Readers see Branch like an encouraging girlfriend who cheers them on. “I wanted women to feel great about what they did,” says the writer of the basis of her inspirations. And her recipes are the kind families love. “All I make is comfort food,” jokes Branch. “I like sugar, flour, butter, eggs. I can handle that. I want recipes to be so good that they are family favorites and good enough to serve to company.”
For all her appreciation of comfort, Branch’s peace is hard earned. She had visited Martha’s Vineyard only once before moving, but was intrigued by island life. “I had a yearning to try it,” she said. “I came out here for three months. Within two weeks I knew.”
Still, moving from California to New England was not easy. “It was like boot camp,” recalls Branch with a laugh. “I didn’t know how to dress for the snow!” Branch missed her family and friends in California, but used her isolation to her advantage. “There is nothing like loneliness for accomplishment,” she says.
Branch, who did not pick up watercolors until after she turned 30, painted almost daily at first. Her girlfriends encouraged her to combine her watercolors with her cooking, a suggestion that made Branch laugh. But on a whim, she made something the size of a book page. Pleased with the result, she made cold calls and sent them to a publishing house thinking if they were rejected she could frame the prints and use them for Christmas presents. They were accepted, and Branch’s new career took wing.
Current technology like Facebook (with a Friends of Susan Branch page) enhances Branch’s affinity for a simple life and new connections. Her blog, a burgeoning project found at her website www.susanbranch.com, lets her expand on things like recipes, travels, or even favorite old movies.
“A blog is natural for me,” said Branch. “I have kept diaries all my life—I started when I was 10.” Branch’s diaries are remarkably similar to her books—one diary from a trip to England includes memories, stories, illustrations, and pictures and is thick with mementos of travel—a pressed flower, a four-leaf clover, tickets to events.