If you know me at all, you know that I can’t cook to save my life. Can’t even boil water…am dangerous with knives…you get the picture. The only cookbooks I’ve ever owned belonged to my mother, and I treasure them as keepsakes, but I’ve never actually used them to, well, cook.

So my reviewing a cookbook might seem like an odd turn of events. But here’s the thing: I met Jane Travers on Twitter, and she’s a great person. This project is very much a labor of love. It is smart and clever, and best of all, it benefits an incredible cause, an organization I have admired as long as I can remember, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders).

So I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with Jane, in which you’ll learn more about TWEET TREATS and about Jane and how and why she compiled this fun and fantastic book.

TWEET TREATS is published by O’Brien Press in Ireland. If you’re in America, your best source for TWEET TREATS is The Book Depository, which ships for free and, in my experience, quickly (and from whom it costs less than $10!). If you’re in Ireland or the UK, you can find TWEET TREATS in stores and at Amazon.co.uk.

If you’re reading this because you, like me, love crime fiction, try this on for size: TWEET TREATS contributors include some crime fiction illuminati, like none other than Ian Rankin and Janet Rudolph.

One note for Americans: Because some of the recipes in TWEET TREATS were contributed by people in the UK and Ireland, they’re in metric measurements (like grams and Celsius). These need not scare you. There are bunches of sites where you can convert recipes; I like this one because it’s clear and easy to use.

And now, with no further ado, here’s the interview with Jane! Stay tuned after the interview, too, for a video trailer about TWEET TREATS.

With so many Americans tracing their heritage to Ireland, we tend to be slightly obsessed with the Emerald Isle. Can you tell us a bit about where you live?

I live in Kildare, in the midlands of Ireland – though that being said, I’m still less than an hour from Dublin! Where I live is close to the edge of the Curragh plains. The Curragh is a unique area of natural grassland, formed after the end of the last ice age. It’s vast, flat and green, and owned by the Dept of Defence – but being Ireland, there are no barbed wire fences or armed guards, so anyone can walk there. I walk my three dogs on the Curragh every morning, which is fantastic because the dogs can roam free, away from roads and cars. We do have to keep an eye out for jockeys exercising their horses (the Curragh is also home to the Curragh racecourse, Ireland’s answer to Kentucky) and grazing sheep, but my dogs are well trained to give other quadropeds a wide berth! Although I love getting to the Atlantic coast at every opportunity, walking on the Curragh gives me the daily view of a wide, uninterrupted sky that I need to maintain my sanity. I also get some of my best ideas while walking there!

Why did you choose Médecins Sans Frontières as beneficiary for the proceeds from TWEET TREATS?

I’ve been familiar with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) for over ten years now, and I have huge admiration for the way they work. I respect the fact that they are utterly non-partisan in the way they distribute aid, and I greatly admire the fact that they don’t blow their own trumpet in the same way as some other charities. They also react extremely quickly when disaster hits – they’re rather like Twitter in the speed of their response. When I thought of donating the royalties from Tweet Treats to a charity, MSF were an obvious choice.

You had bunches of impressive, high-profile people contribute to TWEET TREATS. Were you surprised that so many people so readily contributed?

I was astonished! I still am, to be honest. Once people heard what I was doing, they were happy to help and the recipes and good wishes just rolled in. Some people were incredibly generous with their time – Paula Abdul springs instantly to mind! I’m just in awe of Paula. Not only did she contribute and help to spread the word, she has also kept in touch since. She’s amazing, and she’s only one of 140 celebrities in the book! I’ve always been shy, but I come out of myself on Twitter and I think a lot of celebrities find it easier to communicate with people that way too.

Through this project I’ve learned that if you don’t ask, you won’t get. For example, after my success with all the other celebrities, I asked Marco Pierre White to donate a foreword – and he said yes. That will make a huge difference to the book, and was very generous of him.

I think, too, that people have enormous amounts of goodwill for MSF, and they want to help. This gave people an easy way to contribute that wasn’t too taxing on their time. No-one minded devoting a few minutes to thinking of and tweeting a recipe.

Chez Jane

Have you made each of the recipes in TWEET TREATS?

No! Sorry, there wasn’t a hope of that – I received 1,800 recipes! I did try a fair number of them, though, and some have become firm family favourites.

Are the recipes generally kid-friendly (Rebus and his rum notwithstanding)?

Well, I wouldn’t recommend serving any of the cocktails at your child’s next birthday party!

Seriously though, a lot of them are. There are scores of quick and easy crowd-pleasing meals, quick snacks for when kids come in from school hungry, and so many sweet treats… yum!

Realizing it’s much like choosing your favorite child, if you had to pick just one favorite TweetTreat, which would it be?

That is a tough one, but there is one recipe that I’ve made so often that I know it off by heart – it’s a recipe for Banana Nut Loaf from @mduffywriter. I now make several loaves at a time, because it doesn’t last long in my house!

Did you reject any of the recipes submitted?

Sadly, yes. I received so many – 1,800 – that I just couldn’t fit them all, so I had to choose the ones that worked together into chapters. Also, some recipes were repeated – I got 5 recipes for hummus alone, for example – so in those cases I took the recipe that seemed like the best one.

Jane hard at work

I was only able to find one other Tweet cookbook (EAT TWEETS), and it was written by a woman in Belfast. Is there something peculiar to Ireland that makes a Tweet cookbook possible?

Are you calling us peculiar?

No, it’s actually our natural Irish genius. I come from the land of Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, W.B. Yeats, a land of saints and scholars, of twits and tweeters…

Actually, maybe it’s more to do with the fact that the author of EAT TWEET and I are both women. We women are a clever lot. 😉

Are you an excellent cook? Or are you (like me) a dreadful one who’s inclined to try recipes that aren’t overly complex?

Ha! As far as I’m concerned, there are three different levels of cook;
Level 1 – you can take raw food and render it cooked.
Level 2 – you can take raw food and render it palatable.
Level 3 – you can take raw food and render it orgasmic.
I think I fall squarely in level 2. I’m not too shabby, I can feed my family well and my food is pretty tasty, but there are no soufflés in my repertoire!

Given that TWEET TREATS will be a massive worldwide success–a phenomenon, if you will–have you considered a sequel?

Ooh, tricky question! I have had an absolute ball doing Tweet Treats, it was terribly hard work but the most fun, most satisfying thing I’ve ever done in my life.

That said, I’ve spent a year and a half of my life on it and I have other fish to fry – such as the novel I shelved when I started Tweet Treats, and the paranormal romance for teens I’ve been writing off and on for the last year. I really want to give some time to my fiction writing for the next while, but then… who knows?

And now…that fun video I mentioned!

Tweet Treats Trailer from Catherine Ryan Howard on Vimeo.

Are you convinced? Good! Click on over to The Book Depository or Amazon.co.uk and buy a copy of TWEET TREATS! Remember, fab book…great cause…oh, and the holidays are fast approaching!