Saturday, 27 August 2016

Food & Drink Month: Q&A with Catherine Ferguson

One of the factors behind deciding to run this Food & Drink feature month was a number of books in my outstanding reviews pile that had food mentions in the title, one such book was Green Beans & Summer Dreams by today's guest Catherine Ferguson.  

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey?
My writing journey was very long indeed, if you take into account that I knew at age nine that I wanted to write books and get them published. A lot of plagiarism of Enid Blyton went on around that time, and then I grew up and became a journalist, so my lofty ambitions were put on hold for a while.

Decades later, I decided the time had arrived to try and write my first romantic comedy. ‘Ooh, about a year,’ I said (stupidly) to people who asked me how long it would probably take to get a book deal! Five years later, I finally finished my first book and eventually found a wonderful agent willing to take a chance on me. Then followed another year of writing a whole new book, before HHB Agency landed me a contract with HarperCollins Avon.

August 26th 2014 – the day I got the phone call to say Avon were saying ‘yes’ – is one I will never, ever forget . . .

I love the title, Green Beans & Summer Dreams. How did this come about?
I can claim no plaudits at all, I’m afraid, for the book’s fab title. That was entirely down to the incredibly creative team at Avon who I believe had a brainstorming session. People seem to like it so I’m very grateful indeed!

Where did you get the inspiration for Green Beans & Summer Dreams?
I might not have come up with the title, but the inspiration for the idea of the book was entirely mine! I had jointly run a successful veg box scheme in the late Nineties in Surrey, so when – a decade later – I wanted a setting for my book, it was the obvious choice. I loved running that box scheme (starting up a successful business had long been an ambition) so hopefully Izzy’s trials and successes all ring true. Not that the book is all about me, of course. I didn’t, for instance, fall madly in love with my veg supplier! (Even though he was – and I’m sure still is – a very nice man.)

Which character in the book did you have most fun creating?
Oh, I loved writing the character of Mrs P, a widow in her seventies. I decided I wanted an OAP behaving badly, so she had to be the opposite in every way of the cliché of a granny as a sweet little old lady with a fondness for doilies, tartan shopping trollies and a nice milky drink at bedtime. Mrs P prefers a whisky or two to Horlix and says exactly what she thinks, which can be a source of amusement or embarrassment to those around her (thinking particularly of her pithy description of Errol Flynn’s private parts). Some characters are a joy to write – and Mrs P was definitely one of those.

If you had to describe the book in one sentence, what would it be?
One woman’s struggle - in the wake of a bad break-up - to build a business and choose between two delicious men, with the support of her best friends, who are tackling their own demons! 

Describe your cooking style, follow recipes religiously or wing it and see how it turns out? 
I love baking and I adore GBBO – and for cakes, you really do have to follow a recipe if you don’t want weird pancake-type results. But for everything else, I tend to either chuck things in from memory or glance at a recipe’s ingredients and then do my own thing. I have a recipe (made up) for ‘moussaka’ that everyone seems to like, which bears no resemblance whatsoever to the genuine Greek article. But who cares, as long as plates are cleared?

If you were applying to be a contestant on Masterchef or The Great British Bake-off, which would it be?
I love Masterchef. But I love, love, LOVE the Great British Bake-Off – so, of course, I’d have to be in that gorgeous, astonishingly well-equipped tent!

Which five people (alive or dead) would you invite to your dinner party?
Meryl Streep, my favourite actress.
Shakespeare – I’d quiz him on whether he did write all those plays or whether it was actually the Earl of Oxford, as some people think.
Idris Elba, for obvious reasons. (He’s a fine actor – what else did you think I meant?)
Miranda – Love that show. Hilarious. Bring it back, I say.
Henry VIII – He’s always fascinated me, with all those wives. Did he ever stop and think perhaps he wasn’t cut out for marriage?

If it were your final day on earth, which courses would you choose for your last meal?
Oysters with Tabasco and lemon
Lobster with Hollandaise sauce
Rhubarb crumble and double cream

What is your favourite dish to cook?
I’ve recently bought one of those handy little gadgets that whiz sauce ingredients together, and I’ve started making the paste for Thai curries, with fresh ginger, garlic, lemongrass, lime and chilli. You can have a Thai chicken curry on the table in half an hour and the fresh flavours are amazing . . .

And now a few quickfire questions to finish ;-)

Gordon Ramsay or Marco Pierre White? Gordon Ramsay
Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry? M ary Berry
Sweet or Savoury? Sweet
Steak or Lobster? Lobster
Profiteroles or Crumble? Crumble
Smoothie or Prosecco? Prosecco

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