I first met my favorite author in Winston-Salem last year. Never in a million years did I think I’d be able to meet her again! However, I was fortunate enough to attend two of the events held in Burlington, NC, on April 27 & 28, 2019, thanks to our dear friend, Kimberly Kandros, manager of Development & Special Projects at the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. She was instrumental in getting Diana back to NC.
Saturday evening, we met at the Paramount Theater in Burlington. First, there was a speech from “Herself” with Q&A, followed by a book signing. I was front row, center, for this fascinating event and was in awe with every word. I visited with friends I’ve made through the Outlander effect. I even met Diana’s husband, Doug. He is just as kind and friendly as Diana. However, I spent more time with him than her. LOL After the event, several of us walked across the street to grab a bite to eat and drink and visit with each other. Such a lovely evening.
On Sunday morning I was so excited about the brunch with Diana at the Alamance Battleground, that I arrived a little early. I visited with Kimberly, look around the gift shop, and got first dibs on seating. It wasn’t long before another attendee, Marybeth Krichilsky, arrived and we chatted and started taking pictures. The tables were beautifully set under a tent on the grounds. One of the first things we saw was a dragonfly which kept landing on Diana’s place setting. How ironic. I was going to let Diana know, but when I finally could talk with her, I totally forgot.
Diana mentioned how she’d had to take allergy medicine since being here. (North Carolina was in high pollination that weekend!) She included a little background of herself, her process, how she researches her material for her books. While writing, she sometimes will stop and pick something else up when she needs a break. She can be working on several projects at one time and does this frequently.
The main topic of the day was, of course, the Regulators and events that led to the Alamance Battle. This was a taxpayer rebellion. Governor Tryon raised taxes to pay for his palace. The people didn’t want this since they could barely could pay for food, supplies, etc. When the Governor sent out tax collectors, they started raising taxes on their own and keeping the extra money. The Governor didn’t like this and told them to stop, but he couldn’t enforce it. This ended up with the Hillsborough Riot and the Alamance Battle. The backcountry people didn’t stand a chance against the cannons. Diana then read from “The Fiery Cross.”
We had the most delicious brunch which included fresh strawberries and fruit, quiches, muffins, dainty squares, salmon, and salad. It was interesting to know that some of the attendees drove or flew hours to get here! The furthest an attendee traveled was from California. One attendee which I had met at another Outlander event, Thru the Stones, in Iowa, was Lisa Margulies. It was so good to see her again.
After brunch, we walked to various parts of the Alamance Battlefield where Diana read to us from “The Fiery Cross” at each location. We even saw the wild strawberries all over the ground. I was totally fascinated with this whole experience. I also really loved this being such a small group and being able to spend longer in her presence. The book signing was last, and I didn’t want it to end. Diana is such an educated, talented, beautiful lady, inside & out. She never ages, never meets a stranger, always has a smile on her face, always accommodating, and so loving and generous! All the proceeds from the events go directly to the Battleground. (The land surrounding the historic Battlefield is at risk for development, and purchase of the land by the Save Alamance campaign will keep it in its natural state.)
There are so many wonderfully kind people in this Outlander Fandom. I’m amazed on how many new friends I have made due to this Outlandish journey.
Connie, thanks so much for sharing your photos and summary of your amazing weekend!
Blog editor note: Sorry for being so long in between part II and this last part of Lisa’s trip to North Carolina, outlandish readers! Between life and then the Memorial Day holiday weekend, well, it’s taken a while to get back to blogging. We appreciate each one of you who visit ONC, and especially for sticking with us when things get in the way of posting, especially our guest posts! Now, let’s hear from Lisa!–SHJ
Early tales of colonial unrest can be traced to many locations and times in American history. Seeds of rebellion have significant roots in the colony of North Carolina in the years before the Revolutionary War. The War of Regulation is one such seed woven in the fabric of Diana Gabaldon’s The Fiery Cross, the fifth book in her epic Outlander series. In April 2019, the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) hosted Diana at historical sites that correlate with her Outlander story. As Diana Gabaldon is my all time favorite author and storyteller, I just had to travel from my home state of Iowa to make this historical trek with her (unfortunately not as a member of her entourage but as an attendee at these events). Here is my third and final recount of the journey.
~I have tried to minimize spoilers for the fifth book and fifth season of Outlander. Please note that I do refer to actual history and do reference Diana’s storytelling from this point forward. The event recap is impossible to share without suggesting the Battle at Alamance and the story within are included in The Fiery Cross.~
From my first two stops in coastal New Bern, I traveled to the Piedmont region of North Carolina and the Alamance Battleground, just south of Burlington, to attend a morning of history sharing appropriately entitled, “Experience Outlander at Alamance with Diana Gabaldon.” Alamance Battleground lies off country highways forested in lush green hardwoods and conifers and is situated unassumingly along the banks of the Great Alamance Creek. I drove to the entrance of this historical site where I was greeted by a man in a kilt passing out lanyards to the attendees of the small and private Sunday brunch to be held with Diana as the guest of honor. The 40 in attendance were mostly Diana Gabaldon fans of her books and/or TV series but also patrons of this historical site. We gathered at the history center to await Herself before moving to a tent set up to offer intimacy during brunch and spoken words. Not a bad seat in this house! The beauty and excitement of the day were held in check by the ever present nature of the field and history’s solemn surround.
The Site Manager at Alamance Battleground, Jeremiah DeGennaro, welcomed us all to the preservation site and passed the introduction of Diana over to the Deputy Secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Dr. Kevin Cherry. He spoke of the “Outlander Effect” on North Carolina’s historical sites. I had the privilege of sitting with Dr. Cherry at a previous weekend event where he asked me if I had ever heard of Tryon Palace before reading a DG book. My honest answer was “No.” This is a perfect example of the “Outlander Effect.” Just happy that my ignorance has been a good thing for tourism.
Diana was welcomed to the podium and shared the question she is often asked, “Why are you here?“ Her answer is that North Carolina history is very much Scottish history. Ever the historian, Diana reviewed Scottish immigration to the Carolinas and its relevance to her story. She has traveled the state many times to gain knowledge and understanding of the Scottish immigrant’s place in the history here. Because so many Scots settled in the coastal and the backcountry regions, Diana was able to continue the saga of her Outlander characters in this place and time with her gusto of storytelling.
Scots in conflict with the governing powers was not a new concept and the N.C. backcountry climate was a great set up for the author. The Alamance Battle of May 1771 was, in a way, the first battle of the Revolutionary War, a sort of “kick off” revolt, a taxpayer grievance to the Royal Governor William Tryon and his palace. Diana paused and looked around the field, noting a simple log cabin in the distance. She referenced the TV series Fraser cabin from season 4. The “Big House” to come in season 5 is a “glamping” equivalent of the cabin here – just wait and see. The set designer does not skimp! New settlers in the Carolina colony would have had spade and ax beginnings. Another aside: Carolina has mosquitoes and Scotland has midges.
Back to 1771… The farmers and backcountry settlers of N.C. did not want an elegant palace bought and built with taxpayer money. They felt alienated from the laws and established society of the Eastern governing region. Their economy was based on very little cash, a barter system of trade due to geographic isolation. If citizens were unable to pay taxes, their property was confiscated. Although tax collectors were directed not to do this by Tryon and the Assembly, they couldn’t be stopped. Not enough militia existed to oversee the corrupt sheriffs and other officials so far into the backcountry. The opposition to this extortion became the War of Regulation. Riots and revolts took place in Hillsborough and discontent reached New Bern. Governor Tryon appointed colonels of militia from wealthy and prominent social man in order to help combat the dissent. Men like (the fictional) Jamie Fraser were charged to outfit others in the community while men like Quaker Herman Husband were chosen by the disgruntled citizens as leaders sent to Tryon looking for peaceful resolution. The conflict and violence ensued despite all efforts.
On that note, the brunch buffet was opened. Much appreciation goes to Kimberly Kandros here as she was the chief organizer of the entire Diana/historic site/lineup/schedule. She and others from the NCDNCR offered a full weekend of educational nourishment for the mind and body! (Shout out to Michelle‘s Kitchen & Table from Burlington for the actual feeding of our bodies – totally delicious!)
After our lovely meal, Elaine O’Kal, an Alamance Battleground volunteer and all around Outlander enthusiast, became our tour guide. She began by setting the stage for us with the history of the area coming into 1771. The Loyalist-appointed militia consisted of 16-to-60-year-old free white men from each county. Prominent men were made Colonels and Captains. They were responsible for road and bridge maintenance as well as keeping the peace. When the fictional Jamie and Claire Fraser arrived to North Carolina in 1767 much discontent was already was brewing. By 1768, the Regulator Movement had officially formed. The men wanted to regulate their own affairs. The previously mentioned Quaker Herman Husband and Scots-Irish citizen James Hunter were leaders of the movement expressing grievances about fees, corrupt sheriffs, and Anglican-only officials. Under representation existed in government in regards to population dispersion in the counties (see photo of county map for reference). Diana’s fourth Outlander book, Drums of Autumn, points out the geographic population disparities and corrupt court officials and dishonest sheriffs. To illustrate the mounting tension, Diana read a passage from The Fiery Cross. The actual history directly compared to Diana’s fictional story only reinforces the reader’s understanding of the immense and finely detailed research Diana puts into her work.
Our group of 40 plus “students” followed Ms. O’Kal to a spot on the historic site. Here she pointed out that forces from both sides had gathered in Orange County some 5 miles apart. Despite the large number of Regulators assembled, Tryon sought to confront the uprising and moved his camp of men and ammunitions just a half mile away from the disorganized Regulator camp. Ms. O’Kal directed our attention to the physical space upon which we stood and nearness in proximity to what would have been the Regulator camp just across the creek bed. (See map photos.) It was here a most special treat ensued. The mic was passed between the two women storytellers. The historian would detail the Alamance gathering, and the author would read a passage from The Fiery Cross. This began a volley in time and space between the actual event and the fictional story. We were experiencing the timeline of history in real time with narration in real space. What an extraordinary shift of mind and body!
Ms. O’Kal had placed us on the battlefield where just 300 feet separated the forces. These were men that knew one another, lived in the same communities–and were, perhaps, related–looking across the creek at each other! Our guide spoke of Loyalist figures like David Fanning and Richard Caswell on the Militia side. These men are featured in Diana‘s books, Fanning being a pretty all-around bad guy and Caswell being a notorious pipe smoker. This last fact was advantageous in a medical procedure performed by our heroine Claire. Our guide shared details of the provisions and camp layouts of each side as well. The Militia forces were organized, armed and outfitted where as the Regulators lacked leadership, were in a state of disarray and had little in the way of arms. The 2000 men gathered on that side believed the sheer number of their forces would sway the Governor to listen to grievances. But the time for negotiations had long past in his eyes, and Tryon’s 1000 men were charged to end this uprising once and for all.
Diana read a passage from The Fiery Cross that elaborated upon the conditions of the backcountry farmers and disgruntled citizens. Quaker Herman Husband voiced these concerns in an intimate setting to his friends, Jamie and Claire. The book passage includes an actual letter from Governor Tryon who was known for his incessant letter writing. This emphasis once again serves as a reminder to me of the careful and accurate inclusion of history that Diana Gabaldon, the meticulous researcher, has included in her fictitious novels.
Back to Elaine O’Kal. She pointed out that many men involved in this battle went on to be government leaders after the Revolutionary War. Several are noted in Diana’s books because they are in direct contact with the Frasers or have an impact in American history during the span of the Outlander story. We already know that Royal Governor Tryon granted land to Jamie and made him a colonel of militia, thus setting up a relationship for future interactions between the two men. Diana has skillfully interjected Jamie Fraser into the Alamance conflict at the height of tense negotiations.
Elaine O’Kal recounted this strain on the morning of May 16, 1771 by citing the proclamation Governor Tryon sent across the creek to “those who style themselves Regulators.” In it, he gives the lawbreakers a chance to surrender peacefully or face consequences in one hour’s time. DG then read a passage from The Fiery Cross illustrating this history. In it, Militia Colonel James Fraser pleads with Governor Tryon to speak to Regulator and Quaker Herman Husband so a peaceful resolution may be found and blood be not shed. If Husband can be convinced to cross the creek and talk, will he, Tryon, not save the lives of these, his citizens? Both our guide and our novelist have orchestrated a sense of urgency on this morning just as it must have been on that May morning. And as we step nearer the creek bed, Ms. O’Kal points under our feet to a “slope covered with teeny yellow-flowered plants” – a detail observed by a major character in The Fiery Cross as he, too, crossed this path! Flowers, Quakers, and creeks – oh my! We are in the pages of history!
~A most emotionally charged, beautifully written passage from chapter 62 in The Fiery Cross was read by Diana at this time. I have chosen not to share details because I fear too much of her chilling storyline would be given away by my doing so. Suffice to say, in my notes I have written, “WOW,” and I remember that jaw dropping, moving feeling at the end of her recitation vividly.~
The hour had expired at midday. Documented accounts of the war cry given by Governor Tryon atop his horse were shared by both women, “Fire, Goddamn you! Fire on them or on me!” Diana’s last shared passage came from Jamie‘s point of view during the battle. It dramatically described the pitting of neighbor upon neighbor, and even family upon family. True to her style, Diana transports the reader, and in this case, the listeners, to the place and time of her characters. My heart was racing and I know how the story ends – both of them!
The Battle of Alamance effectively ended the Regulator Movement in North Carolina. Ms. O’Kal shared details of the short battle. The ill-outfitted and ill-prepared Regulators were no match for the Militia men with a battle plan, guns and cannons. A large boulder remains in the field today, its solemn significance noted for the little cover it provided the defeated Regulators. In less than two hours, nine Militia soldiers and up to 100 Regulators died, many were injured on both sides, 15 Regulators were taken prisoner, one was hung on the field of battle without trial, six were executed later. Two months later, Governor Tryan left to become Governor of the colony of New York, taking Edmond Fanning as his personal secretary. As he told James Fraser, he had done his duty. He did not leave the colony in a state of disorder and rebellion for his successor.
The volley of history and historical fiction ended on this somber note. Event guests were free to roam the grounds as we waited for Diana to be available for pictures and autographs. I took this time to wander, and read posted signs and visit that restored log cabin. This is the actual cabin built by Herman Husband’s brother-in-law, John Allen. A battlefield scene from The Fiery Cross takes place in a log cabin. Could this be where Diana’s inspiration was kindled? In her brunch speech, the author did note that this cabin example would be typical of a backcountry log cabin during the Fraser’s North Carolina time. My self-guided tour definitely did not indicate a glamping scenario. (See pictures!)
I was one of the last to get autographs and pictures from the weekend’s star attraction. I suppose I didn’t want to be transported back to my time and place. I have been fortunate to meet Diana Gabaldon and a few others associated with the Outlander series at prior events. This being the case, I did not bring a “big book” for autographing, but instead brought a personal photo and my own “wee medicine box.” I’d like to think Diana remembered my box as she perused the accumulated familiar signatures. She graciously signed “best regards” in Gaelic to (me) and posed for a few quick pictures. So hard to believe my journey through Diana Gabaldon’s North Carolina has come to an end. Thank you readers for trekking along my three part history trail!
Many, many thanks go to Outlander North Carolina, Beth Pittman and Susan Jackson, for inviting me to share this journey – a wonderful opportunity made possible by these two lovely ladies. I’d like to recognize all the people working at Alamance Battleground for their contributions to the success of this event. Elaine O’Kal did an extraordinary job sharing history and coordinating the presentation with Diana. Thanks to Jeremiah DeGennaro, Ann Hunnicutt and all the crew at this special site. The North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources deserves an entire weekend of ovations. Dr. Kevin Cherry, Kimberly Kantros and Jennifer Farley get special recognition for their efforts. And, as always, my deepest appreciation goes to Diana Gabaldon for the sharing of her life, her time, her incredible talents, her humor…and her husband (Doug Watkins) with us all! Where would we be without DG?!?!
Lisa, we cannot thank you enough for your wonderful memories of your weekend in North Carolina! Come back soon!
If you’re ever on a DIY Outlander tour of North Carolina, don’t forget to stop at the Alamance Battleground historic site, as well as the many other real places that are host to the Frasers and their family and friends! Speaking of an Outlander tour–have you ever traveled to Outlander destinations? Tell us about it!
I recently had the opportunity to visit several sites in North Carolina, tracing the steps of the 18th Century historical figures, James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser and his wife, Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser. What? They are NOT real historical figures? Don’t tell that to the fans of Diana Gabaldon’s writing. To us, they are as real as the locations the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources brought the author to this last weekend in April.
My journey began in Iowa with a flight from Des Moines to Raleigh, NC. I drove to the historical town of New Bern on the eastern coastal region to kick off my tour. Tryon Palace would be the first to host Diana’s visit so I decided to familiarize myself with the Palace and the community in which it is centered.
The Palace as described in the Diana’s Outlander series is indeed like the grand opulence on display today. The first NC Governor’s state of residence was completed in 1770 and occupied by Governor Tryon until 1771 when a new Governor, Josiah Martin replaced him. Tryon went to great lengths to document the construction and furnishings of his mansion. This proved invaluable for the 1959 reconstruction of the Palace. All but the original stables were destroyed by fire just 28 years after its completion in 1798. The Governor had hired an English architect to create a place of residence worthy of King George III and Queen Charlotte of England, one that could support visits of royalty and promote the affairs and the Crown’s dominion. It is easy to imagine the pages of The Fiery Cross come to life and to understand the the Regulator’s points of view regarding unfair use of tax payer’s dollars! The Palace is definitely fit for a King! No wonder Governor Tryon “got out of Dodge” (or accepted the commission of Governor of the State of New York taking his furnishings with him in late 1771) before the backlash of his spending could ignite a Revolutionary War. Wait, in a way, it did. The grievances aired by North Carolinians to their government became seeds of revolutionary discontent. Thus, history as we know it.
The beauty of the Tryon Palace was used as a backdrop for Diana Gabaldon and the two events for which she was the guest of honor. The first, “An Evening with Diana Gabaldon,” began with a small group and cocktails at a private historical residence in New Bern and then moved to the North Carolina Historical Museum adjacent to the Palace for a lavishly Outlander themed dinner with seventy plus in attendance. The event had been planned for the South Lawn of the Palace Gardens but due to inclement weather was moved indoors.
Diana was escorted in by her husband, Doug Watkins, with accompaniment from a local bagpiper playing the Skye Boat Song . The attendees were seated, (well, actually standing at that point), around ten tables, pumped to hear all that she had to share. Introductions were given by various members of the North Carolina State Government and Diana was given platform to speak for approximately 30 minutes before taking questions from her followers. Our character-themed dinner and dessert followed the conclusion of the Q&A session.
So what did Diana share? She began by addressing her writing connection to North Carolina and the importance of the Regulator history in the story of Jamie and Claire, and now, Murtagh, in the TV series. This storyline, by the way, was her suggestion and she is pleased with the conflict it sets up going forward in the adaptation. While she does see the scripts and is allowed notes upon them, Diana does NOT have complete control of every detail. Sometimes her voice is heard, sometimes not. She joked that the NC of the show is NOT geographically accurate and that the powers that be are counting on viewers not having been to the actual state of North Carolina! She further added, that having seen the dailies from season 5, at least the wigs are a lot better! (Cheers from all!)
Back to the subject of writing and specifically why it takes so long for Diana to complete a book… The average novel is 100,000 words. Outlander, the shortest book in the series is 300,000 words. It takes at least 2 1/2 years to write a book with all the research that she puts into each novel. This led to Diana’s reasoning for not having an assistant. She could tell someone to go to the store and pick up hotdogs and beans but if she went to the store, she might see other interesting ingredients. Thus changing, adapting, creating a whole new menu at the end of the day. DG has many times described her writing style as nonlinear in fashion. Her example illustrates this as well. Needless to say, none of her adoring fans will be hired as a personal research assistant anytime soon. (Sigh.)
Diana also looks for first person historical accounts to weave in the details of her storytelling. She cited the Battle of King’s Mountain and the historical account of an actual soldier’s experience for this. The Battle will be included in the ninth book. Watch for details about tree bark flying from bullet spray and the aftermath of other sights, sounds, and smells experienced by a character in Bees. “History is not what happened, it’s what people wrote down about it.” Diana went on to share other consultant and script-writing anecdotes. She told the story of Jamie’s missing hat in an early season four episode. It was written that after the misplaced hat had been found in the pig’s pen the hat was to be thrown away in the trash can. Diana had to step in and explain the value of the leather and that nothing would be thrown away in that time period, especially in a wastebasket because that didn’t even exist! The scene was rewritten and the hat was then placed on an upper shelf. Script writers think dialogue first then what people are actually doing last!
Overall, DG’s experience with the series, writing and being on the set has been most enjoyable. Everyone is always joking around! Diana made us all want to stow away in her luggage next trip to the set.
Six questions were answered from the audience during the last part of the formal programming and before dinner. Diana was asked about how much input she has in the casting process and she told the story of finding the leads Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe. Diana has no say in the hiring and remembered thinking Sam was a chameleon actor, he looked different in every role he had played so far. Diana was shown “grotesque” pictures of him but the tape sent to her was “Jamie.” The standing joke was that Jamie would probably turn out to be the UPS man, but Sam was found quickly in the selection process! Finding Claire proved to be the difficult one. Down to the wire in time, everyone was sent home with the reject pile and told to find her. Caitriona was then unanimously selected from that pile based upon her own self tape with an episode 1 scene, “Help, he’s going over!”
Other questions were also answered: Q: Has there been any talk about a spin off Lord John series? A: Although lots of interest has been expressed by many sources, no official conversations have been had.
Q: How has Diana’s Catholic upbringing influenced the characters and her writing? A: Diana has knowledge, for one, (unlike many of the show’s script writers). Also, Celtic Catholics/Christians have an interesting take on religion. They tend to incorporate incantations, charms, rituals into their beliefs and daily lives, lending to a more natural process. The issue of killing was discussed and the introduction of other characters such as Quakers help to give the story balance here.
Q: Does Diana know what her characters will be and do? How do her characters come to her? A: The pace and process take shape from a kernel, scene by scene. Diana went on to describe this process of her writing from the kernel in her mind’s eye of a Scottish crystal goblet.
The final question of the evening revolved around the origin of her writing and 1st novel. Her practice novel had to be historical because if she couldn’t come up with original stories, at least she’d have something to fall back on. Many of us have heard this telling of the Doctor Who episode that sparked the flame for an 18th-century man in a kilt who would become our beloved Jamie. Her English character, Claire, wasn’t having any of that 18th-century vibe though, and Diana knew from her voice and that first cottage introduction that Claire would be a modern woman having gone back in time, thus creating the sci-fi aspect. This origin of Outlander is a pleasure to hear in Diana‘s voice anytime.
On a personal note, I was given the opportunity to mingle a few minutes at the end of the evening. After bit of fangirling, I recovered my senses enough to ask this final question: If she could remove Herself as author and just be a fan of The Fiery Cross, what three moments would she most like to transfer to the visual medium of season five? Diana responded with the scene that involves Claire in the windowsill in the middle of the night. Jamie comes in to find her with goosebumps on her arms. What transpires then is a very intimate moment that Diana is really pushing for inclusion this season. (Fingers crossed!) The next scene she described to me I will only say, for spoiler reasons, is a moment of great impact on Roger and his character. She would want to include that and also the poignant aftermath with his son.
Of course I was thrilled to have had this interaction with my all-time favorite author. So, along with my thanks for her insight and time that evening, I told Diana I would be following her as she traveled across the state over the next few days. (Now cemented in the mind of Diana Gabaldon is the image of me as a stalker. Great.)
This incredible “Evening with Diana Gabaldon” transpired over four plus hours and was made possible by the coordinated efforts of Bill McCrea, Executive Director of Tryon Palace, Susi Hamilton, NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary and their amazing team members. Many thanks and much praise to everyone involved.
Thank you so much Lisa for sharing your “Evening with Diana Gabaldon” at Tryon Palace with us!
Tryon Palace is a great place to visit, as well as the adjoining NC History Center, with informative and interactive exhibits–it’s fun and educational! We appreciate the folks at the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources bringing this amazing event to eastern North Carolina in support of historic New Bern. All proceeds went towards continuing repairs at Tryon Palace from Hurricane Florence in September 2018.
Apart from the more obvious reading of a recipe, cooking and reading arenʼt necessarily two things that youʼd normally think to put in the same category. However, I believe there arenʼt many things more closely aligned than these two activities. What has the power to transport you to another time or place without ever leaving the comforts of your own home, a good book and a good meal. What can bring people of different ages, nationalities, and religions together, a good book and a good meal. What can simultaneously invoke the feeling of love and also despair, coming to the last page of a great book, and realizing that youʼve taken the last bite of a great meal.
When your childhood best friend is Puerto Rican, there are a few things that you learn pretty early on in life, the love of food, music, and that nobodyʼs cooking holds a candle to Momʼs cooking! I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my love of cooking stems from those endless nights sitting on the stools at the bar of my best friend’s house, chatting away & watching while “Mom” was throwing down in the kitchen. As an adult now myself, I can say that there are few other things in life that bring me more joy than cooking and feeding those whom I love.
As most of you can probably relate, I may have a slight Outlander obsession. Whatʼs not to love, a handsome, drool worthy 18th century Scottish warrior, men in kilts, time travel, passion, romance, history, and did I mention men in kilts! Needless to say, I was shamelessly hooked at the first sight of James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser. I came to the books through the show and almost instantly became enthralled with the love story between Jamie & Claire. One other thing that stuck out to me, beyond the obvious, was how much of the story was centered around food. The gatherings, the family reunions, the celebrations, the banquets, Mrs. Fitz and her bannocks, the wine, whisky, and Rhenish. Food and drink were consistently present throughout the entire story. As I stated above, food has a way of bringing people together, a fact that wasnʼt lost on these 17th century characters.
Luckily for me, a woman by the name of Theresa Carle-Sanders decided to come out with a cookbook called Outlander Kitchen Cookbook: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook. Any opportunity I get to bring my love of cooking and reading together, you better believe Iʼm taking!
So thatʼs what brought me here–well, more like a slightly crazy obsession with a fictional character, then a realization that Iʼm not alone in my craziness, followed by a Facebook page and blog run by the wonderful Beth Pittman actually brought me here, but yʼall get where Iʼm going with this. So here I am fellow Sassenachs, with my “Outlander Companion Cookbook”, a glass of red wine, and a spatula, getting ready to throw down an Outlander-inspired meal from start to finish, and Iʼm bringing yʼall along for the ride.
First up on this journey for the taste buds is “Murtaghʼs Gift to Ellen,” or Puff Pastry Boar Tusks. Asparagus and puff pastry and bacon…..oh my! The cookbook does have a recipe for a Blitz Puff Pastry, however I chose the easier route & visited the freezer section of the local grocery store for some Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets. Before you get all “Thatʼs not how they did it in the 18th century,” just know that the cookbook does offer that as an option in the recipe, and that was one modern adjustment I was definitely going to take! The construction of this adorable appetizer was quite simple & easy enough to do, yet looks as though great detail went into the prepping/cooking process. Would I make this again? With one minor adjustment, aye, I most definitely would. As for that adjustment I mentioned, Iʼd probably opt to coat the puff pastry part with a melted garlic herb butter once removed from the oven. That would take it from being a cute & tasty appetizer to a cute and delectable appetizer thatʼd impress anyone youʼd serve it to.
Letʼs talk sides. When youʼre slaving away over a meal of this magnitude, keeping it simple yet delicious is key, and boy did I unlock a couple of winners! I went for the “Broccoli Salad,” (p. 210), and the “Matchstick Cold-Oil Fries.” I have been making homemade fries for the past 10 years, and now I know that for the past 10 years, I have been doing them totally WRONG! Who wouldʼve thought that the trick to getting the most crispy and delicious homemade fries youʼve ever had, was to start off with cold oil? Certainly not me, but I can guarantee that I will never make fries using any other method again. Iʼm here to tell you that the cost of this cookbook is well worth it for this recipe alone! My only regret is that I didnʼt make more!
Now, not to take any shine away from those seriously insane french fries, but the broccoli salad was pretty darn amazing in itself. Fresh, crunchy, tangy, with just a hint of sweetness, and did I mention bacon? Yes people, more bacon. Letʼs be honest, can you ever go wrong with a recipe that has crunchy bacon as an ingredient? The answer to that question, is absolutely not & this recipe was no exception. There isnʼt a single thing that I would change about this salad. So just to recap……yes, yes, and more yes when it comes to these two sides!
Moving right along, we come to the main entree, “Sweet Tea-Brined Fried Chicken,” (p.112). Now, I love a glass of sweet tea just as much as the next person, but I canʼt say that Iʼve ever imagined using it to brine chicken, or anything for that matter. Once I got beyond the initial “Huh?” phase, I was ready to jump right in. You start off by brining the chicken for a few hours in a homemade sweet tea concoction, filled with what else other than a ton of sugar. Yes, there are a few other ingredients, but youʼll have to buy the book to figure those out. Believe me when I tell you, I not only wanted to like this recipe, but I really wanted to love it, unfortunately that wasnʼt necessarily the case. Donʼt get me wrong, the chicken was outrageously juicy and tender, accompanied with a perfectly crisp outer coating, what lost me was the sweetness. Not overpowering, but enough to make the dish just “okay”. The crispness of the coating was spot on though, Iʼd only say it needed a little salt to make it fried chicken perfection. The recipe wasnʼt a total loss for me though, Iʼd definitely use that coating again, and like the idea of brining beforehand, however Iʼd personally stick with just a good ol’ salt water brine.
Last but certainly not least, I bring you the “Warm Almond Pastry with Father Anselm,” (p. 255) for dessert. Thereʼs really not much I can say about this dessert other than delicious! If you like a dessert that isnʼt overly sweet, then this is the dessert for you! Itʼs light and flaky, and would go perfect with a nice cup of hot coffee. I will for sure be making this again in the very near future.
I hope youʼve enjoyed the ramblings of this food obsessed Sassenach. If you donʼt already own this cookbook, do yourselves a favor & go buy it ASAP. If the last thing you need is another cookbook lying around taking up space, then visit your local library, check it out and take pics of the recipes that interest you. You wonʼt regret it! This has been quite the tasty experience, but now itʼs time for me to summon my children and have them roll me into bed. Good night yʼall.
Harmony was born and raised in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, but found her forever home in the mountains of North Carolina in 2017. She is married to her “Jamie” and the mom of two boys whom she homeschools. Harmony discovered Outlander while Season 2 was showing on Starz, and instantly fell in love with Jamie and Claire’s love story. In her spare time, she enjoys being with her family and getting outside to explore their new home in the mountains. Harmony is a moderator for the Outlander North Carolina Facebook Group, and hosted “Happy Hour with Harmony” on Saturday evenings, using recipes from the Outlander Kitchen cookbook to make cocktails and mocktails. If you’d like to see the videos, join the Outlander North Carolina group on Facebook, and go to our Videos section–Harmony is a great hostess!
Do you have a copy of Outlander Kitchen, or have you been a follower of Outlander Kitchen website before there was a cookbook? What’s your favorite recipe?
Outlander North Carolina was privileged to be a part of the Celtic Festival at Latta Plantion in Huntersville, NC on March 16 & 17, 2019! We had a wonderful time, met some Facebook group members, and really enjoyed talking Outlander “shop” with all of our new friends. We hope we made some new Outlander converts as we shared our love of the Fraser’s North Carolina.
Our booth/tent was filled with wonderful sights and scents, as we had Jamie and Claire there for photo opportunities, and offered exclusive Outlander NC-inspired candles (handmade right here in NC!), as well as special edition ONC suncatchers and stemless wine glasses. Festival goers entered their names in our giveaway for an amazing Outlander item-filled basket, and the winner was Belen Molins! Thanks to all who stopped by to say hello!
The theme of our booth was a rustic cabin, and everyone worked hard to make it look absolutely amazing! Thanks so much to Carolyn Baker, Stephanie Bryant (of Outlander Print Shop), Nancy Roach (whose alter ego is the White Sow on Twitter!), and Mitzie Munroe for helping me create an inviting stop for visitors to come and browse and pose with the Frasers or by the “fireplace.”
There were so many things to do and enjoy at the Celtic Festival, from Viking reenactors, a friendly shinty game between the NC 71st and 84th Highland Regiments, cooking demonstrations, reenactors’ encampents, Latta Plantation building tours, dancing, traditional music, and an Outlander Party! Saying it was a fun-filled weekend is an understatement! Thanks to everyone at Latta Plantation for giving us this amazing opportunity!
Please enjoy these photos, with contributions from Mitzie Munroe, Connie McKenzie, Lisa Margolis, Joy Forster, Stephanie Bryant, and Nina Eads: