The creative team behind the new Stephen King-themed cookbook, “Castle Rock Kitchen,” knew their challenge would be to find the vanishingly fine line between scrumptious and creepy.

Assembled by Ten Speed Press last October for the book’s photo shoot in Westbrook, the team also knew it had strong, attractive recipes from New Brunswick-based author Theresa Carle-Sanders to work with, like the luscious-looking Blueberry Cheesecake Pie that adorns the book’s back cover.

“The most appetizing part of the pie, of course, is the juicy blueberries that are dripping over the top of it,” said project photographer Jennifer Bravo, whose studio in the Dana Warp Mill served as headquarters for the seven-day shoot. “And yet it was so Stephen King – the juice of the blueberries almost felt gory. It was a perfect balance of being really delicious and also, um, appropriate.”

Carle-Sanders first conceived of “Castle Rock Kitchen” more than three years ago. The author of two “The Outlander Kitchen” cookbooks based on the bestselling Outlander novels by Diana Gabaldon, she knew the King project would be right up her dark alley as a similar melding of fiction and real-world recipes.

“All of the recipes in the book come from Stephen King stories set in Maine,” said Carle-Sanders, practically a lifelong King fan who re-read 20 novels for the project, both to immerse herself in King’s world and to identify apt novel excerpts that would introduce recipes in the cookbook. She is vacationing in Wales, but responded to questions by email.

“That gives the cookbook a regional focus, as well as its fictional one,” Carle-Sanders continued. “‘Castle Rock Kitchen’ definitely has a Maine focus, but it’s not limited to traditional Maine food. I work with what I find in his stories; that means the Chinese feast in ‘It,’ and gourmet Mexican food in ‘Elevation,’ as well as boiled dinner from ‘Dolores Claiborne’ and whoopie pies from ‘Under the Dome.'”



Theresa Carle-Sanders of New Brunswick, author of “Castle Rock Kitchen,” the new Stephen King-themed cookbook out from Ten Speed Press this month. Courtesy of Ten Speed Press

The new book includes recipes for Pancakes with the Toziers ( inspired by “It”), Dog Days French Toast (“Cujo”), Killer Mac and Cheese (“Gramma”), Crab Canapés (“Pet Sematary”), Wild Mushroom Hand Pies (“Bag of Bones”) and Homemade Root Beer (“Carrie”).

“But just as in my previous (Outlander) cookbooks, where bread, ale and porridge are mentioned hundreds of times across nine books, Stephen King also has his favorites,” Carle-Sanders said. “Chop suey is one, as are cheeseburgers, red tea, and a few more.”

Unlike in her previous cookbooks, Carle-Sanders here channels the voice of a minor recurring King character, Mrs. Garraty, to narrate “Castle Rock Kitchen” and introduce recipes throughout.

“This is my first time adopting an in-world voice to narrate a cookbook, and I have to admit that the idea of copying Steve’s voice as one of his developed characters was terrifying,” she said. So instead, Carle-Sanders went with Mrs. Garraty, who makes her first appearance in King’s 1979 novel “The Long Walk” (published under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman).

“We know very little about Mrs. Garraty, other than she is a true Maine’s Own, her family having lived there for generations,” Carle-Sanders explained. “She has insights into the other Stephen King stories set in Maine, having heard tales from Castle Rock, Derry, and Chester’s Mill, to name just three of King’s fictional towns. But other than that, we don’t even know her first name. That allowed me to develop her voice on my own, rather than copying the voice of a well-known King character.”


The works of Stephen King have now inspired a cookbook. Image from video courtesy of “Late Show with Stephen Colbert”

King, who could not be reached for comment, gave the project his approval in early 2020, wrote the foreword for the cookbook and spoke once with Carle-Sanders by phone midway through the work.

“He told me stories of his mother’s cooking, as well as (his wife) Tabitha’s, and his own. But other than that, he let me get on with it, for which I’m very grateful,” she said.

Beyond her narrative stylings, Carle-Sanders also had license for plenty of creative fun while developing the 80 recipes for the book. Among her favorites, Lobster Pickin’s (apostrophe placed just as it is in the King novel “11/22/63”), which are fried lobster chunks coated with buttermilk and New England fry mix and served with tarragon tartar sauce and smoky cocktail sauce.

The “11/22/63” excerpt Carle-Sanders chose to introduce the recipe on the page sets the tone: “I had been at The Lamplighter long enough to have ordered my second beer and a ‘junior platter’ of Lobster Pickin’s. I figured if I didn’t at least try them, I’d always wonder.”

“While I had a lot of creativity in deciding what Lobster Pickin’s actually were,” Carle-Sanders explained, “I also found a seafood shack fish-fry mix recipe straight from coastal Maine on a bulletin board from the early days of the internet. That’s the kind of find that makes the trained chef in me shout with joy, because more than anything, I want all of my recipes to be authentic, and the best that they can be.”

Hermits for the Road, cookies that make an appearance in “The Long Walk,” are another recipe that stands out for Carle-Sanders, who said hermit cookies “were a huge favorite of my childhood, which is why I think I lingered over them when I discovered them in ‘The Long Walk.’ In turn, they sparked my curiosity in the woman who baked them, a character named Mrs. Garraty.”



When Carle-Sanders’ food was ready for its close-up last fall in Westbrook, the team used mostly artificial light for the food photography. “We wanted control over those harsh shadows where we could make it look like a door had just creaked open and the light in the hall was hitting it, or we wanted to make it look like it somebody had just abandoned it, and it’s kind of creepy. We had to challenge ourselves to bring it a step creepier and a step darker,” Bravo said.

King cookbook photographer Jennifer Bravo of Westbrook. Greta Tucker Photo

Bravo recalled how the food and prop stylists on set for the shoot, along with their assistants, would be strongly tempted to brush away crumbs or wipe stray drips of sauce from a dish of just-plated food in preparation for the photo, the same way they would for any other cookbook, going for a homey-yet-reasonably-tidy-and-definitely-not-unsafe vibe.

“And the art director would say no, I want you to take it a step deeper and messier, and make it look like people just disappeared,” Bravo said with an appreciative laugh.

A cookbook project this fun tends to inspire everyone on the team to go above and beyond, and the prop stylists did just that. Bravo said they scattered various visual joke “Easter eggs” throughout the book as surprise gifts for diehard Stephen King fans. A red balloon refrigerator magnet and a Pinto keychain are two such items that make subtle appearances in the recipe photos, as if the book were inviting readers to a little game of Where’s Pennywise?

Like Carle-Sanders, Bravo enjoyed plenty of creative freedom for this project. After the food shoot, she spent much of last fall and early winter driving around Maine, scouting for moody locations to fill out the book’s shadowy ambience.


“If I felt a specific vibe on a street, or felt something that was a little bit eerie or spooky, I would drop a pin on my Google maps and then I’d take a screenshot of it and compile the shots in my notes. And I waited for cloudy, rainy days to drive around to these spots and snap some photos,” she said.

Bravo even travelled to Cutler in January for a sunrise hike to the craggy coast, bringing her camera and hoping for the best. “It’s cliffy and a harsh ocean environment, but it’s still beautiful,” Bravo said, explaining how she was doubtful she could capture the darkness of such a vista, especially under the beatific light of dawn.

But she lucked out, and darkness prevailed. A big storm arrived earlier than expected, turned the sky gray and started dumping snow by the time she reached the coast on her hike that morning.

“And it was just snowy with a chilly-looking ocean with intense waves,” Bravo said. “It’s very lucky we got such a dreary day.”

Hermits for the Road from the Stephen King-inspired cookbook, “Castle Rock Kitchen.” Photo by Jennifer Bravo

Hermits for the Road

From the “Castle Rock Kitchen” cookbook, inspired by the collected works of Maine horror writer Stephen King. If you don’t have Bakewell Cream, substitute 1 teaspoon baking powder and omit the baking soda.


2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Bakewell Cream
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup roughly chopped raisins
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, Bakewell Cream, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer on medium speed or a wooden spoon, beat together the butter and brown sugar until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Add the eggs and molasses and beat until light and creamy, 1 minute more.

Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture in two parts, stirring it in with the wooden spoon until just combined. Fold in the raisins and walnuts , then cover and chill dough 30 minutes.

Position an oven rack on the lower-middle rung and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Divide the chilled dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and then into a log about 10 inches long. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet, leaving 3 inches between the logs, and flatten the tops with your fingertips.


Bake until the edges are crisp, but not browned, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to let cool.

In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and enough of the milk until this icing is smooth, but not too runny.

When the logs are still slightly warm, drizzle the icing over them and allow it to harden.

Cut the hermits on the diagonal into 1-inch-wide bars and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

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