Published by Soho Press
Available in Hardback (22 March 2018) and paperback (25 April 2019)
Welcome to the first day of the tour for Death Comes in Through the Kitchen (A Cuban Mystery). My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for the tour invitation and to Teresa for providing the guest post (and recipe).
| About the Book |
Set in Havana during the Black Spring of 2003, a charming but poison-laced culinary mystery reveals the darker side of the modern Revolution, complete with authentic Cuban recipes
Havana, Cuba, 2003: Matt, a San Diego journalist, arrives in Havana to marry his girlfriend, Yarmila, a 24-year-old Cuban woman whom he first met through her food blog. But Yarmi isn’t there to meet him at the airport, and when he hitches a ride to her apartment, he finds her lying dead in the bathtub.
With Yarmi’s murder, lovelorn Matt is immediately embroiled in a Cuban adventure he didn’t bargain for. The police and secret service have him down as their main suspect, and in an effort to clear his name, he must embark on his own investigation into what really happened. The more Matt learns about his erstwhile fiancée, though, the more he realizes he had no idea who she was at all—but did anyone?
How I got in the kitchen and ended up with a novel
My mother still lives in Havana and I talk to her every Saturday. Our conversations usually revolve about we did during the week. Death Comes in through the Kitchen was the result of one of these talks, back in 2016. The seed was planted the day Mom asked me what I had made for dinner the previous night.
“I tried to recreate Grandma’s arroz con pollo,” I answered shyly. In truth, the “recreation” wasn’t too faithful to the original: the rice had turned out hard and the chicken wasn’t cooked enough.
“And?” she demanded.
“Well, something went wrong.”
“Ay, mijita! How can anything go wrong with such an easy dish?”
She proceeded to describe all the steps to make proper rice and chicken and I copied them carefully. We talked about the many recipes that had been in the family for generations: picadillo con pasas (ground beef with raisins), pan de plátano (banana bread), and of course, arroz con pollo. They are all classic Cuban dishes but had my grandmother’s personal twist. It was a pity, Mom said, to lose them.
“Why don’t you try one every Saturday?” she suggested.
So I did. I gained a few pounds in the process. We both agreed that the recipes should be preserved in a less fleeting form than an evening meal. But how? I considered writing a cookbook, but I didn’t have exact measurements for most dishes. I am not a cook, much less a chef. Who was going to buy cookbook written by me?
By then I had published eleven books, eight in Spanish and three in English, but never a mystery novel, in any language, and I wanted to try my hand at it. I thought that a mystery set in Cuba would be interesting to an English-speaking audience. I often get questions about paladares—small private restaurants—, casa particulares— privately owned guest homes, similar to B&Bs— and almendrones—old American cars. I already had a basic idea for the story but needed something to make it stand out. Weaving in some good and easy recipes throughout it came as an inspiration.
The book opens with Matt, an American journalist, arriving in Havana to marry a young Cuban, Yarmila. He finds her dead and becomes “a person of interest” for the Cuban police. His passport is seized, and he can’t leave the island so he has the entire Cuban experience: he goes to a paladar, takes a ride on an almendrón and resorts to a babalawo, a Santería practitioner that now works as a private eye, to find out who killed his girlfriend. Santería is a syncretic religion, a mix of African and Catholic beliefs, practiced by many people in the island. I thought that a santero-detective would be an unusual figure in the mystery novel landscape. Yarmila, (while she was alive, of course) kept a food blog, and there are entries from the blog throughout the novel with my grandmother’s recipes.
I tell my friends that if writing this novel didn’t make me a better writer it did make me a better cook because I tried all the recipes before including them in the book!
Here is one that didn’t make it to the novel, but I would like to share with your readers anyway. It’s easy, fun and perfect for breakfast or light lunch. It’s called “tortilla de plátanos” and usually calls for ripe plantains, though you can use a banana instead.
Notice that this is a Spanish-style tortilla, not to be confused with the Mexican corn or flour tortillas.
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil or lard (the authentic recipe calls for lard!)
1 ripe plantain, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
Cook the plantains in a single layer until they turned golden, one or two minutes on each side. They should be crisp outside.
Whisk together the eggs and salt and pour them into the pan over the plantain slices.
Lower the heat and cook for two or three minutes.
Turn the omelet over and serve.
| About the Author|
Teresa Dovalpage is a Cuban transplant now firmly rooted in New Mexico. She was born in Havana and now lives in Hobbs, where she is a Spanish and ESL professor at New Mexico Junior College.
She has published nine novels and three collections of short stories. Her English-language novels are A Girl like Che Guevara (Soho Press, 2004), Habanera, a Portrait of a Cuban Family (Floricanto Press, 2010), and Death Comes in Through the Kitchen (Soho Crime, 2018), a culinary mystery with authentic Cuban recipes.
Her novellas Las Muertas de la West Mesa (The West Mesa Murders, based on a real event), Sisters in Tea/ Hermanas en Té and Death by Smartphone/ Muerte por Smartphone were published in serialized format by Taos News.
In her native Spanish she has authored the novels Muerte de un murciano en La Habana (Death of a Murcian in Havana, Anagrama, 2006, a runner-up for the Herralde Award in Spain), El difunto Fidel (The late Fidel, Renacimiento, 2011, that won the Rincon de la Victoria Award in Spain in 2009), Posesas de La Habana (Haunted ladies of Havana, PurePlay Press, 2004), La Regenta en La Habana (Edebe Group, Spain, 2012), Orfeo en el Caribe (Atmósfera Literaria, Spain, 2013), and El retorno de la expatriada (The Expat’s Return, Egales, Spain, 2014).