Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Q&A with author Karen Sommer Shalett

Karen Sommer Shalett
Karen Sommer Shalett, editor in chief of DC Magazine, is the co-author of a new cookbook, True Blood: Eats, Drinks, and Bites from Bon Temps, based on HBO's True Blood TV show.

Q: How did the idea of a True Blood cookbook come about?

A: After having passed on the highly successful Sopranos cookbook, Chronicle Books reached out to HBO in advance of a decision to create a cookbook for its incredibly popular True Blood show. After cementing that relationship with a successful project, the partnership has been extended to a cookbook featuring cuisine from the HBO (and also Louisiana-themed, though solely New Orleans) show Treme. I understand that the original Sopranos cookbook broke all kinds of records in publishing, not limited to cookbooks or spinoffs from TV shows. I'm sure Chronicle hopes these cookbooks will do as well.

The cookbook for True Blood works because every episode features authentic cuisine from the area of Louisiana in which it’s set. There are Cajun classics and a few Creole ones, too. There are also low-country Louisiana dishes and traditional Southern fare featured in the show and that was the source material from which we pulled each of the entries. 

Q: How did you get involved in the cookbook?

A: I got very lucky. A food writer friend of mine, Pableaux Johnson, who lived in New Orleans, contacted me to ask if I watched the show. I did and do. He knew I'd understand the cuisine as I'd lived in Louisiana and had family roots there--at least in-laws--and he said he'd be passing on the project as he didn't watch the show. I spoke to the Chronicle editor on the project and she was a dynamo. We agreed we really wanted to work together and we turned what otherwise would have been a six-month schedule into a seven-week one because that was all the time she had to ensure the appropriate publication date. 

Q: There are several authors--what role did each of you play in the project?

A: Alan Ball is given lead credit on the book as he created the characters whose voices I used to introduce each of the recipes. Gianna Sobol edited the character's voices to ensure authenticity. The recipes are created and tested by celebrated recipe writer Marcelle Bienvenu. She works with famous chefs, such as Emeril Lagasse, on a variety of cookbooks, most of which have roots in Louisiana. 

Q: Would someone who's not a fan of True Blood enjoy the cookbook, or do you have to be an aficionado to appreciate it?

A: Given the packaging of the book with fantastic photos from the show, it is the perfect gift for a True Blood fan. However, the recipes--which include cocktails, home cooking, restaurant-style dishes and desserts--stand on their own as excellent examples of the regional cuisine. But perhaps it is best for a fan.  

Q: What are a few of your favorite recipes from the book?

A: My boys are very excited for the frosted cake on the cover. It is the most angelic of the dishes...funny for a vampire-related show and for my devilish boys. 

Q: Are you working on another book now?

A: I'm not working on a book right now. I have several ideas for books that Chronicle is more than excited to receive proposals for, but as a mother of two, wife and editor-in-chief of a magazine, finding the time has been the hurdle. 

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I was struck by how silly a project this was until I really gave it thought about why people cook for each other in the first place. I love that I've helped to create a project that people can share both in the humor of it, but also in the nurturing the dishes bring. 

Interview with Deborah Kalb.

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