Novel Nibbles & Celtic Connections.

My middle son is a classically-trained chef. The book pictured here is from his cookbook collection.

Proust - cookbook

1979 ed., Thames & Hudson, publishers. Don’t you love that eye-popping cover?

I learned from the cookbook that Marcel Proust was a French writer whose epic-length novels often digressed into detailed accounts of gastronomic delights.

Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust, 1871-1922

The French are famous for their food, and because I’m half French, it explains a lot about my writing – especially the 591 references to food, cooking and eating that can be found in Irish Firebrands. It also explains how, since I have no Irish ancestry, I could produce an Irish novel of epic proportions: it’s my Continental Celtic (Gallic) connection.


The Dying Gaul. Capitoline Museum.

(Irish Firebrands also features an episode relating to a torc, such as the one depicted in the sculpture.)


“Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres,” Caesar wrote in De Bello Gallico

We’ve begun a sensory examination of the Irish Firebrands adventure that’s been divided into five parts: Scent, Savor, Sight, Sound, Sensations. Because there are too many episodes of eating in the book, I won’t be listing them, but here’s a genuine Irish recipe as it appears in Chapter 6: champ. You’ll need enough potatoes to feed two; a handful of long, green scallions, finely chopped; just enough milk in which to heat the scallions; and several tablespoons of real butter (firm), cut into chunks, to push down into the middle of each serving.

Dillon had never joined his wife in the kitchen – and now he wondered why, for he found it pleasurable to stand beside Lana, watching and working with her. Her movements round the kitchen seemed almost choreographed in their grace and timing.

He saw that she finished peeling and chopping the potatoes just as a stewpot of water came to a boil. The potatoes went into the pot; she set the timer on the cooker, and then took milk and scallions out of the fridge. She measured the milk into a saucepan, and washed and minced the scallions, finishing just as the timer rang. The onions went into the saucepan of milk on another hob and she reset the timer. When it rang again, the vegetables were cooked. She shut off the heat under the scallions; then she drained the potatoes and set them back on the hob to dry while she retrieved butter from the fridge, and rummaged in a drawer for a potato mace and a wooden spoon.

“So, where did you learn to make champ?” Dillon said.

Lana shook the potatoes around in the pot. “This is my first try. I’d had it at a pub, so I knew what it was, and I went to the library and found a recipe online.”

“You’ve gone to a lot of trouble to make a treat for me.”

She began to crush the potatoes. “It’s a treat for me, too. I like mashed potatoes, but without an electric beater I don’t have the stamina to get ’em as smooth as I like ’em.” She poured the scallions and milk into the potatoes; then she smiled and handed him the wooden spoon. “Here’s where you get to earn your keep!”

©2012 by Christine Plouvier.


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6 responses to “Novel Nibbles & Celtic Connections.

  1. So, I have to know… even though he’s a chef, does your son still get you to cook for him? (Mine does!) The recipe sounds delicious! I love when books have “hidden recipes” in them like that (and especially when it involves potatoes!).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. His appetite and mine are not always on the same page, but I’m not real good at cooking for one, so when I’ve made something we both like, and there’s enough for the Sixth Fleet, he’s welcome to it. Sometimes he does the cooking, and sometimes we collaborate. Tonight, I made an omelette, asparagus tips, and fried potatoes and onions, and he made Bechamel sauce for it.

    The champ recipe (mash with scallions and butter) is the only way I make mashed potatoes, now. Any leftovers usually morph into fish cakes, the next day.


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