A lifetime reader and writer, Betty has worked as a secretary, freelance word processor, technical writer/editor, and author. She’s been published in essays, newspaper articles/columns, magazine articles, and nonfiction books, but now enjoys crafting entertaining and informative fiction, especially stories that bring American history to life.
Betty earned a Master’s Degree in English in 2008, emphasizing the study of literature and storytelling, and has judged numerous writing contests for both fiction and nonfiction.
She lives in northern Alabama, with her loving husband of more than 30 years. Her cat, Calliope, serves as her muse and writing partner, and her dog, Zola, makes sure she goes outside frequently.
Tell us a little about your writing background.
I started writing short stories and reports when I was in elementary school for my own pleasure and have continued writing ever since. I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a minor in anthropology in 1995 and a Master of Arts degree in English in 2008.
I’ve written most every kind of literature, including poetry (mostly bad!), essays, newspaper/magazine articles, nonfiction books, fiction (historical, romance, paranormal).
I also worked as a freelance technical editor, then was hired by SAIC as a tech editor supporting NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for eight years. There I worked on a variety of technical and program documentation, including editing technical manuals and specifications, presentation slides, video narration, and more.
Now I write novels, mostly historical with some romance and supernatural elements. I also blog regularly about the research and the resulting books at www.bettybolte.net.
Do you believe that being a writer helps you enjoy or appreciate food more?
Both cooking and writing are creative endeavors, so I think they complement each other.
Having done some research into foods of the past, and then adapted recipes (known then as receipts) from the past, I appreciate the convenience and variety of foods we have to choose from.
For example, one of the basic recipes I adapted was for “brown gravy,” which I realized after making it was a broth to use in other “made dishes.” Made dishes are what we might call a casserole or combination dish, as opposed to say a roast beef or baked chicken. Today we could buy a container of broth and not have to make it ourselves.
Do you try to focus on healthy food?
I definitely try to keep to fresh or frozen vegetables, quality meats/fish/chicken, and limit the carbs as much as possible. Breakfast is often simple, blueberries and yogurt or a piece of cheese toast.
Not that I’m perfect, though! I still enjoy thin crust pizza and lately I’ve been craving a bacon cheeseburger for some reason. I’m grateful that sweets don’t call to me, but Utz potato chips are addictive.
Tell us about your recipe adaptations.
A few years ago, I adapted several 18th-century recipes to modern ones. I blogged about the changes needed to make them usable today. Some turned out yummy, others were a bit more of an adjustment. Tastes have definitely changed in 200+ years!
Do you have any favorite food books/cookbooks?
My go-to cookbook is the Joy of Cooking. I also frequently pull recipes from a Southern Living Annual Recipes (1983) and Betty Crocker’s International Recipes.
Then there are the recipes in my three 18th-century cookbooks I like to use: The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy; Revolutionary Cooking; and Our Founding Foods. I’m tinkering with the idea of trying a few more recipes from those last three…
One of the recipes from Our Founding Foods is for Salmagundi, which is a layered salad. I have made a full-size version of it to take to a pitch-in lunch and then pared down to serve just myself and my husband. I really like that recipe!
Any favorite kitchen products?
My sharp knives and small chopper are used often. I don’t use many of what I call gadgets, but keep it simple. But then, most of the meals I make are fairly simple to put together.
Favorite food writers, chefs, or food-related TV shows/movies?
I enjoy watching the Gourmet Detective series on Hallmark. The combination of mystery and cooking is intriguing!
Favorite restaurants or food travel destinations?
Some of my favorites are PF Chang’s, seafood restaurants (Red Lobster is just one), any crab house that serves steamed blue crabs, and a good steak house. When I travel, I like to find local restaurants as opposed to chain restaurants so I can try local fare.
Where do you turn for great food or food inspiration?
When I’m looking for something new or different, I will turn to the cookbooks mentioned above for inspiration. I typically will take a recipe and change it up to suit me instead of following it exactly. I did that to make homemade Oreos, for example. I also converted one of the Southern Living pecan pie recipes by using only honey to sweeten it, which gave the pie a better mouth feel, in my opinion.
What do you snack on when on deadline?
Usually mixed nuts or pistachios are my go-to snack, but I don’t snack very often while writing.
Anything else you'd like to add about being a writer who loves food, or being a writer in general?
I always include food in my stories. We all can identify with eating, right? Not everyone enjoys cooking or baking, but they usually enjoy the results. You’ll find characters making breakfast, or lunch, or dinner, or party fare, or even Thanksgiving dinner in my stories.
In my historicals, I try to stick to foods and meals appropriate to the time period, too. Like in Becoming Lady Washington, breakfast included corn cakes with honey and sausage, because a) George was very fond of corn cakes and b) Our Founding Foods included a sausage recipe from the 18th century.