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Where Can Jane Find a Good Cup of Coffee?

Where Can Jane Find a Good Cup of Coffee?

Where can Jane find a good cup of coffee? Java is important to fiction readers if the response to my recent Instagram post about our home espresso machine is any indication. As a result, I’ve been thinking about where Jane would find a good cup of coffee if she wants one in a future scene. So far, I haven’t come up with a decent answer, and here’s why.

For starters, the first Tipperary County mystery, See Jane Run! is set in 1977. That was at least a decade before coffee roasting and quality coffee became a thing in the United States. I’m not sure it was possible to make a good cup of coffee in the days when the big cans of ground Maxwell House, Folgers, and Hills Brothers were the only choice. Quality food requires quality ingredients and all that.

Furthermore, much of See Jane Run! and subsequent books in the series are based on the years when our young family lived in northwest South Dakota. I was not a fan of Maxwell House, Folgers, and Hill Brothers coffee and only drank tea back then. I have no idea how coffee served in homes and cafes tasted.

On the other hand, I grew up hearing my parents, as well as aunts and uncles, rave about the egg coffee my maternal grandmother made for large family gatherings. Mom’s family was from southern Minnesota, and while Grandma wasn’t Scandinavian, she learned how to make it from neighbors who were. Since the population of northwestern South Dakota was heavily Scandinavian, I assumed the Camp Crook Centennial cookbook would have a recipe for egg coffee. It did not.

The only people who can help with this conundrum are the good citizens Harding County. If you ever lived or now live in Camp Crook, Buffalo, or on a ranch in Harding County, I’d love to hear from you. First, where could Jane have found a good cup of coffee? Second, did you or your parents or grandparents make egg coffee? Third, if they did what was their recipe?

Thanks in advance for your comments. Unlike me, Jane prefers coffee over tea. She’s going to be very cranky until she gets her hands on a good cup of brew, and her bad mood will make writing about her a challenge!

Sign up to receive website updates and See Jane Run! book news on Gravel Road’s home page right under the picture of–you guessed it–the gravel road.

Jane’s Mom and Mine: What’s the Same and What’s Not

Jane’s Mom and Mine: What’s the Same and What’s Not

Fiction writers, whether they admit to it or not, write from what they know. I’ve made it very clear that See Jane Run! is based upon the years my husband and I spent in northwestern South Dakota.

A major character in the book is Jane’s mother, Doris Stanton. She is fashioned after my mother Dorothea Stratton. The two mothers are similar in many ways, but they are not identical. No character, setting, event, or sequence of events in See Jane Run! is identical to the original. To give you a peek at how that works, at least in the case of Doris/Dorothea here are 5 ways the fictional character and the real person are the same, and 5 ways they are different.

What’s the Same

  1. Both women helped their daughters move from tame Iowa to the wilds of South Dakota. (See above picture with Dorothea standing on a hillside on the east side of Missouri River near Chamberlain.)
  2. Both women wear polyester pant suits they sewed themselves. (Again see the picture above.)
  3. Both women had bouffant hair styles, and the South Dakota wind did a number on in both cases.
  4. Neither Doris or Dorothea were excited about their daughters being a 12 1/2 hour drive from home.
  5. Both mother/daughter pairs shared a bed during the first night in the daughters’ new homes. Both mothers clung to their daughters through the night and repeatedly whimpered, “I can’t believe my baby is going to live here.” (I’m not creative enough to make a scene like that up.)

What’s Not

  1. While neither mother was thrilled to have a daughter living so far away, Doris is far more bent out of shape by it than Dorothea ever was.
  2. Both mothers gave their daughters advice over the phone, but Doris (she’s the fictional one, in case you’re confused) gave way more advice and it wasn’t as helpful as Dorothea’s (she’s the real deal) was.
  3. Doris was an unapologetic matchmaker on Jane’s behalf. Dorothea never, not even once, tried to find me a husband because I already had one. Mom’s always been good that way.
  4. Doris sent money so Jane could treat herself to a haircut and buy groceries. Such a thought would never have occurred to Dorothea. If it had, she would have taken two aspirin and gone to bed early in hopes of feeling more like herself in the morning.
  5. Doris was not a fan of Jane’s neighbor Merle Laird. Dorothea got a kick out of the real person Merle Laird is fashioned after. She even milked his cow, made butter, and talked gardening with him. I think he had a crush on her because he was always asking about her.

Sign up to receive website updates and See Jane Run! book news on Gravel Road’s home page right under the picture of–you guessed it–the gravel road.

Stir Up in a Bucket: What Is It?

Stir Up in a Bucket: What Is It?

A post from a couple weeks back featured the 1982 Camp Crook Centennial Cook Book. Friends and former students (who are, to be clear, no longer my students but are my friends) left comments about how they still use the cook book. I do too, but there are a few recipes I have never tried. My hunch is that no one else has either.

While I don’t plan to whip them up in my kitchen, they provide taste of life in Little Missouri where See Jane Run! and other books in the Tipperary County series are set. That’s why I’ll be serving them up from time to time on this blog.

Today’s offering, Stir Up in a Bucket, was briefly mentioned in the Centennial Cook Book post. It was submitted by Walter Stuart (pictured above), a thrice widowed rancher who had a tiny farm in the middle of town, right behind the school where I taught. The character Merle Laird in See Jane Run! is modeled after but not identical to Walter. More on their similarities and differences in future posts.

For now, let’s focus on the recipe for Stir Up in a Bucket. If you, dear reader, have the intestinal fortitude necessary to prepare and eat this delicacy, please leave a comment about whether it’s edible, what it is, and what it tastes like. I’m dying to know, but not enough to try it myself because dying is not at the top of my bucket list.

Readers who don’t have the intestinal fortitude to try Stir Up in a Bucket are welcome to leave a comment after reading the list of ingredients and the spare cooking instructions. It’s a head scratcher for sure, and a tiny glimpse at the ingredients available to early settlers in Tipperary County. Boy, am I glad we didn’t live there then!

Stir Up in a Bucket

1 quart flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add enough bacon grease to keep it from sticking to pan. Add water until you get a heavy batter. Pour into a frying pan. Cook until brown on the bottom and turn. Cut like a cake.

Sign up to receive website updates and See Jane Run! book news on Gravel Road’s home page right under the picture of–you guessed it–the gravel road.

Mapping Out Little Missouri

Mapping Out Little Missouri

Northern two-thirds of the town above and southern two-thirds below. Forgive the overlap. My tech skills aren’t what they should be.

Mapping out Little Missouri was my first order of business when I decided to stop thinking about See Jane Run! and actually write it. My husband and I lived in the town that Little Missouri is modeled after for 7 years. We were young back then, and the town is small, plus we’ve gone back to visit now and then. So I was confident that my recollection of the place was accurate. But I wanted to be absolutely sure.

I called the court house of the real county that the fictional county of Tipperary County is modeled after and asked to be transferred to the department in charge of the maps. “That’ll be Mary,” said the woman on the phone. “I’ll put you through.”

Mary, as it turned out, was the parent of one of the kids I’d taught when we lived out there. She sent not only a map of the town, but also a map of the county. She wouldn’t let me pay for them because that’s what people do out there.

The maps are tucked between the pages of the black and white speckled composition notebook where I jot down all my Little Missouri cozy mystery thoughts. And I used them to sketch the map pictured above. It’s in the same composition notebook with the maps from Mary.

The map came into being ten or more years ago. Since then I’ve published five non-fiction books, and I’ve written and rewritten See Jane Run! at least ten times to get it to the version my agent is pitching. Some characters, like Ole Olofson, have disappeared. Others, like Marvel Kelly, have had their names changed. ( In case you’re wondering, Marvel’s gone from Marvel to Vida to Ida.) And some are waiting in the itwings to appear in future books in the series.

If you’ve been to the town that Little Missouri is modeled after, you may think you recognize some of the buildings. You may think you worked or lived in some of them. When my husband and I study the map, we believe we’ve identified three places similar to where we lived. That’s saying something in a town that small. But we never lived in a house like the one where fictional Jane lives and teaches.

Hopefully you haven’t been utterly confused by all this talk about what’s real. Just remember that Jane and Little Missouri are figments of my imagination. Also remember that figments of imagination have minds of their own and tend to venture into unexpected places. Which explains is why my first order of novel writing business was to nail down the fictional setting by making a map. So neither creation or creator will ever be completely lost and confused.

The Camp Crook Centennial Cook Book

The Camp Crook Centennial Cook Book

The Camp Crook Centennial Cook Book holds a special place in my heart. This little town on the prairie, population 92, celebrated its centennial while we and our baby boy lived there. Cooks from all over Harding County submitted recipes, and I don’t think any were turned away. It was the first publication to accept and feature my work.

All in the form of recipes.
All for foods my mom taught me to cook.
Almost all of them being desserts.

Which just goes to show I’ve had my priorities straight since a young age.

I found this little cook book to be valuable primary source material while I wrote and rewrote at least 10 times–yes, that’s right, 10 times–See Jane Run! Paging through it and seeing familiar names beneath recipes brings back memories of life in a place where the “old timers” had lived in soddies and shacks built by their homesteader parents.

My favorite section is the one for candies and old time recipes. It contains recipes for homemade soap, grandma’s sweet pickles, hand lotion, corn cob syrup, homemade mustard, and something called “stir up in a bucket.”

I have no idea what “stir up in a bucket” is. The first sentence in the instructions which reads as follows–”Add enough bacon grease to keep it from sticking to pan”–doesn’t have me rushing to try it for supper any time soon.

Though I might give it a try to because it has the potential to be a great scene in the sequel to See Jane Run!, which is called Hear Jane Sing! 

Before I mix up a batch of “stir up in a bucket,” I’ll post the recipe here in a month or so. Then all of you can give it a whirl with me, and we can talk about how to incorporate it into the story.

Until then, I suggest you try this recipe for fresh peach pie. It’s in the Camp Crook Centennial Cook Book, and I can vouch for its deliciousness. I’ll be making it as soon as the Colorado and Missouri peaches appear in the grocery store just like in 1983 when the little town where I once lived turned 100 years old.