by Shanna Hatfield
While I was researching some historical tidbits to include in my current release, I happened upon an article about sugar beets in an issue of the Heppner newspaper from the autumn of 1901.
It surprised me to read the article, because I had no idea sugar beet production had begun so early in the century in the Eastern Oregon area. According to that article, 35,000 tons of sugar beets were harvested that autumn in nearby La Grande, Oregon.
Sugar beets derived from many years of breeding domesticated beets. During the 1700s, a German chemist discovered beetroots contained a form of sucrose that couldn’t be distinguished from the sweetener produced from cane. Production could take place in temperate climates, but a method of extraction had yet to be developed. Once extraction procedures were established, factories began to pop up and eventually made their way to America.
Today, more than half of the sugar produced in the United States is derived from sugar beets. My uncle grew sugar beets and my cousin proudly carries on the tradition. And I’m always more than happy to eat the fruits of their labors.
It seemed fitting to include a little mention of sugar beets in a story that features a baker who creates any number of delicious, decadent, sweet treats.
Treats the hero of my story is incapable of ignoring, especially her oatmeal cookies.
The Christmas Confection
Hardman Holidays Book 6
Born to an outlaw father and a shrewish mother, Fred Decker feels obligated to atone for the past without much hope for his future. If he possessed a lick of sense, he’d pack up and leave the town where he was born and raised, but something… someone… unknowingly holds him there. Captivated by Hardman’s beautiful baker, Fred fights the undeniable attraction. He buries himself in his work, refusing to let his heart dream.
Elsa Lindstrom adores the life she’s carved out for herself in a small Eastern Oregon town. She and her twin brother, Ethan, run their own bakery where she delights in creating delicious treats. Then Ethan comes home unexpectedly married, the drunks in town mistakenly identify her as a missing harlot, and a mishap in the bakery leaves her at the mercy of the most gossiped-about man in Hardman.
Mix in the arrival of three fairy-like aunts, blend with a criminal bent on dastardly schemes, and sprinkle in a hidden cache of gold for a sweet Victorian romance brimming with laughter and heartwarming holiday cheer.
“Well…” Fred gave her an odd look as he stood in the doorway with autumn sunshine spilling all around him. “There are two other things I’d like.”
“Two?” Elsa asked, wiping her hands on her apron and facing him. “What might those two things be?” She anticipated him asking for a batch of rolls or perhaps a chocolate cake.
“My first request is simple. Please call me Fred. I’d like to think, after all this, we’re friends and all my friends call me Fred.”
Elsa nodded in agreement. “We are friends, Mr. Deck… er, I mean Fred. If you want me to call you Fred then you best refer to me as Elsa.”
The pleased grin on his face broadened. “Very well, Elsa.”
Her knees wobbled at the sound of his deep voice saying her name, but she resisted the urge to grip the counter for support. “You said there were two things you wanted, in addition to cookies. What is the second?”
“It’s a tiny little thing really,” Fred said, tightly gripping his hat in both hands.
“A tiny little thing? Then I shall take great honor in bestowing whatever it is.” Her gaze roved over the kitchen, trying to imagine what in the world Fred could want. She kept a jar full of assorted candy. Sometimes, she used the sweets to decorate cakes and cookies. Perhaps he wanted one. “A piece of candy?” she asked.
Fred shook his head. “No, Elsa. It’s sweeter than candy and far, far better.”
Intrigued, she took a step closer to him. “What is it?”
He waggled his index finger back and forth, indicating she should step closer. When she stood so her skirts brushed against the toes of his boots, he tapped his cheek with the same finger. “A little sugar right here would be even better than ten batches of cookies.”
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