Can a Kitchen Inspire Suspense Novels?
A few years ago my husband and I sat down and looked over our life plan. After a lot of soul-searching and investigation, we realized that he could retire at the end of that year. We could move from the Chicago suburbs, buy a couple of acres near our hometown, and build our dream house. So we did.
During the process of hunting for the perfect property, finding the perfect house plan, and tying up all the loose ends, I had a huge, light bulb above the head, aha moment. If we were moving back to the country, there would no longer be a restaurant around every corner, takeout possibilities would be severely limited, and unless I got serious about cooking, we might starve.
At first, I was more resigned than joyful about returning to the kitchen. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to cook; it was that I didn’t enjoy it. When we first got married, I had loved cooking, but somewhere in the long years of working full-time as a school psychologist while writing a book or two a year, it had become a chore.
My first thought was that since he was retiring and I was still going to be writing full-time, my DH should take over. A few experiments and I realized that while he was an excellent and willing sous-chef, he wasn’t executive chef material. Sadly, I had the talent and he didn’t.
But now, three years later, I’ve rediscovered my love for cooking. All I needed was inspiration. And I found it when I came up with my cooking philosophy—HIT—Healthy, Inexpensive, Tasty.
And bonus points if it isn’t too complicated and doesn’t take hours and hours to make. Eating has always been one of my life’s biggest pleasures (see my waistline) and now, so is cooking.
Here are the FIVE reasons I just love being in my kitchen with my husband as we create meals to enjoy in front of our new fireplace or on our screen porch.
- It’s creative. Cooking is another outlet for my wild imagination. I love adding this or that to a recipe and tweaking it until it’s perfect.
- It’s freeing. I’m in charge. I get to choose what I make, the quality of the ingredients, and I can leave out whatever I don’t like.
- It’s a way to stay healthy.
The older my husband and I get, the more I realize how important it is to take control of what we eat. I can avoid processed food and focus on using healthy ingredients, cut down on sodium and sugars, and limit carbs while still having a really yummy, satisfying meal. This is not a weight loss plan, simply a healthy eating one.
- It’s good for both my emotional well-being and my marriage.
Spending time in the kitchen fixing dinner with my husband helps calm both of us so that no matter how the day went, when we sit down to eat we are in a much less stressed-out mood. It’s also where we do a lot of talking and planning for our next fun adventure.
- It’s immediate gratification.
I get to eat a tasty meal and enjoy the fruits of my labor immediately.
BONUS reason that I love cooking again.
My returned interest in cooking resulted in the inspiration for a new mystery series. I’ve always been the kind of writer who needs a personal connection to my books. My first series, The Scumble River mysteries, was easy since I was writing about a school psychologist sleuth and I had worked for many years as a school psych. My second series, the Devereaux’s Dime Store mysteries, was a bit more of a stretch. I had to go way back to my days as a teenager in a small town hanging out in the local five-and-dime store.
But my new series, the Chef-to-Go mysteries, came to me in a rush. What would happen if someone, like me, returned to her first love—cooking—and opened her own business? As my husband and I chopped, sautéed, and stirred, we brainstormed and the first book was born.
New York Times bestselling author Denise Swanson lives in rural Illinois with her classical-composer husband and whatever wildlife wanders into her yard. She writes the Scumble River, Devereaux’s Dime Store, and the Chef-to-Go mystery series. Denise also writes the Change of Heart and Delicious Love romances.