by Kathleen Costa
AcornTV is the perfect remedy for boredom! Whether you need a belly-laugh, a pluck on your heartstrings, a cringeworthy nail-biter, or good triumphs over evil karma, AcornTV has what you need. For a reasonable membership fee (monthly $6.99, or special annual $69.99), I have access to a wide range of programs from those I can’t live without to those…I guess I can’t live without! I am an Anglophile addict and AcornTV is my daily treatment. When brand new shows pop up like Darby and Joan, Mystery Road: Origin, and Recipes for Love and Murder, I’m reminded that being an AcornTV member was a great choice!
Recipes for Love and Murder is based on Sally Andrew’s The Tannie Maria Mystery. This first season, now airing all ten episodes, takes the drama in the first book casting Maria Doyle Kennedy in the lead role. She’s well-known for her roles as Vera Bates in Downton Abbey (2011), Siobhán Sadler in Orphan Black (2013–2017), and Jocasta Cameron in Outlander (2018–present) which is the main reason I was eager to watch this new series. I also enjoy the unique and fascinating South African landscape and culture in the series which is akin to Alexander Smith McCall’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series set in Botswana, Victoria Tait’s Kenya Kanga series set in Kenya, and Michael Stanley’s Detective Kubu series also set in Botswana. The African flora and fauna, culture, language, society issues and clashes, rich characters, and the up and down relationships among family and friends make the book a must read and the series a must watch. Both are new favorites and Top on my 2022 reading and watching list!
The show begins with short introductions, recap of previous events, and current dramatic issues…then the opening credits. Brilliantly artistic with its sensual, messy scenes of cooking and a lively tune illustrating well the sensual nature of love and the messiness of murder. The bright colors of Tannie Maria’s quirky wardrobe, her kitchen and garden, the Gazette’s pink office, along with other wardrobe and setting choices add to the visual nature of the show. And the story? Well-written, well-paced, and builds its intensity through two murders, threats, and stalking, then peaking with a kidnapping and a perilous hunt for the killer. The incidental talk about tomatoes, eggs, and spices is intriguing, and her feathered roommate, Morag the chicken, is the best confidante. Maria’s own abusive past is revealed in flashbacks, and due to the accidental online posting of her last name, Purvis, two friends in Scotland know where she is and make attempts to contact her, but their motives are suspicious. This storyline may be addressed more fully, or murderously, in season two.
Dear Tannie Maria…
Tannie Maria sees food as “medicine for the body and heart,” so when she’s fired by Hattie Wilson (Jennifer Steyn), the Karoo Gazette’s editor, because her recipe column is being replaced by an advice column, it takes seconds for her to respond, “I’ll do it.” From the stack, she starts with a disturbing note asking her to ignore the first letter sent saying if “he finds out, he’ll kill me.” Maria finds the original letter and, knowing more than others about the woman’s predicament, seeks to help the woman deal with her abusive marriage while, of course, sharing a mutton curry recipe. Sadly, a few days later, the woman ends up murdered. Maria’s guilt over Martine’s death causes her to get involved with the investigation along with her young colleague Jess September (Kylie Fisher) looking closely at the husband and a neighbor. Food, Maria finds, is one way to insinuate herself into suspects’ lives and get them to share, but Detective Khaya Meyer (Tony Kgoroge) is not happy about her interference and the trouble it causes. Yet, her food seems to be soothing his hardened heart.
Maria’s advice column is quite popular around the area. She combines insights into their personal concerns with a recipe that through the prepping, plating, and eating, allows a way to a solution. There’s the chocolate cake for one man to profess his secret love Facebook video (00:01:00), marmalade sandwiches and beer-braised Kudu to facilitate honesty, Vetkoek and mince to help find a birth father, roast lamb & Yorkshire pudding with a bit of self advice, sweet potato shepherd pie to soothe sibling rivalry, a vegan cake for a wife struggling with a crisis of faith, and vegetable soup for, well, everything. Her descriptions of the ingredients, details about the techniques, the taste, and the feelings food solicits is a sensual journey. A journey well worth taking…sans the murder.
ICYMI—“Tannie” means “auntie” and is the respectful Afrikaans word given to women who are older than you. AcornTV makes it easy to understand the use of the native language, too. When characters use native words, an automatic translation is provided on the screen.
DON’T MISS—Sally Andrew’s book Recipes for Love and Murder (2015) is brilliant with so much more than the main drama I enjoyed from the series. I don’t mind knowing the ending because there are different names, genders, and ethnicities, additional characters, letters, recipes, and events, and more insights and details, often different, in Tannie Maria’s own past, tragic and otherwise. The book is an absolute must and not just for its outstanding story, but also for the recipes from Tannie Maria’s kitchen. She provides tips and insights along with fourteen recipes for Meats, Sweets, and Breads! Earns 5++/5 Advice & Recipes! I started the audio version of book two, The Satanic Mechanic (2016), and am mesmerized by the voice artistry of Sandra Prinsloo along with an intense drama and trips to the kitchen. I’ll probably get the book, too, for easier access to the recipes. Books three Death on the Limpopo (2019) and book four The Milk Tart Murders (2022) are only available in South African bookstores, but with the series gaining in popularity, it’s only a matter of time. Check out Sally Andrew’s website for more about her work, her life in Klein Karoo, South Africa, and a gallery of photos.
BONUS—Some of Maria’s recipes incorporate regional ingredients unusual to our tastebuds and our local grocer. There’s ostrich, mutton, Kudu (antelope), and aardvark along with some ‘not always on a shopping list’ items like pomegranates and kumquats. Facebook has an Official AcornTV site which anyone can follow. They provide updates on new programs, countdowns to premieres, and some bonuses. All ten of Maria’s recipes are posted HERE for anyone to save and print out. I tried the Marmalade Sandwiches, but I replaced kumquat marmalade with sweet orange marmalade to make a delicious lunch. Next…the Perfect Buttermilk Chocolate Cake!
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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.