Cooking up a lesbian romance

By Lucy J. Madison

The first time I made pasta from scratch, I was eight years old. I grew up in rural Connecticut at the end of a cul-de-sac, with my maternal Italian grandparents living in the house across the street. To tell you it was heaven would be an understatement.

One rainy afternoon, my grandmother called me over to help her make something. I ran across the street, with my black Labrador retriever named Sam in tow, feeling important because my grandmother, who I thought was a lot like Superwoman, needed me to help her with something important.

After I took off my shoes, careful to avoid the “Blue Room” or the formal living room that was always covered in plastic and never seemed to ever actually be used, I found my grandmother standing in front of her stove wearing her familiar Nonna’s apron with the pink flowers nearly washed out, as she stirred a pot of tomato sauce with her favorite wooden spoon and sipped Southern Comfort with a single ice cube from a Dixie cup.

On that rainy afternoon, I remember my grandmother showed me how to make a hole in the flour on the board where she dropped in the eggs, and how the dough stuck to my fingers as I helped her knead it. We rolled out sheets of pasta until my arms ached that we cut in many shapes like fettuccine, pappardelle, radiatori, trofie, pacheri, and spaghetti. Batch after batch, one after the other, we hung pasta to dry on the clothes drying rack and even covered my grandparents’ king size bed with towels before covering the entire bed with more pasta.

While we made pasta, we also worked on the sauce. Some Italians call it gravy, but we always called it sauce, and Sunday sauce was loaded with braciole, or thinly sliced sirloin rolled into a thick cigar shape around garlic, parsley and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. We also made meatballs with a mix of ground pork, ground veal, ground beef, garlic, basil, mozzarella cheese and stale bread soaked in milk. All of it made the house smell heavenly as the rain fell in sheets outside the window, as my beloved dog Sam dozed in front of the television with my grandfather as he pretended to watch M.A.S.H.

I don’t remember what we talked about, but I remember feeling so happy to spend time with my grandmother, and I recall feeling utterly content in the kitchen making food that I knew our extended family would enjoy at one of our weekly Sunday dinners. In hindsight, I believe this was the moment I fell in love with food and with cooking. It was the first time I understood what it felt like to take time and care with fresh ingredients to make something special for loved ones. As we cooked, I imagined the now quiet dining room filled with laughter and clanking of dishes and silverware, as we all enjoyed Sunday dinner with cousins and family. I knew exactly which stories would be told because they were the same stories that had been told over and over again for years. My heart filled with joy as I thought about watching everyone I loved savor the food we had prepared.

Years later, I still make Sunday sauce and often invite dear friends and family to sit around our table to enjoy a leisurely dinner together devoid of cell phones or conversations about politics. We still tell funny stories and laugh at each other’s lame jokes, but the point is that we spend time together as the seasons, and the world around us, changes. The act of cooking something special soothes me, calms me in a way Yoga or meditation never will.

All of this experience and joy in cooking led me to writing my third novel, A Recipe for Love. This time around, I knew I wanted to write a traditional lesbian romance, but I wanted to write a story about my love of Italian food, so I decided that the two main characters would meet and fall in love in an Italian cooking class.

When I finished writing the story, I decided to include a pretty lengthy cookbook section where I could share some of my favorite recipes. A few of these recipes are family favorites that I learned from my mother and grandmother, while others are pulled from various sources that I’ve tried and adjusted over time. Because for me, writing a novel is a lot like cooking a meal. I take time to create a story that I hope will help readers relax and escape from the stresses of everyday life for a little while. Cooking a meal is much the same. Both make me happy to share part of myself.

Buon appetito!

About Lucy J. Madison
Lucy J. Madison is an author, screenwriter, and home-cook who may still attend culinary school so she can own a supper club in Provincetown one day. She’s at work on her fifth novel when she’s not in the kitchen.
Facebook, Instagram & Twitter @lucyjmadison

About A Recipe for Love: A Lesbian Culinary Romance
Available for Pre-Order Now. Available 10/10/18.

Piermont, New York. Danika Russo is 55, newly retired from a 30-year career as a mail carrier, and stuck in a rut. After putting her own needs on hold to care for her terminally ill partner and her unloving father, Danika is holed up the childhood home she inherited, a claustrophobic time warp from the 1970s complete with brown Formica and linoleum, and not sure what to do next.

Her best friend Natalie suggests making a list of things she has always wanted to do. Stepping outside her comfort zone, self-deprecating Danika opts for taking an Italian cooking class, not knowing that she will both impress the appreciative chef with her tasting skills and meet a mysterious younger woman there, Finn Gerard, who will capture her heart and teach her the recipe for love. But Finn is withholding a grim secret and, despite her initial passion, appears unable to commit to Danika fully. Will Danika allow herself to let go and fall in love for the first time in her life, even if there are no guarantees? Even if she must learn to let go?

This complex lesbian romance touches on themes of rediscovery and transformation, showing that while love can be the answer, real healing always starts from within.

Lucy Madison’s latest will appeal to fans of fine, well-crafted lesbian fiction and authors like Caren Werlinger. Readers will enjoy a bonus cookbook section at the back, featuring all the recipes mentioned in the book!

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