Searching for Sylvie Lee, Jean Kwok‘s third novel, is set in New York, Amsterdam, and Venice. In collaboration with Jean, I have created a collection of recipes that were inspired by locations, cultures, and characters in her mystery novel. You’ll find the recipes in the drop-down menu, above!
I first met Jean in 2010, when her first book, Girl in Translation, was released. At the time, our book club in the small town of Wassenaar in the Netherlands, had the honour of having Jean speak to us about the novel. Jean is good friends with one of my teacher friends, Katrina, and it was she who set up this meeting for us. We were one of Jean’s first test audiences for her upcoming tour for the release of Girl in Translation.
Fast-forward to December 2018, when I had been following Jean for some time on Instagram. Jean’s posts about cooking…okay, burning food… had me in stitches! Her posts about burnt toast, and pancakes that flopped, along with her successes with no-bake cheesecakes, brought followers into her generous and humble home. As I was enjoying another of her posts, it occurred to me to reach out and ask if Jean would like me to come and spend a day in the kitchen: scrambled eggs, Dutch pancakes, perhaps a quick stir-fry, are dishes I thought I could easily share with Jean. I contacted Katrina, posed the idea, and within a few days, Jean and I had re-connected and began the process of creating a Menu for Book Clubs to share with her reading audience upon the release of Searching for Sylvie Lee!
I got busy reading the book, and whenever food was mentioned, took notes. After I had compiled a list of possible dishes, Jean and I met to discuss what I had in mind. From there, the next step had me in my kitchen, happily creating, cooking, tasting (friends were happy to be taste-testers!) and photographing my creations.
I hope you enjoy what we’ve chosen for you. One or two of the dishes will have you chopping away in preparation, and with your book club friends over for an evening of lively discussion, what better way than to be in the kitchen, sharing a culinary experience together! The collection of recipes is geared toward appetizers; it has some substantial mains, and the desserts are oh-so-sweet. In addition, I invite you to embrace the cultural aspects of these recipes. The inspiration I took from Searching for Sylvie Lee was from the beautiful and thoughtful way Jean used Chinese, Dutch, and American cultures, along with the locations of New York, Amsterdam, and Venice, to the set the scenes for her page-turning story.
Thank you, Jean, for giving me the opportunity to use my experience in the kitchen, and my enthusiastic love for cooking to create these dishes for you, and Sylvie Lee. I am grateful for your trust. For me, this was a match made in literary and culinary heaven. With much love, Jen xxx
What follows is a small gallery of photos taken on the day we got together in Jean’s spectacular kitchen to have a group tasting session. Jean’s husband, Erwin, popped by every once in a while and even tried his hand at dumpling-making! Katrina Middleburg and Paola Lopez were outstanding sous chefs, not to mention expert quality control! I did my best to keep an eye on Jean, knowing the fire extinguisher was close at hand. Thanks for a lively and delicious afternoon, ladies and gent!