'Ghost Whisperer' cooks up kitchen spirits with new paranormal cookbook

If your family spends hours arguing over who has the correct recipe for dead Granny's yummy fudge bars, then you might appreciate Mary Ann Winkowski’s latest book Beyond Delicious: The Ghost Whisperer’s Cookbook.

Better known as the woman who was the inspiration for the hit CBS television show The Ghost Whisperer, Mary Ann Winkowski is a real life paranormal investigator who just happens to be able to see and communicate with dead people. Over the years in her encounters with ghosts, Mary Ann has collected hundreds of recipes from earthbound spirits whose only wishes were to pass their cooking secrets on before going into the white light and leaving this world forever.

Paranormal Pop Culture was fortunate enough to be able to sit down and ask Mary Ann Winkowski a few questions about the trials and tribulations of growing up a ghost whisperer, what pisses ghosts off the most in the kitchen, what she thinks about today’s paranormal investigator trend and how in the world she was able to collect over a hundred recipes from the great beyond and bind them together into one neat little book.

Q: In the book, it says that some of your earliest memories include talking to spirits. Was there a specific moment where you realized that you had this ability?

A: There was no specific moment. I was seven in Catholic school, back when the nuns wore full habits. And I saw a really disheveled looking spirit standing behind one of my little girl friends and I remember I told Sister, “I don’t like that man standing behind Susie.” She looked down the hall and she patted me on the top of my head and she said, “Oh, he’s okay, that’s your guardian angel.” And I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a Catholic school or not, but on the walls hanging in every classroom are beautiful pictures of guardian angels with halos and wings all holding children. And I’m thinking, 'Uh, a guardian angel?' So I went home that day and I said something about it to my grandmother and she just looked at me and I said, “I don’t think that’s an angel” and she said, “Well nobody else can do this Mary Ann.” ... This is normal for me to see spirits everywhere. It would be weird if I didn’t.
Mary Ann Winkowski

Q: When communicating, how do you distinguish the dead from the living?

A: Well, I see them just like I would see you if you were sitting across the table from me. I would see your hair color, eye color, how tall you are, how short you are or how heavy you are, the clothes you have on but … you would not be solid like a live person. If I squinted, I could probably see the back of the chair through you. There is a difference and in all honesty, I’ve been doing this now for over 60 years. So, you know, it’s pretty easy for me to tell who is and who isn’t solid and it’s nothing like the movies. It’s nothing like TV. Even on my show The Ghost Whisperer, there were only four sentences each week that were true. The rest were all Hollywood-ized.

Q: In the book you also mention that the dead aren’t always nice about the living, especially relatives, messing up their recipes. Is it hard to play the diplomat especially when you’ve got an angry ghost in one ear and the family member in the other?

A: You sit there and watch them carry on and sometimes you’re like, 'Thank God I’m the only that can hear them.' I have to be honest, 99 percent of the time I will tell the home owner exactly everything the ghost says. But there’s a small part sometimes … Like this one woman’s house I was in where one of the recipes came from. Uh, how do I put it politely? She wasn’t going to be Martha Stewart as far as cleaning her house was concerned. It’s funny, people say nowadays that they bake from scratch or cook from scratch but they still use packaged ingredients or they use a jar of Prego and doctor it up. They say it’s cooking from scratch but its really not. And the ghost will get really upset about that. This one ghost said, 'Well how can she cook, she can’t even clean her house it’s a pig sty.' Well, I’m certainly not going to tell the woman that she lives in a pig sty. That’s none of my business! Just because some ghost said it doesn’t mean it’s true. You know these ghosts have the same personalities they had when they were alive. If they were a nice sweet old lady when they were alive, then they are going to be a nice sweet old lady ghost in somebody’s house. And if they were somebody with an attitude or kind of a pervert when they were alive, they’re still the same person when they’re dead. And oh my gosh, how easy is it to be a pervert when you’re invisible?

Q: In a way, it’s almost like you’re a ghost whisperer slash social worker slash therapist…

A: Most of the time the ghosts that are in somebody’s house, the people don’t know who they are because your own relative wouldn’t do this to you. You know what I’m saying? That’s why most of the ghosts that home owners are complaining about are strangers.

Q: When you go into these houses and communicate with the ghosts on behalf of the families that call you, are the ghosts happy to see you? Do they recognize that you can speak with them?

A: Sometimes, they are happy to see me because they have been stuck for long. Some of them are sorry they didn’t cross over when they had the chance when they died, others have said this isn’t what I thought it was, this isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, I need to leave. It varies. Some people want to go, some people still don’t want to go. It’s very different in each house. A lot of times a ghost will hang out. They can hear whatever is said in a house, they can’t read anybody’s mind but they can hear. Sometimes it’s the ghosts that are shocked that I can actually speak to them.

Q: So, now that you’re more experienced and older they listen to you better?

A: I’ll tell you what’s happened that is disheartening. Because of all the ghost shows on TV and the fact that everybody and their brother’s uncle does this now, there’s too many paranormal groups out there. There’s so many ghost hunters and ghost busters or whatever, that they are going into houses with their equipment and their voice recording gibberish stuff and their video cameras. God only knows what they’re doing; I don’t know because I just walk into a house and talk to them and release them. They have all this stuff and if it was a ghost that really wanted to cross over, these people can’t do it. They can’t see them, they can’t talk to them, they can’t create the white light, they can’t release them. All they’re doing is going to these people’s houses and leaving them in worse state than they were when these people first came in the house.

Jennifer Love Hewitt played
the Winkowski character in
'Ghost Whisperer'
Q: Is it agitating for a ghost to be poked and prodded in that way?

A: Not so much that, in as much as they thought they were leaving and these people didn’t do anything so now these ghosts get really honked off. There’s a lot of these houses where I walk in, look at the ghost and I start talking to them and they’ll say, 'Oh thank God, you really can see and talk to me. The last three people she had here were full of a bunch of bologna, they couldn’t do anything.' I get aggravated cleaning up their messes sometimes.

Q: Do you ever encounter people who are afraid they might incur the wrath of some angry ghost with their horrible cooking?

A: You’d be surprised how many people come up to me and say, 'If I make one of these recipes will I get a ghost?' And I say, Nah.

Some of these recipes are so old that they are pretty simple. The cook book is terrific because I’ll have somebody come up and go, 'You know I’m not a very good cook and I don’t think I would buy a cookbook' and I say, 'Yeah, but there’s a hundred ghost stories in it too.' ... And then, somebody will come up and go, 'Yeah, but I don’t believe in ghosts.' And then I’ll say, 'Yeah, but there’s a hundred and four great recipes in the book too.'

Q: Did you find that in transcribing some of these recipes that the ingredients weren’t widely available anymore?

A: You know, there’s always things you still have to edit when a book goes in. My editor calls me up and he says, 'Wow, you have like 40 edits you have to do.' I said, '40 edits!' I said, 'Between [co-author David Powers] and myself?' And he said, 'No, David has one to fix, you have 40 to fix.' ... every recipe that’s in a published book has to be cooked in a test kitchen, a licensed test kitchen, before it can be printed. So, every one of those recipes would have to be done and you know, back then everything was a 'pinch' of that or a 'dash,' of this or if it’s humid add more flour. Some things weren’t even baked in a modern oven. One recipe that I ended up taking out she had a wood stove and the recipe called for adding logs to the stove. How do add a log to an electric oven? So, that recipe got thrown out.

What I ended up doing, was testing most of these recipes myself and figuring out what a 'pinch' meant and what exactly a 'dash' meant. There were a couple ones that I could not figure out at all and so we just ended up throwing those out.

It was hard with the recipes, the ghosts would instruct me to do this and do that and then just as I would get the recipe written down and the ghost was going into the light they would turn say, 'Did I remember to tell you to add the vanilla…?' and I would go, 'You’ve got to be kidding me!' And I would say, 'No, you didn’t tell me vanilla. How much vanilla?' And she said, 'Well, you know depends on how much vanilla you like….' Oh, no no no just give me an amount please.