By CHRIS HAMMOND
Theresa Carle-Sanders, foreword by Stephen King
Ten Speed Press
Stephen King‘s literary universe is all-encompassing and ever-changing. Professional chef, author and bibliophile Theresa Carle-Sanders adds to King’s immense fandom with her own unique touch. CASTLE ROCK KITCHEN focuses on the dishes, drinks and desserts that appear in the pages of King’s novels set in Maine. Carle-Sanders recently took the time to speak with RUE MORGUE about her tome of King cuisine.
To firmly set the book in King’s world, Sanders chose Mrs. Garraty, a character from King’s early novel The Long Walk as the narrator.
“Mrs. Garraty. Yeah, she’s a funny choice. I think Stephen King thought she was a funny choice,” Carle-Sanders says. “I chose her because we wanted a really in-world experience. We wanted a narrator from the world, but I didn’t want to pick a character that had a voice already. The Long Walk is the first book King ever wrote. He wrote it when he was 19. It’s not the first one that was published. When I read it, [I knew] she’s perfect for what I wanted because it’s a Maine cookbook. We’re focusing on stories that only take place in Maine, so we do leave a few key ones out. She’s lived there for her whole life. She now lives in a dystopian future where she’s stuck there, but she has access to all these old Maine recipes. I can be in her boots and talk. It gave me a lot of confidence. Her voice is quite confident. I really, really like writing as her. It was lots of fun.”
This isn’t Carle-Sanders’ first time creating cookbooks based on an existing universe. She has written two cookbooks based on Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels. According to the author, that experience helped in preparing CASTLE ROCK KITCHEN.
“They gave me the system that I use now to make a cookbook. So what I do is, I read [the books] on a Kindle now, and I highlight anytime I see food or mention of food and even someone described as food, which happens quite often as well,” Carle-Sanders explains. “The biggest thing I learned from the first Outlander Kitchen Cookbook are those systems, but also I developed my art of the excerpt. I’m very good at finding the best excerpts for food. So you have to find the best most emotionally captivating excerpt. You don’t just want it to mention the food. You kind of want to get either a little kernel of the story that’s happening or a bit of drama that’s happening. In real life as well as in books, when food is involved, people are generally around a table, and they’re talking. They’re talking about something or sharing, and things happen. Dramatic things happen when food is involved.”
Readers will notice an inclusive feel in the cookbook’s 256 pages. The recipes are inviting and simple in their layout. This isn’t by mistake, Sanders gives the rationale behind this:
“There’s a lot of instant food or fast food these days, and I don’t think it’s very good for any of us. I think a lot of people really do enjoy cooking – when they do it. It’s just a hard thing to find time for now. So attaching recipes in a cookbook to fiction and attaching it to fandom that people are passionate about – they absolutely love it. They’ll cook the cookbook cover to cover.”
The recipes are very Maine, but they also have names that scream Stephen King like “Pancakes with the Toziers” (a nod to the characters from IT). The excerpts explain why the names make sense.
“You get to that point where you have your spreadsheet, and let’s say 600 mentions. Then, I organize them into chapters that you would see in a cookbook, so at that point, I may have – what’s a big one for him? He likes tuna fish sandwiches. Boy does he like his tuna fish sandwiches! So tuna fish sandwiches 18 times in a row. I wouldn’t want to write a recipe for a Tuna fish sandwich, but a blue plate special or something like that. That’s where the art of the excerpt comes in. I have 100 words that I can take for any recipe and put them at the top of the recipe. I have to be a bit choosy.
Sometimes as you go, it becomes obvious that the excerpt isn’t good enough … or there are too many beef recipes already, so we have to find a chicken one, and that’s just straight cookbook writing. Putting the table of contents together is by far the most fun and exciting. Sometimes, the recipe names come then. Other times, they come when I’m cooking them. It has to be a creative, fun-sounding thing because it’s a fictional cookbook, and it should be fun.”
Theresa Carle-Sanders pours an immense amount of time and preparation into her cookbooks. Much of the work is reading, and much of this reading took place during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led her to a better understanding of King’s world.
“I literally spent most of the pandemic reading,” Carle-Sanders says. “You certainly pick up that it’s a dark world. It’s a dark place to be, especially book after book, but it was fascinating. There’s a depth and complexity that I discovered, and I know there’s even more. If I was to read them again, then I’d find out all sorts of new things as well. It’s almost endless.”
Photographer Jenny Bravo and food-prop stylist Chantal Lambeth bring readers to Maine through pictures. The photographs give an atmospheric and haunting feel to the cookbook with a healthy balance of eerie and yummy, piquing the reader’s interest and whetting their appetite.
“Jenny has taken some amazing photos … They almost look like a renaissance painting. The outside shots – she got some great winter ones and some great cemetery ones. She grew up in Maine. She knows Maine. Her stylist, the woman that did all the food styling, Chantal [Lambeth] was amazing as well. They are both amazing cooks and very artistic.”
Many of Stephen King’s iconic novels don’t get a mention in CASTLE ROCK KITCHEN. This leaves the door open for a sequel. Sanders has plans in place for one and explains what it may contain.
“Anything that has a Dark Tower connection, we’re looking at, but we don’t have a full plan until I’m working with an editor, and we decide what we’re going to focus on. That’s how we did this Maine idea. That was the editor’s idea. It really focused the book rather than just trying to take all of his work on. Otherwise, the cookbook would be all over the place.”
CASTLE ROCK KITCHEN for fans, by a fan and it doesn’t get better than this. When Stephen King gives his approval to a cookbook, you know you’re in store for something legendary – and delicious.
Look for Castle Rock Kitchen by Theresa Carle-Sanders on October 4 in bookstores and online.
“Stephen King gave me a few tips. He told me to read Dolores Claiborne over and over and over because that is the most Maine character he has ever written”