Tuesday, September 30, 2008

on [LIFE] Pensacola News Journal

Brooke Parkhurst is really cooking with 'Belle in the Big Apple'

Writer Brooke Parkhurst
Think Paula Deen, Scarlett O'Hara, and - dare we say it -maybe just a hint of Rachael Ray. Brooke Parkhurst, Southern belle, highly energetic cook extraordinaire, and now, first-time novelist, just hit the road to promote her first novel, "Belle in the Big Apple," and it's somehow fitting that the Florida Panhandle transplant is taking along Mom.

Like "Rach," Parkhurst is very close to her mother, Suzanne Parkhurst, and is thrilled they'll be spending the next six weeks on the road together for a book tour

"Mom is an amazing cook," says Parkhurst, the day before the tour got underway. "She was a journalist who had four kids - that includes my father - and she quit to take care of us all."

At age 22, Parkhurst decided to follow her mother into the family biz, but thought she'd have a better shot at becoming a newspaper woman if she left the family farm in Pensacola and came here. "I'm from the Redneck Riviera," she says. "There are lot of shark attacks and abortion doctor killings. When I moved to New York, it was almost as if I were living in a different country. Everything was so different."

She made the rounds with her resume and finally landed a short-lived job with Fox News.

"It was very eye-opening for me, just coming into the epicenter of media and working for a conservative station," she says. "I was pretty naive, and seeing how the system actually works, I thought, my gosh, people don't really know how news is made."

Not wanting to stay at the station and having always loved to cook, she started cooking and blogging. And that blog (her website is www.Belleinthebigapple.com) became a book that's somewhat autobiographical. The protagonist, Belle Lee, from Mobile, Alabama, moves to the city and acquires a job at an ultra conservative TV station. The fast-paced, tightly written book has plenty of intriguing elements - an illegal network deal, a female news anchor who becomes Belle's mentor, even a female presidential candidate (nope, nothing like Sarah Palin.)

What makes this book even tastier are the recipes interspersed with all the plot twists - shrimp and crab gumbo, oyster stew, plus Bribe your Coworkers Pound Cake, Lemon Chess Squares for the Working (Sulking) Girl, and Pickled Pensacola Shrimp. Parkhurst hopes to demo some of these on her book tour, and she dispenses recipes on her blog, too.