Best selling books often breed best selling sequels. Such was the case with the Harry Potter series. J.K Rowling created a collection of books that will undoubtedly remain a notable series throughout history. The immense popularity has led to numerous licensed spinoffs that fall within the Harry Potter brand. Dinah Bucholz‘s creativity and culinary interests enabled her to research and write- The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook.
Anyone who has read any of the Harry Potter books may recall the detailed descriptions of a variety of foods. Dinah, along with Chef Koch, developed the recipes for the foods mentioned in the books. She also added a wide assortment of interesting facts. Children and adults who loved the Harry Potter series or enjoy experimenting with new food options will definitely find this book a worthwhile addition to their cookbook collection.
Today, I will be interviewing Dinah Bucholz.
Dinah sent me a copy of The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook in exchange for this interview and an honest review. She is participating in a book giveaway. See below for details.
The Harry Potter series was well received by a cross-section of people. As a married American woman with five children, why did you start reading this children’s series?
I actually started reading the series when I had one or two children, and quite by accident. We were visiting my in-laws, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was on the couch in the living room where we were hanging out. I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Many books include references to foods. What caused you to consider writing a cookbook that featured foods mentioned in the Harry Potter books?
J.K. Rowling does a great job of making you want to eat the food she describes even if you have no idea what it is. Treacle tart sounded so delicious that I just had to have some! It occurred to me that I am likely not the only Harry Potter fan who is curious about the British foods mentioned in the series…and it turns out I was right.
Riding piggyback on a popular series can be daunting. What safeguards did you take to avoid encroaching on copyright laws?
I wrote a letter to the legal team that represents J.K. Rowling and Warner Brothers explaining my project and asking if it posed a copyright problem. They wrote back to say that my project is considered fair use but that they would need to review the manuscript before publication. This they did, but thankfully they requested very minor changes to be made only to the chapter headings. They didn’t want character names and places in the headings.
Several of the foods mentioned in the book are not considered kosher. As an observant Jew, it was not possible for you to prepare or eat those entrees. How did Chef Chris Koch help you overcome this obstacle?
Chef Chris tested and developed those dishes for me and sent me the finished recipes, so I didn’t have to worry about those recipes at all.
Do you have any plans to write a kosher cookbook?
No, but I might change my mind.
Are all of the food items mentioned in the Harry Potter books included in the cookbook? If not, how did you decide which ones to include?
All foods mentioned in the Harry Potter books were included except for foods that J.K. Rowling invented, like Butterbeer, because that would have presented a problem with copyright. Readers found this extremely disappointing. Unfortunately, I didn’t think of a way around this until after publication. Just changing the name to Butterscotch Brew might have been sufficient. In The Unofficial Harry Potter Sweet Shoppe Kit just such a recipe was included, but that was pulled from the market for other, unrelated copyright problems.
If any other foods were left out, that was inadvertent.
After creating a list of foods, how did you select the recipe for each item?
I didn’t select recipes; I developed them—and that was a lot of work. It took me three years to write this book! I researched each recipe, its history, various takes on it in British cookbooks and on British cookery websites, and then I cobbled together my own recipe. I tested and retested, adjusting and tweaking, until I and my taste testers (family, friends, husband’s coworkers) were satisfied.
Some critics feel that you need to be a native in order to appreciate a particular cuisine. As an American, what steps did you take to become acquainted with British cooking and baking?
That is a fair criticism. Unfortunately, I am guilty as charged. The best I could do was a lot of research and to rely on my own palate to determine the end results.
The Acknowledgements mentions a list of taste-testers. How many people tasted each item? Were any of these individuals raised in the UK?
As I noted previously, my taste testers were family, friends, and husband’s coworkers. None of them was raised in the UK, but I nevertheless found their feedback invaluable.
In your introduction, you have 15 helpful hints. The suggestions include many things that Americans would not consider common knowledge. In retrospect, are there any additional recommendations that you would like to share with my audience?
I think those hints pretty much cover my recommendations for using this cookbook.
An interesting aspect of your cookbook is the sidebars that provide tidbits of information. What sources did you use to gather these facts?
I used food encyclopedias such as The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson, food history websites, British cookbooks (many of which contained a lot of food history), and period cookbooks like the fourteenth-century Forme of Cury and the nineteenth-century Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. These sources also helped me in recipe development.
What was the most interesting thing that you learned during the process of planning, writing, editing, and publishing your first book?
I think the word for my “most” experience would be “important.” The most important thing I learned is that persistence pays. My proposal was rejected dozens of times, and many times I felt like giving up. My husband encouraged me to keep trying, and I finally found an agent to represent my work after two years of searching. Only two events beat the euphoria of finding an agent’s contract in the mail: receiving an offer from a publisher and finding out that my book made it onto The New York Times Bestsellers List.
Can you provide 3 tips to anyone contemplating writing their first book?
- Read books in your genre. Become thoroughly acquainted with the books in your niche market.
- Learn how to write a compelling and professional proposal and how to query agents.
- Don’t give up.
Are you currently working on a writing project?
Yes, in fits and starts. I’m home with my five-month-old, who demands a lot of my attention, the cutie! I’m trying to find a position as a columnist for a Jewish publication, like a magazine or newspaper, writing on the topics of marriage and parenting. An article I wrote on parenting was published in the last issue of Jewish Action Magazine. I am also writing a book on marriage based on the Jewish traditions.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with my audience?
This is a really comprehensive interview with great questions. I enjoyed answering them, and I think you covered pretty much everything.
Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog by Sunday, July 6 will be eligible for a book giveaway. The author will send the randomly selected winner an autographed copy of the New York Times Best Seller- The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook.
Q & A with Ruth Tenzer Feldman
It really is amazing how much work goes into a cookbook. I wish Dinah lots of luck with all that she does.
Sandra Bornstein says
I agree. A regular cookbook requires a tremendous amount of time to organize and test recipes. Adding a theme such as the Harry Potter book series tremendously increased the workload. Even though I have never met Dinah, I’m sure the end product has brought her tremendous joy. Thanks Dinah for your efforts.
Leiba Silverman says
I wish that I had half of the energy, talent and persistence that Dina has! I wish you tons of success in all of your endeavors!
Sandra Bornstein says
Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.
Thank you again for choosing me to win. I picked up the The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook from Dinah (she lives less than a mile from me). It is always nice to see that people you know get the recognition that they deserve.
Chrissy Badger says
Very interesting! I always wanted to be able to make my own Butter Beer.