Meet Dinah Bucholz– Orthodox Jewish Mom & Best Selling Author of The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook:
Originally from Monsey, NY, and now living in Philadelphia, PA, Author Dinah Bucholz is married and has four kids, ages 13, 11, 9, and 6. Her children were her guinea pigs, taste testing recipes as part of the research and development for both of her cookbooks. Needless to say, it was their very favorite chore.
YL: What experiences in your life led you to becoming a writer?
DB: I used to be an English teacher (didn’t like it) and then an editor (loved it). But I never thought I would actually write a book. Once I became a stay-at-home mom, I couldn’t bear the thought of going back to the workplace. The idea for the Harry Potter cookbook just popped into my head one day and jumpstarted a whole new career for me. And I get to work from home, which is all to the good.
YL: How did you get an agent?
DB: I searched an online database (www.agentquery.com). It’s a great resource because the agents are searchable by genre. But I must say, it was a grueling ordeal. After two years and what felt like my millionth rejection, I just wanted to throw in the towel. But after obtaining a letter from the legal firm that represents J.K. Rowling and Warner Brothers stating that my material presents no copyright infringement, I was finally able to snag an agent.
YL: Has being observant raised any specific challenges in your career, and if so, what were they?
DB: My only challenge was testing and developing recipes for a general audience that doesn’t have a concern with keeping kosher. Since the book purports to contain a recipe for every food mentioned in Harry Potter (except for food created by J.K. Rowling), I couldn’t leave out foods that were inconvenient for me to test because I maintain a strictly kosher diet. I solved this problem by hiring Chef Chris Koch, a local chef, to develop the non-kosher recipes, like roast pork loin.
YL: What do you consider your greatest achievement? Regrets?
DB: My greatest achievements are actually unrelated to my career. Building a good marriage is number one and trying to do a good job raising my kids is number two. I guess I could say becoming a published author is number three, so it’s not far behind! I have no regrets, thank God.
YL: Whom do you admire most and what do you admire about them?
DB: Apart from my husband? (He’s reading this.) The Founding Fathers, of course. I’m amazed at their brilliance and wisdom in creating a foundation for the greatest republic in the world and am especially grateful to them as a Jew for creating what has become truly a haven for us.
YL: If you could meet any author, (living or dead) whom would you want to meet? What would you want to talk about?
DB: C. S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling. And I would just like to talk about anything and everything and drink up their wit, humor, and wisdom.
YL: Is there a public figure, (living or dead) who you’d want to meet? Why?
DB: Since we’re talking about dead people, I think it would be fascinating to meet famous people from the past. I would love to meet King David and the characters in the Book of Esther, then move on to some Roman emperors and the person who wrote Apicius (the only surviving Roman cookbook) as well as interview Jews who lived under the Romans. I think it would be fun to meet Maimonides and Mozart. Oh, no, don’t get me started.
YL: Does being Jewish impact on your writing in any way—and if so, how?
DB: It has very little impact on the type of writing that I do, except for the few occasions when I’m writing about a food and I happen to know an interesting historical fact because of my Jewish religious education. For example, when I wrote about tongue in the Narnia cookbook, I mentioned that tongue has often been considered a delicacy and that the Talmud relates that Abraham served tongue to the three messengers who visited him. I was able to pull this fact out of my head (but still needed to research tongue-eating in history to uncover some other cool facts).
I guess being religious also reminds me to thank God first and foremost in my acknowledgments.
YL: Do you think current education systems could change in order to nurture talent and if so, in what way?
DB: No, I think that’s the parents’ job. Get rid of the TV and all electronic media and help your kids to develop hobbies. Sounds radical, but they can’t grow and learn if they’re plugged into a computer game, movie, or TV show. That’s how I grew up, and—pardon me for bragging—I’m proud to say that that’s how my children are growing up. The older ones have adult-size vocabularies because they read instead of watching television, are learning to play musical instruments, and are developing their artistic talents in areas such as crocheting and drawing.
Look for Dinah’s next book, The Unofficial Narnia Cookbook to be released by Sourcebooks in September 2012.