When real life appears in fiction, you get: COOKIES!

Fiction is a surreal mix of things from the real lives of authors, and things which are formed solely in the neural pathways of their brains. Sometimes it's easy to spot the drawn-from-life bits, sometimes not. Reality snippets can range from personalities authors meet, locations they visit, illnesses they've dealt with, even foods they've eaten.

My novel, THE LANGUAGE OF BODIES, is an interrupted love story: a tale of passion and vengeance, set in vintage oddness and with a driving tempo. Given the darkness of the theme, it was important to regularly intersperse moments of light and humor, which is managed both through the narrator Maddie's voice, and through the presence of an old Italian woman named Maria. 

I don't know a Maria (though everyone should have someone like her in their life) but I DO know the cookies she teaches Maddie to make. They were a favorite when I lived in a city with a large Italian population in New York State, and were known as Lemon Meatballs. I had a hard time finding a recipe while researching the novel, but eventually, I found this post on a blog from 2011, and it seems the closest to the dense, lemony cookie balls I remembered. I modified it a tiny bit; adding in food coloring so the finished product is the vivid yellow of my memory, but otherwise, the recipe is essentially the one from the blog.

My book isn't cozy. It isn't the kind of read which includes recipes at the back. But it does convey the warmth of a kitchen, and the importance of care and nurturance which sometimes takes place through food.

Want to make the cookies? First, read the book

Then, here you go!

Lemon Meatball Cookies


1 cup shortening
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp sour cream
2 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Yellow food coloring
Grated zest of 2 lemons
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder


1 cup confectioners' sugar
2-3 Tbsp lemon juice
Yellow food coloring


Preheat the oven to 350F.  Spray baking sheets with non-stick spray, or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat together the shortening and sugar until light. Add eggs, sour cream, lemon extract, vanilla extract, and lemon zest; beat until combined, scraping down sides of bowl. Add a few drops of food coloring until it reaches a bright yellow color.

In another bowl combine flour and baking powder; add to wet mixture and beat just until moistened. Do not over mix.

Shape dough into small balls, using about 1 level tablespoon for each. Use a cookie scoop if you have one.

Arrange the balls about 1 inch apart on cookie sheets. Bake 10 min, until lightly browned. Do not overbake. Remove from pans and cool.

Combine confectioners' sugar, lemon juice, and a few drops of food coloring in a small bowl; whip lightly until smooth and slightly thick. 

While cookies are still warm dip tops in icing. Let set until icing is dry to the touch.