Since the weather turned this Spring, Jack and I have been enjoying a fairly steady stream of visitors from book clubs. The one on the right, with Jack holding court, is from Christiansburg, with Pamela Hale (in the green dress) at the helm.
Book clubs (as well as posses of gal pals) have discovered we’re a good day out, that, as one visitor put it “The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap is accessible in every sense of the word!” Clubs from Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky have visited this past month – not to mention the closer gang of Upward Bound kids from right here in the county.
It’s fun, playing host, answering questions about the book or the bookstore, and running our cafe. We have always served soups and sandwiches, but since the rise of the book clubs we’ve expanded our menu to include more British delicacies; cold cucumber soup remains a “never had this before” favorite for many visitors.)
We’ve also had several book clubs from farther away (Illinois and California, lately) email to ask questions or make observations from their discussions. One group that recently got in touch does that cool book club thing where they theme their refreshments to the books they’re reading. Barbara, the host next month for Little Bookstore, emailed and asked ever so politely if Jack shared his shortbread recipe, as she’d serve that with cups of tea.
Cups of tea, as those of you who have read it know, is a recurring theme in Little Bookstore, and along with the story of Wee Willie and some comments about the cats, it’s what most readers mention most often, and sometimes first. Jack and I hear “I’ll put the kettle on” often from people when talking about the book.
So, if you’re in the neighborhood and fancy a drive, we’ll put the kettle on for you. And if you’re too far away, but fancy some Scottish shortbread, here’s Jack’s mum’s recipe:
Sugar 3 ounces (1/3 cup); Flour 8 ounces (2 cups); Butter 6 ounces (1 and a half sticks)
(all weights are dry – NOT fluid ounces)
Sift flour and sugar into a bowl. After butter has softened at room temperature work it by hand into the mixed flour and sugar until it has become a fairly stiff dough (this will take a few minutes – be patient!).
Dust your work-surface with flour and roll out the dough to about ½ inch thick. Cut rectangles about 7 inches by 3 inches and use a flat spatula to transfer them to a buttered baking tray. Use a fork to prick the surface of the dough rectangles all over. Place the tray in the oven preheated to 3750 .
Keep checking until the edges of the rectangles are beginning to slightly brown (usually about 15 – 20 minutes). Remove from the oven and set the tray aside to cool. While the baked rectangles are still warm, carefully cut them into strips 3 inches by 1 inch (Jack uses a circular pizza cutter), then let them completely cool. Enjoy them with afternoon tea or coffee!