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Interview: Thanksgiving Memories with Author Ellen Byerrum

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Ellen Byerrum always knew she wanted to write, but had nothing to write about — yet. She  majored in journalism. Her role models? Brenda Starr. Lois Lane. Hildy Johnson, played by Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday (based on the play The Front Page). Byerrum’s fictional heroines were (and are) all beautiful, smart, sassy, and very well-dressed – just like the entertaining Byerrum.

After graduating college with these lofty goals, she “interviewed” by phone for one of the small-town reporter jobs posted with her journalism school placement office, with a newspaper in a little town in western Colorado.

Lacey was a character in Byerrum’s  imagination long before she appeared in the Crime of Fashion mystery series. For years Byerrum carried around in her head the first few lines of Killer Hair and the image of Lacey looking down at a beautiful young woman in a coffin, wearing the worst haircut she’s ever seen. Lacey was amusing and persistent, and now she’s striding stylishly through her mysteries in her high heels and her knockout vintage suits.

Ellen was gracious enough to share some Thanksgiving traditions with me.

Enjoy!

What are you most grateful for?

That I was able to leave my day job and continue to write books. I hope I will be thankful for this again next year.

Favorite Thanksgiving tradition?

Taking a long beautiful walk before, or after, dinner with my husband. Also, watching the opening Broadway musical numbers at the Macy’s parade on TV, then going back to bed. When I was younger, having the whole family sing “We Gather Together” before feasting.

Where will you spend Thanksgiving this year?

At our new home in Denver.

Most memorable Thanksgiving memory?

Don’t tell my friend T this, but my most memorable Thanksgiving was the time he borrowed the deep fryer from his neighbor to deep fry a turkey. Well the gas line immediately burned up (not causing any harm). Despite our recommendations to put the turkey in the oven, he was intent on deep fried turkey. His solution? Put a pan of oil on his barbeque and let it heat up to the proper temperature, then deep fry it that way. To cut to the chase, it worked. However, we were supposed to eat at 4 p.m. But the oil temperature wasn’t ready until 10 p.m.  We ate all the appetizers and several of the side dishes and the wine before the turkey came out, most and tender as advertised.

What do you do the eve before Thanksgiving?

We generally go grocery shopping for those last minute things we’ve forgotten.

What’s your number one splurge food?

I don’t know. If it was Christmas, I’d say good beef.

What do you prefer sweet or salty?

Sweet, I have a terrible sweet tooth.

What are your plans for the holidays this year?

A quiet holiday with my husband.  A nice walk in the afternoon, and hopefully seeing other people enjoying the holiday.

Which food and drink combo says it’s the holiday season to you?   
Hot buttered rum and egg nog are the drinks. If it’s just the two of us, we roast a duck for Thanksgiving. But of course, I like anything sweet.

What are the five tools you must have in the kitchen for Thanksgiving dinner?

The Betty Crocker Cookbook. The edition that tells you, when cooking turkey, to cut off the head and remove the pin feathers.

A good carving knife.

A jigger.

A measuring cup.

To stir it all up: my ancient stirring spoon with the wooden handle.


Please share a favorite Thanksgiving recipe.

Oh dear! How about some nut bread, a recipe from my grandmother: Mrs. Wells Famous Nut Bread. Who is Mrs. Wells? No idea, presumably a friend of the family. This nut bread is not for dinner, but lovely in the morning with good coffee and the Macy’s parade. Very simple and very tasty. It is even better served warm with fresh butter. The key is using evaporated milk which gives it a little extra special flavor. Please don’t use the ghastly nonfat kind of evaporated milk. If you do, I cannot be held responsible.

Mix together:

3 cups of flour

1 teaspoon salt (probably optional)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup of sugar

Blend in:

1 egg mixed with 1 can of evaporated milk (1 ¾ quarter cup)

Add:

1 cup broken pecans or walnuts if you prefer

Pour into a bread pan, mine is 4 ½ “by 8 ½”. Let dough rise for 20 minutes and cook for one hour in a “slow oven,” 325 degrees. When done, it should be a lovely light to medium brown (not burned) with a crispy top.

If you could have a dream Thanksgiving dinner party, who would you invite?

In addition to my friends and family, how about Lord Peter and Harriet Wimsey, Phillip Marlowe (dangerous choice, he might insult everyone), Priscilla Alden (because it would be nice to have someone who was at the first Thanksgiving), and, sue me, William F. Buckley, Jr. (because he once offered me champagne at a White House Correspondent’s dinner, and he could bring the champagne.)


What’s the one Thanksgiving dish your family can’t live without?

Stuffing. Doesn’t matter if we serve a duck or turkey.

What do you do after the meal is finished? Play football? Watch football? Movies?

Take a long walk, watch a DVD, something like Pieces of April. Never football, we’d need subtitles to understand the game.

Pumpkin, Pecan or Apple?

 Pecan.

Are you up early the next morning to kick off your holiday shopping?

Heaven’s no! Sleeping in and staying as far away as possible from malls and shopping centers!

Thank you so much for this warm Thanksgiving memory.

Happy Thanksgiving from my house to yours! Warm Thanksgiving wishes from the gang at Blogcritics, too.

Click here to read my review of Killer Hair.

Click here to visit Ellen’s website.

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About Diane Morasco

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