Six years ago Deborah Madison started working on a cookbook she called “Desserts for the Pastry Impaired.”
“Pastry chefs are exacting people who have a deep sense about measurement and clean aprons,” she explains. “Cooking is more intuitive, more relaxed, with more opportunities to taste and adjust.” She wanted to write a less rigid book about desserts.
As she wrote the book, the focus gradually changed to fruit, a natural for someone with a bent towards produce. “When you’re working on a book it talks to you in different ways over time,” she says. Apparently it talked to the editor in a different way too. Madison found out her editor regarded her title as a placeholder. “That kind of changed things,” Deborah admits good-naturedly.
She was already three years into the project when it shifted, but that was fine. Seasonal Fruit Desserts: From Orchard, Farm, and Market stayed “in the background, although I was always working on it.”
Here’s what she was doing in the foreground. She wrote three other cookbooks: What We Eat When We Eat Alone: Stories and 100 Recipes; Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen; and Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen.
No stranger to working on challenging projects in tandem, Deb had opened a restaurant during the first two years of writing her enormous reference work, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It took another four years to finish. While managing a farmer’s market she wrote Local Flavors, visiting 100 farmer’s markets around the country.
This most recent cookbook about fruit desserts lent itself to a longer writing period anyway. Because the key ingredients were seasonal, sometimes she had to leave her home in New Mexico and travel to find particular fruits and work with them.
“New Mexico isn’t exactly fruit rich or dependable. If there’s a late freeze, it’s not uncommon to have a year in New Mexico without stone fruit,” she explains. Even the book’s photo shoot took place during two seasons: One in October, at the end of the stone fruit season and the beginning of fall fruits; and another in the spring.
“I like to think about a subject for a long time; travel and read and visit farmer’s markets and live a life that becomes a background for what I’m writing,” says Deborah. “One of the things that’s hard for food writers today with such involvement with blogs and social media is feeling like you have to be visible all the time and have a bottomless pit of ideas. But what I write about has to come out of my life, and that means taking the time to live it.“
Deborah’s gorgeously-photographed new book contains recipes for compotes, tarts and pies, cakes, cobblers and crisps, puddings and gelees, sauces, and fruits that go well with cheese. So if you’d like a copy of Seasonal Fruit Desserts, please write me a note about which fruit you love best and how you cook or bake with it.
Contest rules: You must live in the US (Sorry, fellow Canadians). One entry per person. I will pick a winner by April 19, 2010 and email that person. If the winner does not respond within a week, I will choose someone else.
Disclaimers: I’ve known Deborah for more than 10 years. Because she’s a friend, I am incapable of anything other than wild enthusiasm about her new book, hence this interview rather than a book review. I asked her publisher for a copy to give away on this blog.
Update: Winner is Lisa Waldschmidt. See her comment below.