Every once in a while, someone comes up with an idea which is, quite simply, brilliant. For Jane Travers, a writer and mum living in Ireland, one such idea occured to her when she couldn’t decide what to cook the family for dinner one night!
A year in the making, this idea has now come to fruition in the form of a fantastic new recipe book called ‘Tweet Treats’: 140 Characters, 140 Celebrities, Recipes For Every Occasion.’ And what’s more, all royalties from the book will go to Medécins sans Frontières (aka Doctors Without Borders).
Edited and compiled by Jane Travers herself and with a foreword by top chef Marco Pierre White, Tweet Treats isn’t your average recipe book. Each recipe is only 140 characters in length (that’s as many characters as the first sentence of this paragraph!) and the recipes include contributions from 140 celebrities including Sarah Brown, The Script, Calum Best, Clare Balding, Philip Schofield and Tracy Chevalier to name but a few.
With categories covering everything from breakfast to cocktail hour, and set out in a quick reference, at-a-glance style, Tweet Treats offers a fun, practical, innovative approach to rustling up something delicious. There are great ideas such as Sarah Brown’s Easy Vegetable Soup ‘Add chopped leek, carrot, potato to homemade chicken or veg stock, heat for 20 mins & season, yum.’ and plenty which have more than a dash of wit and humour stirred into the mix! My favourite comedy contribution has to be comedian Dara O’Briain’s ‘Mock The Wok’ recipe: Remove packaging, pierce film lid. Heat at 180c for 24 mins. Works for lasagne, shepherd’s pie, beef stew etc etc.
Tweet Treats has something for everyone – be they established chef, frazzled parent, time-short celebrity, exhausted workaholic or culinary-challenged student – and will make the perfect stocking filler this Christmas.
I was delighted to speak to Jane about inspiration behind the book.
What is ‘Tweet Treats’ about?
I wanted to create a really usable, accessible cookbook for people who are too harried and hurried to read through long-winded recipes when they’re trying to figure out what to put on the table to feed the family. I wanted to use Twitter, because there is an art to being concise and interesting when you only have 140 characters in which to convey an idea. Since I’m not a professional cook, I wanted to tap into the great community feel of Twitter to harvest recipes!
How did the idea for Tweet Treats come about?
On a dull, wet evening in April 2010, I was standing in my kitchen staring at a packet of chicken thighs and wondering what on earth I was going to do with them. It was already 6.30pm, the child and the dogs were all eyeing each other hungrily, and I needed some recipes suggestions fast. So I tweeted. Within a minute, five perfectly formed little recipes came winging back to me from online friends, and an idea was born. How many such recipes could you write in 140 characters, I wondered? Could I get all sorts of recipes, like cakes and desserts as well? Could I fill a book, and give the royalties to charity?
Within two days I had a blog up and running and had already collected over a hundred recipes. I was on my way.
Where did the celebrity involvement come in?
Initially, I hoped to just get one or two celebrities to contribute to the book, but I was astonished and humbled by how many well-known names were interested in the project and happy to help. An editor friend suggested aiming for 140 celebrities, as a reflection of the number of characters in a tweet. By August of 2010 I had all 140 celebrities, and the last two to contribute were Rachel Allen and Boy George!
What is your favourite recipe in the book?
Tough question! There are loads of recipes I love, some because they’re from people for whom I have a very high regard (like Neil Gaiman), others because they manage to express so much of the donor’s personality even within 140 characters (wait till you read the one from Paula Abdul!). However, the recipe I keep making over and over again is from Maria Duffy (@mduffywriter) and is the best recipe for banana bread ever.
The royalties from the book are going to Medécins sans Frontières. Can you tell me about the organisation?
Medécins sans Frontières (aka Doctors Without Borders) are a group of medical professionals – doctors, nurses, etc – and volunteers who give freely of their time and knowledge to bring medical care to parts of the world where it is needed most. When the earthquake hit in Haiti, MSF were already on the ground there, and were able to start helping casualties straight away. They are working in Pakistan, Somalia, and anywhere stricken by war, famine or natural disaster. They are completely unbiased in their approach, and don’t discriminate by ethos, political affiliation, religion, etc – if someone needs help, they give it.
One of the things that I admire most about MSF is that they don’t blow their own trumpet. In fact, while working on Tweet Treats I was astonished to find that many people were unaware of their existence. If I’ve helped to make more people aware of the work that MSF do, then I’m very proud of that.
So, where can people buy Tweet Treats?
And what are you working on next?
I have lots of writing interests. I’ve written a novel (women’s fiction) and I’m working on a Young Adult paranormal romance at the moment. I also wouldn’t rule out the idea of another Twitter-based book in the future.
Tweet Treats is published by O’Brien Press.