For famous writer Susan Branch, Martha’s Vineyard has been wonderfully fertile ground.
Susan Branch clearly remembers her early, fairy tale impressions of Martha’s Vineyard. Wanting to heal her newly broken heart as far away from her native California as possible, Branch landed almost 3,000 miles away and found safety and solace watching the ocean defend the island like a moat protects a castle.
Slowly but surely, Branch found a new home, a new love, and a new career as a cookbook author and illustrator in which she celebrates what makes her happy—family, food, home, and nature. Now, almost 30 years later, Branch’s appreciation for life’s unassuming delights resonates with readers worldwide who cherish her lovely handwritten and watercolor-adorned cookbooks and calendars as well as a successful line of quilting fabrics and other charming products for the home.
Her tales, gleaned from growing up as the oldest of eight children and enjoying life’s simple pleasures, foster a kinship with readers who sense Branch’s uplifting personality on each page. Her newest cookbook, tentatively titled Pancakes, comes out next year. Pancakes will include recipes for everything from the title food to apricot jam to camping breakfast ideas and all the accompanying stories and watercolors Branch’s readers love so much.
Threading through Branch’s work, including The Heart of the Home, Vineyard Seasons, Summer, Autumn, and Girlfriends Forever, is her gratitude for where she has arrived in her life. “This is a dream come true for me,” she says of her career. “I work hard, but I love it so much, it doesn’t seem so hard.”
ome and family are crucial to Branch. She saw how hard her mom, Patricia Stewart, worked to create traditions for her family, many of which centered around food and how it was served. One of Branch’s goals has always been to acknowledge the often overlooked pleasures of home—of baking a delicious apple pie, of hanging quilts out to catch the spring air, or of the fleeting excitement of Christmas morning.
Her books are not all about perfection and elegance (although she appreciates that), but about bringing a sense of fun and a sense of grace to the unpredictability of life and doing a lot of that through food—think picnics on the beach or hot chocolate and warm cookies when the first snowflakes start swirling.
“From day one, I have liked to help,” said Branch of her style. “When my mom had Easter baskets for us, I had Easter baskets for her and my dad.” Branch said she and her mom, who had her at 17, joke that they played dolls together with real babies. “I thought nothing was better,” said Branch. Branch’s mother, who lives in California, wanted only to have a comfortable and comforting home for her crew, and she created the simple, wholesome pleasures Branch so adores as an adult. But growing up, Branch also noticed that the hard work of raising a family didn’t produce many pats on the back.