Ruthie is a character in the novel I’m writing in the national Novel Writing Month… she has only just revealed to me, and my characters, that she is a cook, and she has opened up a whole new idea for the story. I wrote about it earlier, how she was baking, just for something to do while the characters were being described by Thomas the narrator, when it suddenly occurred to me that his would be a fun thing to pursue!
David greeted me and then swooped on the rack of shortbread that was on the side.
“Can I have one, Ruthie,” he asked and I noticed how pleasant and casual he was towards her. If she was to be his step-mum then he obviously didn’t mind.
“Yes, and call your brothers, I want to know what you think. It’s a new recipe, strawberry millionaire’s shortbread,” she said.
It was like eating heaven, still slightly warm the short bread was soft and melting with pieces of strawberry, the caramel was not too sickly with a faint trace of orange somewhere in the gooey sweetness, and the dark chocolate was not too bitter with a bit of a zing…
“Is there ginger in the chocolate?” I asked indistinctly. “There’s something… some flavour…”
“Well done you for spotting it, you’ve obviously got the Radwinter palate, it’s not ginger it’s chilli, just a tiny amount.”
Later Thomas meets Ruthie again:
We chatted for a little, it was so easy… I asked her about the millionaire’s strawberry shortbread, she’d tried it again with cherries and some almonds in the biscuit and flaked almonds on top… the olives and wine arrived, Ruthie tasted it and said it was lovely, and so it was…
I have such a sweet tooth I told her I’d liked the strawberry shortbread.
“Perhaps you could do a range, the strawberry one, and the cherry, and then… well the caramel made me think of banoffee… so could you do a banana one?” then I felt stupid because she went glazed.
She pulled out a note-book and began to scribble furiously.
“Don’t mind me, I just have to write it down while it’s in my head, brilliant idea, Thomas, any other thoughts?”
“Well not everyone’s got a sweet tooth… how about a cheese one?” the thought just leapt into my head and out of my mouth and I blushed at how stupid it sounded.
She stared at me as I was mad. She grabbed her wine and took a swig then went back to her notebook.
“Genius, you are a taste genius,” she said scribbling madly.
Thomas emails Ruthie about the family, but gets side-tracked by shortbread:
I dithered over whether to ring Ruthie, she’s given me her mob number, but I’m not always very good on the phone, so maybe I should I text her but that seemed a bit abrupt so I emailed her and spent a long time dithering again over whether to say ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ or ‘dear’. I settled on ‘hi’ and just briefly mentioned the Lebanese meal, then asked about the shortbread and suddenly I found I’d written a whole paragraph about; I’d become a bit fixated on the idea of a savoury millionaire’s shortbread; the shortbread part was OK, cheese, nuts, mustard, seeds, that was fine… but what about the caramel? You couldn’t have a savoury caramel, unless you put peanut butter in it which was popular… I’d had some really nice peanut butter ice-cream at a food fair Rebecca and I went to. But supposing you just took the idea of having a sweet layer… maybe quince jelly, maybe a sort of syrupy chutney? Maybe a pomegranate sort of jelly stuff? But then what could you do with the top… it had to be chocolate… but chocolate and cheese? Chocolate and peanut butter and cheese? It didn’t sound right even if you used chilli chocolate… so I was stumped on the chocolate, but I’d give it some more thought.