Hey, there! I'm Sarah A. Chrisman, the author of the Tales of Chetzemoka, and today I'm going to answer a question someone had last week about why the Victorian spice cookies that are so popular in my series are called coasting cookies.
Last week I posted a video about how to make coasting cookies, a type of Victorian spice cookie which is much enjoyed by the characters in my Tales of Chetzemoka historical fiction series, and the recipe for which appears at the end of several of my books.
It always seemed natural to me to put period recipes at the end of my books for the foods that the characters are eating in the stories. For me, books have always been jumping off points from which to explore life to its fullest, and what better way to do that than by giving people the tools to really experience what they've been reading about?
There are a wide variety of foods and recipes in my Tales of Chetzemoka series, but just as real people tend to have a few absolute favorites, so do the characters in my series.
When I was choosing the recipe for the cookie that would be the particular favorite for the Chetzemoka Wheelmen, I spent considerable time poring over our antique cookbooks to choose just the right recipe. It had to be a cookie that was special enough for Ken and Felix to always be fighting over, but easy enough for Kitty to make all the time. I'd already tried out an 1875 recipe for coasting cookies from a book called In the Kitchen, and when I revisited it in writing my series it seemed to really fit the bill. Not only are these cookies delicious and easy to make, but the coriander and caraway give them a flavor that's just exotic enough to intrigue modern audiences.
The word "coasting" has a number of different meanings, and taken all together they make these particularly appropriate cookies for my Chetzemoka friends.
My husband Gabriel has over twenty years of experience in the bicycle industry, and around our house when we hear the word "coasting" we automatically think of zipping downhill on a bicycle or tricycle without the need to pedal because gravity's doing our work for us. The first time we saw the recipe for coasting cookies, Gabriel's automatic reaction was that they must have come about during one of the cycling booms of the late nineteenth-century. However, this theory lost its legs when we checked the publication date at the start of the cookbook where we'd found the recipe. Our copy of In the Kitchen was published in 1875, which puts it just a handful of years too early for the high wheel boom of the 1880's, and about twenty years too early for the safety bike boom of the mid-1890's. So, if the timeline ruled out the cycling connection, what else might account for the name?
Besides its cycling connotations, the word "coasting" can also refer to ships that travel up and down a coastline. This seemed a fairly reasonable explanation since the ingredients in these cookies would have often been transported by sea. This theory held sway for a little while, but then someone pointed out the real answer to the mystery.
In parts of America which get more snow every winter than my rainy hometown south of Seattle, coasting is synonymous for sledding, flying downhill over snowy hillsides while the wind kisses your cheeks. This spirited fun works up an appetite and a desire for warmth, so molasses-sweetened, spicy cookies are the perfect thing when you come out of the cold.
The word "coasting" as synonymous for sledding led to its adoption by cyclists to mean easy riding, as I learned when I read the 1884 novel, Wheels and Whims, a story of a group of ladies on a tricycle trip together. There's a scene in the book where one of the ladies puts up her feet and zooms down a hill, then declares proudly, "It is coasting, you know, without winter frost and snow."
So we've come full circle, right back to cycling again. And don't forget that Chetzemoka is a coastal city and a lot of our friends there have connections in the coasting trade. I hope you can see why these cookies seemed so perfect!
I hope you enjoyed hearing about how coasting cookies got their name, and why that name particularly appealed to me, and also that it gave you some insights into how writers choose things for our stories. Don't forget to tell your friends about my books, and happy reading!
Incidentally, if you like the picture of little Victorian girls going coasting, you can get it and other nineteenth-century images from our collection reprinted on various merchandise at our Zazzle store: www.zazzle.com/store/this_victorian_life