How to delight friends and acquaintances is no mystery to Gloria Schwarting: Take them sweet treats – homemade, of course.
The sources of her recipes, however, are less predictable: She gets recipes from pages of her favorite mystery books.
“I love cozy mysteries,” Schwarting said. That type of books having recipes in the back “has become a real popular thing.”
Schwarting, a Patrick County native, and her husband, Henry, moved just outside Stuart 15 years ago to take care of her parents, Ethlyne Gilley and the late Bert Gilley. She had been gone so long – 35 years in Newport News – that she didn’t know many people, so she started volunteering at the library.
She started out reading to children during story-time, and “it became a sort of tradition” that she also bring the folks at the library food she’s made from recipes in the books she’s read.
Diane Mott Davidson writes about caterer Goldy Schultz, and with recipes in those books “everything starts with 2 pounds of butter, heavy cream and oh, they’re so good,” Schwarting said.
When Schwarting’s son got married, he wanted all the relatives to contribute to a dessert buffet at the reception, so she made “lush, rich cookies” using Davidson’s recipes.
She’s a fan of Laura Childs, who has various series, including “Cackleberry Club,” set in a café with a knitting corner and offering egg-based recipes; “Teahouse Mysteries,” which has recipes for the kinds of delicacies you’d have at a proper English tea, such as, of course, scones; and “Scrapbook Mysteries,” which are set in New Orleans and feature Creole recipes.
Linda Johnson’s books have a double bakery: One side has food for people, and the other side had food for dogs.
Most of the recipes Schwarting tries result in good treats – but not all. She said she bombed out on one from the “China Bayle” series by Susan Wittig Albert. To be fair, she used substitutions when she couldn’t get the required ingredients. She made the Lemon Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Verbena but didn’t use the grade of olive oil called for, and “in Stuart you just don’t run out and find lemon verbena,” so she made do on that, too, she said.
Next up will be pie. The “Down South Café” series by Gayle Leeson features pies, so that’s what the library staff can look for soon, Schwarting said.
“Garry [Clifton, Patrick County branch manager] and all of them there do such a super job of keeping the current fiction in stock,” she said. “If they don’t have it, give them the name and they’ll” get it on loan from another library.
Because of the internet and other aspects of modern living “some people don’t value the library as much anymore,” she said, but she’s a fan of traditional books from the library. Because she reads between 150 and 200 books a year, it would be too expensive and inconvenient to buy books.
“Gloria has been bringing delicious homemade treats to the Patrick County library staff for years. She loves cozy mysteries, especially the series with food themes,” Clifton said.
Patty Eanes, the Martinsville Library’s collections development librarian, said for the past five or 10 years the practice of including recipes “has really gotten popular in the little mass market paperback mysteries.”
Those types of books are very popular among their fans, and “some, like Joanne Fluke, you have patrons … ready and waiting” for when the next book is released, Eanes said. “Certain people keep up with the paperback mysteries. They get them by the handful when they can.”
Eanes, Clifton and Schwarting listed other popular mystery writers whose books include recipes: Jenn McKinlay (“Cupcake Bakery Mysteries”), Sarah Graves (“Death by Chocolate Mysteries”), Amanda Flowers (“Amish Candy Shop Mysteries”), Alex Erickson (“Bookstore Café Mysteries”), Nancy Coco (“Candy Coated Mysteries”), Leslie Budewitz (“Food Lovers Village Mysteries”), Krista Davis (“Paws and Claws Mysteries”), Maddie Day (“Country Store Mysteries”), Sarah Fox (“Pancake House Mysteries”), Lee Hollis (“Hailey Powell Mystery Series”), G.A. McKevett (“Savannah Reid Series”) and Gail Oust (“Spice Shop Mysteries”).
The library system also has audiobook versions of those mysteries, Eanes said. The audiobooks generally come with PDFs of recipes that patrons can get from a CD.
In Newport News Schwarting was a primary school teacher. She landed there because she went to college at William & Mary, in nearby Williamsburg. There she met her husband, who was the first to be graduated. He took a job in Newport News to wait for her to finish college, and they both ended up staying there.
Their children are Sean Schwarting of Yorktown, Ian Schwarting of Birmingham, Ala., and Heather Schwarting of Newport News. She also claims Hank Mosley, who works on the ships at historic Jamestown, “as my own after his mother died,” and between them all there are seven grandchildren, she said.
The house in which the Schwartings live was built by her grandfather more than 100 years ago and added on to several times. For an early water supply, her father and uncle built a concrete reservoir up the hill. Gravity-fed water served the house until the system, which froze in winter, became too difficult to maintain, she said.
Schwarting, a quilter for more than 20 years, teaches at Quilted Colors in Stuart. She’s not the only one handy with the needle: Her husband knits and crochets “beautiful, beautiful work,” she said.