Islander releases coffee cookbook
Portia Little grew up in Chicopee, Mass., and attended Syracuse University. Although she got her degree in journalism, she never dreamed that she would one day make her mark as a food writer. It wasn’t until she moved to Boston after college that Little learned that a local paper was looking for a food writer. Since she was looking for a job, the timing was just right.
Despite the fact that she wasn’t much of a cook, Little began writing food columns for several Boston papers, including the Boston Herald. Through that experience she developed an interest in food. She began to try out some of the recipes that she was writing about for the paper.
“I began to actually like cooking and developed an interest in it,” Little said. “I love it now. My escape is to the kitchen to bake a bread, or make a bread pudding, or whatever.”
When it was time to raise her family, she became a freelancer. When her son got married in 1998, she put together a little cookbook for the newlyweds. The wedding gift had old family recipes, and accompanied with each recipe was an old romantic love poem.
“People thought it was really attractive and thought I should try to sell it,” Little said. “So I went to Kinko’s and had them bound and put them in a few shops. That was how this cookbook thing of mine started.”
Little’s journey eventually brought her to Jamestown. What started in the late 1990s as a small getaway cottage has expanded into a year-round residence for the writer and her husband. She has recently published the seventh in a series of cookbooks, this one called “Cooking With Coffee.” It features java-infused recipes for a variety of dishes – from baked beans to cookies.
“I love coffee personally,” Little said. “I read about how coffee enhances flavor in chocolate. So I started adding it to brownies and chocolate cakes. Then I just started adding it to other things. I put it in chili.”
Soon Little discovered the importance of coffee in Rhode Island, where coffee milk is the state beverage. She hadn’t put out a book in a few years, and her fans were clamoring for one. She decided that coffee would be a fun topic.
There are approximately 40 recipes in the new book, which can be found at Jamestown Designs and Spinnakers. Each recipe is accompanied by a short, coffee-related quote. One example is, “You’re a slob, but you make good coffee,” a quote from Cher in the film “Moonstruck.”
Little said that in order to write a cookbook, the writer has to know the product. So she has tested nearly all of the recipes in her new book. Her favorite is one for a mocha pudding cake that is created by simply placing the ingredients in a crockpot and letting it cook.
“It has a nice sauce to it and it makes the house smell great,” she said.
Bread pudding is the subject of Little’s most popular work, “Bread Pudding Bliss.” According to Little, the book was so popular that she became known in some Internet circles as the “bread pudding queen.” She maintains a blog on the subject: “Bread Pudding All Day, Everyday.” It’s basically a collection of recipes, she says. “It’s gotten a lot of good attention.”
Little has a more local book called “New England Seashore Recipes and Rhyme.” It features recipes from the coastal areas from Rhode Island to Maine. Another book of hers is titled “The Easy Vegetarian,” which was infl uenced by her vegan family members. The idea of including little poems, quotes or bits of trivia that she began including in her first book has continued in each subsequent work.
While she has invented many recipes, Little admits that there are plenty of creations that she borrowed.
“I am a recipe developer and I do try to create quite a few, but the books have a combination of my recipes and recipes I’ve adapted from other sources. Many of my friends are foodies and they’ve donated recipes. So it’s kind of a variety of sources.”
According to Little, her smallformat cookbooks make nice gifts. Another advantage to the small size, the writer says, is that the recipes can’t be too complicated, which means you don’t have to be a gourmet chef to make the dishes.
“The beauty of these books is that all the recipes are doable,” Little said. “Because the books themselves are so small, you can’t have a large recipe on these pages. That’s a limiting factor right there.”
Personally, Little said she likes a recipe that doesn’t have too many ingredients. “That’s key to something that I want to make. When you have a long list of ingredients with some items that you can’t find, that’s a turn off for me.”