BAYOU BOOK THIEF is the first in the brand-new Vintage Cookbook Mystery series by Ellen Byron and every bit as charming as I’d anticipated! From captivating diverse characters to dastardly deeds to iconic New Orleans locales, the author pens a vivid tale featuring protagonist, Ricki James. From the very first page, I couldn’t read fast enough as I wanted to get to know the quirky characters and their backstory. Keeping a firm grasp on the pacing of the mystery, Ms. Byron prudently doles out those details, which only made me more intrigued. Ricki is a compelling protagonist in that she was born in New Orleans, then adopted at birth by her NICU nurse and then grew up in Los Angeles. After the demise of her husband and a scandal concerning her previous employer, she returns to New Orleans. Despite her tragic life, Ricki has a sense of humor and a strong sense of justice, mostly in thanks to the couple who raised her. I was pleased that while they’re not physically with Ricki, having retired to Mexico, their long-distance relationship is strong and loving. This gives the book a balance of community and family that can often be missing in mysteries.
Starting over is never easy, but Ricki lands a job operating Miss Vee’s Vintage Cookbooks and Kitchenware gift shop at the Bon Vee Culinary House Museum. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the body of a former employee who she’d accused of stealing to show up and wreak havoc on her new life and new venture. As Ricki delves into the life of the victim and starts asking questions to figure out who there are twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. Ms. Byron pens a tightly plotted story peppered with secrets, lies, and betrayal. With a tempting teaser to close out the book, I cannot wait until the second book releases!
With several vintage cookbooks mentioned throughout the story, it was a pleasure to find out that several recipes from actual vintage cookbooks are included at the back of the book. Ms. Byron includes an introduction to the cookbooks featured on how she came to collect the vintage cookbook. I was drawn to the recipe for Old-Fashioned Gingerbread from the Country Fair Cookbook: Every Recipe a Blue Ribbon Winner (1975). Reminiscent of time spent at my grandmother’s home, this highly flavorful cake brought back memories. I loved Ms. Byron’s addition of diced crystallized ginger, which added a depth of delicious flavor, and with the ease of mixing up, I’ll be baking this again whenever I crave a snack cake. Served on its own or with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar or a dollop of whipped cream, this is a delicious treat!
Twenty-eight-year-old widow Ricki James leaves Los Angeles to start a new life in New Orleans after her showboating actor husband perishes doing a stupid internet stunt. The Big Easy is where she was born and adopted by the NICU nurse who cared for her after Ricki’s teen mother disappeared from the hospital.
Ricki’s dream comes true when she joins the quirky staff of Bon Vee Culinary House Museum, the spectacular former Garden District home of late bon vivant Genevieve “Vee” Charbonnet, the city’s legendary restauranteur. Ricki is excited about turning her avocation – collecting vintage cookbooks – into a vocation by launching the museum’s gift shop, Miss Vee’s Vintage Cookbooks and Kitchenware. Then she discovers that a box of donated vintage cookbooks contains the body of a cantankerous Bon Vee employee who was fired after being exposed as a book thief.
The skills Ricki has developed ferreting out hidden vintage treasures come in handy for investigations. But both her business and Bon Vee could wind up as deadstock when Ricki’s past as curator of a billionaire’s first edition collection comes back to haunt her.
Will Miss Vee’s Vintage Cookbooks and Kitchenware be a success … or a recipe for disaster?
A special thanks to Ellen Byron for providing a print copy of BAYOU BOOK THIEF. Contest ends June 15, 2022 at 11:59 pm PST and is limited to U.S. residents only. Please use the Rafflecopter box located below to enter. The winner will be announced on this page and on Cinnamon & Sugar’s Facebook page, as well as notified by email (so check your spam folder!)
Author's Note: My family owned a cottage on a lake in Connecticut, and one of my favorite activities was attending the local town and county fairs. I was so excited when I found this cookbook at our local library book sale. I love gingerbread, and this book includes almost half a dozen delicious recipes for it. I couldn't resist including a recipe inspired by the one described as "deep, dark gingerbread like Grandmother used to make." Country Fair Cookbook: Every Recipe a Blue Ribbon Winner (1975)
- 2-1/2 cups flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 cup dark molases
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1/2 cup diced crystallized ginger (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.
Sift or stir the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt together.
In another bowl, cream the shortening and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well, then beat in the molasses.
Add the dry ingredients to the shortening mixture, alternating with the hot water. Beat the batter well after each addition to combine the ingredients. Stir in the crystallized ginger if using.
Pour the batter into the greased 9-inch square baking pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake is done. This can be determined by either pressing the top to see if it bounces back or inserting a toothpick that comes out clean.
I made this twice, but the second time I used my mini Bundt pans to bake. Reduce the baking time to 20 minutes, then start checking every 2 minutes for doneness.
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I was provided with an advance copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I like to use my mom’s old cookbooks so that I can make some of the meals we had when we were kids. Back before covid and now high gas prices, we would go antiquing and I would always check out the books. I found a Betty Crocker cookbook from the year I was born and it’s for teaching kids to cook. I have 3 granddaughters and I will be spending Christmas with them for a few days and I’m going to give them the book and then it will give us something to do together.
I found my first vintage cookbook when I went antiquing!
I love looking through vintage cookbooks.
Your gingerbread looks delicious! Thank you for the recipe and wonderful giveaway!
I love a good vintage cookbook and have quite a few of them. It’s always fun to try the older recipes.
Love old cookbooks! I have several of my Granny’s and Mom’s. I even have a very old Army one which makes like 100 servings. At antique malls I’m drawn to old cookbooks. At this point in life, I don’t usually buy more kitchen gadgets, but I do own quite a few that were handed down to me or that I’ve bought over the years.
Thank you for the Old-Fashioned Gingerbread! Gingerbread always reminds me of my Granny who knowing I loved it always had a pan coming out the oven when I went over to mow her lawn.
Oh, I’d love to get my hands on that army cookbook.
YES! I LOVE looking through vintage cookbooks and accessories! Esp. vintage cookbooks. I have quite a few that belonged to my grandmother and great-grandmother! So fun looking through those! My mother grew up on a farm and she has a lot of vintage cooking/baking accessories….butter molds, coffee grinders…etc. The recipe look delicious! I love gingerbread! The book sounds like a fun/great read!
i do enjoy looking through vintage cookbooks. Also, I do love a good old-fashioned gingerbread.
I love looking through vintage cookbooks.
I love browsing old cookbooks and trying new recipes. Thanks for your great generosity.
Yes!! Part of searching for old ones has been to find ones my mom used to have. Some make better reading than others, Betty C always has great captions and comments in the old wirebound ones!
I love browsing old cookbooks and I have a couple of them. It’s always fun to see the different ingredients (or different versions of ingredients we use today). Congratulations to Ellen on her new series and thanks for the giveaway!
Thanks so much, Autumn!
I like browsing old cookbooks. My mother and grandmother were great cooks.
I love browsing them too
What a great idea to update the recipe with the crystalized ginger. I am not sure what motivates me more to get the book, the story or the recipes within the story thanks to your most most excellent review.
I DO love vintage cookbooks and recipes. I have to say we are VERY spoiled now because a recipe used to be a lot more complicated. Vintage is fun!
Cooking and baking are not really my thing but I love finding recipes for my friends who like to be in the kitchen. 🙂
Yes, I love looking at vintage cookbooks and recipes. I have one cookbook from the 1950’s. I like the older Corningware dishes I have. I used to have the old potato masher! Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of this book. Love the cover!
Definitely enjoy browsing old cookbooks. Have many of those old gadgets from my great grandma. Including her grams bone crochet hooks.
My grandma cooked/baked but recipes were in her head. My mom, ehhhhh. I just started cooking once I retired and typically google for recipes.
Old cookbooks are the best. The recipes are excellent, and use everyday, easy to find ingredients. It’s also interesting to see these original recipes for something I still make today, and if there’s any variations through the years.
I love old (and new) cookbooks.
We used to make gingerbread when camping, using a mix though for simplicity. Using a Dutch oven we’d put a layer of applesauce in the bottom and then pour on the batter. Warm gingerbread with warm applesauce is terrific.
I love vintage everything!
Yes! I love gingerbread. I do enjoy browsing vintage cookbooks and baking accessories
“Do you enjoy browsing vintage cookbooks and baking accessories?” Sure! I love neat cookbooks and baking accessories! I’d love to collect those!
I don’t really get the chance to often but when I do, I love checking it all out. Thanks for the recipe and congrats on your release!
Hi all! I’m having some problems responding to comments, but I’m reading and loving them all!
I love browsing vintage cookbooks and seeing vintage cooking and baking utensils.
Yes, I do.
Yes, I do. Thank you for the recipe.
I’m trying to comment, but it’s not showing up. I do like browsing vintage cookbooks and cooking items. Thanks for the recipe.
What a fun plot idea! And I love quirky characters!
I have quite a few old cookbooks. The recipes in them seem strange sometimes, but they can be inspirational!
I love old cookbooks–especially ones from the church ladies. I have some very old ones from many decades ago and I continue to refer to them for special occasions (I do not do much daily cooking).
All of my cookbooks and bakeware are vintage. And, I do love to go through them and hate to part with them.
Yes I love vintage (and new) cookbooks, recipes etc. I have my mom’s tin bread box that had alll her recipes, recipe books from food companies and also has some of my grandmothers in it also
I enjoy looking at vintage cookbooks and bakeware.
I love vintage cookbooks. Some of my favorite meals are straight from the ones I’ve collected. And I have quite a few vintage accessories I’ve found at estate sales.
I prefer looking through cookbooks rather than actually cooking. I’m not a great cook but like to bake sometimes, especially at Christmas. I’ll give a shout out to my sister who is a wonderful cook and does use our mom’s Betty Crocker cookbook from the 50s which has all kinds of notes and recipes that mom found in newspapers and magazines. Her daughter is barely out of her teens and a wonderful cook (better then me,sigh) and I am sure she will treasure inheriting it someday.
I do love vintage cookbooks! I love all cookbooks!! Thanks for the recipe and the chance!
This sounds like a really good story. Also I really enjoy baking and love reading old cookbooks.
I am always looking for old recipe books then I go thru them and pass them to a friend who has quite a lot of them. We both love vintage cookware love finding it written in the historical books also!
I Love vintage cookbooks, and seeing the vintage utensils they used to bake. Its neat.
The recipe sounds so good and yes I do!
I inherited several vintage cookbooks from my mother. I do enjoy looking through them.
I love old cookbooks! I have a nice collection of them.
I love a good gingerbread recipe. I like to top my slices with a dollop of lemon curd.
At 81 and a widow, I don’t cook a lot.
I have a cookbook that I bought from
Kroger in 1959 or 1960. It came
in sections each week until complete.
Over 1500 pages. Interesting to look
back at those recipes (and still
use some of them). Will be making
the gingerbread recipe. Love gingerbread.
I adore vintage cookbooks and baking accessories! I wish I had more kitchen space. I’d especially like to expand my cast iron collection.
Yes, I love cookbooks, especially from the 60s and 70s.
I enjoy browsing old cookbooks
I absolutely love old vintage baking stuff