"Filled with cherished memories and treasured recipes, The Recipe Box is a touching tribute to the women and food that unite us and connect our past to the present." —Richard Paul Evans, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"An easy, delightful novel" –Good Housekeeping
In The Recipe Box, bestselling beloved author Viola Shipman spins a tale about a lost young woman and the family recipe box that changes her life.
Growing up in northern Michigan, Samantha “Sam” Mullins felt trapped on her family’s orchard and pie shop, so she left with dreams of making her own mark in the world. But life as an overworked, undervalued sous chef at a reality star’s New York bakery is not what Sam dreamed.
When the chef embarrasses Sam, she quits and returns home. Unemployed, single, and defeated, she spends a summer working on her family’s orchard cooking and baking alongside the women in her life—including her mother, Deana, and grandmother, Willo. One beloved, flour-flecked, ink-smeared recipe at a time, Sam begins to learn about and understand the women in her life, her family’s history, and her passion for food through their treasured recipe box.
As Sam discovers what matters most she opens her heart to a man she left behind, but who now might be the key to her happiness.
About the Author
VIOLA SHIPMAN is a pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose charm bracelet and family stories inspired him to write his debut novel, which is a tribute to all of our elders. Rouse lives in Michigan and writes regularly for People and Coastal Living, among other places, and is a contributor to All Things Considered. To date, The Charm Bracelet has been translated into nine languages. He is at work on his next “heirloom novel.”
Read an Excerpt
Sam Nelson sipped her latte, staring out the window of the coffee shop, waiting for the rain to stop. She watched garbage men in yellow slickers jump out of trucks to pick up the trash, the deafening noise causing her head to throb. She was still bleary-eyed with sleep, and the scene looked blurred and too bright, as if it were a paint-by-numbers portrait.
Sam shut her eyes to still her mind, and her head suddenly whirred with colorful images of apples, the kind a child might draw — smiling, dancing, hanging from trees. A coffee grinder and milk frother roared to life, accompanied again by the sound of trash trucks, and Sam's eyes popped open. She realized she was unconsciously rubbing the necklace she wore every day that was hidden under her uniform. She pulled it free and ran her fingers over the key that hung from the chain.
Starbucks was jammed with those who, like her, rose at dawn to start their day: construction workers, Wall Street traders, emergency room doctors, eager assistants.
And struggling pastry chefs like me, she thought, looking around the coffeehouse.
But mostly others like me who were so sleepy leaving this morning they also left their umbrellas at home, she realized, her face breaking into a slight smile.
Sam watched the rain slide down the window in great sheets, the sky heaving, the city stopping for once — even at dawn, when everyone was waking and had somewhere to be — Mother Nature forcing everyone to halt for one brief moment. And then, as quickly as the rain had started, it stopped, the surprise summer thunderstorm over. Sam rushed out onto the sidewalk, the crowd dispersing in different directions like water bugs on a lake.
The humidity of the summer day suddenly smacked Sam directly in the face, like being hit with a warm, wet washrag, her grandma used to say.
Sam was rushed along in the wave of those who were now late and had somewhere to be.
I do, too, Sam thought, but I don't want to get there.
Sam walked briskly downtown, sipping her latte when she slowed to cross the streets. She could already feel the first of three espresso shots coursing through her veins.
She looked at the city streets coated in rain, the early light illuminating their inky blackness, their darkness beautifully framed by the lighter concrete gutters and sidewalks.
Broadway looks just like a big blackberry galette, Sam thought, before shaking her head at the terrible analogy.
That would have earned a C minus in English lit, she thought, but my instructors at culinary school would be proud.
Sam slowed for a second and considered the streets. So would my family, she added.
New York had its own otherworldly beauty, stunning in its own sensory-overload sort of way, but a jarring juxtaposition to where Sam had grown up: on a family orchard in northern Michigan.
Our skyscrapers were apple and peach trees, Sam thought, seeing dancing fruit in her mind once again. She smiled as she approached Union Square Park and stopped to touch an iridescent green leaf, still wet and dripping rain, her heart leaping at its incredible tenderness in the midst of the city. She leaned in and lifted the leaf to her nose, inhaling, the scents of summer and smells of her past — fresh fruit, fragrant pine, baking pies, lake water — flooding her mind.
Sam's knees suddenly felt like the jellies her family made, and she took a seat on a nearby bench and took out her phone, guilt overwhelming her as she clicked on the e-invite she had received a dozen times over the last few months.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ... US!
CELEBRATE OUR CENTENNIAL (AND GRANDMA WILLO'S BIRTHDAY)!
MULLINS FAMILY ORCHARDS & PIE PANTRY IS TURNING 100! AND OUR MATRIARCH IS TURNING 75!
WE HOPE YOUR FAMILY WILL JOIN OURS FOR THIS ONCE-IN-ALIFETIME CELEBRATION!
ITLΠITL = 3.14159 (WHO ARE WE KIDDING? PIE = LOVE!)
Sam stared at the last line. Are they still using that same old slogan? she thought, but the word FAMILY stuck in her vision, and when she shut her eyes, it floated in front of her eyes, just as the images of apples had earlier.
She clicked on messages from her grandma and parents: Hope you can make it! Miss you! Love you!
Sam's family hadn't officially pressed her to return for the celebration — too proud, just like me, Sam thought — but what am I supposed to do?
I can't ask for time off to go home, she continued. He would never give it to me. And opportunities like this don't just fall in your lap in New York City.
Sam opened her eyes and, as usual, passing New Yorkers were shooting her second glances as they passed, confused as to why a woman would be wearing all white in a city that typically outfitted itself in the darkest of colors.
Sam had to confess that she looked like a Disney character — some sort of ice princess perhaps — in her chef's whites and blond hair.
"You the last virgin in the city?" a man yelled as he zipped by on his bike.
"You wish!" Sam yelled back.
Subtlety was not New York's strong suit, and the city had taught her to be tough.
So did my grandma, Sam thought, touching the tree's branch as she stood, thinking of her Grandma Willo. She taught me to bend but never break, just like her name, just like this tree.
Sam shook her head, checked her watch, and groaned. She picked up her pace, zipping past the Flatiron Building before turning and skirting Madison Square Park to head east on 23rd.
She kept her head down, sipping her latte and counting every single step as she did every morning to avoid reality — 48, 49, 50, 51 — glancing up every so often just to avoid running into someone and to check out familiar window fronts.
208, 209, 210 ...
Sam stopped and lifted her eyes to see the bright yellow awning jutting out over the rain-slicked sidewalk, smiling brightly, falsely, just like ... Sam tried but couldn't halt the thought that had already formed, the one that popped into her head every single morning.
... an insipid reality star.
"Move, lady!" a passerby said to Sam, who was still stopped directly in the middle of the sidewalk — much to the chagrin of other New Yorkers. "It's called a bakery."
A kind-looking woman walking her dog slowed and asked Sam, "Are you hungry? Do you want something from the bakery?"
For some reason, Sam shook her head no and showed the woman her Starbucks cup. The woman looked at Sam and said very seriously, "He's famous, you know," pointing to the bakery.
"I know," Sam said, staring up at the awning. Happy-faced pies dotted the fabric, like little baked suns, the venting on each crust designed to make the pies look like they were smiling with adorable deep dimples.
Her stomach lurched as it did every morning when she read the bakery's name: DIMPLES BAKERY.
Sam walked up to the door of the shop and gave it a yank, her arm reverberating.
What the ...? she thought. Sam placed her face against the glass and held her hands around her eyes, her breath steaming the window. Why is it still dark?
She began to fish for her keys when she heard, "Hey, Michigan!" Sam turned and smiled.
This had become their greeting since Sam and Angelo Morelli, the deliveryman for a well-known East Coast organic produce company, met a year ago. Although Angelo was born and raised in Brooklyn, Sam first met Angelo when he was delivering Fresh Jersey tomatoes for a classic southern tomato pie Trish was making. Between his accent and the tomatoes — which Sam instantly fell in love with — Sam had inadvertently referred to Angelo as "Jersey," and the nickname had stuck.
"How were the Hamptons?" Angelo asked through the open window of the delivery truck. He jumped out, ran around to the back, and threw open the corrugated door. Boxes of fresh fruit and produce — a rainbow of bright colors and rich textures — were piled up in crates and boxes, ready to be delivered.
"Montauk," Sam corrected. "Girls' weekend was fun. Four of us crammed into a little motel room by the beach. It had a two-burner stove, and I somehow managed to make the most beautiful galette for breakfast."
Sam smiled. The Hamptons reminded her of where she had grown up in northern Michigan: the beaches, the cute shops, the farm stands selling fresh fruit and produce right off the highway.
"Mets took the Tigers last night!" Angelo said, breaking Sam from her thoughts.
"But the Mets won't make the playoffs," Sam said. "Tigers will."
"That hurts," Angelo said, acting as if Sam had just won a sword duel with him. He grabbed his side and nearly fell to his knees.
"You're a real peach," Sam said, laughing at his theatrics.
"Speakin' a' which," Angelo said, excitedly jumping to his feet, his dark eyes wide and his black curls bouncing as he gestured to the back of the truck. "Voilà!"
Sam walked over to the truck and inhaled. "Smells like heaven," she said.
"That's somethin' in New York." Angelo laughed.
Sam smiled and looked at Angelo.
Now those are some dimples, she couldn't help thinking.
"How's school?" Sam switched subjects.
"Slow and steady. One night class at a time," he said, moving crates. "I think I'll finish when I'm a hundred and five."
"No time frame on passion and dedication," Sam said.
Angelo turned and smiled. "Thanks for saying that," he said. "I need to be reminded. Not easy working full time and going to school." He hesitated. "I'm glad you encouraged me to go back to school. I'm enjoying my business classes."
Angelo picked up a crate and smiled at Sam, the effort causing his biceps to flex. He put the crate down and caught Sam staring at him.
"Maybe we could go to a game sometime?" Angelo said quietly, considering Sam's blue eyes.
Yes, Sam wanted to say. I'd love to. But then she remembered Michigan — and Connor, the high school boyfriend whose heart she had broken because he never wanted her to move away from home.
Sam realized she was nervously touching the key on her necklace again, and she tucked it under her chef's whites. She wanted to say yes but she'd feel guilty starting something she didn't have time for with her job.
"No problem," Angelo said quickly, taking her silence as a no and leaping into the back of the truck. "I get it. A girl like you and a guy like me ..." He seemed embarrassed and Sam could tell he was disappointed.
She wanted to explain, but Angelo was already out of the truck with another crate in hand and at the front door waiting for her with a full dolly.
"What do you think's going on?" Sam asked, partly to divert his attention and partly to understand why Trisha, the head pastry chef, wasn't already at the store. "Trish is usually here before four A.M."
Angelo jiggled the doorknob and knocked as Sam got her keys. She opened the door, and the duo walked in. Sam turned on the lights.
"Hello?" Sam called. "Trish?"
Sam scanned the bakery. A black-and-white checkerboard floor led up to walls covered in pink-and-white-striped wallpaper featuring black-and-white posters from Gone with the Wind, Steel Magnolias, The Notebook, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but mostly the walls were filled with photos from Chef Dimples's fame-making stint on the insanely popular reality matchmaking show With This Ring.
Too-big ornate iron tables filled the space, while the bakery area was lined with old-fashioned cupboards, supported by ornate finials and overflowing with pink Depression glass plates. The glass bakery cases were lined with pink-and-yellow shelf paper and filled with muffins, cookies, cakes, pies, especially all things Southern: pecan pie, lemon meringue pie, sweet potato pie, red velvet cake, pecan tassies, pralines, bread pudding, cobblers, strawberry shortcakes. The windowsills held boxes filled with bright petunias.
The place was brand new, and it looked like a movie set, a fictionalized version of real life, just like ...
Chef Dimples, Sam thought. The place is just like him: no real history, no real character. And he doesn't even know how to make one of the desserts in here he takes credit for. It was all created for TV.
Sam thought of how different this bakery was from her family's pie pantry, her grandmother's watercolors — of apple trees, fresh-baked pies, the bay filtered through the orchard — painted on the bakery's cement floors and old, warped wood walls, and the barn-wood counter where she had sold pies.
Sam never sold the pastries she helped create here. They were sold by Chef Dimples's former bachelorettes — those who hadn't received the final ring. Customers flocked in for a social media photo op rather than the baked goods.
"Sam?" Angelo asked, his voice causing her to jump. "Sorry. I found this."
Angelo was standing by the register and holding a folded piece of paper. Sam walked over and took the note from him, grimacing as if she already knew the outcome. She began to read:
"'Chef, and I use that term loosely,'" Sam started, before stopping to look up at Angelo. "Oh, this is not going to be good."
She continued reading the note: "'I not only quit, effective immediately, but I wish you nothing but a ring of bad luck for the rest of your so-called career. You are an energy vampire, a soul-sucking vacuum, a soulless human with a Hindenburg-sized ego that will eventually crash and burn. I want to see you stand in the kitchen and actually make something ... use your hands to do something other than slap your staffs' rears, comb your hair, put bronzer on your cheeks, hand out fake rings to customers, or count your money. Look forward to seeing you soon on TMZ, a tragic episode of E! True Hollywood Story, or People's Where Are They Now? Love, Trish.'"
"That's some real reality TV stuff right there," Angelo said, his dark eyes wide, a bemused smile crossing his face. "She pulled out the big guns. He deserved that, right?"
Sam nodded, her face frozen as panic began to set in.
"But you don't?" Angelo asked, suddenly understanding. He walked over and gently put his arm around Sam's back. "I'm so sorry," he said.
Sam leaned into him. "Thanks," she said. "I'm now on the firing line. And I mean that literally. He's going to go ballistic when he finds out. And I'm the only one left standing ... for now."
Angelo took a step back, grabbed Sam's shoulders, and looked her deeply in the eyes. "Maybe this just means it's your time to shine," he said. "Maybe this means it's your time to take a stand and show him what you've got. You trained at that fancy school, right? You come from a family of bakers, right? You're from Michigan. That's the Show Me State, right?" Sam laughed. "No, that's Missouri, Angelo."
"Neighboring states, though, right?"
"You New Yorkers." Sam continued to laugh. "No sense of geography once you're off the island."
"What the hell is going on?"
Sam and Angelo both jumped at the sound of a booming Southern voice behind them. They turned, and Chef Dimples was standing — not smiling, dimples still intact — one arm holding a cell to his ear, the other gesturing angrily.
He looked, as always, camera ready — a bulked-up version of Matthew McConaughey with grass-green eyes, tousled blond hair, and one of those mischievous smiles that melted mothers and girlfriends alike, no matter if he had just stolen money from their purses or broken their hearts. Those dimples had made him famous.
Deep enough to plant an apple seed, Sam remembered her grandmother saying after she had told her she got the job and to watch the show.
And even Mother Nature seemed to highlight his beauty: this morning, the city's early light splayed into the bakery and surrounded his body, seeming to illuminate him as if he were a religious figure.
His moniker, Chef Dimples, had caught on after With This Ring, and he had begun to appear on morning shows — baking sweets with Hoda or Rachael and handing them out to screaming women on the streets — before getting his own cooking show on the Food Channel. He was the Southern male version of the Barefoot Contessa. Or, at least, that's what he told everyone.
But Ina Garten actually worked hard at her business, Sam thought. And she knows how to cook. No, strike that: She actually cooks.
Even more irritating to Sam was that her boss only answered to the name Chef Dimples.
Yes, Chef Dimples.
No, Chef Dimples.
Of course, Chef Dimples.
Sam always had trouble saying his name, forcing herself to utter it, always with a mix of embarrassment and repulsion. Worse, saying it made her feel as if she were acting in an awful kids' show, and that he had this alter ego everyone could see through, like Hannah Montana, although he didn't seem to realize it himself.
"Hello?" he asked sarcastically. "Is anyone going to answer?"
"Good morning, Chef Dimples. What are you doing here?" Sam didn't mean to say the last part, but the morning's drama had cleared her edit button.
Excerpted from "The Recipe Box"
Copyright © 2018 Viola Shipman.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Apple Crisp,
Part One: Peach-Blueberry Slab Pie,
Part Two: Cider Donuts,
Part Three: Cherry Chip Cake,
Part Four: Triple Berry Galette,
Part Five: Thumbprint Cookies,
Part Six: Ice Cream Sandwiches with Maple Spice Chocolate Chip — Cherry Chunk Cookies,
Part Seven: The Perfect Pie Crust,
Part Eight: Strawberry Shortcakes,
Part Nine: Rhubarb Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Cinnamon Streusel Topping,
Part Ten: Apple and Cherry Turnovers,
Part Eleven: Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting,
Epilogue: Apple Crisp,
Also by Viola Shipman,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman is set in Bayview Points, Michigan. Samantha "Sam" Nelson is working at Dimples Bakery in New York when her boss, Chef Dimples goes too far and she quits. She has had enough of his attitude and taking credit for her work. Sam grew up in Bayview Points on her families' orchard, Mullins Pie Pantry and U-Pick. The orchard is having its hundredth birthday this summer and her grandmother, Willo is turning seventy-five. There will be a big party in honor of the two events. Sam heads home for the summer and works in the pie pantry alongside her mother, Deana and grandmother. When Sam was thirteen, she was given a handcrafted recipe box that matches grandmother's and her mother's. Inside are the family recipes that have been passed down from mother to daughter. While working alongside them and using the family recipes, she learns about their past, her family history, how the orchard came to be and her love for baking. She also learns that the right man that will complement her has been there all along if she just opens her heart. Join Sam on a journey through the past that will help her have a bright, happy future. The Recipe Box is a charming novel. I thought it was well-written and had a steady pace. Ms. Shipman has a conversational writing style that has an ease to it (makes for an easy to read story that is engaging). The author provided beautiful descriptions of the area, the orchard, the people and the baked goods (recipes included). I loved the characters in the story with Willo being my favorite. I appreciated the strong, intelligent female characters. There are great interactions between the women. Life lessons are included in The Recipe Box which include know yourself and be true to yourself. It is important to live a life without regrets. The Recipe Box is a feel-good novel. There is a predictable element, but it did not hinder my enjoyment. I like a book that gives me a good, heartwarming feeling inside and leaves me with a smile on my face when I am done reading it. I look forward to this author's next book.
Soulful, nostalgic, searching, hopeful. These are some of the adjectives that went through my mind as I read The Recipe Box. I laughed out loud at parts and was touched and thoughtful in others. This story is full of heritage and family. Although I indicated the time period to be “Contemporary”, it spans many generations. It is not a saga, but is full of snippets from the lives of the matriarchs of Sam’s family. I loved the way the author wove the history into the present day. She managed to go into the past and back to the present without making the story feel disjointed, giving enough detail to draw you in and get you invested. There were recipes included as well, and each one played a part in the narrative. My dear friend, Chris, is from Michigan, and I hear her talk about it all the time. After reading The Recipe Box, I really get it. Author Viola Shipman has caused me to fall in love with a place and a lifestyle I have never experienced. The characters in the story were wonderful. The women had rich wisdom to share. The men were strong and steady. Angelo was charming and delightful. Conner was unexpectedly sweet. Chef Dimples was … Well, let’s just say that he was and let you find out what he was. Though there were many parts of the book that I loved, I think my favorites were the parts where Sam’s dad talked about the day he decided to not leave Michigan to be an engineer and the ending. I won’t give anything away here, but do want to say that the way the author tied everything up here was masterful. This review was originally posted on AmongTheReads.net I would like to thank Netgalley for giving me this item. My opinion and review were not influenced by this gift.
This was the third book that I have read that was written by Viola Shipman. I first found this author while reading "The Charm Bracelet" which I loved and then "The Hope Chest" which I loved. I was very excited that there was another book on offer and did not waste any time requesting it. I love how in all of Shipman's books, he takes, for instance, in "The Charm Bracelet". Every charm on the bracelet has a story and a meaning for the mother of the family. The same recipe is used in the other two books. However, I wasn't as impressed with "The Recipe Box" as I was with the other books. This one just seemed to have an over abundance of cheese. That's not to say it wasn't a good read, because it was. It just wasn't one of my favorites. I did love all the names that Tricia used to describe the celebrity chef that Sam was working for before she went back home. They were some pretty funny names. If you like Hallmark movies, you will love these books. Thanks to St. Martin's Press and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
Roots, individual (and family) strength and recipes fill the pages of this saga. Sam left Suttons Bay and her family to seek her independence and her place in the world. Returning home, she felt like a failure... Enjoyed this inspirational romance. Generations are shared thru this family. Loved Willo, Deana, Gary and Angelo, the history and recipes. Slow moving and repetitive, at times. Good read. 3 1/2 stars. Voluntarily read ARC, thru Netgalley and publisher, for honest review.
I really enjoyed this book. Viola Shipman is a new to me author and I was definitely impressed with this first book. There is a nice easy flow to the writing and the characters are interesting and well developed. I'll definitely be looking for more books from this author. Samantha Mullins is a young woman who wants to spread her wings and experience life away from the family orchard in Michigan. So off to NY she goes to attend culinary school and work in a prestigious bakery. She's humiliated when she returns home after quitting her job in NY. Working in the orchard and baking with all the wise women in her family teaches her small life lessons she missed when she was younger. Now her views have changed about what is truly import in life. Has she learned this lesson in time to get the man of her dreams? I definitely recommend this one.
“You bake for someone because it is familial and familiar, new yet ancestral, a way of connecting generations.” This was an easy book for me to get pulled into. The story is set among the backdrop of northern Michigan and New York City and follows Sam Mullins when she suddenly quits her dream job in New York City and returns home to Michigan. Her family is there with open arms, lots of encouragement and words of wisdom to help her decide what to do about her career and her love life. The story flashes back and forth between Sam and her relatives, with the stories about their life at the Mullins Family Orchard and Pie Pantry and how they prepare it for future generations. It’s an inspirational story that will remind you of the importance of family. I liked how each section of the book was titled with a dessert and the recipe is pulled from the recipe box and prepared during that part of the story. The recipes are included after each section so you can recreate them. It even made someone like me, a non-baker, want to start baking. I had a hard time putting down this book. Not a detail was missed and everything was so vividly written that it felt very real to me. I could easily visualize this book as a movie.
"The only constant in life is change." An Exquisitely written novel full of love is once more written by Viola Shipman. Willo, as the elder now in her family is turning 75. Her beautiful farm in gorgeous Michigan is celebrating 100 years of life. Willo has one wish for her upcoming birthday. It is for her adoring granddaughter Sam to find joy, love and contentment in her heart. Will Sam realize where she belongs and listen to the messages her family is attempting to show and tell her? It is a book that will make you remember when you were a child, the things you hold dear and that "There is no place like home." If you enjoy a story that transports you with all the aromas and feelings you had in your youth, many delicious recipes that are found in an old recipe box and lots of love, this is the book to curl up with. 10 stars! I will definitely buy this for all family to cherish!
MY REVIEW OF “THE RECIPE BOX” BY VIOLA SHIPMAN Viola Shipman, Author of “The Recipe Box” has written a delightful, charming and heartwarming story of family, love, tradition and change. The Genres of this novel are Fiction and Women’s Fiction. The story takes place in Northern Michigan and New York. The author describes her characters as likable, resourceful, hardworking, and enterprising. Sam Mullins comes back to the family orchard and pie baking business and shoppes, after a major disappointment in New York City. Sam has trained as a specialty chef, and wanted to leave the family orchard to find herself. Now she finds herself back home. Sam learns about the history of the women in her family, and how the orchard was saved by the women in the family. . All of the women had a recipe box with a special key to keep their treasured baking recipes a secret to be passed down to the woman in the family. The family loves to bake, and baking is symbolic to showing love and following tradition. There are some wonderful recipes that are shared with the reader. Is their a recipe that will allow Sam to find where she should be and the answers to her dreams? What does the key to the recipe box represent? I recommend this enjoyable story to those readers of women’s fiction. I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review.