Keith Hawk, MuggleNet (KH): I'm sitting with Dinah Bucholz of Philadelphia and she has just released her new book titled 'The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook'. First Dinah, I'd like to welcome you tonight, and thank you for joining us here on MuggleNet, and congratulations on your book.
Dinah Bucholz (DB): Well thank you very much, I'm delighted to be here.
KH: Tell us when was the idea first originated and how did it evolve since that first origination?
DB: Well, it sounds a little crazy to say this but it just popped into my head one day. I just had a flash of inspiration. I even remember exactly where I was. I was returning home from errands, I was turning from Route 1 onto Woodward Street (Northeast Philadelphia, PA) when all of a sudden, the words 'Harry Potter Cookbook' actually flashed into my head. And I think that it must have been in my subconscious because we do have some literary cookbooks at home. We have 'The Little House Cookbook' which is based on the series, 'The Little House on the Prairie' series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. And we have an 'American Girls Cookbook'.
It must have been, somehow that connection must have been made in my brain. That's the only explanation I can give for the fact that this just popped into my head one day.
I was always interested in the food in Harry Potter just out of curiosity, you know, I always felt you can't read Harry Potter without getting hungry there is such good food described in there and the feast sounds amazing. But I had no idea what the food was; I was wondering what in the world is 'Treacle Tart'? It sounds so good or what is 'Knickerbocker Glory'? What are these things? And I did try 'Treacle Tart' once because I happened to see it in a cookbook that I just happened to have in my house, but that was before I conceived the idea to write the cookbook. When that thought popped into my head, the first thing I did was rush straight home put my baby to bed, she was just about to have her nap anyway and I grabbed the very first Harry Potter book and started flipping through the pages and jotting down the foods and as soon as my husband came home from work I said, 'I have such a great idea for a book, it's such a great idea for a book'. And when I told him he said, 'That is a really good idea!' And he was very enthusiastic. But it was, um, it was not as easy to find an agent as I thought. I went through all the books, I wrote down all the foods, and I started putting together a proposal and I sent it out to lots of agents and I got lots and lots of rejections: one after the other. And Finally, George Beahm who wrote 'Muggles and Magic' I think it's called, and he wrote another one on Harry Potter, I can't remember what it is called. ('Fact, Fiction and Folklore in the Harry Potter Series'). So my husband suggested that I ask him how he did it because the little feedback I was getting was basically referring to copyright. The very few agents, who actually did tell me why they were rejecting my idea, said they were worried about copyright.
So, I sent him (George Beahm) an e-mail and he was very kind to respond right away and he provided lots and lots of information, and I was still getting lots of rejections. Finally he said, 'You have nothing to lose, just write a letter to JK Rowling's lawyer' and find out if you can do this, and that's what I did.
KH: Did you actually hear back from them?
DB: I did hear back from them, and I never thought I would. But six(6) weeks later I had an e-mail in my inbox from JK Rowling's law firm and I was so scared to open that e-mail. I was shaking. But I opened that e-mail and basically, the e-mail just told me that there is no copyright problems with the sample material I sent them. I just have to put the word 'Unofficial' in the title and they want to review the entire manuscript before publication. And with that letter I was able to snag an agent. That was Mary Sue Seymour of the Seymour Agency.
KH: Now I imagine with JK Rowling, she has some copyrights on some of the items that are in there, such as 'Butterbeer', 'Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans', etc. etc. So, how did you overcome those or did you have to exclude those from the book.
DB: I had to exclude those recipes from the book. There is no recipe for 'Butterbeer', there is no recipe for different flavor Jelly Beans, anyway, it would be impossible. That would require specialized equipment and to replicate different flavors, you really need chemists or chemical engineers (or whatever they are called) who actually experiment with different flavors and flavor combinations. They use natural flavors that are really different chemical combinations that are not available to a home cook. So, that would have been impossible to try to attempt anyway. But there is no recipe for 'Butterbeer', there is no recipe for 'Sugar Quill' or, um, I'm trying to remember what other magical foods are in the books.
But there are some recipes that I didn't include, just because it's too simple to make: you don't need a cookbook, like 'Chocolate Frogs'. You buy a chocolate frog mold, melt chocolate and poor it in. But that's the one disappointing thing that readers have told me: There's no recipe for 'Butterbeer' in there, but they didn't even let me use the word Muggle in the title of the book or in the subtitle. The original subtitle was supposed to be: '150 recipes for Muggles and Wizards'. And they didn't let us use that. So, since they didn't even let us use the word 'Muggles', I didn't think there was any chance they would let me use food that JK Rowling invented.
KH: That is now a copy-written word by JK Rowling. 'Muggles' is now in the 'Oxford English Dictionary' by her.
DB: Oh is that right?...I did not even know that.
DB: Well that is interesting. There is a previous word for Muggle that means something else, like from the 1920's, but I can't remember what it means. I think it means something like 'Common' or something like that. But, her use of that word, (that she invented for non-magic people) that is her own made up word.
KH: Now you said that you had tried the Treacle Tart before and that was one of the inspirations for it. I recently did try that myself with my daughter, and it was pretty successful. It was pretty sweet and it definitely was unique to cook. But I did have a problem finding one of the ingredients, Treacle, here in the states.
DB: The Golden Syrup?
KH: No, the Golden Syrup I found was 'Lyles Golden Syrup' but the Treacle, which was more of a Molasses type...
DB: Dark Treacle?
KH: Yes. Where would you recommend people who are in the states here to go and get some items that are traditional UK fare?
DB: I found the Black Treacle together with the Golden Syrup on the same shelf. So, I don't know what to say. I think that a well-stocked supermarket that carries the Golden Syrup would probably have Black Treacle. Specialty food stores, I can't say for sure, but I imagine that stores in Manhattan, for example, with famous stores like 'Zabar's' and 'Fairways' would probably have it. But, you can use Blackstrap Molasses instead of the Black Treacle or some very dark Molasses. It taste almost identical.
KH: Yeah, I used Blackstrap Molasses for mine.
DB: It also smells tremendous and it has a strong, strong sulfur Smell.
KH: Would you consider a majority of the recipes in the book to be centered for children or more for adults?
DB: That's a really good question. My goal was to create recipes that were as authentically British as possible, or as true to the original dish as possible. So, I did not consider how easy it would be for children to make the recipes, so it really is kind of a toss-up. Some recipes are easy for kids to make, some recipes are not. Some recipes should not be made without adult supervision. Like I put this in the 'Helpful Hints Section' in the book. The recipes that call for boiling sugar should not be attempted without an adult supervising, as this would be dangerous. Molten sugar is very, very, very hot. Deep-frying recipes also should not be attempted without an adult. Unless you're talking about a 17 year old, or even a 15 year old that is experienced in the kitchen.
But, some recipes are complex in the sense that there are a lot of steps but each step is easy. Like the 'Chocolate Gateau': it calls for you having to bake the cake, then you have to make the custard, then you have to make the glaze, and then you have to assemble it.
Every recipe that has those kinds of steps in it can be made easier: You can use a cake mix for the cake; you can use instant pudding for the custard. If the recipes calls for...like, a friend of mine asked me for a recipe about 'Pumpkin Pasties'...she said, 'I don't want to go through the bother of making that dough.' So I said, 'you can just buy pre-rolled, frozen pie dough.' You can get that. You can get any recipe that calls for puffed pastry; you can just buy the frozen puff pastry. You don't have to make it from scratch. I never make puffed pastry from scratch, I only did it for the cookbook. I do make my own pie dough. Pie dough is fairly easy but, since it's an extra step and you want to save yourself the bother, just go ahead and buy the frozen pie dough.
*** Once again, we thank Dinah Bucholz for this interview. Please check out her website at www.unofficialharrypottercookbook.com and pick up a copy of your own and get cooking with these terrific recipes inspired by the Harry Potter series.***
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