Today on the book tour for Stella Newman’s brand new book ‘The Dish’, Stella talks about all the research she did for the story.
One of my favourite things about writing books is that I can think of things I’d like to do in real life – and then make my characters do them – and I get to go along for the ride. For example, in the book I’m currently writing, the heroine does a trapeze class. That’s something I always thought I wanted to do! Turns out – I WAS WRONG. Trapeze class is TERRYING and BEST AVOIDED unless you’re brave and strong and I am neither.
I was a little bit smarter when I was writing ‘The Dish’. The heroine, Laura, is a food critic – so a large part of my research involved eating. Turns out I’m quite good at eating! At a certain point in the novel, Laura’s boss asks her to research Paris’s finest croissant. What choice did I have but to go method? I hopped on to the next Eurostar out of town and three hours later I was strolling down the Champs Élysées, with the perfect excuse to stuff my face.
If you’ve ever been to Paris, I’m sure you can appreciate that finding the best croissant is no easy task – there are quite a lot to choose from, non? Luckily I had some insider knowledge. Before I had a job that allowed me to stay in pyjamas all day, I had a job that frowned upon that sort of behaviour: I worked in a big supermarket, in the food department. I asked my friend in the Bakery section, who knows a thing or two about pastries, and she pointed me to a shortlist.
I’m not a shirker. I did the research. I ate a baker’s dozen of the most delicious, buttery, flaky baked goods – for you, dear reader, for you! And eventually, several hours into my eat-a-thon I struck gold, at Du Pain et Des Ideeés, a boulanger in the pretty, tree lined Canal St Martin area.
The bakery is tucked off a side street from the main canal. Inside it is fairy-tale pretty, but forget the décor: it’s all about a simple croissant, elevated to a thing of beauty – golden, paper thin, super crispy flaky exterior, lush, ultra-buttery, multi-layered insides.
Then this oven-fresh chocolate pistachio swirl. Imagine melting chocolate, soft, light, buttery pastry and creamy, mild, pistachios swirled throughout, being held warm in your hand, then rammed, gracefully into your mouth…
The bakery does other, fabulous pastries – praline, rum and raisin, lemon and nougat and a host of other extraordinary treats – rosewater croissants, chocolate bread, amazing regular bread.
I could go on, and I often do. The point is, if you like food, you’ll probably like The Dish. And if you like croissants, find a way to get to that bakery in Paris because my words and my pictures are only the beginning of the story. Bon appétit!
(P.S. Be warned! It’s closed at the weekends, so it has to be a week day visit…)
You can buy The Dish from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.