It’s official, Figs: the weather is getting frightful, the mistletoe has been hung, the lights are twinkling–the holidays are upon us! To celebrate, we’ve asked some of our favorite authors to share holiday memories with us. Tune in all through December to get in the holiday spirit!
R.J. Anderson is the fantasy author of the Spell Hunter series. Her latest book, Ultraviolet, is a psychological thriller about teenage Alison, who wakes up in a mental hospital, unsure of what exactly happened before she landed there and whether she’s really crazy. Ultraviolet is full of surprising twists and turns, but some things are better left untouched–like the delicious simplicity of R.J.’s grandmother’s Saffron Cake.
A lot of my most cherished Christmas memories center around food. Not the traditional turkey-and-stuffing dinner, but the sweeter and more unusual treats that my mother would only ever make once a year: Bachelor Buttons with their deceptively plain exterior concealing a delicious center of raspberry jam, perfect for dipping into tea; Alaskan Shortbread so delicate it exploded when you bit into it and then melted away on your tongue; Mince Tarts with their snow-dusting of powdered sugar over the flaky crust, and the spicy bite of currants inside. There was also an insanely rich, chocolatey square known as “The Thing” for reasons I have yet to discover—possibly because my mother ended up changing the recipe a little bit every year, so it was never the same twice. And I loved the traditional steamed carrot pudding with brown sugar sauce that she always served after the meal.
But my favorite Christmas food of all, then and now, was my Cornish grandmother’s Saffron Cake. I love it so much I made a video about it last winter (which you can see here), and it’s always made me feel connected to my grandmother in a special way, even though she died a few years before I was born. It was in memory of my grandparents that I was inspired to set my next contemporary fantasy novel, Swift, in Cornwall, and the heroine of even bears part of my grandmother’s name. And of course, the piskeys [pixies] in the book eat a number of familiar Cornish delicacies—including Saffron Cake!