We were high-school sweethearts, just like everyone dreams about but no one actually has, because that kind of thing only happens in the movies…. I knew right in my bones just how lucky I was. I knew everything was perfect, and did all the right things to keep it that way. Until now.
Frankie Caputo, the narrator of Hannah Tunnicliffe’s second novel, Season of Salt & Honey, has a perfect life, or so she thinks. She’s about to marry Alex, a clean-cut, blond-haired, blue-eyed surfer straight out of a Calvin Klein catalogue. They live in an adorable Seattle flat furnished from weekend trips to Home Depo and Ikea. And she’s part of a lively, overbearing American-Italian family that cooks and eats from the heart.
But Alex dies in a surfing accident and Frankie has to reassess everything she thought she knew about herself, her relationship, and her family. Fleeing to Alex’s holiday cabin in the middle of a Washington forest, she wrestles with her loss and struggles to find a new way to live.
While we can forgive her inner turmoil and understandable grief, Frankie is the least likeable character in the novel, appearing petulant, unforgiving and judgmental by turns. In contrast, the minor cast is delightful: Frankie’s wild, energetic sister Bella, their idiotic but loyal cousin Vinnie; enigmatic Jack and his forest nymph daughter Huia, generous Merriam; the overbearing, motherly, Italian aunties; and Bella and Frankie’s loving, kind, gentle father who raised Frankie and Bella all by himself.
If you’re a fan of food fiction, then Season of Salt & Honey ticks all the right boxes. The descriptions of Calabrian and Sicilian food are sure to make your mouth water:
The smells of the forest — the damp dark of the soil, the bleeding sap of the trees, the lemony cedar smell — all vanish in the company of the Sicilian food: the pungent garlic in Zio Mario’s salami, the vinegar pickling the vegetables, olives bobbing in brine, roasted peppers, the ubiquitous, sunshine-coloured olive oil.
Following what has become a convention of food fiction, many of the chapters end with recipes, which have tempting names like Lingua di Suocera (‘Mother-in law’s tongues), Polpette al Sugo (meatballs in simple sauce) and Pitta Mpigliata (sweet bread rosettes with fruit and nuts). I’d love to try the recipe for the arancini mentioned several times in the book but sadly this is not included.
For light weekend reading with loads of flavour, Season of Salt & Honey is an appealing choice. You’ll fall in love with Frankie’s family and their food, if not, perhaps, with Frankie herself.
About the author
Born in New Zealand, Hannah Tunnicliffe is a self-confessed nomad. She has previously lived in Canada, Australia, England, Macau and, while travelling Europe, a campervan named Fred. She currently lives in New Zealand with her husband and two daughters, having happily ditched a career in Human Resources to become an author. When she is not writing or reading she can usually be found baking or eating and sometimes all four at the same time (which is probably somewhat hazardous). She is founder and co-author of the blog Fork and Fiction, which, unsurprisingly, explores her twin loves – books and food. Season of Salt and Honey is her second novel.
*I received a review copy of Season of Salt & Honey from the publisher. It was released in Australia on 1 April 2015.
- 200 grams plain flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 200 grams roasted almonds (not salted)
- 200 grams caster/superfine sugar
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- Juice of half a lemon
- ¾ cup caster/superfine sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 100 grams roasted almonds (not salted)
- Chop almonds or pulse with a blender till finely diced.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line one large baking sheet with baking paper.
- Sift flour and cinnamon into a large bowl then add almonds, sugar and orange zest. Mix well before turning out onto a counter and making a well in the centre.
- Break eggs into the well, beat lightly with a fork then add lemon juice and baking powder. Continue mixing all ingredients together with a fork until thick and slightly sticky.
- Combine caster sugar and cinnamon for decorating in a flat-bottomed bowl.
- Taking a teaspoon of mixture at a time, form a small ball before rolling in sugar and cinnamon mixture. If you run out of sugar and cinnamon simply mix up some more.
- Place balls on the prepared baking sheet and then add a whole roasted almond to each ball, pressing down lightly.
- Bake for about 15 minutes until the nzuddi are light golden brown.
- Allow to cool completely before serving. Will keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks.