Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pork Chops and Applesauce On Tour

I know I had to catch your attention with that title. I’m glad because today I have the pleasure of welcoming author and food columnist Cynthia Briggs to Thoughts in Progress as she makes a stop on her WOW (Women on Writing) Virtual Book Tour for her delightful book, PORK CHOPS AND APPLESAUCE: A Collection of Recipes and Reflections.

As part of the tour, Cynthia will be joining us to talk about her two loves - writing and cooking. In addition, I’ll share my thoughts on this charming book. Be sure to stop by Cynthia’s WOW Tour Page and check out the other blogs on her tour for a chance to win a copy of her book.

First up, here’s Cynthia.

One of the most common questions I'm asked is, "How did you get into becoming a food columnist?" I could say I landed the job through hard work or that I pestered the newspaper's editor until he surrendered to my pleas. 

The truth is: I got lucky when my writing instructor told me to call the Federal Way Mirror and ask if I could write a column. I jumped on it and made the phone call as soon as I got home. The conversation went something like this: 

"So, what do you want to write?" A brusque, impatient voice boomed out at me through the phone line.

"I'd like to write about the amusing predicaments of raising children on a farm and the cooking, baking, canning and preserving that go with the territory." I replied. 

"Well then, it's settled." His voice softened. "That sounds like a good fit for this newspaper. Send me a sample of how you'd like your column to look." He hung up.

When I rushed to class the following week with the good news, my instructor asked who I'd talked with. "His name is John. His last name has slipped my mind, but you know him. He's the managing editor you told me to call." I said.
"I don't know anyone at the Mirror. I wanted to know his name for future reference." She said. 

I was dumbfounded. Had I known I was cold calling the editor, I never would've had the courage to dial the number. Pure and simple, it was a lucky break. 
September 1999, my first story titled, Blackberries Create a Love and Hate Relationship, landed on lawns and front door steps in Federal Way, Washington. I was popping buttons seeing myself in print for the first. Then, as quickly as I'd started, my time writing for the Mirror ended just nine months later when my husband's job changed and we moved to Carlsbad, New Mexico.  

We were still unpacking boxes in Carlsbad, when, seemingly out of nowhere, I received a call from the managing eCynthiaBookCoverditor of the Carlsbad Current-Argus. He needed a food writer and wanted to see some clips. He hired me to write the same nostalgic food column I'd been writing for the Mirror

I'd gotten lucky a second time. Only in this situation our real estate person told the editor I'd previously written for a Seattle newspaper and he hired me on my writing merits and experience.
My life-on-the-farm tales with coinciding comfort food recipes were a comfortable fit with the Argus for 5-years. Carlsbad residents felt close to me because of my family stories and recipes that popped up in their newspaper every Sunday. I received many cards, letters and phone calls from readers commenting or asking me about my stories or a recipe. This up-close and personal contact with my readers inspired me to write Pork Chops & Applesauce: A Collection of Recipes and Reflections

Many of my readers said they longed to recapture the past and their memory was often triggered with the mention of certain foods or special meals. I learned through them that we don't simply meet to eat; we partake in sharing food because it's a gesture of our sincerity and our love. Most of our celebratory occasions, such as birthday parties, potlucks, retirement dinners, etc. involve the sharing of food. Families and friends gather to celebrate, bond, and to support each other, and adding food to the equation, helps seal the deal. We don't usually devote more than a conversation over coffee with those whom we're not invested. 

My first "blackberry" story for the Mirror is an example of the connections we have with people and food. Fifty years have passed and I still feel a tug at my heart when I think back to blackberry picking with my cousins during an August heat wave. Falling down into the brambles and going home drenched in purple berry juice with arms covered in bloody scratches is, in spite of the pain, a happy, fun memory for me.
CynthiaOtherBookCoverWe brought buckets of blackberries home to our moms who turned them into unforgettably delicious blackberry pie and deep-purple berry syrup. I carried on that tradition for my family, and I'd venture to guess my kids recall similar blackberry picking adventures, the tantalizing aroma of blackberry pie baking in the oven and pancakes swimming in hot blackberry syrup. 

When my blackberry story published I received a call from a woman who said, "A lump welled-up in my throat when I read your story about blackberry picking. My mother, who is now quite elderly, still has blackberry stains on her kitchen floor from when we made blackberry jam every summer." Everyone's story is different and it's intriguing to me who and what feelings might surface.

Through the acts of harvesting, preserving and preparing food for the table, relationships are strengthened. Gathering to prepare meals, exchange recipes and review events of the day are the fine threads that weave families and friends together more tightly. With each gathering our bonds grow stronger. To me, the food connection helps keep loved ones alive in our memory, just as I vividly recall my mom as she was when teaching me how to make blackberry pie and blackberry syrup.  

One of my goals in writing Pork Chops was to connect yesterdayCynthiaOtherOtherBookCover with today. I believe I've succeeded because readers often express a deep, quiet hunger for heartfelt stories about yesterday and the sumptuous, down home food that was prepared by those who came before them. It's heartwarming to me when young adults want to know how it was done "back then" and Pork Chops gives them a glimpse into that past. 

I've been hooked on writing and baking since I was 8-years old. I remember interviewing neighbors so I could write their stories and post them for others to read. That same year I recall standing on a chair to help my mom make cooked frosting for my aunt's birthday cake. Understandably, a lot has happened since I was 8, and because of those ups, downs and in-betweens, I've acquired a treasure chest filled with material that will continue to indulge my two loves: writing and cooking.  

Cynthia, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing this look at your book. There is just something about food that brings people together in so many ways.

Cynthia Briggs, also known as the “Apple Queen”, has had a life-long enthusiasm for mastering the art of cooking and baking. Inspired by women of kindred spirits, she believes through sharing our recipes and food we engage in an ongoing connection with others, weaving unique bonds we carry with us through our lives.

A food columnist, Cynthia’s popular newspaper food columns (over 200 of them) have appeared in various publications since 1999. Her work has also appeared in New Mexico Magazine, New Mexico Woman, and Funds for Writers as well as several Chicken Soup books. She has talked "food, writing and techniques for living a more gratifying life" on radio and TV, at rotary clubs and women's associations, and at schools and universities.

Cynthia was born in eastern Oregon where she lived near her grandparents' farm. Later she raised her own children on a small farm in western Washington where she experienced daily "mis-adventures" of family life in the country, which she often writes about in her books, stories and columns. Her young family inherited nine well-established, and prolific apple trees with their farm leading to Cynthia’s royal nickname. She later moved to New Mexico where she mastered something new: peppers and southwestern cooking.

September and October (the months Cynthia is on her virtual tour) are overflowing with food related holidays and Cynthia has a recipe to share and celebrate each and every day. She also has two additional books: Sweet Apple Temptations and Bumper Crop: Beginning with Apples.

In addition, here are some food holidays:
Apple Week (beginning August 12)
National Apple Month (October)
National Pork Month (October)
National Caramel Month (October)
Cookie Month (October)
Apple Dumpling Day (Sept. 17)
Better Breakfast Day (Sept. 23)
Johnny Appleseed Day (Sept. 26)
Hot Mulled Cider Day (Sept. 30)
World Teachers Day (Oct. 5)
Apple Betty Day (Oct. 5)
National Angel Food Cake Day (Oct. 10)
Cookbook Day (Oct. 12)
National Dessert Day (Oct. 14) 

For more on Cynthia and her writing, visit her website, check out her blog Traditional Comfort Foods & More, and find her on Twitter. The hashtag for this tour is #CynthiaCooks.


This is a book you can quickly get lost in with its yummy recipes and feel-good stories of family and friends.

Author Cynthia Briggs weaves nostalgic tales of life on the farm and in general with numerous delicious recipes to fit the occasion. The stories are a mixture of humor and inspiration with a fondness for family and friends. She takes a look back at life when she was growing up, as well as present day.

Briggs highlights how food and cooking are a link to connecting people. She explains that it’s not just family and friends, but strangers and even other cultures can come together over food.

One aspect of the book that can have a deeper meaning for the individual reader is what the author calls ‘heart-points.’ This is when a certain food or recipe triggers memories for you. Readers of PORK CHOPS AND APPLESAUCE will find themselves reflecting on their own ‘heart-points’ as the author draws them back to happy times around food.

The book is divided into chapters that will not only whet reading appetites, but the taste buds as well. You’ll discover: Starters, Side Dishes and Specialties; Serving-up Soup and Salads; Breads - Warm Bundles of Joy; Enter the Entrees; ‘Voila! Dinners in a Snap!; There’s Never Enough Dessert!; and Culinary Hearts.

There is a hearty portion of recipes scattered throughout the book. They cover a vast array of dishes from appetizers to desserts and everything in between. Such recipes as Homemade Chunky Applesauce, Family Reunion Calico Beans, Almond Shrimp Salad, Heavenly Chocolate Cake, and so much more.

PORK CHOPS AND APPLESAUCE will quickly be a staple book in your  household that’s not just for cooking, but for those times you need a refreshing pick-me-up of warmth and comfort.

Pork Chops and Applesauce: A Collection of Recipes and Reflections by Cynthia Briggs, AuthorHouse, @2004, ISBN: 978-1403381651, Paperback, 193 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure - I received a digital copy of this book from the author as part of her virtual book tour in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Thanks so much for stopping by today. Do you have a ‘heart-point’ concerning a certain food or recipe you’d like to share with us?


  1. Hi Mason and Cynthia - lovely to read .. and brings back memories of my mother and our time at home ... sadly the new owner of our Care Home through my mother's recipes away - which I still can't quite get over. I'd have loved to have had them ... she left them for the staff to use - such is life .. the selfishness and thoughtfulness of others ...

    I'm so pleased your recipes, remembrances et al ring so true for everyone - by the sound of your descriptions .. I can see that .. and really good to read ..

    Cheers to you both -Hilary

    1. Hilary, it's heartbreaking that those people threw away your mother's recipes. You'd think they would have at least ask you if you wanted them first. You're so right...the selfishness and thoughtfulness of others.

    2. HIlary, Thank you for your comment. It's a sad story of your mother's cookbooks. We all value things differently and thankfully you have sweet memories of time spent and cooking with your mother that no one can take away. Enjoy the journey! CB

  2. Cynthia, thanks again for joining us. Reading your book, I recalled summers spent in my grandmother's kitchen. Wishing you much success.

  3. Mason - Thanks for hosting Cynthia.

    Cynthia - Food and reflection: they go together I think. Preparing, cooking and eating is something that connects to the past and to each other. And recipes can almost take on their own lives because of that.

    1. Margot, Thank you for commenting.

      I often ask myself when we haven't shared a meal, or at the very least refreshments, with those we care about most. Still today I occasionally call my aunts or my parent's old friends to see if they have a recipe for something Mom made years ago. I feel closer to those who are no longer with us when I make one of their recipes. CB

  4. Cynthia--yes, there is a strong connection between food preparation and memories. I had to laugh over the title of Pork Chops and Applesauce because it was a staple in our house. Ditto with mint and Lamb. We did a lot of canning from our family garden harvest--I do remember 90 degree weather and doing tomatoes for canning and it was a talking time too. We did blackberries. Sticky and hot but oh so good to eat the fruits of our labors.

    I enjoyed reading your adventures in column writing.

    Sia McKye Over Coffee

    1. Sia- Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      I remember grinding horseradish my grandmother had grown in her garden. Tears were flying because its odor was so strong.

      Tomatoes were a must-make during canning season as in your home. We'd go on tomato buying sprees when our garden tomatoes ran out. In fact, there's a story in Pork Chops about driving through the valley buying up all the tomatoes we could get at the local fruit stands. Looking back, Mom must have used tomatoes in everything! For sure she never had to buy any tomatoes from the store during the winter. Oh, yes...fond memories. CB


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.