Cookies inspired by The Birdman’s Wife by Seth Grahame-Smith.
Words by Lauren Chater:
Books about taxidermy occupy a very unusual spot in literature. After reading Melissa Ashley’s debut novel, a vibrant re-imagining of the life of 19th century artist Elizabeth Gould, I was keen to explore the dark side and find out if anyone else had been brave enough to write about this macabre topic.
My research led me to quite a few places (including the hilarious Crap Taxidermy – I recommend), but none of the books I read were as good as The Birdman’s Wife. Somehow, Ashley manages to get right under the skin (oops!) of her characters and inject the perfect amount of tension into the story of this little-known Australian artist. Bad puns aside, the book was an eye-opener into the way 19th century English migrants responded to the Australian landscape by attempting to study and tame its elusive fauna and wildlife – and thereby understand themselves. And thankfully, attitudes about the preservation of wildlife are changing as society develops a more respectful response.
I used a copper cookie cutter to make these delicate hummingbirds – which were painted by Elizabeth Gould and referenced in the book – and edible paint to create the watercolour effect of the feathers.
A few tips about using edible paint:
– It’s best to apply edible paint sparingly using a good brush. If you use too much in one go, it creates pockmarks or holes in the icing which is not the look you’re going for.
– I recommend a nice watercolour sable-hair brush if you can get it. Your cookies are works of art, like Elizabeth Gould’s, so you want the best quality brush you can afford!
Extracted from Well Read Cookies by Lauren Chater, photography © Lauren Chater.
About the Author:
Lauren Chater writes historical fiction with a particular focus on women’s stories. After working in the media sector for many years, she turned her passion for reading and research into a professional pursuit. In 2014, she was the successful recipient of the Fiona McIntosh Commercial Fiction scholarship. In addition to writing fiction, she established The Well Read Cookie, a blog which celebrates her love of baking and literature. She lives in Sydney with her husband and two children. The Lace Weaver is her first novel, and she is currently working on her second, Gulliver’s Wife.