Wednesday, February 7, 2024


When most people get bored, they eat. When I get bored, I brainstorm new series and features for the blog, and THEN eat. A few years ago, as I was brainstorming and contemplating what I wanted to eat, I thought how cool it would be to have a mini-foodie series where authors share the things they like to eat. Photos and recipes and all. And so I asked them, and amazingly they responded, and I dubbed it EAT LIKE AN AUTHOR. 

Today, Kimberly Garrett Brown joins us to celebrate her debut novel CORA'S KITCHEN  for Black History Month and shares her favorite go-to recipe. 


Spaghetti and parmesan cheese has been my go-to dish since I started cooking for myself. 


I love the simplicity of tossing a package of spaghetti in boiling water, draining it, and mixing in some butter and grated cheese.


My love for this dish comes from the fact that macaroni and cheese is my absolute favorite food. When I was growing up, my grandmother made macaroni and cheese as a side dish for fried chicken and mustard greens with turnips. This wasn't anything like macaroni and cheese from a box. It had chunks of butter and grated cheddar cheese, baked to a crispy brown with the occasional burnt edges. That plate of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and greens felt like love on a plate to me. I crave it whenever I need comfort for my soul. 


Unfortunately, it requires a lot of prep time, so noodles and cheese have become a quick and easy replacement. 


Over the years, as I have become more of a foodie, I have experimented a bit with this dish. Watching all those cooking shows has turned me into a want-to-be chef. Anyway, I got the idea to sauté rainbow Swiss chard and bacon one day, mix in spaghetti, and toss it with parmesan cheese. The Swiss chard provided the bitterness of the mustards and turnips, and the bacon added a saltiness of the salt pork or smoked meat my grandmother used in the greens. It turned out pretty well.


I never considered this dish anything other than my macaroni and cheese substitute until a recent trip to Italy. I discovered it is very similar to an Italian dish called Cacio e Pepe — which translates to cheese and pepper. It's made by heating a little olive oil in a skillet, tossing in the pasta, and topping with cheese and pepper. The cheese is melted by the heat from the pan and the olive oil. It made me feel like a real chef to have instinctively done something similar when making my noodles with cheese, bacon, and Swiss chard.


As a writer, I instinctively know what makes for good writing, but I don't always trust myself the same way I do when I cook. I worry too much about what people think, which I don't care much about when cooking. I cook what nourishes my soul. This year, I'm challenging myself to write more like I cook. 


My elevated noodles and cheese has become quite popular with my family. My daughter has even made it for a dinner party she threw for friends. When she called for the recipe, I was a little taken aback. I'm not big on recipes, but here's what I told her:


Kim's Elevated Noodles and Cheese


I bunch of Swiss Chard.

I Package of Spaghetti

2-3 slices of bacon chopped up

Grated or shredded Parmesan cheese (I probably use upward towards a 1/2 cup)


Cook spaghetti according to the directions on the box.


Rinse the Swiss Chard to get off all the dirt. Dry in a paper towel. Roll the leaves up together and cut off the stems. Chop the roll into slices and then cut each slice in half. It will give you stripes of Swiss chard. Chop up the strips of bacon before you cook them into little chunks. 


Cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a middle-to-large skillet until it is just about crispy. Drain off half the bacon fat. Toss in your Swiss chard and sauté until leaves are tender. Remove from heat. Use a pasta spoon to transfer pasta from the water to the skillet. Toss with bacon and Swiss chard. Add cheese to taste, salt and pepper.


KIMBERLY GARRETT BROWN is Publisher and Executive Editor of Minerva Rising Press, a literary press dedicated to publishing women writers. Her best-selling debut novel, Cora’s Kitchen, won the 2022 Story Circle Network Sarton Women’s Book Award for Historical Fiction and the 2022 Bronze Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award for multicultural fiction.  It was also a finalist in the 2018 William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition and the 2016 Louise Meriwether First Book Prize. Her work has appeared in Black Lives Have Always Mattered: A Collection of Essays, Poems and Personal Narratives, The Feminine Collective, Compass Literary Magazine, Today’s Chicago Woman, Chicago Tribune, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She earned her MFA at Goddard College. 

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Winner, 2022 Sarton Award for Historical Fiction; Winner (Bronze), 2022 Foreword INDIE Award for Multicultural Fiction

It is 1928 and Cora James, a 35-year-old Black librarian who works at the 135th Street library in Harlem, writes Langston Hughes a letter after identifying with one of his poems. She even reveals her secret desire to write. Langston responds, encouraging Cora to enter a writing contest sponsored by the National Urban League, and ignites her dream of being a writer. Cora is frustrated with the writing process, and her willingness to help her cousin Agnes keep her job after she is brutally beaten by her husband lands Cora in a white woman's kitchen working as a cook.

In the Fitzgerald home, Cora discovers she has time to write and brings her notebook to work. When she comforts Mrs. Fitzgerald after an argument with Mr. Fitzgerald, a friendship forms. Mrs. Fitzgerald insists Cora call her Eleanor and gives her The Awakening by Kate Chopin to read. Cora is inspired by the conversation to write a story and sends it to Langston. Eventually she begins to question her life and marriage and starts to write another story about a woman's sense of self. Through a series of letters, and startling developments in her dealings with the white family, Cora's journey to becoming a writer takes her to the brink of losing everything, including her life.

“Cora’s Kitchen delves deeply into what it means to be a Black woman with ambition, to make choices and keep secrets, and to have an unexpected alliance with a white woman that ultimately may save both of them. Kimberly Garrett Brown renders Cora with immense empathy, acknowledging and confronting Cora’s own prejudices and allegiances and the social pressures that continue to reverberate far beyond this story. Cora’s Kitchen is a poignant, compelling story in which misfortune and fortune cannot be teased apart, and literature and life have everything to do with each other.”
—Anna Leahy, author of What Happened Was: and Tumor

“In Cora’s Kitchen, all women will find their challenges and longings expressed with unflinching honesty. Kimberly Garrett Brown’s characters are faithful to a time, yet timeless, transcending the years to both painfully and beautifully illustrate the struggles women face to find and fulfill their vocations. Spellbinding.”
—Erika Robuck, national bestselling author of The Invisible Woman

“… powerful … Brown speaks to timeless struggles of women who had ambitions that reached beyond traditional expectations. … An affecting novel of female friendship and a desire for independence.”
—Kirkus Reviews

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