your kitchen as well.
Food tends to play a secondary but important role in fiction. “When people are gathered around the table, emotions rise and stories are told,” said Carle-Sanders. A whole range of human feelings appear in the thrilling excerpts throughout castle rock kitchen– followed, of course, by delicious and healthy recipes that transport you to Maine. In King’s own words, “We love seeing you here at Vacationland, always happy to prep you with all the crabmeat salad and lobster rolls you can eat (extra points if you ask lobster), but if you can’t come, you can always browse the recipes in this book.”