I am so happy to have Sarah stop by today. I loved her story but you can read my review at the bottom of this post. Please join me in welcoming Sarah here today!!
Thank you for hosting me! Julia’s Child was a joy to write. And it’s my pleasure to tell you why.
The Fun of Research
By Sarah Pinneo
One of the best things about writing a novel is research. You can spend an hour Googling “goat manure” or “flash freezers,” and if anyone asks what you’re up to, you can truthfully answer “working!” Writing is hard—pushing the story forward one sentence at a time. In contrast, research is an effortless trip down the meandering path of human invention and desire.
But the research for Julia’s Child did not happen only in my web browser. Julia’s Child is the story of mompreneur Julia Bailey, and her relentless desire to see her organic toddler food products on the shelves at Whole Foods. So getting the story right required that I meet several real-life organic entrepreneurs. A good researcher is always thorough, mind you. So not only did I interview them, but I tasted their wares. (Organic dark chocolate sandwich cookies? Yes I will, thank you).
It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
Calories aside, I learned a lot. I began writing Julia’s Child with the vague notion that selling food was a difficult way to make a buck, and I wanted to explore the clash between high ideals and the cool reality of trying to break even. When I began interviewing mompreneurs, my suspicions were confirmed. Their stories featured plenty of dramatic tension. One mom had her commercial freezer malfunction on the same day she went into labor for her second child. Her office smelled like rotting garbage by the time she made it back.
One woman was discouraged from touring investors in search of venture capital dollars, because she was pregnant. “It looks bad,” they told her. “Like you’re not committed to the business.” Her response: “It is baby food. You know that, right?”
Writing fiction involves choice after choice, judgment call after judgment call. When I wrote this book, especially the funny parts, I would step back and ask myself: should I really have obstructed her mad dash to the TV station with that political demonstration? Is it too much?
As it turns out, no and no.
La Verne Lesznik of Cottage Hill Farm was living proof that mompreneurs are in a slapstick business. She makes delicious organic cake mixes. She strapped her one year-old granddaughter into the car seat, and then set a single chocolate cake on the opposite side of the car. The cake was destined for a potential retail distributor.
Guess who found a way out of that car seat and into that cake? The little girl smeared La Verne’s only sample around the back of the car, and all over herself.
The bumps in the road these women experienced always seemed like a complete disaster at the time, but the difference between the winners and the losers was perseverance. Mompreneur Caroline Freedman is the co-founder of the now national baby food company NurturMe. Her innovation was to dehydrate organic fruits and vegetables—creating a product which is meant to be used like baby cereal. Moms combine it with milk or water for baby to eat.
But the first batch didn’t go so well.
Caroline and her friend and collaborator Lauren McCullough first tried to dehydrate sweet potato. “We put puree on a baking sheet, and set it in the oven to dehydrate. Twenty hours later we had something like a fruit roll-up.” Luckily, they were able to call on assistance from drum- and freeze-drying experts in the nearby organic farming community. And now NurturMe is sold at Target.com, at Stop n Shop and a dozen other places.
Another theme of their stories was risk taking. Dadpreneur Zak Normandin maxed out all his credit cards to start Little Duck Organics. He filled the first orders in the basement of his New Hampshire home. Now he has four employees (and a real office!) and Little Duck is sold in Whole Foods and other stores around the country.
The more I talked to entrepreneurs, the more it came to seem to me that writing a novel was a lot like starting a company. You take a risk—it’s hard to say what will pan out before you’re actually out there trying to peddle your wares. You rewrite when necessary.
Julia says, in the first chapter, that to start a business (or write a book!) you begin with the crazy idea that you have something the world needs. And then you spend a lot of time and money trying to prove yourself correct.
Sometimes it works. After a couple of stutter steps, I’m thrilled that Plume/Penguin USA has published my debut novel. But it wasn’t easy. It was a dream which took either three years, seven years or twenty years depending on how I count them. Sometimes I hear it said that deserving books always find a publisher, and that’s a nice sentiment. But it’s my belief that luck plays a huge part in success.
And luck cuts both ways. Just ask entrepreneur Chris Kaiser, whose scrumptious company Vermont Peanut Butter makes a product I adore. Aside from the usual “crunchy” and “smooth,” Vermont Peanut Butter makes a flavor they call Good Karma, which has—brace yourself—dark chocolate in it. I’m hooked. But in spite of a great product and good planning, luck intervened. Hurricane Irene swept through Vermont this past fall, washing away homes and businesses, including Kaiser’s. His desk was literally swept down river in the flood.
Luckily, the company bounced back in time to go national, and to provide me with an uninterrupted supply of Good Karma.
Research, I tell you. Stick with me.
Julia’s Child: A Novel
A Plume Book
Published by The Penguin Group
Moms do everything we can to get our kids to eat healthy foods. Julia Bailey decides to help moms out by creating her own organic food for toddlers. Getting her products out in the markets is not as easy as she thought it would be. But then she gets the opportunity to go on television to promote her product. The response is overwhelming in many ways. Keeping up with demand, storage, transportation. She is now facing long hours away from her family. Her two sons need her, even as her husband volunteers to stay home with them. Can she juggle her career and her busy home life?
I loved this story, so funny but also very enlightening. It had the feel of the movie Baby Boomthat came out in 1987 staring Diane Keaton with an up to date twist.
My first child was a very picky eater and 25 years later he still is. There were many days we were both covered in green beans and spinach. I wish there was Julia’s Child or something like it way back then.
I love Pinneo’s writing style. She gives a very realistic voice to the challenges of parents today with all the processed and fast food choices, she shows an alternative in a humorous and loving way. This is a book you will read all in one sitting and there are recipes included!!! Recipes that are not just good for children but all of us!!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Pinneo, like her character Julia, understands the work vs. stay at home decision. Sarah was a Wall Street dealmaker for ten years before making the transition from breadwinner to bread baker. Now a food journalist, and co-author of The Ski House Cookbook: Warm Winter Dishes for Cold Weather Fun. Sarah blogs on her home page at sarahpinneo.com, and at Blub is a Verb on SheWrites.com. She lives with her family in Ludlow Vermont, and Hanover, New Hampshire.
Here’s a recipe to try!
Apple & Cheddar Muffet Recipe
by Sarah Pinneo
for Julia’s Child
1 very large apple or 2 small ones
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg lightly beaten
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar, divided
“…The first time I wrote this, I put ‘organic’ in front of every ingredient. But it looked overzealous and uptight. (Don’t say it—kind of like me.) What do you think?…” Julia’s Child p. 97.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Generously grease and flour 12 muffin cups.
Peel and core the apples and dice finely. If your toddler is helping, peel and slice an extra one to share. If you play your cards right, he or she will be busy eating the apple slices while you’re measuring out the dry ingredients.
In a small skillet, melt the butter and sauté the apple until tender and just beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, sour cream, and 1 cup of the cheese. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients; then add the apples and butter. Stir just to combine.
Spoon into the prepared tin, and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until very brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffets comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a rack. Loosen muffets by ringing their edges with a plastic knife. Turn them gently out onto a plate. Serve warm or room temperature.
Thanks to the wonderful people at Plume
I have 2 copies of this delightful book to giveaway!!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”