Friday, August 19, 2022

FOOD, FUN, AND LITTLE OLD LADIES: Guest Post by Mary Beth Magee

Today is our second installment of Friday Foodies. Mary Beth Magee, author of the LOL4 mysteries and The Cypress Point Chronicles is stopping by with "Food, Fun, and Little Old Ladies." Authors: Want to stop by and join in the fun? Drop a comment below or send me an email. Happy Friday!


As a born-and-raised southerner, I know a little something about food. Mississippi country cooking on my father’s side, New Orleans Sicilian my mother’s side, and a huge cookbook addiction on top of it add up to make food a big deal in my world. At home, at church, at a community event – it doesn’t matter where or why. Food is simply an expression of love and caring. From sit-down Sunday family dinners to after-funeral luncheons and everything in between, we feed folks because we care. 

So naturally my novels feature food! The (LOL)4 Mysteries focus on three senior citizens in Cypress Point, Mississippi, a fictional Pearl River County town. The Bellini sisters–Mercy McKay and Hope Appleton—along with their best friend Susannah Bowles, get into all sorts of situations. They consider themselves “Little Old Ladies, Laughing Out Loud, Living Our Lives with Lots Of Love.” One of the things they love is cooking and feeding guests. Each book features a particular food item in the story and includes the recipe at the end of the book

I’m the sort of cook who starts with a recipe from someone else and then tweaks it to my own taste and that’s exactly what happens with the recipes in my novels. I get an idea for a food item in the plot and start cooking. Once I get the recipe the way I want it, I give it a name relevant to the story. 

Mercy McKay’s Contraband Lemon Blueberry Coffee Loaf made its debut in Death in the Daylilies, my first novel-length mystery. Although the story began with a dead body in a bed of daylilies, the ladies had plenty of time between clues to cook and eat and drink tea. The coffee loaf recipe fit my story perfectly.

I began with a basic pound cake recipe from a very old cookbook and an overabundance of fresh blueberries. Fifteen or so cakes later, the recipe was perfected. No one in the family complained about being test subjects as I baked. That was my first hint I was on the right track!

Some of the action in my second novel, Ambush at the Arboretum, took place at Franconi’s Deli and Pizza Parlor, renowned for its Five Bean Confetti Salad. I doctored up a three-bean salad recipe with two additional varieties of beans and multi-colored bell peppers minced into “confetti,” added olive oil and vinegar and created the Deli’s signature dish. This one has become a real family favorite and heaven forbid there not be a jar of it in the refrigerator when grandkids come to call. There might be another murder to investigate!

I’m leaning toward Grandma Bellini’s Special Marinara Sauce for Blood on the Bottletree, the title currently in the works. My own Sicilian great-grandmother never met a tomato she didn’t want to cook, and I am most definitely her descendant. By adapting one of her recipes and naming it for the Bellini family of the books, I can honor her and share her legacy. And there’s that whole resemblance between blood and marinara, right? Perfect for a mystery.

From a marketing perspective, the recipes provide me with something nonthreatening to give out at book signings. I’ve had passersby tell me, “Oh, I don’t read.” (Doesn’t it just break your heart?) But when I ask if they like to cook, I almost always get a positive answer. If they don’t cook, they have someone in their life who does. And then I’ve got them.

I’ve created recipe cards, one for each of the two books, with the recipe, the book cover, and my website. Somewhere there is a coffee loaf advertising my book and I don’t mind a bit. My goal is to develop enough recipes to create a booklet and eventually a full-blown cookbook. In the meantime, I’m having a great time experimenting in the kitchen.

Franconi’s Five-Bean Confetti Salad

Drain and rinse well:

1-14.5 ounce can green beans

1-14.5 ounce can wax beans

1-15.5 ounce can dark red beans

1-15 ounce can black beans

1-16 ounce can garbanzo beans


Mix well in a large bowl:

1 cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup olive oil

½ cup sugar

Mix until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved.


Stir into the liquids:

¾ cup minced bell pepper in a combination of colors: green, red, orange, yellow as available

½ cup minced onion

½ cup diced celery

½ teaspoon dried parsley

¼ teaspoon minced garlic


Mix liquid and seasonings together well. Add in drained beans and stir to mix thoroughly. Refrigerate two hours or more. Stir periodically to redistribute the liquid.

Yield: ½ gallon bean salad

Note: This recipe is a great “make ahead” dish. The longer it marinates, the richer the flavor. Also, the finer the vegetables are minced, the greater the “confetti” effect.


If the olive oil separates and solidifies in the refrigerator, allow the salad to sit out at room temperature for 15 minutes or so. The olive oil will liquefy as it warms. Stir well.


Author/speaker/trainer Mary Beth Magee loves reading, writing, cooking and crafts. Born in New Orleans, LA, she now resides in south Mississippi. She is the author of The (LOL)4 Mysteries and The Cypress Point Chronicles, among others. Visit her website at and sign up for her newsletter with free short stories and bonus materials.

1 comment:

Mary Beth Magee said...

Thank you, Janet. I'm honored to be here.