Cinnamon and Gunpowder A Novel

Eli Brown

Farrar, Straus and Giroux




336 Pages



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The year is 1819, and the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail.

To appease the red-haired captain, Wedgwood gets cracking with the meager supplies on board. His first triumph at sea is actual bread, made from a sourdough starter that he leavens in a tin under his shirt throughout a roaring battle, as men are cutlassed all around him. Soon he’s making tea-smoked eel and brewing pineapple-banana cider.

But Mabbot—who exerts a curious draw on the chef—is under siege. Hunted by a deadly privateer and plagued by a saboteur hidden on her ship, she pushes her crew past exhaustion in her search for the notorious Brass Fox. As Wedgwood begins to sense a method to Mabbot’s madness, he must rely on the bizarre crewmembers he once feared: Mr. Apples, the fearsome giant who loves to knit; Feng and Bai, martial arts masters sworn to defend their captain; and Joshua, the deaf cabin boy who becomes the son Wedgwood never had.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder is a swashbuckling epicure’s adventure simmered over a surprisingly touching love story—with a dash of the strangest, most delightful cookbook never written. Eli Brown has crafted a uniquely entertaining novel full of adventure: the Scheherazade story turned on its head, at sea, with food.

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Praise for Cinnamon and Gunpowder

“You’ll savor every bite.”—Petra Mayer,

Cinnamon and Gunpowder reads like Joss Whedon and Patrick O’Brian sailed to Copenhagen together and, after surviving a ninja attack and firefight at sea, fell in love over a seven-course meal at Noma.”—Julie Powell, author of Julie and Julia

“Original and exquisite . . . Salty, smart, and sensuous. Eli Brown unfurls a pirate story that’s also an eloquent disquisition on human appetite and the mysteries of taste.”—Carolyn Cooke, author of Daughters of the Revolution

“A swashbuckler of a cookbook, and a romance, too.”—BonAppé 

“An unlikely respect blossoms between captive and captain. Quirky characters combined with the adventure of the high seas make for a novel unlike any other you've read.”—BookPage 

"Both sizzling and swashbuckling.”—Kirkus Reviews 

“Eli Brown’s Cinnamon and Gunpowder [is] a most unusual sophomore effort featuring a pirate queen and a kidnapped chef. Think Babette’s Feast meets Pirates of the Caribbean!”—Wilda Williams, Library Journal

"Brown transports readers to 1819 via the narration of Owen Wedgwood. He is the renowned chef for the wealthy owner of Pendleton Trading Company, an economic powerhouse that controls the ocean-shipping lines from east to west. When the infamous pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot commandeers their ship, Wedgwood watches her murder his employer, then steal his supper. Intoxicated by Wedgwood’s skill with a skillet, Mabbot forces him to cook for his life aboard her ship where she holds him prisoner. Soon he is swept up into Mabbot’s hunt for the Brass Fox, a rival rogue. At first this quest seems purely selfish, but as Wedgwood dines weekly with the captain, he begins to see the altruism that actually motivates the battle-hardened beauty. Brown concocts a clever tale in which history, ethics, action, and romance blend harmoniously. Tantalizing descriptions of the smells and flavors of the dishes Wedgwood creates may send readers running to their spice cabinets in search of the blends he exalts in, even as they are entranced by Brown’s delectable tale."—Amber Peckham, Booklist

"An early nineteenth-century tale of culinary seduction and swashbuckling antics, featuring characters who evoke the desperate ingenuity of Scheherazade and the hell-bent ruthlessness of Ahab . . . Brown explores the mysteries of flavor with prose that any word-savoring foodie will delight in . . . The story, the characters, and the ingenious battle scenes are far too colorful for moral dilemmas, which are made irrelevant when Mabbot is revealed as something of a humanitarian out to reset the wrongs of British imperialism."—Publishers Weekly

In the Press

Cinnamon and Gun Powder, by Eli Brown - Author Talk - CBS News
Brown takes us back to 1819 where renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot Read more by Jeff Glor on CBS News' Author Talk.
Work in Progress » Blog Archive » Why Pickling Can't Solve Everything
In Cinnamon and Gunpowder, the narrator, chef Owen Wedgwood, is kidnapped by a pirate and forced to cook for her on her ship. Despite the paucity of ingredients, his meals must delight her or she'll kill him.
Book Review: 'Cinnamon And Gunpowder,' By Eli Brown : NPR
Food porn and pirate adventure are two great tastes that taste great together in Eli Brown's Cinnamon and Gunpowder. When a pirate kidnaps a chef to serve her own gustatory pleasures, his creativity is taxed as he prepares feasts
The Rumpus Interview With Eli Brown - The

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

In which I am kidnapped by pirates
Wednesday, August 18, 1819
This body is not brave. Bespeckled with blood, surrounded by enemies, and bound on a dark course whose ultimate destination I cannot fathom—I am not brave.
The nub of a candle casts quaking light on my damp chamber. I have been afforded a quill and a logbook only after insisting that measurement and notation are crucial to the task before me.
I have no intention of cooperating for long; indeed, I hope to have a plan of escape soon. Meanwhile, I am taking refuge in these blank
Read the full excerpt



  • Eli Brown introduces Cinnamon and Gunpowder

    Share on Twitter: Share on Facebook: For more information on Cinnamon and Gunpowder: A gripping adventure, a seaborne romance, and a twist on the tale of Scheherazade—with the best food ever served aboard a pirate’s ship. The year is 1819, and the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared

  • Eli Brown, author of Cinnamon and Gunpowder, Makes Cider Like His Main Character

    An anarchic tale of love and appetite, Eli Brown's Cinnamon and Gunpowder is a wildly original feat of the imagination, deep and startling as the sea itself.

  • Eli Brown, author of Cinnamon and Gunpowder, on His Favorite Piece of Technology

    An anarchic tale of love and appetite, Eli Brown's Cinnamon and Gunpowder is a wildly original feat of the imagination, deep and startling as the sea itself.



  • Eli Brown

  • Eli Brown lives on an experimental urban farm in Alameda, California. His writing has appeared in The Cortland Review and Homewrecker: An Adultery Reader. His first novel, The Great Days, won the Fabri Literary Prize.

  • Eli Brown Melissa Mechaud




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