My grateful thanks to Kelly at Cameron Publicity for providing me with a review copy of Love Apples by Melissa van Maasdyk and for putting me in touch with Melissa so that she could provide a super food based guest post for you to read along with my review of Love Apples today.
Love Apples is published by Lulu and is available for purchase in ebook and paperback here.
Why get married? London-based food writer Kate Richmond can conceive of no good reason. She’s seen where it got her mother and so has written her own recipe for life, relishing her career, with men on the side — including a delicious love match in Daniel Price.
When Kate heads to Mauritius on an assignment, she seems set to secure her dream job at Be magazine until a cyclone curdles her carefully laid plans for the summer issue. With her career at stake, Kate will stop at nothing to get things on track, shamelessly entangling others in her quest, including the irresistible Fai Li, but when she takes a step too far, she sets herself on a tempestuous course that will upturn some long-held beliefs.
Set in the glamorous, racy world of magazines and suffused with sensual descriptions of food – plus recipes – Love Apples delves into love, marriage, infidelity, and why people continue to invest in a convention so prone to failure.
The Best Foods to Accompany Reading and Writing
A Guest Post by Melissa van Maasdyk
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” – Virginia Woolf
Having a mother who’s an excellent cook, I absorbed a passion for food while growing up, which found its way into my career as a magazine food writer, and then took over my debut novel, Love Apples, a contemporary romance revolving around a commitment-phobic food editor. In my everyday life, too, it remains an important force, and I wholeheartedly agree with Virginia Woolf on the above, although I believe different foods are suitable for different moods, occasions and tasks. Who can deny the seductive powers of a romantic meal, especially one laden with aphrodisiacal delights such as oysters, prawns, chilli and chocolate. If one doesn’t intend to stay up all night in the throes of passion, however, a light meal rich in sleep-inducing tryptophan (found in things like fish, chicken and cheese) might be a better option. As for thinking well, there are a number of foods said to enhance one’s mood and brainpower, which brings me to the best accompaniments for reading and writing.
While both activities engage the mind, they do so in different ways and therefore require different side dishes, although in both cases I avoid foods that need a knife and fork, which get in the way of tapping the keyboard and holding a book. Apart from the inconvenience of juggling utensils and reading material, a book is a meal in itself, offering nourishment for the mind, and potentially as much pleasure as a perfectly crafted dish. That said, simple, undistracting snacks can enhance the experience and make it more convivial, like breaking bread with the characters in a book.
In respect of writing, since constructing sentences and developing plot require mental stamina, foods that enhance brainpower are best. There’s also a strong psychological component to writing, which I find is often better served by something liquid. I can almost understand why authors like Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner and Fitzgerald were borderline or full-blown alcoholics since I find that a glass of red wine relaxes the mind and makes me less self-conscious, allowing ideas to flow more easily. I keep alcoholism at bay, however, by reserving it for writing at night, while, during the day, I rely on snacks to fuel the process. Below are three essential foods to read with and three to write with.
Foods that enhance reading:
Popcorn: This is the perfect accompaniment to a fast-paced, entertaining read that plays out like a movie in the mind. Apart from being easy to pop in the mouth, its comforting, monochrome flavour doesn’t conflict with colourful prose. One rule is that it should be air-popped, as I don’t like greasy fingers when turning the page.
Chocolates: Sweet and sensual, chocolate is ideal for a romantic read. Cacao also contains the mood-enhancing chemical phenylethylamime, which adds to the feel-good factor imparted by a delicious novel, and, good news for those who like to read at bedtime, the serotonin in dark chocolate aids sleep.
Strawberries: Bite-sized with no pesky pip to remove, this sweet, juicy fruit is a healthy option that feels indulgent thanks to its pretty colour, heart shape and fragrance – not surprising given that strawberries are part of the rose family. They’re also packed with vitamin C, which protects the eyes to ensure that you can continue reading into the future.
Foods that aid writing:
Biscuits: Because writing is hard, I’ll sometimes do anything to avoid it, which is where sweet treats come in. After luring myself to the computer with a cappuccino, I later reward my inner writer with biscuits, usually opting for those that aren’t too heavy and contain (albeit negligibly) nutritional nuts, such as lovely crumbly almond cornes de gazelles.
Hummus: Once my writing is flowing (hallelujah), I prefer not to break the spell, and hummus is often my go-to option for lunch since it’s easy to snack on at my desk. The magnesium in chickpeas and tahini is also said to speed up the transmission of messages between brain cells, and if I make beetroot hummus (to a recipe from Love Apples), nitrates are added to the mix, which increase the flow of blood to the brain.
Dates: As the afternoon wears on and my energy wanes, I’ll often have a couple of these vitamin-packed fruits of the palm to perk me up. Higher in natural sugars than most other fruits, they provide a quick and powerful energy boost that’s healthier and longer lasting than that offered by refined sugars. Dates also contain antioxidants and phytonutrients, which protect the brain from memory loss.
Recipe for brain-boosting beetroot hummus
3 medium-sized fresh beetroot or a jar of beetroot
400 gram can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons tahini
2–3 tablespoons lemon juice
2–3 tablespoons olive oil
Flatbread or crackers and raw vegetables
If using fresh beetroot, wash and top and tail them (do not peel), and then place in a pot of boiling salted water, ensuring that the water covers them. Return to the boil, reduce heat to a vigorous simmer, and cook for 45 minutes or until a knife slides easily into and out of the beetroot. Place under cold running water, and then rub off the skin with a paper towel. Chop and set aside to cool.
Place cooled beetroot in the bowl of a food processor. Add chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, and salt, and then whizz to a paste. While the machine is still running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until the dip is smooth and creamy. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice, as required. Serve with flatbread or crackers and raw vegetables such as radishes, carrots and peppers.
My Review of Love Apples
When a disastrous assignment in Mauritius leads to life changes for Kate, she has to reassess the important aspects of her life.
Warning. DO NOT read this book if you are on a diet, or even remotely hungry as it will make you simply ravenous.
Every element in Love Apples revolves around food and the imagery of food permeates every layer. If I’m honest, I’d have liked a little less of the iterative image, but there’s no denying that Melissa van Maasdyk knows her stuff and has presented it impeccably. The same goes for the insight into the world of high end magazines and the people who create them. Reading Love Apples made me incredibly grateful I’ve never been part of that world.
I thought the characters were interesting. I felt Roberta was slightly stereotypical and it took me a long time to really warm to Kate, partly because of her infidelity and partly because she smokes which I hate, but by the end of the novel I was really rooting for her. However, it was Daniel I liked most and I’d be happy for him to teach me about wine at any time!
I found it quite hard to define Love Apples so that other readers would know the kind of book it is. Certainly it has a chick-lit aspect, but it has so many more layers than I was expecting with its literary and cultural references, its delicious food presentation and the way in which the life and culture of its main setting Mauritius was conveyed. As a real bonus too, the recipes at the end of the book will appeal to all foodie types so that I think Love Apples has elements for so many different types of reader to enjoy.
There a some other weighty themes underpinning the narrative too. The treatment of models, the frequently unreasonable expectations of those living in the so-called glamorous world of magazines, sexuality, relationships and the way our past can affect our present all give a depth I wasn’t expecting. I think Love Apples is one of those books that is really transformed by whoever is reading it so that it definitely becomes a different book when a different reader brings their own experiences to it.
As for me, I’m off to the allotment to harvest some beetroot for the relish recipe at the back of the book.
About Melissa van Maasdyk
Melissa van Maasdyk has a Masters in Translation, and has worked as a writer, translator, sub-editor and editor on several magazines over the past two decades. These include Elle Decoration and Marie Claire in the UK, Style and Marie Claire in South Africa, and Time Out in Bahrain, where she also wrote a travel guide to the kingdom. Food writing has featured prominently in her career, nurturing her passion for cooking, and adding flavour to Love Apples, which is her first novel. Melissa currently lives in Abu Dhabi with her husband.
You can find out more on the Love Apples website.