Guest Blog: Andrea Israel

The Recipe Club, by Andrea IsraelWhat’s your recipe for friendship? What ingredients are necessary? How much time does it take?

Andrea Israel will be our guest on our special MONDAY edition of BlogTalkRadio tomorrow (Nov. 23*) when we chat about

When two writers who are good friends write a novel about friendship, it’s inevitable that fans of the book want to know what’s fact and what’s fiction. Here are some of the questions we have been asked about our book THE RECIPE CLUB: A TALE OF FOOD AND FRIENDSHIP, along with our answers:

The book’s subtitle, A Tale of Food and Friendship, really encapsulates the appeal of your novel. Why do you think food and friendship strike such a resonant chord with readers around the world?

A: Whether it’s positive or negative, everybody has a relationship to food; it transcends any demographic divides, like gender, nationality, religion, age, or race. We eat to survive, to share, to celebrate, to mourn…we eat alone, in family groups, and with friends. And friendship–a form of love–is just as basic a need. It provides emotional sustenance which is essential for a life well-lived.

The book has a little of everything: it’s a novel-cookbook, and the story is told through emails and then letters, and finally a third-person narrative. That must have been a complicated collaboration for two writers. How did you do it?

Just as the book begins with e-mails, we started out by writing emails to each other in the voice of a specific character. What made it fun was never knowing what the other one would write. So when Andrea’s character emailed something like, “I can’t believe you did that!” to Nancy’s character, Nancy would have to figure out what exactly her character did…and why. And if Nancy’s character wrote back, “Well I did that because you said THAT,” then Andrea would have to come up with a convincing back story. It kept us on our toes, and in an active state of creative imagination. And we both kept trying to challenge ourselves—and each other—by pushing the language and actions of each character. At a certain point they took on a life of their own–and we didn’t always approve of their behavior! We ended up tossing out a large portion of the first draft, and writing the next draft together, side-by-side. Our ability to write together like that is very unusual, and it remains something of a beautiful mystery to us.

As for it being both a novel and a cookbook, that just adds an extra measure of fun–and extends the life of the book.  Each of our more than 80 terrific recipes closely relates to the story of the novel (with evocative titles like Lovelorn Lasagna and Better-Late-Than-Never Zucchini Bread), so long after you’ve finished the novel you can keep thinking about the characters–and keep on cooking!

Was one of you Lilly, and the other Val?

In short: no. Both of us are both of them–and neither of them–in equal measure.
It is purely a work of fiction. We are flattered by how many people have asked if it’s autobiographical. We’ve heard readers say, “it must be real because it sounds so real.”

We hear the book is sparking a grassroots movement called “Recipe Clubs,” which you describe as “a way of creating community through story-telling circles.” What does that mean, and how does it work?

A: Recipe Clubs are being formed by readers who want to share their own true stories of food and friendship. They are taking place across the country. Typically six to eight women gather to exchange food-related memories and the recipes that go along with it.  The stories are about anything and everything: food and family, food and joy, food and anger, love, travel, creativity, empowerment…it’s limitless. The common denominator is that they always have an emotional component which resonates with the group.

For example, one woman’s story about smashing a baked Alaska (just as it was about to be served to an undeserving suitor) was really a tale of unrequited love and seizing back personal power. Another woman remembered being a young girl who pretended to be sick at school in order to be taken home by her aunt, knowing full well she would be fed a delicious home-cooked lunch; her story was about craving the comfort and safety of family in stressful times. You can see some of our Recipe Clubs in action on our website: www.therecipeclubbook.com.

While every Recipe Club story is different, all of them share a hunger for connecting to memory, to other people, and to self-understanding. That’s essentially true of our novel, as well. And we’re thrilled that our book has ignited something so positive and life-affirming.

Andrea Israel is a producer/writer for ABC’s Focus Earth. She was a producer/writer on Anderson Cooper 360, Dateline, and Good Morning America (which garnered her an Emmy Award). Her story “In Donald’s Eyes” was recently optioned for a film. Ms. Israel is the author of Taking Tea.

Nancy Garfinkel is co-author of The Wine Lover’s Guide to the Wine Country: The Best of Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino (Chronicle Books, 2005). A creative strategist, writer, and design consultant for magazine, corporate, and non-profit clients, she has won a host of graphic arts and editorial merit awards.

Join us on Monday, November 23rd at 2:00pm EST (11:00am PST) for this delicious discussion with Andrea Israel about “The Recipe Club.”

* Changed from our regular ‘friend-filled Friday’ BlogTalkRadio show due to Thanksgiving. We’ll be back on schedule on Dec. 4th.

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