TODAY   |  July 09, 2013

Sandra Lee talks first novel ‘Recipe Box’

Sandra Lee is best-known for her four successful cooking shows on The Food Network, but now the queen of all things semi-homemade is donning a writer’s cap for her debut novel “The Recipe Box.” She talks to TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie about the summer beach read.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we are back at 8:43. for decades sandra lee has been making life sweeter with four cooking shows on the food network and recently she published her 25th cook book but that is not enough. she is shedding her a problem with a different kind of cap releasing her very novel called the recipe book. good morning to you.

>> it's one thing to write recipes. was this difficult to do?

>> it was interesting because when disney first came to me and asked me to write a novel i was shocked because no one in my genere had done it before which made it great for me. as the stories grew and the characters grew the recipes got smaller and smaller and smaller. there's about a dozen in there now but they have to do with characters in the book.

>> we can't do a segment without food with you but there are recipes in the book.

>> yes.

>> it's really -- it's a story of a single mom trying to put her life back together and she meets a guy. some people have seen some similarities between this guy and your boyfriend?

>> well, the story is about grace. she is a heroin and she is raising a 15-year-old daughter by herself and went through a traumatic divorce and she does have a new love in her life. i'm not going to give away secrets but the book is about women and generations of women coming together and the pains of what a family goes through. not just the generations that are here on the earth today but the ones that came before us. it's also about girlfriends. there's a girlfriend in the book that's the best friend from high school who i won't give away the punch line but she says to her girlfriend grace, you know, life is not a dress rehearsal for show choir . it is opening night every day of your life and that's what this book is about. it's about what roads to take and when you come to a fork in the road where do you go and when you get to the end of that road what does it look like and being thoughtful and thinking things threw and not just your family who is your family but your family who is your friends and who you spend your time and life with.

>> it's not meant to be auto biographical but the wall street journal says he is a rugged outdoor man. he is a midwesterner who adores cooking and works in tv and dotes on the family pet.

>> she is not in front of the camera. i never wanted to be in front of the camera either but both -- i have to say, the character, the love interest and my sweetheart, are very attractive men.

>> there was a little inspiration there.

>> it was easy. when you write a novel you pull from your life experiences. so there is a character named lorraine in the book and my grandmother was from new london , wisconsin which is where the book takes place.

>> did you visit it and try to get that inspiration.

>> i didn't. i have all the research. i have pictures from the early 19 hundreds when the first logging was taking place and so i looked through alabama of my grandmother's beautiful things . we have property deeds, and that's how new london came to life in my mind. it's a fantasy place in my mind and even though i went to high school and college in wisconsin, new london to me is up there with places that i look forward to visiting.

>> you have an inspiring story yourself. you're somebody that grew up, you had a tough childhood. helped to raise your own four siblings. there were times when i know you felt people were saying you can't do this -- this semihomemade cooking, this won't work. how did you manage through that time. did you ever imagine your life would turn out as it did?

>> that's what the book speaks about. there's a scene in the book where grace's mom is talking to her and is very upset with her mother for 16 years and all of these secrets of this family are in this recipe box and it's really about focussing on the generations in front of you and that came before you and learning the lessons they didn't learn and passing on the good ones you can. i just took my nieces and nephews for their high school graduation present to europe for three weeks. 8 kids for three weeks in europe, three countries, i don't know what i was thinking. talk about overachieving.

>> you need a vacation from your vacation.

>> but it's about teaching them history and it's about teaching them what life can be. if you choose very specific roads and that's why education is so important and that's why, you know, being a good family role model and insulating kids as they're growing up. i have a very, very specific way i think kids should be raised and that is loving and supported and insulating and giving them all the knowledge you have and including them, not excluding them.

>> we are anxious to see the book. the recipe box is in stores now. thank