With her atmospheric and enchanting novels, bestselling author Susan Wiggs has combined my two passions: good food and great writing. In The Apple Orchard, she tells a complex story of family ties, set in the richly-abundant farmlands of Sonoma. Today she reflects on the connection between food and reading, and as an added bonus, she’s included a recipe for decadent Apple Pie muffins in her post:
I’m writing this in a crowded airport, a familiar scene. Droning announcements, whining kids, bored people commenting on ticket prices and delays, others fiddling with the latest gadget, trying to find a wi-fi signal and getting frustrated...but the folks who interest me are the happy ones. The ones who are sitting calmly, content in their own space, placidly awaiting the boarding call. The happy people all have something in common–they are either a) eating or b) reading.
Oh, and there’s one knitter, and I do like knitting, but I didn’t even realize they’d let long pointy metal knitting needles through security.
So here’s my theory. When you’re waiting–in an airport, a doctor’s office, a carpool lot, at home expecting a phone call, a delivery, or at work–a great book and a delicious bite to eat can be your own private refuge.
Every time I sit down to write, I try to think of that reader trapped in an airport, or a waiting room...or maybe she’s one of the lucky ones, kicking back on a beach or a porch swing or in front of a roaring fire somewhere. I think she’s a lot like me. She wants a great story, one that will sweep her away from it all, at least for a while. And although I can’t give her a nice warm slice of apple cake with caramel sauce, at least I can give her the recipe.
The Apple Orchard is designed to take the reader on an emotional journey, one that I hope will lead to that comforting place of refuge. Tess, the main character, experiences the kind of love story we all wish for, getting swept into a life she never imagined and suddenly can’t survive without.
The story is set in one of the most beautiful areas in the world–the golden-hued farmlands of Sonoma. Although best known for wine, the region is filled with a dreamy abundance. Some of the best apples grow there, including the legendary Gravenstein, which inspired me to create and test dozens of recipes, sharing only the very best in the pages of the novel.
Here’s a sneak peek, an outtake, just to remind you of the comfort of food and books!
Apple Pie Muffins
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups chopped apples
Directions for Topping:
In a small bowl toss together sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon until crumbly; set aside.
Directions for Muffins:
In a large bowl whisk together brown sugar, oil, egg and vanilla until smooth.
In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients.
Stir oil mixture into flour mixture alternately with buttermilk.
Fold in apples, mixing just until combined.
Spoon into greased muffin cups, filling 3/4 full.
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